2020 Suzuki V-Strom 1050XT Test: Simply Taking On Spain

1050XT Suzuki V-Strom off-road review

Stenciling the southeast curves of Spain that descend into the Mediterranean, Málaga, a city of over 570,000, has grown as an economic force. In terms of economic activity, Málaga is fourth on a list behind the business-forward Spanish cities of Madrid, Barcelona, and Valencia.

However, that growth has not been as dramatic as those it trails in terms of economic activity, especially in the tech sector where Madrid is leading the way for Spain.

Outside of Málaga’s city limits, and within the province of Málaga, are some of Spain’s most beloved cities, including Marbella and Ronda. In these two areas, the economy advances slowly, providing just enough feel for those who embrace a growing workforce, all while providing a simplistic landscape for those who respect a more traditional way of living.

1050XT Suzuki V-Strom priceThis theme behind the area provided the ideal location to launch the 2020 Suzuki V-Strom 1050. Unlike the bigger European adventure tourers from BMW, Ducati, KTM, and Triumph, the V-Strom’s uncluttered nature is not overshadowed by technological advancements.

For its 18th birthday, the Strom receives minimal electronic enhancements while providing big rewards. The 2020’s revised electronics are enough to satisfy the modern, tech-forward rider, while keeping things simple enough to appease the riders who like something less technologically sophisticated—more analog, if you may.

I fled the cold Northeast winter and flew to Málaga, where daytime temps hover around 60 degrees, and rain is always a threat, to test the XT model. For adventure riders, the 1050XT provides a bit more edge over the base 1050 model. The XT arrives with much-needed wire-spoked wheels and tubeless tires, accessory (crash) bars, and cruise control, among other things.

With an original 2002 V-Strom DL1000 in my garage with over 80K on the odometer, I understand what the V-Strom was designed to deliver. I argue that it is focused on a comfortable, carefree ride, no matter where or how long the trip will take. I simply can’t let my V-Strom go, even though I do own a few other highly technical ADV bikes. Sans seven destroyed rear wheels and three clutches, I never had any issues with it.

Since I bought it with around 15K on the clock, I change the oil when I feel like it— non-synthetic 5W-30—keep the chain clean, and have washed it maybe five times. The bike has earned the name El Mule for good reasons. At nearly 85K, the valves have never needed adjustment. I don’t think I’ll ever recheck them.

1050XT Suzuki V-Strom seat heightThe original V-Strom DL1000 impressed, as did the second major update in 2014, when the engine grew from 996—a direct transplant from the TL1000 sportbike—to 1037cc.

Since 2020, it is only the third major overhaul of the line, and I expected the same positive impressions. From my first ride, the bike has delivered on these expectations.

My time was limited while testing around the culture that fostered some famed humans, such as Pablo Picasso and Antonio Banderas, but learned much while piloting the XT along tight twisty backroads, high-speed highways, and stop-and-go in-town trafficked roads.

Engine: Subtle Tweaks, Major Improvement

Let’s start with the powerplant. Its Japanese creators coin it the “two-way player” due to the engine’s usable and robust power throughout the rev range.

Note that though the V-Strom’s name grew from 1000 to 1050 this year, the engine is the same 1037cc DOHC 90-degree V-twin engine that debuted in 2014.

Knowing that this short-stroke twin has provided minimal issues over the past two decades, Suzuki smartly kept the changes minimal. The 2020 updates include:

  • Higher compressions pistons (11.5:1 vs. 11.3:1)
  • New camshaft profiles (more lift, less overlap)
  • New electronically actuated 49mm throttle bodies (up from 45mm)
  • Euro 5 compliant

Though small, these changes have a significant impact on power delivery. The torque comes on strong and builds linearly to 8500 rpm, where a 105-horsepower peak is created.

Don’t expect a brutal increase of raw power from the tweaked engine; it’s only up seven horsepower compared to the 2019 model. Do expect a smoother power delivery and more enjoyment across the rev range.

During a few city jaunts around Málaga and heading for some salty jamón and chicken broth with mint in Ronda—a place known for its Plaza de Toros (Spain’s oldest bullring opened in 1785!) that one of my heroes Ernest Hemingway frequented—I let the engine lug down below 1000 rpm while in second gear. The engine didn’t throw a low-rpm stumbling hissy fit. Instead, it allowed me to forget about the clutch and simply flow with the speeds of interweaving in-town traffic.

1050XT Suzuki V-StromFor those who have ridden in Spanish towns know, speeds change quickly, and these situations can provoke heat issues. However, just as the last generation’s V-Strom, expect no heat issues, even when sitting in heavy traffic in the direct summer sun. Just in case, Suzuki says the 2020’s engine now runs cooler due to an improved radiator and oil cooler.

Torque is almost identical to the previous generation at 74 ft-lbs, though the peak output now occurs at 6000 rpm rather than 4000 rpm. The new torque curve remains remarkably flat, an element that also adds to the linear power delivery.

My favorite zone is right around 5000-7500 rpm while riding curvy roads and moving between third and fourth gears, or in the dirt while bouncing between second and third gears. When playing on the endless twisty roads in and around Sierra de las Nieves Natural Park, hitting the rev limiter between third and fourth gears provided some added grin.

Once on up to speed on highways, the engine requires zero gear changes from the smooth-shifting six-speed transmission. With a light, one-finger pull on the clutch lever, shift it into sixth and provide minimal throttle inputs when slowing or speeding up to pass traffic.

While on the highway, the 2020 Suzuki V-Strom 1050XT’s cruise control makes riding even more effortless (not available on the base 1050). A simple push of a button on the right controls turns it on, and a simple tap up or down on the left control’s simple buttons precisely modulates speed. Interestingly, the cruise control only works in fourth gear or higher between 30-100 mph, which shouldn’t present any issues for the average riders.

Cruise control is one of the nine accessories that arrive from the factory on 1050XT. The others include the vital wire-spoked aluminum rims with tubeless tires, handguards, and discrete plastic mounting inserts for Suzuki’s side-opening hard bags—not the ADV-fancy aluminum panniers.

The aluminum top-opening side bags, along with heated grips, are reserved for the 1050XT Adventure. All of these features, save cruise control, are available as accessories for the base model.

Hey, Suzuki! How about heated grips on the XT model, along with the oh-so-needed skid plate? One look at that vulnerable oil filter had me worried about smashing a rock or low tree branch and spilling oil on Spanish soil.

1050XT Suzuki V-Strom gaugesElectronics: Simplicity Continues Reign in Strom Land

With the highly technical BMW R 1250 GS, KTM 1290 Adventure, Ducati Multistrada 1260, and Triumph Tiger 1200 motorcycles, the adventure touring segment leads the way in regards to electronic savviness

When it comes to the latest in technology, thankfully, the V-Strom 1050 continues its middle-of-the-road attitude like the providence of Málaga’s economy. The residents of Ronda seek a Crianza and Tinto Joven red wine, where the grape does most of the work for taste rather than the added chemicals. Most V-Strom fans find a similar notion; they like their ADV motorcycle’s natural engine and chassis to do most of the work rather than fancy electronics.

As the 2020 1050XT enters adulthood, the riding modes, traction control, and ABS were improved over the previous generations. Still, they retain the simplicity of a few settings without the need to go inside engine maps and tweak a zillion parameters.

Thankfully, also, the riding modes, TC and ABS are all adjustable on the fly (with the throttle closed) by a simple push of a button on the left control. All are controlled by a revamped six-axis IMU from Bosch that features a pair of three-axis sensors—one for angle and one for acceleration. The previous generation Strom had to rely on a single three-axis IMU.

Traction control grows to three modes with the ability to be turned off (also on the fly). I used Level 1 for most of the situations, including some quick morning sweepers that were plagued with morning dew from the Sierra Blanca mountains, and the off-road sections. A longer fire road was planned, but Spain’s finest nicely kicked us out of a photo location though my riding lead had the necessary paperwork.

1050XT Suzuki V-Strom off-road reviewI experimented with Levels 2 and 3 numerous times, but became quite bored with them due to intervention – plus seeing the orange TC light flash on the revamped LCD (yes, LCD) dash drove me nuts. If it were raining, things would be different, but from experience on the morning-damp asphalt at serious lean angles, I’d likely keep the setting at 1 except for off-road and wheelie situations.

Speaking of wheelies, this edition is the easiest for pointing the front tire to the sky. Just don’t tell the Japanese design and engineer staff I said so; they take their safety seriously.

Also, how about a brighter dash? Or, if the price point can remain the same, a TFT dash?

I argue the same boredom for the two-level ABS that’s not switchable. Level 1 (least intervention) is ideal for all riding situations. Level 2 would add more confidence for wet rides, though the differences are not that noticeable.

I would still like the ABS to be switchable for the American edition, regardless of Euro 5 standards. I hate riding in the dirt with ABS, and I like stepping the back-end out under heavy rear braking for fun regardless of what type of terrain.

The most impressive update to the 2020 Suzuki V-Strom 1050XT’s electronics is undoubtedly the three riding modes. Well, mode B anyway. The previous generation only had one mode, and it didn’t deliver the smooth brain-to-hand-to-engine input I seek.

The new Strom 1050XT’s B mode is the proverbial sweet spot between A, which is too soft with lazy power delivery, and C, which is too aggressive for minute throttle inputs. Again, keeping things simple, the modes don’t alter horsepower levels—just delivery of power based on throttle input. Mode B allows you to finely tune your input, whether maintaining a clean lean under long sweepers or intentionally sliding the tire around a dirt corner.

1050XT Suzuki V-Strom for saleAlso included are three new electronics to the V-Strom 1050 lineup—Hill Hold Control, Slope Dependent Control, and Load Dependent control features.

In layman terms, these equate to easy starts on hills without the clutch, anti-rear wheel lift during aggressive braking, and stronger braking habits when the load increases from a passenger or saddlebags. I tested all but the added load function, and they work. Of course, I’d trade all three of these vanity electronics for a skid plate, heated grips, and a cool V-Strom t-shirt.

Chassis/Suspension: Small Tweaks for Big Difference

Just as Suzuki wisely retained the 1037cc V-twin powerplant, it also kept the iconic aluminum twin-spar frame and swingarm. This frame setup, combined with the DID aluminum rims with wire-spokes on the 1050XT model (and 1050XT Adventure; the base model gets cast-aluminum wheels), the curb weight is 545 pounds. The weight is very similar to that of the R 1250 GS, and, unlike my 2002 Strom, the 2020 carries that weight well.

Many Strom fans will realize that the 2020 model is 30 pounds heavier than the V-Strom 1000XT, which was last produced in 2018. Though not confirmed by Suzuki, the added weight is a combination of the new electronics, bodywork, and more robust protection.

The motorcycle carries the weight well, and I could not tell the difference from the previous XT to this one. The turn-in is just as quick and feels just as simple. There were zero top-heavy issues in town, though you can still tell you’re on a liter-class V-Strom when in the dirt. It’s a feeling a rider can quickly adapt to.

KYB suspension continues to be used. The only tweak is more damping on the fully adjustable suspension up front and a slightly stiffer rear shock. Unfortunately, the rear shock lacks compression-damping adjustment. Fortunately, that big spring-preload adjustment knob is still sticking out below the left rider seat for quick changes on the fly. I stiffened preload about two full turns for better sporting ride-height, and didn’t feel the need to alter it while in town or on the dirt.

1050XT Suzuki V-Strom testThe KYB suspension is nothing spectacular for authentic off-road riding, and it can quickly compromise with only 6.3 inches of ground clearance. On the street, whether in town, in touring mode, or all-out sport mode, the suspension does not upset.

Although the front dives a bit more than I like under hard braking, due to the overall chassis setup, the suspension recovered well. I’d add more stiffness to the forks if it were my own, though the stock settings provided no significant complaints for my 185 pounds (sans gear) and aggressive riding style.

The V-Strom 1050XT’s new Bridgestone Battlax Adventure A41 tires are a vast improvement over the previous gen’s Bridgestone Battle Wing rubber. These tires were designed specifically for the V-Strom 1050, and provided endless grip and feel on the streets. They need to lose some psi for heavy gravel situations and can slip through most fire roads without issue if standing correctly and keeping the center of gravity low. Speaking of that, I’d like a tire-pressure monitor—I’ll trade away slope control in exchange.

Brakes Work As They Should

In Ronda, the streets are stupidly tight, and tourists are everywhere. These are two issues that always present themselves on southern Spanish roads where some cars and semis are crazier than a bunch of American moto journalists.

A few were gawking at the Puente Nuevo, a bridge that appears to hover 390 feet above the Guadalevín River that divides the city; I nearly ran them over. Thankfully, the ABS and Tokico brake systems work as they should.

The Tokico brakes, dual 310mm front discs and a 260mm out back, worked overtime in the city, as they did in the mountain passes, and provided zero fading issues. The front brakes still lack feedback. They have a healthy initial bite, but are not that responsive when trail braking. Brembo’s would be a solution, but that would send the price too high. This is not a huge issue, and many will live with it as I have on my 2002 for the past decade.

While the rear brake would be considered weak for many riders, it is perfect for me. I adjust my rear brake for pure chassis stabilization—a bit of rear brake goes a long way during corners for tightening lines and scrubbing speed.

1050XT Suzuki V-Strom gaugesErgonomics – Changed but Feel the Same

Not many fussed about the ergonomics on the previous generation V-Strom 1000 or 1050, regardless of the rider’s height. The 2020 1050XT is slightly tweaked, with a tapered aluminum handlebar and wider footpegs for more comfort. Overall, however, ergonomics feel the same as the 1000XT. I can easily see myself riding this bike for 500-mile clips without complaints.

The rubber pegs can get slippery when wet (no pun intended my 1980s music fans!), so the rubber footpeg inserts are removable for more boot-to-peg traction when desired.

Two Gripes – Seat and Windscreen Adjustability

If I were to go those 500-mile clips, the stock seat would have to go.

Though the ergonomics are excellent, the updated seat on the 1050XT—a slightly lower two-piece seat that has three-quarters of an inch of adjustability—wasn’t the best for my tush.

The accessory bars on the 1050XT assisted when the butt moving began, as the bars allow you to lay your legs across the tops, almost like highway pegs for the ankles. This provided some relief on those long highway rides.

I tested mine in the standard 33.5-inch height and didn’t need to change it. It could go 0.2 inches higher, but it’s not a simple process of lifting the seat and changing a slot. Using in-bike tools, it takes about 10 minutes to make the swap. So, 33.5 inches sufficed for my day-long ride.

The revamped windscreen provided optimal protection from the wind and elements after experiencing some fog in the early mornings heading out of Ronda. I experienced no buffeting, even while wearing an Arai XD-4 with a peak—a helmet design that typically increases buffeting.

1050XT Suzuki V-Strom adjustable windscreenThe windscreen has plenty of adjustability—nearly two inches. Annoying, for safety reasons, it should not be adjusted while riding. It’s a major PITA due to the adjuster latch that’s positioned in front of the screen, not behind as it is on nearly every other adventure touring motorcycle on the planet.

Mileage, Styling, and Tasteful Extras

More power and Euro 5 tech typically mean a thirstier motor. Due to some tweaks to the exhaust—a single right-side unit that seriously growls over 5000 rpm—and ECU, the fuel consumption claim remains the same at 58 mpg. If you ride it conservatively, you can get around 300 miles between fill-ups from the 5.3-gallon gas tank.

The tank may hold the same amount of gas, but the styling for it and the rest of the bodywork was majorly overhauled. The 2020 Suzuki V-Strom 1050 is inspired by the non-US 1988 Suzuki DR750 S Big, a blocky-styled enduro that pioneered the front beak that’s ubiquitous in the world of ADV motorcycles.

The two-tone Heritage Special Pearl Brilliant White/Glass Blaze Orange appeared boring from the photos, but it quickly grew on me after a few miles of riding and gawking at the bike in person.

If my money was heading towards Suzuki’s bank account, the Champion Yellow No. 2 would be the easy choice. When paired with the LED headlight, now square and similar to the new Katana’s unit, and LED taillights, the yellow stands out among the ADV styling noise.

Suzuki also outfitted the 1050XT with additional enhancements that will please any adventure tourer, including a 12-volt socket under the seat, a USB socket on the left of the dash, and an easy-to-use centerstand.

Overall, the liter-class V-Strom has had a long trajectory towards refinement since the debut 2002 DL1000, including the 1050XT’s price increases of $1500 over the 2018 1000XT’s $13,299.

1050XT Suzuki V-Strom off-road reviewI arrived at this realization within minutes of leaving the not-so-bustling morning streets around Málaga. My awareness gained strength as the day’s ride continued. I was realizing more and more how electronics up the price on many of today’s top adventure bikes.

With refined power, better electronics, and improved handling, the 2020 Suzuki V-Strom 1050 appeals more than ever to an already massive market of passionate Strom fans. I know because I’m one of them.

Though I also own a KTM 1190 Adventure R and a Ducati Multistrada 1200, I can’t seem to part with my 2002 Strom that’s heading towards 85,000 miles. The V-Strom 1000 has been stuck in trees, rolled numerous times, and even tumbled down a 150-foot coal bank only to start with a light push of the starter button. Except for those replaced rear rims and clutches, El Mule has never let me down.

I expect the same of the 2020 Suzuki V-Strom 1050XT and, if the 1050XT was mine, I’d likely have more walking space in my garage, as it is a do-all answer to three bikes I own now.

Riding Style:

  • Helmet: Arai XD-4
  • Jacket and pants: Spidi Outlander
  • Gloves: Spidi Bora
  • Boots: XPD X-Trail Outdry

2020 Suzuki V-Strom 1050XT Specs

ENGINE

  • 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

CHASSIS

  • 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

COLORS

  • Pearl Brilliant White/Glass Blaze Orange
  • Champion Yellow No. 2

2020 Suzuki V-Strom 1050XT Price:

  • $14,799 MSRP

 2020 Suzuki V-Strom 1050XT Test – Photo Gallery