Adventure is a buzzword these days, and Suzuki is keen to position its 2018 V-Strom 1000 more squarely in that genre, knowing that it already holds a place dear to the heart of many an on-road tourer. With that in mind, we were invited to ride the latest offering in one of southern California's go-to locations for both of these kinds of exploits: the Lake Arrowhead region of the San Bernardino Mountains.

"In the past, the V-Strom 1000 has been perceived as a pavement motorcycle with some adventure styling, but the bike is capable of adventure-style touring," says Avery Innis, Senior Product Marketing Specialist at Suzuki. Curious, then, our test bikes were fitted with street-leaning Bridgestones, and fewer than three miles of our test ride loop around Big Bear Lake placing the rubber off the road. We sampled the new 1000 and its little brother, the 650, back to back. The two compare in very expected ways. The big bike is taller, wider, and more powerful to the degree that one would expect. More fun on the road, and scarier off it. With the offered Bridgestone BW-501 radials fitted, a stretch of deep sand on a smooth fire road can dip the adventure meter needle into the red, even when free of the additional weight of everything you'd take with you on your off-road odyssey. On pavement, though, the V-Strom 1000 is a delight. Comfortable and agile, with torque and power to spare. Riding position is ideal for my 6-foot-2 frame, and I'd expect 500-mile days to be nearly effortless. The re-designed height-adjustable windscreen does a fine job of slicing through the air with very minimal buffeting.

2018 Suzuki V-Strom 1000 static side view
2018 Suzuki V-Strom 1000Courtesy of Suzuki

The 2018 V-Strom 1000 is offered in two versions, the base model, for those who know they’ll almost never leave the tarmac, and the XT, for those with dirtier aspirations. Wire-spoked wheels with aluminum rims (using tubeless tires) and a tapered aluminum handlebar are the only equipment that differentiate the two models, though, showing us that Suzuki is dipping its toe in the proverbial adventure pond. Certainly, these two mods are needed and wanted off-road, but any rider whose aspirations exceed exploring distant Starbucks parking lots are going to want to fit some appropriate tires and a skid plate, at the very least.

2018 Suzuki V-Strom 1000 XT on-road action
2018 Suzuki V-Strom 1000 XTCourtesy of Suzuki

Apart from styling upgrades, the two most significant developments on the 2018 V-Strom 1000 are the addition of the Inertial Measurement Unit-influenced combined ABS braking system, and the redesigned clutch. The Bosch five-axis IMU is always checking the attitude of the motorcycle, and not only makes sure you have the best braking available for the traction that you have, it keeps the motorcycle's attitude through a corner as smooth and stable as possible by applying rear brake pressure when the front reaches a critical point. The rider maintains independent front/rear brake control unless a "situation" occurs. The new hydraulically actuated clutch incorporates much larger assist/slipper ramps, very similar to what's used on the new GSX-R1000, requiring fewer springs which clamp better under acceleration and allow a bit of slip under engine braking. The lever pull is extremely light, and gives better engagement-point feel.

2018 Suzuki V-Strom 1000 dashboard details
2018 Suzuki V-Strom 1000Courtesy of Suzuki

An effective three mode traction control system functions independent of the IMU. The rider chooses from 1, 2, and OFF, and can make that selection at speed, as long as the throttle is unopened. Mode 1 allows a certain degree of rear wheelspin, and Mode 2 is more sensitive, aimed at use in slick and/or wet road conditions.

2018 Suzuki V-Strom 1000 engine details
2018 Suzuki V-Strom 1000Courtesy of Suzuki

The engine’s DOHC 1037cc 90-degree V-twin architecture is dates back to the proven ’97 TL1000R, though a dizzying array of enhancements, including EFI and ECM improvements, boost combustion efficiency, fuel consumption and aid cold starting. Automatic Idle Speed Control (ISC) and a new exhaust configuration further refine engine function, and Suzuki Exhaust Tuning (SET) improves torque, response and acceleration. The end result is a big twin that’s easy to love, and is ideal for a long term adventurous relationship. Suzuki points out that there’s a documented case of a V-Strom 1000 owner who has logged more than 400,000 miles, the two-wheeled equivalent of a successful 50-year marriage.

2018 Suzuki V-Strom 1000 XT static side view
2018 Suzuki V-Strom 1000 XTCourtesy of Suzuki

With identical claimed wet weight (511 lb.) and retail pricing ($12,999), the V-Strom 1000 XT (in your choice of Champion Yellow with gold wheels or Pearl Marble black with black wheels) clearly challenges Honda's Africa Twin head on. The Honda's 21-inch front wheel hints at its off-road leanings, certainly, and more V-Strom XT seat time with an alternate tire choice is definitely in order to sort out the full story. At $12,699, the V-Strom 1000 base model, available in Pearl Glacier White and sporting ten-spoke cast aluminum wheels, is likely to be left at the edge of the smooth pavement, its owner with $300 cash in his pocket, watching the XT and Honda disappear down a dusty trail. But that is probably exactly where he wants to be.

Check out more photos of the 2018 Suzuki V-Strom 1000 & 1000 XT:

2018 Suzuki V-Strom 1000 on-road action
2018 Suzuki V-Strom 1000Courtesy of Suzuki
2018 Suzuki V-Strom 1000 XT on-road action
2018 Suzuki V-Strom 1000 XTCourtesy of Suzuki
2018 Suzuki V-Strom 1000 XT off-road action
2018 Suzuki V-Strom 1000 XTCourtesy of Suzuki
2018 Suzuki V-Strom 1000 XT off-road action
2018 Suzuki V-Strom 1000 XTCourtesy of Suzuki
2018 Suzuki V-Strom 1000 nose fairing details
2018 Suzuki V-Strom 1000Courtesy of Suzuki
2018 Suzuki V-Strom 1000 exhaust details
2018 Suzuki V-Strom 1000Courtesy of Suzuki
2018 Suzuki V-Strom 1000 seat details
2018 Suzuki V-Strom 1000Courtesy of Suzuki
2018 Suzuki V-Strom 1000 XT nose faring details
2018 Suzuki V-Strom 1000 XTCourtesy of Suzuki
2018 Suzuki V-Strom 1000 XT exhaust details
2018 Suzuki V-Strom 1000 XTCourtesy of Suzuki
2018 Suzuki V-Strom 1000 XT engine details
2018 Suzuki V-Strom 1000 XTCourtesy of Suzuki
2018 Suzuki V-Strom 1000 XT rear rack details
2018 Suzuki V-Strom 1000 XTCourtesy of Suzuki
2018 Suzuki V-Strom 1000 XT off-road dirt action
2018 Suzuki V-Strom 1000 XTCourtesy of Suzuki