2014 Suzuki V-Strom ABS Test
In the world of adventure, the majority of motorcycles have migrated into two extremes — small-bore 650-800cc bikes at one end, and big daddy 1200cc machines on the other. In between, there is one option — the Suzuki V-Strom 1000 ABS — and with that a niche is created.
When it was introduced a dozen years ago, sales were strong for the V-Strom 1000. However, they slowed to a trickle in the lean years following 2008, signaling to a resurgent Suzuki that it was time to reinvigorate its flagship adventure bike.
Although not a completely new machine, the 2014 V-Strom 1000 has enough updates that it is essentially a different motorcycle than its predecessors. As a tweener, filling the gap between the smaller and larger classes, the new V-Strom 1000 has the challenge of incorporating the best of both classes into a machine that works as a bridge bike and a desirable alternative.
Certainly, the V-Strom does not have the highly sophisticated electronics found in the premier adventure class. There is nothing close to electronic suspension adjustment, for example, or highly adjustable traction control or power modes. In the motor department, the mid-size V-twin takes inspiration from the simplicity of its smaller competitors, as well as its 650cc cousin.
Traction control does find its way onto the Suzuki — the first bike of the brand to offer that feature. While it’s only a three-mode system, and that includes off, it is a fairly sophisticated design that takes information from the throttle, crank, gearbox, and both wheels when making its decisions.
The motor itself has significant changes, including a 2mm-larger bore that pumps the displacement up to 1037cc. Beyond that, it also has new cylinders and head, pistons and rings, connecting rods, crankshaft and clutch assembly. Working with the same valves, cams, and five of the six gear ratios, the new V-Strom motor has a character that easily outshines its previous iteration.
It is rare that you will find a bike with a sweeter power delivery than the V-Strom 1000. It pulls smoothly from idle, and has a nice overrev beyond where you would naturally shift. It lacks the punch of a 1200, and that is a good thing. The 1000 does not induce fatigue, and that’s what you want on a bike that is intended for long days in the saddle.
While there are no power modes, the traction control system fills that role to some extent. With it off, the motor is pretty peppy, with just a bit of sharpness to it. Wheelies are possible, and you can spool up the rear tire if traction isn’t just right. It’s no sport bike, yet it is fun to ride and a good match for the chassis.
At the other end, you have Mode 2, which is the most intrusive. It takes the five data points, and lets the computer have its way. Using the ignition system and secondary throttle valve as tools, it retards the power elegantly — often before wheel spin even occurs. It pads down the delivery enough that it feels like a different power mode, rather than a traction control setting. If you want a mellow ride without worry, Mode 2 is perfect.
In Mode 1, there is a bit more excitement, and aggressive riders will see the traction control indicator light flashing quite a bit less often. In conditions where adhesion is good and you want a more aggressive ride, Mode 1 is a perfect stopping point before no holds barred. All three modes are fully useable and enhance the riding experience.
To match the motor, the V-Strom 1000’s chassis is all new. It still has a twin-spar aluminum frame, but the torsional rigidity is up 33-percent, and the weight is down 13-percent. While the wheelbase is three-quarters of an inch longer, the swingarm is closer to the front wheel by a quarter-inch.
In the front, there are new 43mm inverted Kayaba units, which are now damping and preload adjustable — a nice upgrade from the fixed conventional Showa units. The rear shock is still preload-adjustable only, which is not a problem. The stock settings will satisfy a wide variety of likely riders of the V-Strom; the bike has a plush ride without wallowing in corners or over poorly maintained pavement. Suzuki engineers found the sweet spot.
Put this all together and you have a motorcycle that favors stability over agility, letting the bike’s 22-pound weight reduction — curb weight is a claimed 503 pounds — give it a sense of nimbleness. Handling is completely neutral, with the only fault being some front-end push of the new Bridgestone Battle Wing tires when you get moderately aggressive. Riders who prefer smooth and steady will consider the handling perfect.
Ergonomics on the new V-Strom are improved. The bars have been moved back over an inch and the footpegs rearward a tad. This puts the rider in a nice upright position that is naturally comfortable. The seat is good for long runs, and vibration is not going to wear anyone out.
The wheels and brakes have been upgraded, with lighter 10-spoke units and monoblock Tokico calipers for the ABS-enhanced front binders. This ends up being a bit of overkill for such a mellow machine. Initial braking bite is fine, but the grip ramps up more quickly than the chassis, engine or ergos would suggest. Again, the front brake is great, but it is not quite matched to the rest of the bike. This means the rear disc gets more play, as it is controllable and effective.
Our off-road testing was limited, but we can report that the V-Strom 1000 is fine in stock trim, even with the street-focused tires, as long as you are working with hard-pack. Get into something like sand or talc and you’ll need knobbies. This is a street bike with some off-pavement capabilities that will suit most adventure riders.
As with the buying public, the old V-Strom 1000 had pretty much faded out of our consciousness. With these upgrades, the new 2014 Suzuki V-Strom 1000 ABS smartly stakes out a middle ground that in many ways offers the best of both worlds.
- Helmet: Arai XD4 Explore Silver
- Jacket: Tour Master Transition Series 3
- Gloves: Tour Master Cold-Tex
- Pants: Tour Master Venture Air
- Boots: Sidi Armada Gore-Tex
Photography by Brian J. Nelson & Enrico Pavia
Story from the March/April 2014 issue of Ultimate MotorCycling. For subscription services, click here.