2018 Suzuki V-Strom 1000XT Touring Test
Coming from a world of dual sport riding and rally racing, I personally seek motorcycles leaning toward the dirt. My description of an adventure motorcycle is one that can travel the dirt and unimproved roads of the world.
That can be hard to do on the 2018 Suzuki V-Strom 1000XT, a 511-pound bike with perhaps another 100 pounds of gear strapped around its rear, and just 6.3 inches of suspension travel to absorb off-road dangers.
It doesn’t take much speed into a mild dip or washout to end up bottoming out and you flying over the bars. I’ve done it twice on an early Kawasaki KLR650, and that sent me to the nearest hospital to check for possible broken ribs.
I can usually manhandle bikes like the 1000XT, but it takes lots of experience and work. Plus, most guys in their 50s don’t want to work that hard anymore. With that out of the way, let’s consider what the 2018 Suzuki V-Strom 1000XT does well.
From a sport-touring perspective, the V-Strom 1000XT shines. You can keep up with most sport bike rider in the winding canyons, and it’s a comfortable touring bike with benefits.
The 1000XT has plenty of excitingly delivered horsepower for passes on the interstate or overtakes in slow moving canyon roads. The DOHC 90-degree V-twin provides plenty of power for any street needs and the right suspension for it. Why have a specialized bike when this can do it all on pavement?
Anything faster on the street is a ticket waiting to happen, not that you can’t easily get one on the V-Strom 1000XT. I’m surprised I didn’t receive a citation when I came to view of the CHP on the lonely California Highway 58 at a speed I better not mention.
The far western section of the 58 starting from sleepy Santa Margarita to ADV-like Bitterwater Road is like Le Mans without all the dangers—long sweeping turns, a few good tight ones and some great straights (with no traffic!). I did some high-speed testing on a private road in the area, and was able to hit 112 mph before a front-lightening feeling from the fairing and windscreen—along with plenty of cargo on the back—convinced me that I didn’t need to explore higher speeds any further.
At more normal speed, the windscreen is a great benefit. The 2018 Suzuki V-Strom 1000XT features a new clear screen with three available angles and solid bracketry. The lower angle may buffer taller riders at higher speeds, but a quick push up a notch stops that, a little. It does help on highway speeds and is much appreciated for long high-speed travels.
The six-speed transmission is smooth and the ratios spaced right. A couple times upshifts into 2nd or 3rd gear didn’t engage, but that was remedied by more positive lifting of the foot. Seating is spacious and brackets are in place for OEM accessory panniers, when they become available.
I mounted Tourmaster Elite soft saddlebags and tailbag to carry a set of clean street clothes, a laptop, and a bag of repair tools. No need for tube and irons, as the tires are tubeless despite the wire-spoked rims. Watch for a full review of the Tourmaster Elite motorcycle luggage, along with the Cortech Sequoia XC jacket and pants—two more essential adventure touring items.
With a 33.5-inch seat height, the V-Strom 1000XT feels more comfortable, and perhaps safer, than a true ADV motorcycle with longer legs and a higher seat height. It can take on big loads and a passenger, with easily adjustable shock spring-preload, and great brakes for any emergency stopping. Along with the excellent radially mounted Tokico calipers and all the associated ABS functions, braking is helped by good motor compression (11.3:1).
My trip started from my Tehachapi, Cali., mountain home with the destination of getting to cooler weather at the coast. I usually like to start my rides with the graded dirt road through the Tejon Ranch down to Interstate 5.
Based on previous experience with open-class ADV bikes, the tighter blind turns on a bike without knobby tires was not going to be enjoyable. Instead, I chose the backroad to Keene for breakfast and a view of our local train-enthusiast attraction—the Tehachapi Loop.
I got on a short section of the same California Highway 58 to the National Purple Heart Trail (California Highway 223), which takes you past the Bakersfield National Cemetery. From there, it’s through Arvin to Wheeler Ridge Road, where you can pick pomegranates off the roadside trees as you head towards the twisting Grapevine portion of I-5.
The V-twin power allows the 1000XT to weave up the Grapevine’s steep southbound climb and through traffic with ease and confidence. This was followed by a quick visit of Fort Tejon.
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