It’s best to have an interesting adventure destination in the bag when your daily ride is the likes of the Suzuki V-Strom 650 Adventure. Given the Strom’s go-anywhere appearance, the probability of being approached by curious types wanting to hear about exotic, distant journeys is highly probable. There are times when the facts can spoil a good story, and truth be told, I only utilized our pannier-equipped Strom for commuting and urban errand running.
The reality is, not only is this factory-accessorized 645cc liquid-cooled V-Twin ideally suited for such pedestrian duties, most of us seldom venture far from the beaten path. At least Senior Editor Blake Conner returned from the 2012 V-Strom 650 ABS world press introduction in Croatia last summer with tales of adventure (CW First Ride, October, 2011).
While Conner gave a thorough account of the bike’s power and handling characteristics when ridden on the mostly paved mountain roads skirting the Adriatic Sea, what he didn’t have the opportunity to sample were the forthcoming top-loading aluminum side cases. For 2012, American Suzuki offers a standard V-Strom 650 ABS for $8299. While the Adventure model with all-metal bags, bolt-on crash bars and more-protective Vario touring windscreen hikes the price to $9799, it’s a bargain when you total up the cost of outfitting the standard model with these items, all of which are available from Suzuki’s accessories department. Purchased separately, the pair of side cases is $899.95 and the side-case carrier is $429.95, with an additional $124.95 for the installation kit. Add in the windshield ($369.95), crash bar ($169.95) and top-case carrier plate ($169.95) that’s also included on the Adventure model and you’re looking at a $2300 tab.
The bags are surprisingly light, and feature molded plastic protective corner covers. There is a total of 83 liters of storage capacity and ample depth to swallow a bag of groceries without smashing your bread when closing the hinged lid. The bags proved not only watertight but airtight, as well; breaking the seal of the rubber gasket on the lid required a strong tug at times. We don’t recommend hauling small pets.
We were unable to fit a full-face helmet inside the larger (left side) bag, even though the combined total width of the pair when mounted is a staggering 44 inches; that’s 9 inches wider than Yamaha’s Super Ténéré bag setup. Removal is very quick and easy, with a locking latch making it tougher for would-be thieves. One complaint we have is the seemingly low-quality locks these bags use for the lids and to secure them in place; simply inserting and turning the key can be a maddening experience. Other comments from the staff, addressed the flimsy build-quality of the bags, which can be easily dented, while others noted that the mounting carriers make the cases unnecessarily wide. If you require higher-quality units, you’ll have to look to the aftermarket and be willing to pay a premium.
I found the 479-pound (weighed with bags and empty fuel tank) V-Strom offered excellent handling agility and stability with the bags in place. We averaged 45 mpg over a mix of city and highway riding with the side sails out in the wind. How much wind? Well, our radar gun measured a top speed of 112 mph without bags and 7 mph slower with them in place.
Regardless, for riders with an appreciation for practicality, utility and the possibility for real adventure, choosing between the two V-Strom 650 variants is a breeze.