The big V-Strom returns for 2014 in a much anticipated reincarnation of its original form. Obvious outward appearances aside, the new Strom boasts increased displacement and midrange power from its redesigned V-Twin, better handling and improved stability from its new chassis, and an electronics package including non-switchable ABS and a three-position Traction Control system; TC a first for any Suzuki motorcycle.
For two days Suzuki subjected a select group of attending journalists to sample, critique and enjoy the virtues of the 2014 V-Strom 1000 ABS. Blacktop was the primary surface upon which we travelled, but a short stint atop dirtier roadways emphasized the adventurousness of the Strom as well as reminding a few of the attending journos (me included) to the precariousness of riding a 500-pound motorcycle outfitted with street tires through deep sand.
Introduced in 2002 with no major improvements since, it wasn’t necessarily difficult to improve the decade’s old design. But Suzuki didn’t just throw new components at the aged model and call it done. Suzuki sent a team to interview current V-Strom owners to determine the bike’s weak points then address them accordingly. Their findings resulted in focused improvements to:
Improved engine performance comes via larger displacement (996cc to 1037cc) achieved by increasing the bore from 98mm to 100mm while leaving the stroke the same at 66mm. Throttle bodies now boast 10-hole fuel injectors (replacing the four-hole injectors of the old model) improving fuel atomization.
Overall gearing is shorter due to a numerically higher primary-drive ratio, while sixth gear goes to a 1:1 ratio from the previous model’s slightly overdriven ratio. Both are designed for snappier freeway passing power without an undue increase in engine vibes.
An alligator count resulted in a four-second timeframe for the Strom to accelerate from 65 mph to 75 mph while in top gear. At 55 mph, though, a downshift from 6th to 5th is required to quickly dispatch slower moving traffic. Otherwise, the engine outputs enough low- and mid-range power to keep things exciting and vibrations to a minimum. Above 5,000 rpm you’ll notice some engine vibes sneaking into the bars and footpegs, but you’re never cruising at this rpm (85 mph is still below the 5k-rpm threshold) unless you’re purposefully wanting to experience the rush that comes when the tach sweeps past 6,000.
On-road handling manners are vastly improved by virtue of a frame/subframe combo that’s 13% lighter and 33% more torsionally rigid. A fully adjustable, 43mm, inverted KYB fork and pre-load adjustable shock maintain the Strom’s 502-pound (claimed, wet) composure at speed and compliancy when circumstances are more docile.
The level of flickability is what you’d expect from a tall bike (33.5-inch seat height) with a long wheelbase (61.2 inches), a 19-inch front wheel, long-travel suspension (6.3 inches front and rear), carrying its fuel load (5.3 gal.) in the traditional location – slow. The addition of nearly one inch between contact patches certainly didn’t help increase transition speed but does make for better high-speed stability. In achieving the longer wheelbase Suzuki actually shortened the distance between the front axle and swingarm pivot and lengthened the swingarm.
Given the chance, however, the big Strom will make quick work of a twisty road, its tires and cornering clearance restraining it from higher levels of aggression. Lending to the 2014 V-Strom’s better handling is an overall reduction in curb weight, dropping from 520 pounds to 502 pounds full of liquids.
Helping shed weight and improve handling is the redesigned exhaust system that replaces the old dual muffler arrangement with a single muffler and relocates the exhaust can from under the seat to a lower placement on the bike’s right side. Suzuki says the new system saves 10 pounds – more than half of the entire bike’s weight reduction. Increased radiator capacity and the loss of the old model’s oil cooler accounts for another 3.3-pound reduction.
There is big news in the electronics department, courtesy of Suzuki’s first-ever motorcycle traction control system. The switchable, three-mode (1, 2, Off) system monitors front and rear wheel speed, throttle position, crank position and gear position then controls rear wheel slippage via the ignition coil and secondary throttle valve.
Suzuki deserves kudos for developing a first-time TC system that, even when in level two, does not abruptly retard power, but rather softly restricts power delivery without disrupting corner exit drive or chassis composure.
Unlike its TC system, the V-Strom’s ABS is non-switchable, and while it works very well, many will prefer to disable the ABS – at least to the rear wheel such as the Enduro Pro mode with BMW’s ABS system on the R1200GS. And while not an electronic rider aid, the Strom 1000 comes equipped with Suzuki’s Clutch Assist System (SCAS). Like other slipper clutches, SCAS helps reduce reverse engine torque when snapping high-rpm downshifts and also reduces clutch pull by a claimed 13 percent.
Improved rider comfort comes by way of a handlebar that’s 34mm closer to the rider, and a longer seat-to-peg distance that results in an extra 15mm of legroom. The seat/tank junction has also been narrowed, and while this helps disguise the tallness of the Strom’s 33.5-inch seat height, there remains a wide feeling between your knees due to the width of the fuel tank. Seat foam is a little on the stiff side but all-day riding is manageable. Suzuki offers Low and High seat options, reducing and increasing seat height by 1.2 inches and 1.3 inches, respectively.
Passenger pegs were raised 33.1mm and moved forward 7.7mm. A nice design element is the inclusion of passenger grab handles into the rear luggage rack.
MSRP for the 2014 Suzuki V-Strom 1000 ABS is set at $12,699. The V-Strom 1000 Adventure model includes hand guards, touring windscreen, side panniers and mounting brackets, engine guards, and bottom cowl for an additional $1,300. Both of which seem appropriately situated between Triumph’s Explorer ($15,699) and Tiger 800 ($10,999).
Once we get a V-Strom 1000 in our test fleet, we’ll be able to evaluate it against the Triumph Tigers and other comparable adventure-touring bikes to discover how its price and performance stack up. Until then, however, you, like us, will have to wait until April when both long-term press bikes and retail units become available.