Road test: 2007 Suzuki DL-650 V-Strom
Suzuki’s DL-1000 may no longer be my favourite bike. Ever since its introduction in 2002, the V-Strom, despite its awkward appellation and a fairing only a mother could love, has impressed me thanks to an incredible blend of versatility, comfort and handling. Blessed with a powerful V-twin engine, it can tour, commute and scratch with the best of them, all the while having few foibles other than an ungainly visage.
Yet, it may have met its match in a lighter, equally versatile, equally competent all-rounder with the most sought-after of attributes — a lower price tag. Yes, the successor to the Suzuki DL-1000 (with only a slight qualification) is the 2007 Suzuki DL-650 with ABS. The apple truly does not fall from the tree.
The smaller V-Strom shares much of the same technology as its larger brother. The engine is also a DOHC, 90-degree V-twin, the seating position is the same and the fairing is all but identical. One can even get it with the same Givi-sourced hard saddlebags and, new for 2007, anti-lock brakes.
The major difference is that the engine displaces 645 cubic centimetres rather than 996, and there’s one rear upswept muffler. There’s also about 10 fewer kilograms in weight. That may not sound substantial, but most of the weight loss comes from on high, so the 650 feels lighter and more manoeuvrable than the 1000.
No, the bike doesn’t have the DL-1000′s prodigious torque. The best thing about the bigger engine is that one never really has to downshift for acceleration. If the big twin is above 2,000 rpm, it’s good to go.
And that good power stretches all the way to 8,000 rpm so it boasts one of the widest powerbands in motorcycling.
The 650 feels the same, just less so. It’s pretty torquey for a mid-displacement bike. But it does have to be revved harder and it spins faster in top gear at highway speeds.
But, the 650 will cruise easily at 130 to 140 kilometres an hour, its motor happily in the mid-range of its rev band at around 6,000 rpm. In all but sixth gear, revving to redline provides smart acceleration.
So, here’s a caveat, one that has everything to do with the engine. If most of your riding is done solo — even with luggage — then the 650 may be a better choice than the 1000. Whatever straightline performance sacrificed is more than made up for in easier handling — not to mention less damage done to your wallet.
If, however, there’s a lot of two-up touring, the 1000′s bigger lungs may be worthwhile, especially when passing a semi up a long hill.
In all other regards, the DL-650 is superlative. It may look like a dirt bike, but it will give a Ninja or a CBR fits on a twisty back road. Ditto comfort.
The DL may lack the Gold Wing’s “barn door” fairing, but its seating position is near ideal and the windscreen is adjustable so there is actually more wind protection than would be expected.
I’d be more than happy to take off to either coast on the DL-650 as long as it was equipped with the optional saddlebags. Even the build quality — in terms of the fairing and instrument panel — has been quietly improved since the original DL was introduced in 2002.
This year, like the Bandit 650, the V-Strom is available with optional anti-lock brakes. Suzuki charges a paltry $500 for the life-saving addition, so I highly recommend it. Besides, since the base DL-650 costs as little at $8,999 — some $3,000 less than the DL-1000 — it’s affordable in either guise.
This is just one facet of the DL-650′s allure. It is almost as competent as its bigger brother, it’s easier to ride, it’s much cheaper and it offers the safety of anti-lock brakes. I can think of no better all-round motorcycle.
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