A Tall Tourer For The Real World
Way back in the mists of time, the early to mid-1990s to be exact, anyone who was anyone rode sports bikes. Honda’s Fireblade was king of the pack. Kawasaki had the fearsome ZX9R and Yamaha’s contribution was the wonderfully named Thunder Cat. All were wearing engines between 900 and 1000cc. All were very powerful. Then Suzuki released a 750cc in line four called the SRAD that wiped the floor with the lot of them.
Around the same time, they also brought a bike to market called the TL1000. There were two variations on the model, a fully faired version called the ‘R’, and a naked version called the ‘S’. The R was the one to have. We are sure that anyone who owned an S would disagree with them as our store manager Jason Purser who was a proud owner mentioned with a smile. He owned a red one because they go faster. Riding a V Twin that put 130 bhp out with no modification, other than a set of end cans, in 1997 was quite an experience.
The TL was a ferocious machine. The finish wasn’t as good on the big Suzuki as it was on pretty much anything else on the market. It was, however, a quicker and more ‘involving’ ride than any of its peers and introduced many riders to the joys of V-configured engines. Rather unfortunately, the bike had a habit of killing itself. The rear shock would detach by snapping the link on the swing arm. The bike press, in the UK in particular, had a field day with the news and put heaps of bad publicity Suzuki’s way. The machine was eventually withdrawn from the market.
The engine was too good to die, however, and a reduced power version was used in a subsequent bike called the SV 1000. This was a much more polite version of the TL. The suspension was sorted and the block detuned to keep the pressure off the frame. The beast had been tamed. Its spirit had been broken.
Move on another few years and the motorcycle riding public who enjoyed these things had started to calm down, get married, and developed a need to become mortgage-paying responsible citizens. So they bought lots of BMW’s R1200 GSs.
Suzuki needed in on the act so they produced another new bike called the V-Strom. They needed a v twin engine with decent torque and what they called ‘usable power’. As a result, the TL block was pulled out in the interests of powering Suzuki’s contribution to the tall tourer craze. It was now a 98 bhp bike. The bike ran for years with minor changes every year or two and continued to undercut the class-leading GS in price by a slice measured in thousands rather than hundreds. The old V-Strom was an honest bike. It had no pretensions about riding off road in any serious way, just like most of the riders who used the GS!
Fast-forward to 2010 and the Japanese started to make noise about a totally new V-Strom. Prototypes were shown at shows and were well enough received to initiate a whole new project.The current bike was launched in 2014. This new Suzuki feels excellent as a riding machine (see for yourself!). The big front wheel looks the part and the seat height, frame and fuelling, have all been revised. The engine has been increased in size to a 1,037cc V Twin, which produces 99BHP.
What the bike is, is an honest machine. Once again it has no pretentions of being an off road bike, though it will dismiss trails with ease. It’s also very, very cheap in comparison to nearly every other tall tourer on the market. The bike is easy to ride. The power is delivered in a less urgent way than most v twins. The ergonomics are excellent and it’s very comfortable, even after a long day in the saddle. The bike comes as standard with adjustable ABS and traction control. Hand guards, engine bars and heated grips are to be fitted after delivery.
Some of the specs are fantastic, not least the newly added Traction Control System, which continuously monitors wheel speeds, throttle, crank and gear position sensors, reducing engine output when it detects wheel spin by managing the ignition timing and air delivery.
The Tokico callipers up the front have excellent stopping power and the ABS system is modern, effective and unobtrusive.The only negative that we found is that the ABS is not switchable. Up front the clocks are digital, detailing everything from the time of day to the remaining fuel and is complimented with a large clear analogue rev counter.
Unlike some other offerings in this market segment, the final drive is a chain. Apparently these need to be lubed. Its part of owning a real motorcycle! There are grab bars and a top box rack down the back, which definitely make the new bike more pillion friendly.
The screen is adjustable by hand to a certain degree and even more so if set up with the tools under the seat. There is a PTO socket under the clocks to plug in the all too necessary digital navigator and the whole thing is styled to look like an adventure bike. The forks are gold in colour and look more substantial for it. There are small details such as the clear indicators that add a lot of class to the bike’s finish.
The V-Strom doesn’t have the power of the Multistrada or the dual-purpose abilities of the KTM 1190, but then again it doesn’t cost nearly as much. You could do much worse than ride across the continent, or even the world, on one of these. In some ways, however, it just seems a shame that I’ve grown into a rider who is happier on one of these than I would be if asked to ride the legendary TL today.