Suzuki DL 1000 XT V-Strom – Road Test

If you look up the word “underrated” in a dictionary, you’ll find a picture of the Suzuki DL 1000 XT V-Strom there. In 650 or 1000 guise, most riders who have sampled it concur that it’s a fantastic bike, but somehow gets overlooked in favour of its German or Austrian counterparts. Brian Cheyne rode the latest incarnation of the big Strom Trooper and sheds light on the matter. Pictures by the author.

Profile picture of a moving Suzuki V-Strom 1000Suzuki
The Strom 1000 resembles an angry wasp in yellow, but the seat should have been black.

When the V-Strom range was introduced over 15 years ago, the 650 cc and 1000 cc versions shared the same basic underpinnings. The only visible distinguishing factor was that the 1000 had two exhausts to the 650’s one. In 2009, production of the DL1000 came to an end and the 650 soldiered on alone as Suzuki’s (semi-) adventure bike. The men from Hamamatsu in Japan were faced with the prospect of designing a new bike, or to shelve the 1000 completely. Fortunately they chose the former.

The new-gen DL 1000 V-Strom went into production in 2014. New from the ground up, the engine grew from 998 cc to 1 037 cc and the styling became more aggressive, with the beak paying homage to the DR 750 of the late 80s. It was also Suzuki’s first foray into the world of traction control. The shocks were mounted upside down and the radial mounted calipers were ABS assisted.

A pretty close-up of the DL 1000 XT's fuel tank
Build quality is good and with proper maintenance it should outlive its owner. The tank holds 20 litres.

In 2018 the V-Strom 1000 got a mild facelift. There was a slight redesign of the front and more sophisticated electronics were soldered down under the skin. It’s hard to spot, but he beak was reshaped to be more angular and the indicators moved up by about 5 cm to accommodate the new beak design. The screen, that cleverly adjusts with just one hand, grew 5 cm taller.

Hard or soft enduro

Before 2018 the DL 1000 V-Strom had alloy wheels and that model is still available in Europe. Suzuki South Africa only sells the more dirt-biased XT, with spoked rims of 19” up front and 17” at the back (and tubeless tyres). There’s a belly pan too, to make it more of an adventure bike.

The test unit was finished in yellow, and whoever thought that making the seat on an adventure bike yellow, has clearly never ridden off-road. A dirty look is enough to stain the seat.

The instruments of the V-Strom 1000: Analogue tacho and LCD speedo
The instruments are elegant and fairly comprehensive. The speedo is large enough to be read at a glance.

With modest suspension travel of 160 mm (front and rear) it’s clear Suzuki wants you to get off the blacktop at some point, but not to chase Husqvarna 701s over rock-strewn koppies.

The Suzuki DL 1000 XT V-Strom wasn’t conceived to negotiate gnarly off-road sections, but in capable hands this bike can embarrass bigger, more powerful bikes. With the updated Bosch electronics package (from 2018 onward), the movement of the bike is measured more acutely. It works like a car’s stability control system, measuring roll, pitch and yaw, and then compares it to the speed at which each wheel is turning. So, if you grab the front brake too hard, the engine control unit can apply a measure of braking to the rear wheel, to get you back in a straight line and away from impending doom.

A beautiful semi-profile shot of the V-Strom 1000 XT in the late afternoon sun.
The Strom 1000 was conceived as a very occasional dirt rider. This is likely to change with the 2020/2021 model.

Many riders will bemoan the fact that the V-Strom DL 1000 XT has ABS that you cannot switch off when the gravel starts. But braking isn’t hopeless, and for about two grand a dealer or mechanic will install an ABS-off switch for you. Ask someone who has sufficient experience and will do it tidily.

Crossing continents

With the upright seating position and the punchy V-Twin engine, the DL can go forever with two up plus luggage. The bike has Low-RPM assist, which makes it virtually impossible to stall the engine. The easy-start system, although gimmicky, has also made its way onto the spec sheet. With it you don’t have to hold the starter button in until the engine starts, but just give it a quick press. The gear-changes are smooth and it was easy to ride this bike hard.

A front-3-quarter shot of the Suzuki DL 1000 XT V-Strom
The engine is smooth and torque is abundant. With an effective screen also in the mix, this is a superb tourer.

The Suzuki DL 1000 XT V-Strom is one of those bikes that ticks almost all of the boxes. I say almost, because it has no rider modes apart from traction control settings. There’s also no cruise control, which gives some of its competitors an edge.

That said, given the reasonable price, bulletproof reputation and good ergonomics, the DL does make a solid case for a sport adventure tourer. As long as your adventure doesn’t include too much dirt. If it does, have the ABS made switchable.

Specifications of the Suzuki DL 1000 V-Strom (2019)

Engine  1 037 cc, liquid cooled, 90-degree L-twin, 4 valves per cylinder
Transmission  6-speed, chain drive
Power  74 kW @ 8 000 rpm
Torque  103 Nm @ 4 000 rpm
Weight  228 kg (wet)
Seat height  840 mm
Length  2 285 mm
Width  865 mm
Fuel tank  20 litres
Consumption  5.2 litres/100 km
Range  400 km (estimate)
Warranty and service intervals  Contact Suzuki SA or Mad Macs
Price  R172 900