2011 Suzuki V-Strom Review & 2012 Preview

Get your year-end blowout before the 2012s arrive


In 2002 Suzuki proclaimed a new category of motorcycling, “Sport Enduro Touring,” defined by the V-Strom 1000. I fondly remember testing the bike because of its ability to touch down passenger footpegs. “The V-Strom is a comfy sport-touring rig that aptly handles fireroads and twisty two-laners (some better than your average sportbike),” I wrote. The following year the V-Strom 650 was added to the stable. The 1000 didn’t make US shores for the last few years but both it and the Wee-Strom will carry the Sport Enduro Touring torch into a second decade with the forthcoming 2012 models.

Joining the previously announced 2012 V-Strom 650 are two new versions of the bike, the V-Strom 1000 Adventure and V-Strom 650 ABS Adventure. According to Suzuki the new 650 Adventure comes equipped with accessories such as “aluminum side cases large enough to fit a full-coverage helmet, a rugged accessory engine bar and an adjustable windscreen,” while the 1000 merely gets nylon (read plastic) Givi-style panniers and a top box. We’ll report more on these new models as information becomes available.

2011 Suzuki V-Strom 650 ABS

So, in advance of our ride on the 2012 V-Strom 650, we went to task refamiliarizing ourselves with the 2011 iteration garnished with ABS and hard saddlebags. It took only a short period for the Suzook to remind us what a great all-’rounder the V-Strom was, is and most probably will remain to be.

2011 Suzuki V-Strom 650 ABS

Balanced is a word that surfaces often with the small Strom and rightly so. The 645cc fuel-injected V-Twin produces spunky power, revs to its redline without hesitation and is easy to manipulate in the dirt (as much as a bike with a 485-pound curb weight can). Front and rear suspension never feel over-taxed, providing compliant riding in all but the most extreme riding scenarios. The seating position is comfortably standard and surprisingly low (32.3 inches) for a bike with 6.9 inches of ground clearance.

With the V-Strom 650’s ability to conform to a variety of duties including grocery shopping, touring and moderate off-roading, the ABS feature asserts itself as a safety advantage. Thankfully, an emergency situation never arose where I put the ABS to use, but knowing it was there while traversing among drivers whose attention is subverted by smart-phone indiscretions is a psychological advantage.

The 2012 V-Strom has updates best described as evolutionary, not revolutionary. The V-Strom’s fuel-injected engine receives new innards including pistons, rings and cylinders and a modified cam profile claimed to result in improved low-end torque and high-end horsepower as well as better fuel economy.

2012 Suzuki V-Strom 650 ABS

Suzuki shrunk the fuel tank from 5.8 to 5.3 gallons and halved the weight of the ABS components, both reductions helping bring the 2012 Strom’s curb weight down to 472 pounds, 13 less than the current model. Seat height has increased 0.6 inches to 32.9 inches, and Suzuki is offering optional seats; one of lesser height (32.1 inches) and one of greater height (33.7 inches).

MSRP on the 2012 V-Strom 650 ABS is $8,300, while the one-thousand — with no ABS and no restyling externally or otherwise — will retail for $10,400. Both models are scheduled to arrive in dealerships in November and we’ll have a full test of the 650 ABS by the time they do, so stay tuned!

Saddlebags For A Steal

Suzuki V-Strom 650 Saddlebags

When it’s time for some light-duty touring, riders need to take along belongings necessary to making multi-day traveling a congenial experience. Saddlebags are the most prevalent means of storage. And, as luck would have it, we noticed during our research that Suzuki is offering its hard saddlebag system, normally an $1100 option, at a clearance price of only $200. The same deal also applies to a bag set for the new-for-2011 GSX1250FA.

Just two-hundy for a set of hard bags is an apparent steal, as most factory bag systems cost more than $1000. However, our testing revealed a few compromises in the design of these Suzuki accessory items.

To begin with, the 35-liter bags do not fit full-face helmets, are not waterproof and require a key separate from the ignition key to function. The bags are nicely styled for street use, but the color-matched upper portion and large rear reflector wouldn’t hold up well in an off-road tip-over. Additionally, the latching mechanism leaves a person guessing if the bag is securely closed.

The bag package includes mounting brackets designed to work with both the V-Strom 1000 and 650. The 1000, however, has dual exhausts while the 650 owns only a single muffler hanging from the right rear side beneath the passenger seat. With or without the bags removed there’s a cavernous gap where a ghost muffler resides on the Wee-Strom.

Quick and easy mounting and removal benefits commuting and local errand running. For touring we suggest packing gear inside a watertight interior softbag, as the closure seal isn’t quite water-tight. Having said all that, at $200 the luggage remains a bargain and worth the discounted price — at $200 the hard saddlebags are only $50 more than aftermarket soft saddlebags! Even with the bags’ faults, it’s hard to pass up a deal this good.

Related Reading
2012 Suzuki V-Strom 650 ABS Preview
Suzuki V-Strom 650 Review
2002 Suzuki DL1000 V-Strom Review
Is This the New Suzuki V-Strom 650?
2009 Suzuki Gladius vs Kawasaki ER-6n Shootout
It Ain’t The Tool 2006: Honda 599 vs. Suzuki V-Strom 650 vs. Yamaha R6

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