Test ride: DL650

Day 18, Friday 8 September 2017

After my test ride of a Kawasaki KLR650, I realised that a relatively large capacity single cylinder bike was not suitable for me, and I started looking at multi-cylinder bikes with some gravel road capability. The Suzuki DL650 V-Strom was high on my priority list, in part because this was the bike Mike Hyde used to research his book Twisting Throttle New Zealand, which covers desirable roads around the country both gravel and sealed.

I found a low-mileage second hand V-Strom on TradeMe and went to see it this morning. It has a bash plate, Givi pannier mounts (and I have Givi panniers on my existing bike), heated grips and bark busters – a good start to the collection of accessories I want. Sitting on it, I was impressed by the instrumentation – a clock and temperature gauge appear at the same time as the usual fuel gauge, odometer, speedo, tacho, and various warning lights. It’s also possible to switch some of these displays to show ambient air temperature and fuel consumption. The seat is a little higher than my other bike, but not nearly as high as the KLR, and so I can touch the ground with ease even if I can’t quite put my feet down flat.

A quick test ride showed a few minor niggles. The footpegs are placed exactly where I want to put my feet down and get in the way. I need to rock my body forwards a little, putting my body weight on my testes, in order to put my feet behind the pegs when stationary. This is not as painful as it sounds, and I’m sure it will become second nature very quickly. The screen seems to produce a turbulence which creates a roaring noise in my ears. This appears to be a well-known flaw for the V-Strom, and many riders fit third party screens which fix this problem. Others learn to live with it. There is a little vibration through the handlebars, although the mirrors do not vibrate. This is possibly inevitable with a V-twin motor, although the off-road tyres probably contribute to some extent. The handling seemed quite strange, but this is entirely due to the off-road tyres, and I will learn how to adjust for this. If I cannot adjust, different tyres will make a huge difference.

I liked that it was quiet, the motor was willing to rev, and the seat was comfortable.

With a little bargaining to get a Scottoiler thrown in for the requested price, this bike was mine. On the ride home, I found the speedometer was roughly 10% optimistic (same as on my other bike). I decided that although this doesn’t have the acceleration or smoothness of my sports-tourer, this is going to be a good touring bike, and I am looking forward to trying it on gravel in the next few days.IMG_2224

Distance travelled: 136 km. Total distance so far: 2488 km

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