We have been self quarantined since March 13. That’s 8+ weeks. We are managing nicely and getting along just fine. But, I am ready to ride. Not just a short one, but a long, overnight travel on the motorcycle.
I have managed short rides just to get out of the house. An hour or so. Around the block. The big block. And those rides have me dreaming about the bigger ones.
Several overnight trips were on my calendar. That is, until this coronavirus came along and tossed my calendar into the garbage. Perhaps one or two can still be salvaged. It all depends upon travel conditions. What will be open? What closed? Facilities and accommodations.
Every time I take one of the bikes out for one of those get-out-of-the-house, short rides, I think just a few more miles before I turn towards home. And then, I return home refreshed.
I like to visit motorcycle dealerships and kick tires. What is out there that catches my eye? Is there a possible new and/or different bike in my future?
Not many bikes really catch my eye. I guess I am looking for something that fits my personality and riding style. That’s why I happened upon the Suzuki V-Strom 650 back in 2007. With it, I learned that “less is more.” It is a very capable bike, and I should know, I have owned three V-Strom 650s. A 2008, 2015 and my current ride, a 2017.
I have put nearly 100,000 miles on these three bikes and have ridden to all 48 states on the 2008 and 2015. Why did I buy the second and then the third? I really like this bike. It is smooth, economical, can do it all, easy on the maintenance, and great MPG. I cannot imagine the next generation being any better than the one I have now, but that has been the case for each.
Two Kawasaki KLRs caught my eye. They are great dual sport bikes, but not like the V-Strom. I owned a Suzuki SV 650 for a while. It was a great little roadster, but it was not a V-Strom. Even the V-Strom 1000 … a V-Strom itself … is not like the little 650.
I have swapped bikes with friends for short rides. I always want my V-Strom back. I have test rode several Moto Guzzis. I think the Guzzi is pure Italian sexy. But, I did not like the Guzzis enough to buy one. The V9 Roamer has come the closest, and may still be that one bike. I have come to believe that I am more in love with the idea of a Moto Guzzi than actually owning one.
I’ve tested Triumphs, but not interested. The new Kawasaki W-800 now coming to the USA really caught my interest, but … it’s not a V-Strom. Nope to Harley-Davidson and BMW. No Honda has caught my eye. The little Italian bike manufacturer, SWM, looks very interesting with that 600cc dual sport. KTMs are too tall, but the new 390 Adventure looks very interesting. But ….
And so it goes. Nothing can compare to the V-Strom 650, which is probably why it is so popular, and why former owners of the 650 say that is the one bike they wish they still had.
And that, my friends, is the one thing I dislike about the V-Strom 650. It is such a great bike, nothing compares to it. Owning one keeps you from finding another bike that is as good or better. Nothing compares. Perhaps I should buy a second 650 so that I can have a spare.
This is probably the most asked question by anyone looking at the Suzuki V-Stroms. “Should I get the 650 or the 1000?”
For starters, you will not be disappointed by either one in their current configurations. Let me start at the beginning of my search.
In 2007, I had been writing for a motorcycle travel magazine as a freelancer, and every time I went out on their suggested route, I would end up on a gravel road. That’s not an issue … unless you’re riding a cruiser. I decided what I needed was an adventure bike or a dual sport. To keep this short, you can read two reviews I wrote about the V-Strom 650. The First 1,000 Miles is about how I and why I chose the 650, and The Next 5,000 Miles is about how I used the bike in all scenarios.
So, I bought a 2008 Suzuki V-Strom 650 and put 67,000 miles on it before trading it on a 2015 V-Strom 650. I put about 12,500 miles on the 2015 after I finished riding all 48 states, and before trading it on the 2017 650. Then, in June of this year, I stumbled upon a fantastic deal for a used 2014 V-Strom 1000, and snapped it up. For the past four months, I have been riding both the 2017 650 and the 2014 1000. In all, I am probably approaching 100,000 miles on V-Stroms.
Are you still with me? Actually, I love both the 650 and 1000, and if I had to choose just one, it would be a tough choice, but there are some differences. As my motorcycling trends change, so may my choice.
The changes Suzuki made to the 1000 beginning in 2014 were significant, and in 2018, more improvements. Here are my assessments based upon what I own.
The 2017 Suzuki V-Strom DL650
Cycle World called this the most capable bike, and the best bang for the buck. I couldn’t agree more. It will do solo or two-up rides around the country. I have ridden to all 48 states on a combination of my 2008 and 2015 650s. It will go down the Interstate at 75 mph all day long and not give one hiccup. It is lighter than the 1000 and smooth. Very economical to operate. The newer 2017 has a more powerful engine, and gets about 60 mpg. I was getting 60+ in the 2008 and 65+ on the 2015. Put gas in it and go. Change the oil and filter, tires, chain and sprockets when maintenance is due. It is a fantastic commuter bike, or one to explore on.
In a nutshell, it is a great bike to commute or explore on. The 650 will do it all, including a ride across the Continental Divide in Wyoming at South Pass City.
The 2014 Suzuki V-Strom DL1000
Suzuki made some great advances with the 2014. It has plenty of power, and ridden with a reasonable throttle twist, I am getting 54 mpg on average. It has a stock touring windscreen and provides better wind protection than the 650, but windscreens are one of those personal things that can be changed easily. It is about 30-pounds heavier than the 650, but very maneuverable. Suzuki says it requires premium fuel, but it will run on 87 octane, should you have no choice of fuel when needed. It seems to run better on the premium. It will go down those gravel roads, too. Where it shines is on the highway. Maintenance is just like the 650, do it regularly, and this bike will last a long time.
In a nutshell, it is a great touring bike, but it will also do it all from commuting to grocery shopping, camping, fly fishing adventures, and some gravel roads.
DL650 or DL1000? What are you primarily going to do with the bike? Go with that one. Explore or commute: 650. Tour: 1000. Either way, you will not be disappointed, whether you are riding solo or two-up. Either one will do it all.
Now … just what does Suzuki have in mind for the 2020 DL1000?
“Honey, I’m going for a simple ride. I’ll be back in a little while.”
“Okay. Be careful.”
And with that, I rolled the motorcycle out of the garage, started the engine for a warmup, put on my riding jacket, helmet and gloves and straddled the bike. Pulling away from the house, through the neighborhood, and out onto the county road to see where it might lead me. It’s just a simple ride.
What constitutes a simple ride? Around the block? To the store and back? Thirty minutes of country back roads? What does it mean? To me? To you? Lots of questions about a simple ride.
What do you expect to feel when you ride? Exhilaration? Adrenaline rush? Do you push yourself and the motorcycle to reach these sensations? Speeding down the highway flat out, or cruising through the curves with twists and turns and white knuckles? Hearing the roar of the engine with rapid acceleration? Or, are you looking for something else?
The county road flows through the countryside like a river of asphalt. Blue sky above, leafless trees ready for Spring and starting to bud out. There is no other traffic. It’s just me on the motorcycle on the road, rolling along at a moderate pace. The road twists and turns into the valley to follow along the river lined with trees. The sun shines down, casting shadows of trees on the pavement. Music only in my head seems to create a music video, perhaps a piano solo or maybe a guitar. It’s euphoric.
There is a Zen quality to a simple ride. To be a part of the environment. To sense the presence of something bigger than myself. To feel a part of that harmony that we are connected. For we are.
A simple ride? There’s nothing really simple about it.