2014 Suzuki V-Strom 1000 ABS Road Test

As 2014 drew to a close, I grabbed the 2014 Suzuki V-Strom 1000 ABS from the Ultimate MotorCycing garage for a back-roads ride to Monterey with the gang. I haven’t been on this bike in three months, and I am quickly reminded why I recently chose it as 2014 ADV Bike of the Year.

If you’ve followed some of our past antics, the back roads from Thousand Oaks, Calif., to Monterey, Calif., is one of our gang’s favorite ways to blow the carbon out. One day up, stay overnight on Cannery Row, and back the next day.

During our latest trip, we covered about 900 miles and our route offered some of the most beautiful scenery and challenging roads anywhere. Whether you like scraping pegs on fast second-gear turns or getting deep into triple digits, there are roads out here to suit. Whatever you ride, after a jaunt like this, you will be well acquainted with every nuance of your machine.

Few, if any, motorcycle reviewers, professional or otherwise, would include Suzuki’s V-Strom 1000 when discussing the merits of BMW’s R1200GS, Ducati’s Multistrada or KTM’s 1290 Super Adventure. And why would they, given the disparity in specifications and price?

But if you are in the majority of riders who cannot, do not, or will not try to wring every last bit of performance out of your ADV bike then this is a great time to add the V-Strom to your short list or buy one and spend the savings elsewhere. Depending upon your comparison, this savings could be from $4000 to $10,000.

On this ride with three friends armed with 150+ horsepower sport bikes and two others sporting Ducati Multistradas, the V-Strom never had to make any excuses or apologies. We sliced and diced and the Suzuki was always in the mix. Unless your plan calls for speeds in excess of 120 or pure drag racing you’ll not be at a disadvantage. We can discuss specifications and differences all day long but the road is where real comparisons are made.

In my recent Top 12 of 2014 awards, I gave the ADV category to the 2014 V-Strom 1000 ABS. It would have been easy to name another but the Strom is a bike that is eager to please, friendly to operate, versatile in mission, fast and affordable. I’d venture to guess it will do 90-percent or more of what the big dogs do at almost half the price. Suzuki has re-engineered this bike for 2014 with a bigger engine, new aluminum frame, slipper clutch, higher output alternator, traction control, ABS and a host of other changes.

Since September, I’ve put over 2,000 miles on this bike over every imaginable type of paved road (sorry, no dirt time). During that time we twice did the Pine Mountain run, also mainly with pure sport bikes. This is a 250 mile circuit of some freeway but mostly fine technical roads, beautiful vistas and every kind of riding anyone is likely to experience.

It starts in our backyard and puts us about 50 miles from the nearest cell tower in the heart of pistachio growing country where diesel dualies rule and sport bikes go very fast. This is another perfect ride to get to intimately know your moto.

On the freeway the ride is supple and relaxed. It cruises easily at well over 80 mph with good coverage and no wind buffeting from the protective body panels or 3-position ratcheting windscreen (plus 3-position screw-adjustable height).

The seating position is upright with good peg placement. Ergos for me – at 6-feet tall – are just right and it’s all-day comfortable. The seat is firm and wide, and will get you through most of a 5.3 gallon tank of fuel before your backside catches on fire. The seat height is a tad lower than that of the BMW R1200GS, which is lower than the KTM 1290 Adventure. Even with my 34-inch inseam it was a good reach to the ground.

The new 1037 cc, 90 degree V-Twin engine, with a heavier flywheel, had all the power necessary for the fastest freeway riding I wanted to do and that goes for the curvy stuff too. Sure, when trying to catch the racer boys coming out of a third-gear sweeper I wanted more grunt but few riders will race this bike like we did and it isn’t exactly slow. T

here is enough power here for most any scenario and certainly respectable. Many new technologies have been incorporated into the evolved engine including redesigned pistons, heads, twin-spark, composite-plated cylinders, 10-hole fuel injectors, new 32-bit engine electronics and exhaust system.

Throttle response can be a tad aggressive off idle. Usually this characteristic can be used to one’s advantage but, I’ll admit, taking up the throttle when shifting to second gear, while not paying close attention, can cause some tight-fisted arm stretching.

Low-end torque is good too and it will grunt through when one or two gears lower would have been more appropriate. I often found the bike did what was necessary with the motor working in the 4000-6000 rpm (9500 redline) range. For me, there are no engine characteristics better in an ADV bike than a V or flat-twin. We’ll see if I feel the same after BMW sends us the new 2015 S1000XR with the inline four.

The most endearing part of the V-Strom 1000 is its handling characteristics. In all the miles covered I never once felt the need to adjust the inverted KYB forks or link-type rear suspension. Whether riding on smooth or choppy surfaces, this bike irons out most of the imperfections and can rail through the canyons like a Supermotard. All this capability is delivered by Bridgestone Battle Wing rubber size 110/80-19 in front and 150/70-17 behind. This is remarkable performance from an OEM-style mixed use tire.

Tokiko brakes are utilized with twin discs up front and a singleton in the rear. They are nothing fancy but are commensurate with the bike’s abilities. ABS is standard. A hydraulically actuated clutch handles engagement of the 6-speed transmission and launches are smooth and easy and required lever pressure is light. Shifting is glass-smooth and gear ratios are close.

Traction control is now offered with two positions plus off. I tried all settings, rode mainly in 1 (least intrusive) and am not sure if the system ever actually intruded. If it did, the results were not like those bikes with enough horsepower to actually light up the back tire in a turn and when TC kicks-in there is no doubt.

We spent enough time after dark to say that night lighting is very good. The headlight is bright white with a well-defined rectangular pattern. I also like the full-featured instrument panel with its analog tach and digital speedo, my favorite combination. Welcome additions are gear position indicator, fuel gauge, engine temperature, outside thermometer, frost alert, trip odometers, voltmeter, clock, fuel range and fuel consumption computers.

This Suzuki isn’t missing any key elements necessary for commuting, touring or running around town. Whether it’s the $12,699 base price that motivates buyers or the knowledge that it is all one needs to be their perfect motorcycles, the V-Strom is a winner.

Riding Style:

  • 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

Photos 1-4 by Brian J. Nelson