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
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. (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 $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.

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.

The 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.

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.

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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