Test and previews Wed 26 September 2018

Suzuki V-Strom 650 XT ABS - The sport-adventure with the “beak”

When we scheduled the test of the V-Strom 650 XT ABS with Suzuki Italia we asked it to be delivered with knobby tires. We chose the Anlas Capra X, a tire we tested a few months ago that grants excellent performance on this type of track.
We elected the Harditaroad as our testing track, 850 km of off-road from Trento to Trieste non-stop in about 32 hours.

While preparing for the event we sometimes thought we underestimated it. We were fascinated by the beauty of dedicated, ex Dakarian and full option bikes participating in the event, while the other riders were intrigued, almost incredulous, by the fact that we would participate with a standard sport-adventure equipped with side bags (35-liter capacity each).
We already appreciated its riding easiness and maneuverability while heading for Trento but we didn’t know how it would handle off-road even if its low seat and being able to firmly plant our feet on the ground give us confidence.
Aesthetically our “yellow bird” has a rather pronounced beak and a capacious 20-l tank taken from its ancestor DR Big - a ’90 bike that made African rally enthusiasts’ mouth water - as well as many improvements and solutions that it shares with its 1000 cc big sister.
The 645 cm3 twin engine is a euro 4, with considerably improved low and medium revs, the ones we used the most during the test. The new pistons with anti-friction coating play a part in keeping pollution levels low while considerably reducing consumption. As for the latter, we noted excellent mileage, since we completed the rally with only two full tanks and a consumption of about 25 km per liter (rough estimate). An important contribution to this is given by the SDTV (Suzuki Dual Throttle Valve) injection system. The twin-beam aluminum frame is a distinctive element as is the completely redesigned exhaust circuit - not loud but with the racing high note – that perfectly harmonizes with the whole bike.
We installed a GPS system to follow the tracks and the useful 12 v plug positioned near the digital dashboard ensured power for the whole trip. Using a simple Allen wrench on the 4 screws we completely lowered the windshield since we prefer it to be low riding off-road so that it is less of an obstacle against any branches. We also deactivated the Traction Control but couldn’t do the same with the ABS; however, after we got used to it we didn’t find it to be too interfering.

A few km from the city we switch to off-road while we gain confidence with output and braking; bumps are well dampened by the forks which reassure us on rough terrain. The single-shock absorber easily reaches the end of its stroke, so we stop to increase the spring pre-load, which solves the issue, and we start having fun sliding sideways while cornering.
How not to mention the “Low RPM assist” that more than once helped us: this system prevents the engine from accidentally dying, i.e. as soon as the clutch is used engine rpm automatically increase which is very useful when riding at low speed or when overcoming obstacles.
The powerful and wide-beam LED headlights excellently light our way in the night since the low-beam would stay on even when using the high-beam.
The bike comes with hand guards and an enveloping skid plate which proved essential on this type of terrain, besides giving the bike a more aggressive look. The racing look is completed by the 19” front and 17” back tubeless spoke rims, totally anodized in gold color.

This motorcycle is so easy to ride and stable that we were able to finish this wearying rally despite the skepticism of many participants. No inconvenience has been noted during the 850 km of off-road, except for a flat caused by a nail; an excellent feedback for potential buyers who have long trips in mind. Since we are not used to travelling for so many hours in a row, there was the risk of a sore backside but fortunately the structure of the seat made this adventure more comfortable.
Harditaroad conquered!

Text and photos: Pietro Bartolomei