Adventure bikes have not really caught on in India. Blame it on the high prices, the presence of sports bikes or simply the lack of awareness. Nine out of 10 people will even confuse them for dirt bikes. To clear the mystery, an adventure bike is simply one that is designed to take on all sorts of road conditions. And that is what brings us to Suzuki's new V-Strom.
I had seen photos of the V-Strom online, but I hadn't expected it to be so tall in real life. But then, silly me, with massive 19-inch wheels it was bound to have a towering height. At 5 feet 9 inches, I am usually not intimidated by motorcycles, but I must admit my average Indian height fell short of the Suzuki machine's demands and I had to tilt the bike to climb on it. Mustering every bit of audacity in my being, I pressed the ignition button to hear a deeply satisfying mechanical growl. Fiddle with the throttle and you find the V-Strom all peppy and eager to gobble the kilometres.
Two things that stand out in this Suzuki is the ride stance and the motorcycle's manoeuverability. The wide seat not only provides excellent cushioning, but it also provides ample support to the lower back to make the ride stress free. Comfort is the key word here. Complementing the seats are the handle bars, which are placed perfectly to ensure that your arms don't tire out easily. With a raised seating position, your vision is even higher than in some cars. So take it for granted that you will end up looking sideways at drivers in tallboy hatchbacks and urban crossovers on the road. The bike's weight, at 228 kg, is no light matter. But the way the V-Strom weaves its way forward in heavy traffic is quite exemplary.
This touring bike's 1037 cc engine is not like that of a sports bike, in which it is ever ready to make the machine jump out of its skin. The V-Strom is a champion at low torque where the one-litre engine provides enough punch to accelerate quickly. Though you may feel that it is a lazy bike, the V-Strom will cruise in the 160 kmph region without a demur.
You have to keep in mind the V-Strom is a tourer and not a knee-scraping sports bike. Yet if you still want to push it to its limit, it will do its best without disappointing you. Due to its weight, the bike remains stable and fills you with confidence - even if, like it was for me, your lack of height constantly plays on your mind.
On macadam, the tyres provide ample support and grip. But here is its shortcoming as an adventure bike meant for all roads -- take it on a dirt track and the bike has a tough time balancing on the soft terrain and the loose soil and pebbles. This is a pity because I did expect a lot more from the V-Strom. But in all probability a change of tyres could make the V-Strom sing a different tune on such surfaces. Knobby tyres, or tyres with knobs that provide extra traction on loose surfaces, can definitely transform the bike into a hardcore off-roader.
To show how serious Suzuki is about its being seen as an adventurer's delight, the V-Strom comes with a two levels of traction control with an option to switch them off even as the anti-brake locking system remains on all the time. The instrument panel is clean and easy to read with a large analogue rpm counter and a digital speedometer. It tells you the temperature and whether or not the traction control is on, and if so, in which mode. There is also a 12-volt socket where you can charge gadgets like a phone or plug in a GPS device. The bike comes with a windscreen visor that can be adjusted for height and angle with a simple Allen key.
The KYB adjustable front forks and the mono rear suspensions provide among the best in ride quality that any two wheeler offers in the country. The V-Strom easily negotiates potholes and speed breakers. Though the suspension is more on the lines of a sporty set up, the ride is not stiff because the dampening controls are assiduous in carrying out the task of cushioning.
The V-Twin engine delivers solid power without producing numbing vibrations. The six-speed gear box is slick and the clutch is easy to use. The V-Strom, with its beak like fascia, may not be the most attractive bike but it certainly comes across visually as tough and rugged, which it is. The brakes - twin discs in the front and a single one at the rear - are very responsive, may be a bit too much. One needs to be careful as a slight misjudgment in applying the brakes can leave you diving on the road.
At its price, it hardly constitutes an affordable choice. But then you can't really have everything in one machine. It is a very good and a practical commuter bike, but you have to keep in mind its rather onerous weight. It is great for long-distance rides and keeps the rider all relaxed. And with an engine that is capable of providing good power even at low rpms, it is a capable and commendable bike. That explains the price: to get all these, you will have to open up your purse.
Arup Das is Features Editor at AutoX
Engine: 1037cc V-twin, liquid-cooled, four-stroke
Fuel tank: 20 litres
Fuel system: Fuel injection
Weight: 228 kg
Price: Rs 14.95 lakh (Ex-showroom, Delhi)