V-Strom-long-term-review-pt1
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Long term review: 2015 V-Strom 650 XT
2500 miles on and here’s what we think so far…

In my initial thoughts of the 2015 V-Strom XT HERE, I ended up giving it 4.5 stars out of 5 – I’m expecting only good things…

One glorious day in Peterborough (UK) standing next to a shiny, straight out of the box Grey/Black V-Strom XT and the salesman is making sure I understand the controls; I’m only half listening, I’m rather excited…
He stops talking and waits patiently for me to shake his hand and say goodbye and with a little trepidation I paddle it backwards off the forecourt, snick it into first and start off towards the road back home.
It is, to be fair, a little mundane, I’ve 700 miles before the first oil change and during that time, I’m to keep the revs below 5000, but that’s pretty much 70 mph, so I keep to the national speed limit happily.

I won’t go much into the next 700 miles, there’s not much to say, other than it’s perfectly behaved around town with the proviso of me getting used to having wider bars than my sportsbikes of old.

Following the first milestone, I’m now ‘allowed’ to use the bike as Suzuki intended and I do so with gusto by getting a mate on his Triumph 1050 Sprint out on a 4 day, 1200 mile trip to Scotland and back in a trip intended to root out any issues I have with it… Since this is a pre-cursor to the Biker47 Euro tour, which shaping up as a 4000 mile (6500km) escapade, so I use the opportunity to trial other items of new kit, namely the tankbag, topbox and tent.

Whilst the blog of the trip itself is due it’s own article, I’ll limit my comments to how the bike actually was when under constant use.
As we left, I was slightly concerned that I won’t be able to keep up with the Sprint; but I needn’t have worried. It’s true that his fuel-injected acceleration would beat the V-Strom simply by having more horses, but the Wee-Strom is more than capable of cruising at 60-85 miles an hour with the proviso that vibration is quite noticeable at the higher speeds and I did suffer from ‘numb-bum’ but since we were doing 120-150 miles at a time at variable speeds it certainly wasn’t as bad as the MultiStrada I had a couple of years back.

This motorway work did show three other items worthy of mention;
Firstly, the mirrors are excellently well placed for the real world. Whilst ‘Lifesavers’ were performed on every lane change, the reality was that I never felt that I would have been taking a serious risk by not doing so. No hideous blind spots were noted, so I was happy to monitor the mirrors at my usual regular intervals and feel confident.
Secondly, the roll on acceleration was impressive even 70mph in 6th. The power band really starting at 6500 rpm with the perfectly fuelled injected engine showing no lagging. Not as quick as the Sprint of course, but enough to compete with most cars and kept me out of the way of (ahem) ‘anxious’ 4-wheelers.
Thirdly the stock position of the handlebars are, for me, a little low and certainly too far forward. It did make the long periods of riding quite noticeable on my neck since my arms were almost at permanent full (and I mean that there was little slack in the arms, elbows were almost locked) stretch.

In the original review I did note my disappointment with the stock screen. It did generate a lot of buffeting and noise on the ‘middle’ setting. So on the morning of the trip, I raised the screen to it’s highest level, some 1″ (25mm) higher and certainly this reduced the head buffeting and therefore noise, but was still pretty tiring on the senses. I resolved to bear it for the day and deal with it in the morning after our first night. But other than that I was still waiting for the tyres to bed in, there was still a feeling of vagueness on cornering even after 700+ miles…

The following morning was taken up with breakfast and the retrieval of the Suzuki supplied underseat toolkit to find an Allen (hex) key to drop the screen down. 10 minutes later and having also rotated the bars a bit towards me to see if that would help this stretched feeling I had, we strapped up our gear we were on our way from Hawkshead in the Lake District  up to Oban on the western coast of Scotland.
With delightful weather and just a smattering of Saturday traffic we made our way through one of England’s finest National Parks with the A591 and A66 beckoning, I knew it wasn’t going to be a fast trip, but at 40-60 mph speeds, I was just enjoying the flow of riding and the Wee-Strom just made that so easy. I found myself keeping it in 4th/5th and rolling on or off as required. Corners were swept aside and straights skipped through and before I really knew it we were again on the M6 ready for the blast past Carlisle on our way to Gretna Green. We’d been riding for an hour and it was really noticeable how relaxed I was; I wouldn’t have felt like that on my old SV1000!
The numb-bum returned at motorway speeds on the way to Glasgow but having rounded that metropolis we were back to the much more scenic amble on the A82 and A85. The slower, twister tarmac just demonstrated how at home the V-Strom 650 XT is on these sorts of roads. I was hardly working the box and it was pleasurable to note that whilst we had to dip off for the Sprint to fill up (max miles per tank was 150) the V-Strom was hitting just under 65 mpg and giving me an estimated possible 260 miles per tank. Banter ensued as I grinned at my colleague every time we paid, ‘cos I was always at least a £5 cheaper 🙂

The next two days were single and dual carriageways, the A82 Oban to Inverness being a favourite for bikers, and it’s understandable why… 65 miles of Loch-side road interspersed with small villages gives the rider an hour and a half to simply be at one with the bike and scenery. True, we did let some over-enthusiastic riders past on their mission to get to their grave, but we got out of their way in good time and shook our heads in disapproving ‘you should know better’ fashion.

It’s true to say that once we’d got to Inverness I had really started to form a palpable bond with the V-Strom.
The last evening was in Edinburgh where frankly we dropped our guard and inbibed far too much… tipping into bed at 3.30am made the long leg to north Hertfordshire quite a mental and physical slog – but the bike didn’t care. It sat at rock steady on the motorways for 6 hours odd without complaint.

So what have I found after this 1180 mile (1900 km) test ride?
I’ve averaged 62.3 mpg from new and I can really see the potential of this engine and frame. Sure the bars weren’t quite in the right place for me and numb-bum was a syndrome I was getting used to, but the dropping of the screen to it’s lowest position at least meant that now the wind coming off it was hitting my upper body, which would have been rather irritating in lots of rain, but the noise levels had dropped significantly – and that was a good thing, but I would still like to test out another screen, maybe some decent earplugs would solve the problem?

The Bridgestone Trailwings tyres are not really meant for off-road, more dusty track capable but the tyre/rim sizing gives and ‘proper’ off-road rider the plenty of options to choose from. But they are plainly hard wearing which always good on those long treks around Europe and beyond.

700 miles in
700 miles in
700 miles in
700 miles in

They’ve seen some 1900 miles and were now giving me true confidence in corners. Gone was the feeling of ‘about to tip too far’ – they gripped well and I found myself gliding through angles with accuracy and ease however, really pushing them generates a mild wallowing from the suspension, so I’ve now upped the preload on the front a twist and will see if that sorts it out.

A set of aftermarket risers should solve the stretching issue and all told I’m reminded that this is a budget bike and there’s some fettling to be done after the purchase, but what you get in return for cash is a whole lot of motorcycle!

The Euro Tour is on!

See other Biker47 reviews HERE