The Suzuki engineers out of Japan have called their V-Strom 1000 a “two-way player.” The sport-adventure motorcycle earned this name due to its strong, usable power throughout the rev range.
This two-way player transitions into adulthood for 2020, reaching a young but capable age of 18 years old. The motorcycle is wise for its age, and this is the third time the V-Strom 1000 has been updated since 2002. For 2020, it grows in naming to a V-Strom 1050, though it retains the 1037cc engine that arrived with a revision in 2014. The overall engine is basically the same design that was first transplanted from the TL1000 sportbike back in 2002.
I headed to Málaga, Spain, for a first ride of new V-Strom 1050XT. It’s the mid-tier model between the base edition and the 1050XT Adventure, the latter of which is upgraded with luggage and other touring-savvy options.
Here are my first impressions delivered in a fast fact format so you can get the most value in the quickest time. We will follow with a more in-depth story on the ride, which will include annoying tourists and authorities who don’t like dirt riders, plus some salty jamón and more.
1. First, let me explain what makes the 1050XT different and substantially better than the base model. Suzuki offers 58 accessories for the standard V-Strom 1050—that’s triple the average amount of any other Suzuki motorcycle. Nine of those arrive directly from the factory on the XT, including the all-important wire-spoke aluminum rims with tubeless tires. I went through seven cast wheels on my 2002 V-Strom, and cast wheels carry over to the base V-Strom 1050. There are also lower “crash” bars, handguards, and a discrete plastic insert to quickly upgrade to the plastic side bags (read—not the aluminum panniers). Also, the previous generation’s factory plastic side bags fit the 2020 models. The 1050XT Adventure is further updated with touring panniers and heated grips, to name a few features.
2. The refinements of the engine are immediately noticed from the very first twist of the new ride-by-wire throttle. Power builds smoothly and quickly, depending on how much oomph is needed. Although it is still a 1037cc DOHC 90-degree V-twin—only the model name grew to 1050—the engine is more responsive across the rev range. The engine’s Euro-5 compliant horsepower numbers grow from 106 at 8500 rpm compared to 99 at 8000 rpm, and the linear delivery of power is more noticeable than the seven-horse jump. The torque output is nearly identical at 74 ft-lbs. The absolute peak comes at 6000 rpm now, rather than 4000, though the curve remains nearly flat. Again, it’s all about the optimization of power delivery for every type of riding situation, from sport to highway to town to fire roads.
3. The revisions are simple—higher compressions pistons (11.5:1 vs. 11.3:1), new camshaft profiles (more lift, less overlap), and new electronically actuated 49mm throttle bodies (up from 45mm)—and the delivery is impressive. In typical short-stroke V-twin style, the Strom’s engine delivers power across the range that’s usable everywhere. In stop-and-go urban traffic in town, you can shift into a higher gear and allowing the powerplant to smoothly drag down to around 1000 rpm. At the other end, when engaging in aggressive sport riding, you can easily bounce it off the rev limiter in third and fourth gear. When you’re on the highway, it’s effortless to pass cars at 75 mph in sixth gear with a small input to the throttle.
4. The electronics are revamped and offer a vast improvement over the previous generations. Still, they retain the simplicity that’s you don’t find in the powerhouse European adventure touring motorcycles such as the BMW R 1250 GS, KTM 1290 Adventure and Ducati Multistrada Enduro 1260. The riding modes, traction control, and ABS are all easily adjusted on-the-fly (throttle closed) by two simple buttons on the left controls.
5. The TC and ABS are controlled by a completely revamped IMU. The six-axis IMU from Bosch combines a three-axis angle sensor and a three-axis acceleration sensor in a single compact unit. The V-Strom 1000 got by with a single three-axis IMU.
6. The three riding modes—simply A, B, and C—are the most significant update (the previous generation had one mode). Although horsepower does not change, power delivery does. The A mode provides lazier power inputs for situations with less traction (rain, loose gravel, etc.), and C mode a much snappier output for sporting situations. For me, A was too soft, and C way too abrupt. Mode B, though, is the proverbial sweet spot, and I used it throughout all riding situations. B allows me to deploy smooth maintenance throttle through long sweepers at extreme lean angles, and didn’t upset the suspension when going from minimal to aggressive throttle inputs.
7. The 2020 Suzuki V-Strom 1050XT now has three traction control modes, compared to two on the previous generation. Level 1, the least intrusive, is my go-to mode. The system can be turned off, which I did for some dirt sections and a few more aggressive street sections. However, level 1 is a safe bet for both on- and off-road riding situations. While I rarely saw the orange TC light flash on the right side of the revamped instrument layout, I knew it was there and safeguarding me if traction did get loose, as it does on many of the roundabouts near the Málaga and Ronda city limits.
8. ABS is also offered in two modes, but can’t be shut off, something I will truly miss for aggressive off-road riding. The Japanese did their studies, and most people won’t take the V-Strom 1050XT on any single-track or aggressive off-road situations. Level 1 works for these situations, though the fun factor is somewhat removed for those who like to lock up the rear wheel. Level 1 is ideal for any rider in any situation—it’s that good. The added safety and confidence of level 2 is there for wet conditions.
9. The new six-axis IMU allows for Hill Hold Control, Slope Dependent Control, and Load Dependent control features. This translates into easy starts on steep inclines with the clutch, anti-rear wheel lift during aggressive downhill braking, and stronger braking habits when the weight load increases with loaded saddlebags or a passenger. The hill and rear-lift control work as expected, though I didn’t get to experiment with increased weight to test the load control.
10. The 2020 Suzuki V-Strom 1050XT and 1050XT Adventure have cruise control. This is a vital necessity for long-distance touring and highway hauls. The transmission must be in fourth gear or higher, and the speed in between 30 and 100 mph. Engaging is an easy click of a button on the right controls, and modulating the speed inputs from the left controls is smooth and effortless. Cruise control is not available on the standard model.
11. The KYB suspension isn’t radically updated, so the action hasn’t changed much over the previous generation. The slight revisions include more damping up front and a stiffer shock spring. The shock lacks compression-damping adjustment, though the spring-preload adjustment knob is still easy to reach below the left rider seat; it can be adjusted on the fly for riding situations. I stiffened mine about two full turns from the factory and rode without issue all day.
12. The suspension setup combines comfort while touring with just enough stiffness for sport riding. On-road, the chassis recovers well from hard braking or abrupt throttle inputs, though for aggressive riding it takes some time to get used to. Off-road, the softer suspension can quickly compromise the 6.3 inches of ground clearance. This shouldn’t be an issue for the target rider of the V-Strom, who will do more long-distance touring than sport riding/off-roading. Factory settings were a bit soft for my 185 pounds (sans gear) and aggressive riding style.
13. The V-Strom 1050XT retains the aluminum twin-spar frame and swingarm. When matched with the new DID aluminum wire-spoked rims, the curb weight is a bit under 600 pounds (Suzuki makes no specific curb-weight claim). Compared to my 2002 Strom—aptly nicknamed El Mule—the third-generation carries its weight well and does not present any top-heavy issues on the street. The off-road feel of weight balance is also vastly improved.
14. Ergonomics feel the same as the previous generation, though now with a tapered aluminum handlebar and wider footpegs for more comfort. The stock position of the bar is a bit low for standing. No worries; it is easily adjusted. The pegs are in a great position for a comfortable riding position with my nearly six-foot frame. The rubber footpeg inserts are removable for more boot-to-peg traction in slippery conditions.
15. Tokico brake calipers return—dual 310mm front discs; 260mm out back—and are adequate for normal, non-aggressive riding situations. The fronts have an initial strong bite, but do not provide much feedback while trail braking. As for the rear, I rely on them to tighten lines and keep the chassis stable during the endless cornering found across Europe. The V-Strom 1050XT’s rear brake requires minimal input to finesse the lightweight chassis through any type of cornering situation.
16. The 2020 Suzuki V-Strom 1050XT’s windscreen is adjustable by nearly two inches, which is a vast improvement over the 1000XT. The only issue is that the adjuster is positioned in front of the screen and is tough to unlatch. This requires you to stop to adjust the height safely. With that said, I had no wind buffeting issues with the screen in standard position, and this was while riding with an Arai XD-4 with a peak—a lid design that usually increases buffeting.
17. Suzuki upgraded the 1050XT with a slightly lower two-piece seat that has three-quarters of an inch of adjustability. Mine was in the standard position of 33.5 inches, and I didn’t feel the need to change. To move it to the higher position took Suzuki techs about 10 minutes with the in-bike tools, so it’s not a simple “lift the seat and change slots” design. As for comfort, my bum did get sore after about 75 miles of riding. Luckily, the accessory bars allow you to lay your legs across the tops almost like highway pegs for the ankles, and this allowed me to comfortably readjust my butt for some relief.
18. The 2020 Suzuki V-Strom 1050XT’s new Bridgestone Battlax Adventure A41 tires are a vast improvement over the previous generation’s Bridgestone Battle Wing rubber. Bridgestone worked directly with Suzuki to develop these tires specifically for the V-Strom 1050, and the tires provided zero grip issues on the street and were ideal for fire-road situations. Looser gravel will require a slight drop in PSI for some traction, and a tire-pressure monitor would be a nice accessory.
19. Though the engine was updated with Euro 5 tech and additional power, the fuel consumption remains the same. If the 57.6 mpg claim is valid, you can get around 300 miles between fill-ups for the 5.3-gallon tank. As always, your mileage may vary.
20. I know from personal history with my 2002 V-Strom 1000 that durability and maintenance will not present any problems. I checked my valves at 55,000 miles for the first time, and they were in full spec. I’m reluctant to even open up that engine until it presents some issues. I’m sure many would say the same for the 2020 V-Strom 1050 lineup.
21. The 1050XT’s retro style that was directly influenced by the non-US 1988 Suzuki DR750 S Big, the pioneer of the beak. I was impressed when I first saw the pictures of the V-Strom’s updated body style, and when I saw the bike in person, my love for the styling grew. The Champion Yellow No. 2 is definitely the hottest color, though the two-tone Heritage Special Pearl Brilliant White/Glass Blaze Orange also grew on me after a day in the saddle.
22. Other much-appreciated upgrades enhance adventure touring:
- Revised LCD dash (I’m spoiled and want a brighter TFT dash!)
- Suzuki Easy Start System for a single-push quick start (controlled by ECU)
- LED headlight that’s square and similar to the new Katana
- LED taillights
- 12-volt socket under the seat
- USB socket on the left of the dash
- Easy-to-use centerstand
- New exhaust has a growl at higher rpm
- Cooler-running engine due to an improved radiator and oil cooler; expect zero heat from the V-Strom’s powerplant.
23. The price of the 2020 1050XT increases $1500 from the 2019 1000XT to $14,799. I’d argue that the premium is well worth the value for the updated engine and electronics. I’d also argue that accessory heated grips and skid plate should be included in the 1050XT package. For those who lead a spartan life, the standard 2020 V-Strom 1050 runs $13,399.
24. The 2020 Suzuki V-Strom 1050XT retains the essential character of the previous 17 years. Even with electronic and engine updates, Suzuki did not over-complicate the V-Strom 1050XT, and it remains an attractive, affordable choice in the liter-class ADV class.
2020 Suzuki V-Strom 1050XT Specs
- Type: 90-degree V-twin
- Displacement: 1037cc
- Bore x stroke: 100 x 66mm
- Compression ratio: 11.5:1
- Valvetrain: DOHC, 4vpc
- Fueling: EFI w/ 49mm throttle body
- Transmission: 6-speed
- Final Drive: RK 525 O-ring chain
- Front suspension; travel: Fully adjustable inverted 43mm KYB fork; 6.3 inches
- Rear suspension; travel: Linkage-assisted, rebound-damping and spring-preload adjustable shock; 6.3 inches
- Wheels: Wire-spoke w/ aluminum rims
- Tires: Bridgestone Battleax Adventure A41
- Front tire: 110/80 x 19
- Rear tire: 150/70 x 17
- Front brakes: 310mm discs w/ radially mounted 4-piston Tokico calipers
- Rear brake: Disc w/ 2-piston Nissin caliper
- ABS: Standard, IMU-supported
DIMENSIONS and CAPACITIES
- Wheelbase: 61.2 inches
- Rake: 25.3 degrees
- Trail: 4.3 inches
- Seat height: 33.5 inches
- Ground clearance: 6.3 inches
- Fuel tank capacity: 5.3 gallons
- Curb weight: 545 pounds
- Pearl Brilliant White/Glass Blaze Orange
- Champion Yellow No. 2
2020 Suzuki V-Strom 1050XT Price:
- $14,799 MSRP