2018 Suzuki V-Strom 1000 and 1000XT

Editor Score: 89.25%
Engine 18.75/20
Suspension/Handling 13.5/15
Transmission/Clutch 8.75/10
Brakes 9.5/10
Instruments/Controls4.5/5
Ergonomics/Comfort 9.0/10
Appearance/Quality 8.0/10
Desirability 8.0/10
Value 9.25/10
Overall Score89.25/100

Yours truly was a big fan of the bigger ’Strom upon its redesign for 2014, and so was our man T. Roderick when he rode the new bike, but maybe to a lesser extent. It was hard to argue with Suzuki’s punched-out-to 1037cc tuned-for-torque L-Twin allied with the V-Strom 1000’s low-mass approach, and it still is.

First Look: 2018 Suzuki V-Strom 1000 and 1000XT

At the time, though, I think we were all excited about upcoming and more powerful – also larger and more expensive – ADV bikes from Ducati, KTM and BMW. When push came to shove and we finally returned from our epic nine-bike 2015 Ultimate Sports Adventure Touring Shootout, the poor V-Strom finished dead last. Sad. What it did have going for it, though, was the lightest weight of the bunch, and it was rivaled in cheapness only by the Kawasaki Versys 1000 LT.

2017 Suzuki V-Strom 650 and 650XT Review

Your base model V-Strom 1000 makes do with lighter, 10-spoke cast wheels. With an MSRP of $12,699, it’s $600 less than the base Honda Africa Twin and $300 less than a Kawasaki Versys 1000 LT. Suzuki says FEM analysis allowed the new twin-spar frame to be 13% lighter than before, while a subtle restyle gives a cleaner look.

Your base model V-Strom 1000 makes do with lighter, 10-spoke cast wheels. With an MSRP of $12,699, it’s $600 less than the base Honda Africa Twin and $300 less than a Kawasaki Versys 1000 LT. Suzuki says FEM analysis allowed the new twin-spar frame to be 13% lighter than before, while a subtle restyle gives a cleaner look. (Late breaking news: She’s now $12,999, and $13,299 for the XT.)

Then a funny thing happened. A bunch of people rediscovered the value of less power accompanied by reduced weight when the Honda Africa Twin made its appearance. Like, something in the name “Africa Twin” seems to conjure a kind of romanticism that “V-Strom” doesn’t quite manage to. The new Honda won out over its bigger, more powerful competitors in a bunch of big magazine shootouts. It finished fourth in our own Wire-Wheel Adventure Shootout last year, but not without being overloaded with praise:

“The Africa Twin handles like a dream, and I’m convinced that if it had been fitted with more knobby tires of similar quality to the Continental TKC-80s on the KTM or the Pirellis on the Ducati, the Honda would have thoroughly dominated the dirt portions of our ride,” says Rousseau.

Duke had high praise for the overall capabilities of the Africa Twin: “It’s the inverse of the complicated and heavy GS – it’s lacking features but not capabilities, and it’s almost 50% cheaper. It’s a stunning achievement for the money.”

Word on the street is Honda is selling Africa Twins faster than it can stamp them out.

Did somebody say wire-wheel adventurers? The new V-Strom 1000XT gets new tubeless wire wheels, hand guards and a mostly cosmetic plastic engine cowl for $12,999.

Did somebody say wire-wheel adventurers? The new V-Strom 1000XT gets new tubeless wire wheels, hand guards and a mostly cosmetic plastic engine cowl for $13,299.

Somebody at Suzuki must’ve been paying attention to the Africa Twin’s success and asking themselves, WTH? What’s the AT got that our V-Strom hasn’t? The Suzuki Twin made 92 horsepower on the dyno to the AT’s 86, and 69 lb-ft of torque at 3100 rpm to the AT’s 67 lb-ft at 5900 rpm. And on the scales, accessory bags and all, the V-Strom Adventure weighed one pound less than the similarly outfitted 545-lb Africa Twin we rode last year. Other dimensions and components between the two are eerily similar. What gives?

The only missing component on the V-Strom was wire wheels, so for 2018, Suzuki gave the XT version nice new tubeless ones, a 19-inch front and 17 rear. Okay, so the Honda uses a 21-/ 18-inch combo, big deal. That just means the V-Strom remains the superior pavement bike – especially since it’s also a bit more firmly suspended than the Honda.

Tremendous stopping power takes the form of Tokico monoblock calipers mated with 310mm floating-mount dual discs – all controlled by our new “Motion Track Anti-lock and Combination Brake system.” An IMU makes the system lean-sensitive, and it’ll even apply a little rear brake if it senses impending disaster up front. It’s also a five-axis system instead of six, which means it doesn’t seem to mind if the front wheel is in the air.

Tremendous stopping power takes the form of Tokico monoblock calipers mated with 310mm floating-mount dual discs – all controlled by our new “Motion Track Anti-lock and Combination Brake system.” An IMU makes the system lean-sensitive, and it’ll even apply a little rear brake if it senses impending disaster up front. It’s also a five-axis system instead of six, which means it doesn’t seem to mind if the front wheel is in the air.

Three-position traction control? Check, it’s been on the ’Strom since the 2014 make-over and works great in the loose stuff. ABS, also check, and the new ’Strom goes the Honda one better with a new lean-sensitive system. There’s now an IMU talking to the bike’s computer system, to ease off the front brake when you’re approaching the traction limits, straight up or leaned over, and even add a little rear brake to stabilize things, whether you ask for it or not. (All the tech stuff about the new bike we talked about here last Friday.) The only thing wrong with Suzuki’s ABS is you can’t turn it off, but there are work-arounds for that.

On the road, the big ’Strom’s strengths remain: You can feel its lightness compared to the others in its class, and as a result of that light weight, its 69 lb-ft of torque yanks it out of corners briskly, especially since that torque peak happens so low in the rev band, at just 3100 rpm. It’s not just light, it’s skinny between your knees compared to most (again like the Africa Twin), with sit-up-straight ergos that make you feel like you’re in complete command.

060717-2018-suzuki-v-strom-1000xt-d4n2746

060717-2018-suzuki-v-strom-1000-d4n3606The base bike makes do with a steel handlebar, but the XT gives you a nice aluminum fatbar to hold onto that not only looks chic but damps out a bit more vibration, not that there’s ever much. This year’s bike does get bigger bar-end weights anyway. Horsepower peaks at 8000 rpm, which means you’ve got a 5000-rpm wide window of big V-Twin kinesthetic and aural pleasure. Cruising along at 80 is effortless, so is cruising along quite a bit faster. Or meandering down a dirt road slower. The only time the big Strom ever feels slow is if you’re riding with a bunch of MOrons on 150-hp BMW S1000XRs and things. In the real world, the Strom’s got more steam than any normal person would ever need.

For mostly pavement use with a little off-road thrown in, the 19-/17-inch rubber combo is the agreed way to go, and the ’Strom’s fully adjustable 43mm KYB inverted fork, with 6.3 inches of firm travel, serves up excellent road feel. There’s 6.3 inches out back too, with a hand crank for adjusting preload according to load. Rolling up and down the road to Lake Arrowhead, the ’Strom always feels more planted to the pavement than the Africa Twin on its skinnier 21-inch front tire, and you’d probably need to be a better dirt-road rider than I (the threshold is low) to feel the Honda’s advantage there.

In case you missed yesterday’s review of the V-Strom 650, I’ll link to my thoughts on TC again. It’s nice on a powerful bike like the big V-Strom, on tires not really designed for off-road use, to be able to hit the gas and not worry about accidentally spinning yourself off the trail. TC1 seems to work great on loose surfaces, allowing the rear to spin up just a little. TC2 will be good when you find yourself in snow or ice. And Off is good to have when you progress to Expert status, grasshopper.

All the plastic was subtly reworked for 2018, including a new wind-tunnel-shaped windscreen that’s still three-position adjustable but now 49mm taller and a bit wider. That sculpted tank still holds 5.3 gallons, but is slimmer now in the rear to make it easier for stubby legs to find the ground 32.9 inches below. The 12-volt socket’s right there under the big tachometer; alternator output is 490 watts at 5000 rpm.

All the plastic was subtly reworked for 2018, including a new wind-tunnel-shaped windscreen that’s still three-position adjustable but now 49mm taller and a bit wider. That sculpted tank still holds 5.3 gallons, but is slimmer now in the rear to make it easier for stubby legs to find the ground 32.9 inches below. The 12-volt socket’s right there under the big tachometer; alternator output is 490 watts at 5000 rpm.

Naturally there are already tons of accessories, including hard saddlebags, heated grips, auxiliary lights, high and low profile seats, case guards – and the ’Strom comes with extra lock cylinders you can put in the saddlebags for one-key convenience. Sure we’d all like to have electronic cruise control, but if it means spending thousands more dollars and gaining dozens of pounds to get it, a good old-fashioned Throttlemeister isn’t the end of the world, is it?

Maintenance is eased by the fact that the old beast’s cams can be lifted out without disturbing its timing chains, making it way easier to adjust your own valves.

Maintenance is eased by the fact that the old beast’s cams can be lifted out without disturbing its timing chains, making it way easier to adjust your own valves.

At the end of a day roosting around Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear, on V-Stroms 650 and 1000, I know I was happy to climb on the bigger one for the ride home across the L.A. sprawl. The few extra thousand bucks takes the form of more sophisticated suspension that better filters life’s bumps, lower rpm for a smoother ride, and that big new windscreen does deliver smoother airflow than the 650’s smaller one.

Last year, Honda’s new Africa Twin got all the glory. If you’re a believer in the idea that less is more – especially if you’re shorter than 5’10” and not yet able to take disbursements from your trust fund – the new V-Strom deserves just as much love as the critics’ darling, big-selling Honda got. Maybe even a little more. Great bike.

2018 Suzuki V-Strom 1000 and 1000XT
+ Highs

  • Outstanding ADV-per-$$$ ratio
  • Low-rpm grunt
  • Lean-sensitive ABS
– Sighs

  • That exhaust valve is still an eyesore
  • You don’t get to join the BMW Club
  • Not many electronics to constantly adjust

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  • Born to Ride

    Suzuki should build a dirt-oriented ADV bike with 10″ of suspension travel and 21/18″ wheels. Give it rally styling and call it an RM-V1000/650. Make sure it comes in yellow for all the kids that grew up on RM series MX bikes. These days you gotta pull hard on that nostalgia chain to sell anything.

    • Travis Donald Stanley

      I think they can do that with the new SV650 engine in the DL650. one front disc break, 3.0 gallons, no ABS, no TC. Maybe 8.0″ of travel is plenty. 435lbs. I hope Yamaha does this with their 689cc beast. It is taking a lot of time. I guess the KLR650 will continue to be Kawasaki’s all time best seller (hybrid: dual sport/ ADV)

      • Born to Ride

        I’m looking forward to the Tenere 700 too. Hope they at least put a 4 gallon tank on there though, the appeal of these bikes is traveling after all. I don’t want to worry so much about fuel range when I am waaay off the beaten path. I think if they deliver it in the 400-420 lb range, it will be well received. Light mods should get you under the magical 400lb figure.

        • johnny mars

          Yes, based on the FZ-07 crackerjack of an engine. And price it under $8500 with TC and ABS. FJ-07?

          • Born to Ride

            The FJ and the Tenere are two very different bikes. Also why do you need abs and TC on a 70 hp bike that’s intended for the dirt?

          • johnny mars

            Because most adv riders spend 80% of their time on asphalt, and ABS can be defeated for dirt riding.

          • Born to Ride

            TC is a pretty superfluous addition to a bike that produces 68hp and is designed for on/off-road use. I’d rather save the MSRP and complexity. ABS is fine so long as it is switchable, but I’d rather save 500$ and put that into some luggage or weight reduction.

  • Travis Donald Stanley

    I liked the set up on this review. Well done. Thanks for the links. I remember when the DL1000 came in last in that shoot out. It would have been my top pick. The Versys 1000, my second.
    The AT was the game changer last year, so it was good to see the comparisons. I think a lot of good riders with a dirt bike ground are going to buy this XT new or used one day and have a great ADV BIKE. The Suspension is plenty and the torque is really user friendly (like a dual sport). I demo road the 2014 model and loved the ergos.
    Please do this five bike shootout: Africa Twin, KTM 1090 adv r, Tiger 800XC, F800GS, DL1000XT. The Suzuki can be the control
    for the tarmac sections. I do not think she will finish dead last here… well over all.

  • Vrooom

    These have always been an outstanding value, and you can usually find them for sale less than list price new. I’ve had a 2002, 2008, and 2014. The ’08 was probably my favorite, but I could upgrade.

  • Larry W

    Thanks John. Brilliant review. As a 10 year ADV rider (2007 wee- Strom, 2015 KTM 1190 Adventure) who uses ADV bikes like most do (mostly paved twisty roads and an occasional dirt one), I’m puzzled that so many buyers go for the dirtiest versions of these bikes. 21″ front wheels and knobbies are a big downgrade in handling on pavement, and still leave these as an overweight handful on trails. Considering how most ADV bikes are used, bikes like the V-Strom 1000 and Multistrada 950 deserve more attention from reviewers and buyers both.

    • Travis Donald Stanley

      If Riders had more opportunities to demo ride the DL1000, they would sell more. In Kingsport, TN there is a 2014 desert Brown still on the show room floor brand new. The new XT is even more of an All-Rounder now. Most riders want a bike that is great at one thing, or looks bad ass, or improves your status with your peers. Sadly, All – Rounders do not do this well.

  • kenneth_moore

    The Africa Twin comparisons are interesting; I’ll bet very few people realize how close the specs for the two bikes really are. I didn’t.

    Things the Vee has going for it: there is a world-wide cottage industry off accessories, along with probably hundreds of add-ons from major suppliers. I bought a headlight relay kit from a guy in Japan, a kickstand foot from a guy in Canada, etc. The user community at Stromtrooper.com is amazing; if you want to find out how to install a new accessory there’s probably an article with photos and step by step instructions on how to do it. And, as mentioned, the 17/19″ tire combo is better on the road, but in addition there’s far more choices when buying new tires as far as type and manufacturer vs. 18/21″ sizes.

  • Gary

    What’s wrong with the “V-Strom” brand name? Other than …. everything.

    • Fredrik Hoffmann

      Initially it was intendet for the European market, hence the (german) name.

  • Craig Hoffman

    Had a TL1000 years ago. Would probably like the DL1000 a lot, as Suzuki’s L-Twin has been tweaked and refined over the years, it is a proven and just plain good motor. Really appreciated the hybrid chain/gear driven cams, which made valve clearance adjustments easy. Fun fact – the Suzuki DRZ400 and 1000 share valve shims. That was convenient as I had a DRZ back then too.

    I recall back in those TL days, a common mod was to remove the auto decompressors and scissor gears (a 2nd pair of spring loaded gears alongside the cam gears, designed to take up slack and quiet them). This removed quite a bit of spinning mass from the cams, and created more gear whine, which in my demented mind was cool. The bike still cranked fine w/o the auto decompressors, which would occasionally grenade on the old TL engines. My TL had a $50 fuel pump from an ’89 Dodge Caravan in it, as the OEM replacement cost over $400. good times…

    Kinda tempted a bit by the Suzuki as ADV bikes are becoming more of interest to me, and I have a lot of warm fuzzy memories from the TL1000 days. 🙂

  • Kos

    Sounds great. I had an older one — forget the exact year — and it was impossible to stop the buffeting from the fairing/windscreen. I hope the bigger screen takes care of this.

  • Alvin Davenport

    I paid a little over $8000 for my left over ’14 in early 2016. I’ve got just over 18k on it now, and it is quite an improvement over the first gen V Strom I had. With my Givi windscreen there’s little of the buffeting that plagued my earlier one, and the gearing is much better. I average mpg in the low 50’s, which is a little better, plus it handles and pulls better. I’m happy with mine. It seems to do everything I need a bike to do, since I don’t buy bikes to impress others.

  • johnny mars

    For the money, this is probably the best bike in the world of on/off road motorcycling. In fact, I’d like to see three models: dl600, dl1000, and dl1300, with 70, 120, and 150 HP respectively.