2014 Suzuki V-Strom 1000 ABS - Road Test

Big updates for an ADV all-arounder.

2014 Suzuki V-Strom 1000 ABS action shot

In case you hadn’t noticed, adventure bikes have become almost as popular as Internet photos of Miley Cyrus doing things she’ll probably regret years from now. And manufacturers have responded to that demand (uh, for adventure bikes, not MC photos) by producing more and better motorcycles designed for on- and off-road exploration.

The latest is from Suzuki, a company that first cannonballed into the adventure-bike waters in 2002 with the original V-Strom 1000. Although those were excellent road machines and passable adventure bikes, the arrival of more sophisticated and technologically advanced competitors eventually put a huge dent in the big V-Strom's sales. By 2012, Suzuki had to either pull the plug on the 1000 for good or invest in a major upgrade.

Fortunately, the company opted for the latter with the 2014 V-Strom 1000 ABS, which is almost all-new from the ground up. The “almost” qualifier stems from the fact that the 1,037cc engine is essentially based on the same dohc, 996cc, 90-degree V-twin as before but with enough changes to justify calling it new. Those mods include a 2mm bore increase, dual-plug heads, 10-hole fuel injectors, a slipper clutch, Formula 1-inspired pistons, and a more powerful alternator with a heavier flywheel.

Everything else is genuinely all-new, from the 13-percent-lighter aluminum frame to the fully adjustable KYB inverted fork with 6.3 inches of travel to the radial-mount Tokico monoblock front brakes to the lighter and refined ABS to the “beaked” styling that seems prevalent on today’s adventure bikes. If you then include a three-position-adjustable traction-control system—a Suzuki first—and tack on a $12,699 MSRP, the new V-Strom 1000 ABS promises to be a fun, affordable ADV tool.

2014 Suzuki V-Strom 1000 ABS dyno chart

On the road, that promise is largely fulfilled. Ergonomically, the V-Strom puts all the pieces in just the right locations, making you feel right at home from the get-go. Some riders thought the grips were a smidgen high and close together, but others felt they were just fine right where they are. The seat is tall (33.4 inches), as are those on other bikes of this ilk, but it’s lower than most. It’s roomy and nicely shaped, too, helping to keep your buns from going stale for the better part of daylong rides. The nine-position-adjustable windscreen (choose from three angles by ratcheting the screen forward or backward with your hand and three heights by moving four Allen screws) does a good job of keeping air blast off your torso but does cause some buffeting at speeds above 70 or 75 mph—especially for taller riders.

Once you ease out the light-pull clutch lever, the big V-twin issues a steady, consistent ribbon of power that pushes the 474-pounds-dry machine down the road with ease. Different cam timing and fueling curves work with the 41cc of added displacement to help the 2014 ’Strom belt out a bit more torque at considerably lower rpm than did the previous model. We usually rode with the traction control set on TC1, which provides the least amount of intervention, and it was totally transparent. TC2 is more appropriate for riding in the rain.

Thanks to the heavier flywheel, the Vee lugs down to low revs without much chatter, and acceleration up through the gears is strong if not scintillating. Suzuki wasn’t after raw horsepower here; the objective was predictable, steady output, not pavement-scorching thrust—although the ’Strom’s 11.60-second, 112.82-mph quarter-mile performance is very respectable.

Engine performance is slightly marred, however, by abrupt off-idle throttle response. Rather than delivering proportionate acceleration any time the grip is twisted from closed to open, the bike lurches forward as though the throttle had been turned much farther. You can get used to this idiosyncrasy after a while, but you shouldn’t have to.

2014 Suzuki V-Strom 1000 ABS engine

No complaints about the handling, though. Around town and on the open road, the Suzook is stable, agile, and entirely predictable; and on a curvy back road, this tall motorcycle with long-travel suspension, sit-up ergos, and Bridgestone on- and off-road Battle Wing tires easily dissects corners—fast or slow, smooth or rough—without a hint of resistance or instability. So much so that on most tight, choppy sections of twisty road the V-Strom would eat some full-on sportbikes alive.

The only fly in the chassis ointment is the front brake, which, like the off-idle engine response, is initially too abrupt. Even a very light squeeze of the lever immediately causes the fork to dive and the bike to begin slowing too quickly. But once the front calipers are engaged, they provide powerful, linear, predictable braking.

Except in the dirt. Although the ABS works wonderfully on pavement, it cannot be disabled for off-roading unless you pull the fuse or do a large wheelie—and the latter only shuts down the system until you turn off the ignition. Consequently, you need to be cautious when braking on dirt, particularly when using the front brake.

Even so, the V-Strom works better in the dirt than we expected, even though Suzuki makes nary a mention of off-roading in its promotional materials. Given the moderate speeds at which we rode on the street-oriented OE tires, the Suzuki knifed through dirt corners easily and accurately, and it remained stable while the fork sucked up bumps and whoops surprisingly well. On some bigger, faster whoops, the shock would bottom, but the rear suspensions on all big adventure bikes tend to do this simply because of their considerable weight.

2014 Suzuki V-Strom 1000 ABS static side view

Despite the aforementioned off-idle glitch, which can be a bit disruptive when you’re trying to be gentle with the throttle, the engine is well suited to the dirt. With the traction control turned off, the V-twin delivers tractable, easy-to-modulate power everywhere. Its smooth, low-speed lugging ability is a plus, allowing a rider to maintain traction in slippery conditions where higher rpm or bigger throttle openings might cause a loss of rear-wheel grip.

So what Suzuki has ushered into the adventure world is a motorcycle that offers decent off-road performance but would be perfectly content never to turn a wheel in the soil. It’s a superb streetbike that can be a practical commuter, a blast for pillaging the back roads, a fun companion for weekend excursions, and even a capable two-up long-ride mount with the optional quick-detach saddlebags snapped in place.

Knobbier tires would transform the V-Strom into a much more aggressive off-roader, but it then would also need a few survival items not included as original equipment: handguards, a skid plate, more-rugged handlebars (tapered aluminum instead of the stock 7/8-inch steel), and ABS that could be either toned down or turned off.

Still, at $12,699, the V-Strom is a bargain, a whole bunch of adventure bike priced $3,000 to $4,300 below the competition. And if you’re willing to spring for another $1,300, the V-Strom 1000 ABS Adventure model comes with quick-detach saddlebags, a plastic skid plate, handguards, crash bars, and a taller windscreen—a bigger bargain yet.

But the ultimate question remains: How does the V-Strom 1000 ABS stack up against the two other new big ADV bikes, the KTM 1190 Adventure and BMW R1200GS? There's an easy way to find out. Check out CW's Battle of the Adventure Bikes Comparison Test to learn about the winner.

SPECIFICATIONS
2014 Suzuki V-Strom 1000 ABS studio side view

| |GENERAL| |LIST PRICE|$12,699| |IMPORTER|Suzuki Motor of America, Inc. 3251 E. Imperial Hwy. Brea, CA 92821| |CUSTOMER SERVICE PHONE|(714) 996-7040| |WARRANTY|12 mo./unlimited mi.| |ENGINE & DRIVETRAIN| |ENGINE|liquid-cooled, four-stroke V-twin| |BORE & STROKE|100.0 x 66.0mm| |DISPLACEMENT|1037cc| |COMPRESSION RATIO|11.3:1| |VALVE TRAIN|dohc, four valves per cyl., shim adjustment| |VALVE-ADJUST INTERVALS|14,500 mi.| |FUEL INJECTION|(2) 45mm throttle bodies| |OIL CAPACITY|3.7 qt.| |ELECTRIC POWER|490w| |BATTERY|12v, 12 ah| |CHASSIS| |WEIGHT:|| |TANK EMPTY|474 lb.| |TANK FULL|507 lb.| |FUEL CAPACITY|5.3 gal.| |WHEELBASE|61.4 in.| |RAKE/TRAIL|25.3°/4.3 in.| |SEAT HEIGHT|33.4 in.| |GROUND CLEARANCE|6.6 in.| |GVWR|970 lb.| |LOAD CAPACITY (TANK FULL)|463 lb.| |SUSPENSION & TIRES| |FRONT SUSPENSION:|| |MANUFACTURER|KYB| |TUBE DIAMETER|43mm| |CLAIMED WHEEL TRAVEL|6.3 in.| |ADJUSTMENTS|compression and rebound damping, spring preload| |REAR SUSPENSION:|| |MANUFACTURER|KYB| |TYPE|single shock| |CLAIMED WHEEL TRAVEL|6.3 in.| |ADJUSTMENTS|rebound damping, spring preload| |TIRES:|| |FRONT|Bridgestone Battle Wing 110/80R-19| |REAR|Bridgestone Battle Wing 150/70R-17| |PERFORMANCE| |1/4 MILE|11.60 sec. @ 112.82 mph| |0-30 MPH|1.3 sec.| |0-60 MPH|3.1 sec.| |0-90 MPH|6.3 sec.| |0-100 MPH|8.0 sec.| |TOP GEAR TIME TO SPEED:|| |40-60 MPH|3.3 sec.| |60-80 MPH|3.6 sec.| |MEASURED TOP SPEED|126 mph| |ENGINE SPEED @ 60 MPH|3620 rpm| |FUEL MILEAGE| |HIGH/LOW/AVERAGE|39/34/36 mpg| |AVG. RANGE INC. RESERVE|191 mi.| |BRAKING DISTANCE| |FROM 30 MPH|32 ft.| |FROM 60 MPH|120 ft.| |SPEEDOMETER ERROR| |30 MPH INDICATED|28 mph| |60 MPH INDICATED|56 mph|

EDITOR'S NOTES

Ryan Dudek headshot

Ryan Dudek

Contributing Editor

The new ’Strom is a good value and nice streetbike that’s great to travel on. My biggest gripe is that for a hard-core off-road adventurer like me, I need a machine with more dirt capability. The Suzuki is a handful on anything more gnarly than a hard-packed fire road, and the stock handlebar is too narrow and swept back, so I never felt in command of the bike. Would be nice if the ABS could be shut off like the TC can, too.

Matthew Miles headshot

Matthew Miles

Senior Motorsports Editor

My daily commute is mostly freeways mixed with neighborhood streets and business-park cul-de-sacs. In other words, no dirt. Which is just as well because I’m not as comfortable—or capable, frankly—riding “adventure” motorcycles of this size and weight off-road as are other members of the editorial staff. Suzuki appears to be fine with that. Why else would its engineers not fit this new V-Strom with an ABS off switch? Rocks, roots, and ruts on your route home? Proceed at your own risk.

Mark Hoyer headshot

Mark Hoyer

Editor-in-Chief

Would you buy a Suzuki V-Strom that costs $17,000? My guess is no. Which is why the bike costs less than $13K and gives up a few performance points to other machines in the space. Even the Yamaha Super Ténéré is pushing $15K. But Suzuki’s way has always been to chase the value customer, and the new V-Strom is no different. “Cheap” is sometimes used as a pejorative, but on the ’Strom its spin is positive. It’s a lot of bike for the money.

On road action shot #1

On road action shot #2

On road action shot #3

On road action shot #4

On road action shot #4

Off-road action shot.

Static left-side view.

Static front 3/4 right-side view.

Static front 3/4 left-side view.

Front wheel / brake.

"Beaked" nose section.

Nose section (right-side view).

Headlight / windscreen.

Fuel tank close-up.

Engine (right-side view).

Exhaust pipe.

Studio right-side view.

Dyno chart.