Church Of MO: Suzuki V-Strom 2011 Review / 2012 Preview
A look back at another perennial favorite.
We awarded the new 800 platform from Suzuki our Best Value award of 2023 because, as Suzuki is known to do, it packs a lot of punch for not a lot of money. Part of this new platform of course is the new V-Strom 800. And so, what better thing to do for a Church feature than to go back in the archives and find another V-Strom to talk about. This time we have the 2011 version of the V-Strom 650, a bike Tom Roderick refreshed himself with just prior to hopping aboard the then-new 2012 version not long after. If you know anything about V-Stroms, you probably know how this review is going to go. Nonetheless, let's take a stroll down memory lane together.
Suzuki V-Strom 2011 Review / 2012 Preview
by Motorcycle.com Staff
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 didnt 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 Adventure models include accessories such as aluminum side cases large enough to fit a full-coverage helmet, a rugged accessory engine bar and an adjustable windscreen. Well report more on these new models as information becomes available.
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.
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 suspensions 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 650s 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-Stroms 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.
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 Stroms 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 well have a full test of the 650 ABS by the time they do, so stay tuned!
When it's time for some light-duty touring, riders need to take along belongings necessary to make 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.
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 bag's faults, it's hard to pass up a deal this good.
Troy's been riding motorcycles and writing about them since 2006, getting his start at Rider Magazine. From there, he moved to Sport Rider Magazine before finally landing at Motorcycle.com in 2011. A lifelong gearhead who didn't fully immerse himself in motorcycles until his teenage years, Troy's interests have always been in technology, performance, and going fast. Naturally, racing was the perfect avenue to combine all three. Troy has been racing nearly as long as he's been riding and has competed at the AMA national level. He's also won multiple club races throughout the country, culminating in a Utah Sport Bike Association championship in 2011. He has been invited as a guest instructor for the Yamaha Champions Riding School, and when he's not out riding, he's either wrenching on bikes or watching MotoGP.
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