The retro-wave has been washing our shores for a good while now, but for big adventure touring bikes it’s a new thing.
Suzuki is the first to the party with the V-Strom 1050, although we can expect plenty of other brands to follow suit, judging by the recent concept bikes from the likes of Ducati and Husqvarna, as well as paint jobs on the likes of the Yamaha Ténéré 700.
With the new V-Strom, Suzuki has taken inspiration from the DR-Z Paris-Dakar race bike and the DR Big production machine from the 1980s – and we love it!
Suzuki designers took the rectangular headlight as a key design concept, maintained the familiar ‘beak’ (which they claim was introduced to the world on the DR-Z, then copied by pretty much all adventure bike manufacturers), mimicked some of the lines of the old bikes, but kept the look modern and recognisably V-Strom. For me, the looks work a treat, especially in the DR Big-inspired white/orange and the Suzuki off-road racing yellow colour schemes, which are limited to the XT model (more about the differences in a moment). The links to the old Suzuki machinery are not just a nod to the past – the styling of the new bikes has been led by the same man who designed the DR Big.
Let’s address the elephant in the room: it’s the same old engine and chassis. Where the competition has moved to bigger and more sophisticated engines, the Suzuki is still powered by the same old 1037cc, liquid-cooled, DOHC, 90-degree V-twin. But it has been updated, mainly by the need to comply with the new Euro 5 emissions regulations, but there are perks to this. Claimed peak power has gone up by 7% to 106bhp at 8500rpm. Suzuki say that this has been achieved with re-profiled intake and exhaust cams, with increased lift duration and less overlap. But what goes up must come down, and after the updates the engine is marginally down on torque (from 101Nm to 100Nm), now peaking at 6000rpm – 2000rpm higher than before. The overall torque curve is now more linear, giving the bike more oomph in the midrange. In practice, I couldn’t tell much difference apart from the bike feeling a little perkier when I accelerated enthusiastically. There is suitable grunt available across the rev-range, and although the amount of power is not recordbreaking, the moments when you might need more than what’s on offer are few and far between.
Equally, the old frame is still up to the job. The twin-spar frame and the swingarm are both aluminium. They are light and slender enough to keep the bike just about below the obesity line. The kerb weight has gone up from 233kg to 247kg, which sounds like a big jump, but it’s worth remembering that the adventure bike to beat, the BMW R1250GS Adventure, is 268kg fully fuelled. And as is often the case with big bikes, the Suzuki carries that weight well. There were no times during our test ride that I felt the bike to be too big and cumbersome to do something. Even the little stint that we did on dirt roads was fine for a heavily road-biased machine.
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