Suzuki continues to fine-tune, expand, and retract the V-Strom 650 platform, and the latest iteration of the mid-size adventure motorcycle is the 2020 Suzuki V-Strom 650XT Adventure. This new ADV warrior takes the 650XT and adds an array of accessories to build the most adventure-ready V-Strom 650 in the line’s 16-year run.1. The 2020 Suzuki V-Strom 650XT Adventure retains the basic V-Strom 650 engine and chassis that we already love. In a world where under-delivery is the standard, the V-Strom 650XT Adventure is a consistently pleasant surprise.
2. While you might expect a 645cc V-twin in a 525-pound (give or take, no curb weight is claimed) adventure motorcycle to be underpowered, that is not the case. Tuned for torque, it pulls nicely, even at open-highway speeds. You can cruise all day at well over the speed limit without feeling like the engine is the least bit bothered. Although there are no power modes, there are three traction control settings that have a similar effect. One of the TC settings is “off” for adventures in the dirt.3. The suspension has no damping adjustments, yet it acquits itself impressively for typical ADV duty. Aimed toward comfort, the roughly six inches of travel at both ends is a lot to work with. On the road, the damping is sufficient to prevent wallowing and other misbehavior. You have to ride wisely off-road, as you can blow through the travel fairly quickly on uneven terrain. Even at slow speeds, the suspension moves quite a bit, and that compromises the 6.7 inches of ground clearance quickly. We bottomed out on a rugged urban dirt road, so be aware. At high speeds on nicely graded dirt roads, the suspension feels as nice as it does on the street.4. The 650XT Adventure’s handling is extraordinarily intuitive. This motorcycle goes where you want to go, with nary a complaint or delay. The agility makes the 650XT Adventure a much better off-pavement motorcycle than its liter-sized big brother. Stability remains unhampered, as you can take it up to triple-digits with nary a complaint from the chassis.5. Bridgestone Battlax Adventure A40 tires are definitely street-oriented. The rubber is impeccable on the pavement, yet still usable in the dirt. So, we took the V-Strom 650XT Adventure onto a fairly serious jeep trail that included elevation changes, mud, and some snow, and we made it through without a mishap. We do have plans for something a bit more dirt-friendly on the wire-spoke 17-/19-inch wheels—perhaps the Bridgestone Battlax Adventurecross AX41 and some more challenging dirt excursions.6. Braking is predictable on- and off-road, though the ABS cannot be turned off (hint: there’s a fuse box). On the pavement, the dual 310mm discs and Tokico calipers do their duty perfectly. The rear brake, with a Nissin caliper, is also fully usable.7. The aluminum panniers are roomy, waterproof, and convenient. After a long day’s ride, there is nothing less appealing than wrestling with removable 37-liter panniers. The 650XT Adventure’s panniers are double locking, and are extraordinarily secure on the motorcycle due to the stainless steel latches. There’s a keyed lock for the lid, and another lock to release the panniers from the mounts. Happily, both operate effortlessly. You can open the top to get to the contents at a moment’s notice, and the process to remove and install the panniers on the mounting frame takes under a minute. For those who ride in difficult circumstances, the panniers are claimed to be waterproof. Also, Suzuki anodized the interior to prevent the aluminum from staining cargo. The only shortcoming—the key for the panniers is different from the ignition key.8. For long-distance tourers, the 650XT Adventure gets an improved windscreen. Although it doesn’t look that much different, the increased size and refined shape of the windscreen has a significant impact on the still area created for the rider cockpit. While I noticed that the ride was quieter and less hectic, Associate Editor Kelly Callan had been a critic of the buffeting on last year’s 650XT Touring. The first thing she asked after riding it on a windy Antelope Valley Freeway was if the windshield had been changed. She says the Adventure is far better on the freeway than the Touring. The windscreen on the 650XT Adventure can be set in one of three positions. Unfortunately, you have to get off the motorcycle and remove four thumbscrews to adjust the windshield—an obvious result of Suzuki’s effort to keep the price and weight tamped down.9. Radiator and plastic protection is provided courtesy of a “rugged accessory bar,” per Suzuki. Guarding the radiator on both sides are steel bars, and there is a stabilizing bar between them that offers some front cylinder protection. They give the 650XT Adventure a purposeful appearance.10. The 2020 Suzuki V-Strom 650XT Adventure gets a crossbar for the handlebar. This adds rigidity to the handlebar, which is welcome off-road and when getting aggressive in the twisties. Plus, it could help prevent a bent bar in a mishap. Happily, that bracing didn’t make the feel of the front end less comfortable during normal riding. For those who want to add a GPS, the crossbar also serves as a convenient mounting point.11. Furthering the touring angle, the mirrors have extensions to put them farther out. While this makes the 650XT Adventure a bit less agreeable for lane-splitting and brush bashing, the improved rearview is nice. It’s a change that makes sense, given the Adventure’s focus. The handguards from the standard 650XT are carried over, and help protect your digits from branches and windblast.12. Unlike last year’s V-Strom 650XT Touring, the 650XT Adventure lacks a centerstand. The V-Strom 650 is a long-running, highly reliable platform. Still, a centerstand is always a good idea for the true adventurist.13. You won’t find a lot of convenience features, though there are a few. Suzuki’s Easy Start System is cool—just stab the button, and the engine fires up. You don’t have to hold it in until the twin spark-plugs in the heads light up. Also, the Suzuki Low RPM Assist function makes an accidental stall of take-off less likely by automatically raising the revs from idle as the clutch is released. We would like to see an assist-and-slip clutch, though the clutch pull is not onerous.14. We like all the flavors of the V-Strom 650, yet the 2020 Suzuki V-Strom 650XT Adventure has the most appeal to our sense of wanderlust. Bigger is better is as much a cliché as less is more, so we’ll avoid those. There is a definite appeal to a sub-600-pound ADV mount that also has manageable power and relative simplicity. There are many ways to go adventuring, and the 2020 Suzuki V-Strom 650XT Adventure is one of the most compelling.Photography by Kelly CallanRIDING STYLE
This week, Senior Editor Nic de Sena rides the all new Ducati Monster. Big changes have been made by Ducati–has the company ruined the considerable heritage of the iconic Monster–or are the changes worth it? In the second part of the show, we chat with Nick Ienatsch, Founder and Head Instructor at the Yamaha Champions Riding School. He says: “We aim to change your riding life by introducing you to Champions Habits: The techniques, approaches, skills, and the mindsets of the best riders in the world. These Champions Habits are the foundation of safety and consistency to whatever speed you ride, in any venue on any bike. Street riders, this is just as much for you as track riders. The best way to make safe riders is to make good riders.“ We hope you enjoy this episode!