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2018 Suzuki V-Strom 1000XT Review

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Say hello to the 1,037cc version of the 2018 Suzuki V-Strom, and the XT model specifically. If you hadn’t known, you might confuse the V-Strom 1000XT for the 650XT, an easy mistake to make. Alas, the stickers on the fork legs and the Suzuki name emblazoned upon the saddle are about your only clues to tell the liter bike apart at 20 paces; the rest of the differences are hard to pick out or hidden inside.

Earlier this year we noted every upgrade the V-Strom 650 (and the 650XT) received since its last great change in 2012. Having added more performance, more comfort, ABS brakes, plus a more modern look for model year 2017, meant its bigger brother was on deck for a refresh in 2018. Let’s take a look.

What’s New

Suzuki V-Strom 1000XT Adventure Motorcycle

The V-Strom 1000XT’s optional Champion Yellow paint scheme is a throwback to the legendary Suzuki Dakar Rally race bikes of the early 90’s.

Beyond the updated styling, the big news for 2018 is the addition of the more off-road-oriented XT model, sporting oversized aluminum handlebars and a sturdy set of tubeless wire-spoke wheels. Liter-class Stroms also receive a newly-updated ABS braking setup, a taller windscreen and several other refinements.

The new Bosch 5-axis IMU (inertial measurement unit), that supplies the bike’s spatial data to the braking system, is the headliner technology upgrade. It’s the basis for what they call “Cornering ABS,” and something they stole from their race-mate GSX-R 1000. The ability to match the braking strength to the availability of traction is the magic in there… giving you the most stopping power possible for the given conditions be they wet, or leaned over. Not something you would notice on a freeway slog, unless you were to encounter a need to make an emergency stop perhaps, but it’s looking out for you 50 times per second.

Suzuki V-Strom 1000XT BOSCH Inertial Measurement Unit

The V-Strom 1000XT’s new IMU tracks motorcycle motion and position in 5 directions: Pitch (down), Yaw (left & right) and Roll (left & right).

Suzuki V-Strom 1000XT Adventure Motorcycle

Tokico mono-block 4-piston calipers are mated with 310mm floating-mount dual discs, and are connected to the new Motion Track Anti-lock & Combination Brake system for strong stopping performance.

Suzuki also points out that this is a combined braking system, not a linked system. This allows the rider to continue manually controlling the front and rear brakes independently up until the point either the anti-lock system activates or the system detects a need to adjust braking power to the rear.

On the trail however, you’re left to get creative with the braking system, as it isn’t switchable to an off position. So, there’s no need to dust off your old dirt bike braking skillset as you won’t be skidding into corners to point your way towards the next turn. However, it is equipped with three-level traction control (high/low/off) system standard that can be disabled in case you want to power steer your way through turns.

The four-stroke, liquid-cooled, DOHC, 1,037cc 90-degree V-twin engine reportedly retains the same 99.23 horsepower and 74.5 ft-lbs of torque found in the previous year’s model, but is now up to EURO4 emissions spec with the aid of a complete redesign of the exhaust system, which now includes a twin catalyzer within the mid-pipe and a lighterweight silencer.

Standard Equipment

Suzuki V-Strom 1000XT dual sport motorcycle

New, large diameter, tapered style handlebars come with handguards and vibration-damping bar end weights.

While both the standard V-Strom 1000 and V-Strom 1000XT get you the new Motion Track and Combined ABS braking systems, there are a few details that dictate the difference in pricing. The road-focused bike Suzuki likes to call a “do it all bike” is the base V-Strom 1000, while the V-Strom 1000XT includes adventure-ready, tubeless wire-spoke wheels shod with Bridgestone Battlax tires, a potential for special coloring (Champion yellow No. 2!), and beefier and tapered handlebars with heavier bar end weights to reduce vibrations. Both models get a lower cowl protector, hand guards and a 12-volt accessory charging port on the dash.

On the Road

Suzuki V-Strom 1000XT Adventure Motorcycle offroad

After the V-Strom 1000XT arrived at the office, we got our first look at the bike’s updated styling. With its pronounced beak, flashy-yellow heritage paint scheme, the addition of wire-spoke wheels and color-matched rims, the whole package gives the V-Strom 1000XT a much more ‘adventure ready’ look than years past.

Eight AM the next day we’re loaded up and running North towards Utah with more than 2,000 miles of travel, both on and off the pavement, ahead of us. On our first stretch of super slab, we’re happy to see the ergonomics and plush-yet-supportive watercraft-like saddle is up to the challenge. The taller, reshaped windscreen, which sits about chin h, is easily adjustable (with three angle positions) with a one-finger push style mechanism and does well to keep the elements off your body while offering a clear sightline over it. Not too big, not too small.

Suzuki V-Strom 1000XT dual sport motorcycle on the road

While full-flat footing every stop in the city, the XT didn’t feel like a small bike, nor did it feel too low (it has a relatively normal 33.5″ saddle h). Despite its heavily-dished saddle, it wasn’t uncomfortable on long rides. Although it made for some heated inseams after a while, yet standing up to stretch a leg wasn’t an uncomfortable undertaking. Iron butts are possible on this bike!

We found it easy to ride in the twisties too with silky smooth fueling and a light clutch pull, perfect for just cruising along at a brisk pace. The V-Strom 1000 is also equipped with an “RPM Assist” system that bumps up the RPMs when the clutch is let out for even smoother starts. Being designed to perform on the lower end of the torque curve, quick starts off the traffic light were a joy. It’s mild power delivery didn’t make us worry about looping it either.

The upgraded handlebar and heavier bar end weights cut back on the vibes on the highway and the upgraded braking system simply made for a better road-going experience. The lack of standard cruise control was a bit of a miss for this road-centric machine however.

In the Dirt

Suzuki V-Strom 1000XT Adventure Motorcycle on the road

Of course we didn’t ride ONLY on the pavement, we got off it too. And among the numerous sidebar rides we made along the way, was a high-mountain adventure worthy of mentioning, specifically an ATV trail and through some amazing scenery of the Manti-La Sal National Forest; big skies, open ranges, and some truly wild terrain. More akin to a hare and hound trail than the high-speed desert landscape 6,000 feet below us, pace was often dictated by the trees surrounding us. On occasion, the trail narrowed to just millimeters off the bar ends. At other times, the trail was covered by herds of sheep. This is adventure!

Our first turn onto a single-track route, across a few creeks—not always with bridges—and into the wild, we got a chance to push the limits of the XT. Lacking any sort of electronically-adjustable “ride modes” for suspension, we were left to make adjustments manually. Also lacking a real skid plate, our primary thought was, “watch out.” Luckily the suspension is well dampened, which helped it manage the rough stuff better than expected. The plush saddle also helped subdue the roughness during the miles spent resting the ankles on fire roads… the street-style pegs aren’t ones for all-day standing. Luckily there’s aftermarket options available there.

Suzuki V-Strom 1000XT Adventure Motorcycle offroad

Suzuki V-Strom 1000XT Adventure Motorcycle

It was the ruts and roots that put us and the V-Strom’s suspension to the challenge. The front fork is fully adjustable for compression/rebound damping and preload, while the rear shock features preload and rebound damping only. The rear preload knob, hidden behind the rider’s left leg, came in handy at this point. Click, click, click, and in a snap, no more rubbing on the Giant Loop soft bags. While the V-Strom’s range of suspension adjustability may be a bit limited compared to other liter-class “adventure” motorcycles, the ability to easily fine-tune the rear preload with the hand knob helps to make the bike yours.

While the V-Strom 1000XT is an adventure motorcycle, keep in mind it leans more toward the street side of the spectrum with only 6.3-inches of wheel travel front and rear. For comparison, the more-dirt-worthy Africa Twin has roughly 9 inches front and rear. If suspension travel is your key purchasing factor, you know already which bike is for you. But if you’re an 80/20 kind of rider, as well as a price-conscious buyer, the V-Strom 1000XT is a practical choice.

Final Thoughts

Suzuki V-Strom 1000XT Adventure Motorcycle offroad

The V-Strom 1000XT is relatively light for its class and easy to ride with a soft clutch pull and ample low-end torque. Its horsepower isn’t jaw-dropping, but it does offer plenty of passing speed on the highway. Its powerful braking, long-distance comfort, along with legendary reliability make the V-Strom 1000XT both a versatile and practical adventure bike… at a price WAY less than many of its competitors in the big-bore ADV Class.

While slipping in near the bottom end of the price scale, Suzuki uniquely compares itself to the competition as the option with important safety bells and whistles like Cornering ABS and three-level traction control. Yet it lacks the fancy electronics like cruise control, semi-active suspension or ride modes found on the top-shelf Adventure Bikes. Although, matching it up against luxury adventure touring machines like the KTM 1290 Super Adventure T, BMW R1200GS, Yamaha Super Tenene ES, and the Tiger Explorer 1200 isn’t a fair comparison.

Suzuki V-Strom 1000XT Adventure Motorcycle

A large range of factory accessories like heated grips, engine guards, auxiliary lighting, and luggage are available to customize the V-Strom 1000XT to your adventure needs.

Assuming you’re going for the XT version of the V-Strom 1000, it’s priced the same as the standard transmission Honda Africa Twin at $13,299. While The Honda is clearly the more trail-ready bike, the V-Strom 1000XT does have the edge on highway comfort with its adjustable windscreen and plusher seat. The reduced suspension travel of the V-Strom XT also provides a more stable feel in the turns for sportier rides.

If the similarly-displaced KTM 1090 Adventure R has your attention with 25% more horsepower, advanced ride modes and an even more aggressive demeanor than the Honda, you could have it for $1,400 more than the XT. Literally an orange in your apple cart comparison. But for many, the perceived Japanese reliability and lower cost of maintenance may sway them toward the V-Strom.

The V-Strom’s inability to switch off the ABS might put some riders off, but Suzuki doesn’t stand alone in that respect. And we’ve seen some riders travel around the world with the ABS brakes switched on—without complaints—so to call full-time ABS a liability is a personal decision. If you’re a racer—or want to be one—you might want to look away from the Suzuki.

Suzuki V-Strom 1000XT Adventure Motorcycle offroad

The V-Strom 1000XT is a street bike with adventure benefits, benefits that you can actually use once in a while. And given the large range of available factory accessories like heated grips, engine guards, auxiliary lighting, and luggage options which are now unitized to fit older 1000cc models but also the new 650s, adds more pluses in the pro column.

Nearly old enough to drive now, the V-Strom 1000 has come a long way since it set foot in the adventure bike market in 2002. Back then it barely had any competition. Now-a-days, the competition in the big-bore category is deep, with steep walls on both features and price. So you’ll really have to know what you want when you start shopping. The V-Strom is just enough bike to deliver big adventures at a price where you can still afford to go on those adventures.

What We Liked

  • Smooth torque right off idle.
  • Powerful brakes with cornering ABS.
  • Affordable price tag.

What Could Be Improved

  • Always-on ABS.
  • Limited suspension travel off-road.
  • Could use taller bar risers and wider footpegs.

2018 Suzuki V-Strom 1000XT Specifications

Engine Type: Liquid-cooled, 4-stroke, DOHC V-Twin
Compression Ratio: 11.3:1
Bore x Stroke: 100 x 66 mm (Displacement 1037cc)
Fuel System: Fuel injection with 10-hole injectors on each throttle body
Horsepower (est): 99.23 hp @ 8,000 rpm
Maximum Torque: 74.5 ft.-lbs. of torque @ 4,000 rpm
Transmission: 6 speed constant mesh
Clutch: Wet, multi-plate type with ‘Clutch Assist’
Lubrication: wet sump
Starting System: Electric
Final Drive: Sealed chain
Front Brakes: Tokico 4-piston mono-block calipers, 310mm twin discs
Rear Brakes: Nissin, 2-piston, single disc
Front Suspension: 43mm fully-adjustable KYB telescopic fork, 6.3 in travel
Rear Suspension: Preload and rebound-adjustable shock, 6.3 in travel
Ground Clearance: 6.5 in
Seat Height: 33.5 in
Frame type: Twin-spar aluminum frame
Front Tire: 110/80R-19M/C 59V, tubeless
Rear Tire: 150/70R-17M/C 69V, tubeless
Fuel Capacity: 5.3 gallons (20 litres)
Wet Weight: 514 lbs (233 kg)
Colors: Glass Sparkle Black or Champion Yellow No. 2
Price: $13,299

Budget Liter-Class Adventure Tourer Specs Comparo

Adventure Bike Models  HP  Torque
(lb.-ft.)
Wet Weight
(lbs.)
Suspension Travel
(Fr./Rr.)
Seat Height
(in.)
Fuel Capacity
(Gallons)
Price USD
 Honda Africa Twin (Std. Trans) 94 72 511 9.0/8.7 33.5/34.3 4.97 $13,299
 Suzuki V-Strom 1000XT 99 75 514 6.3/6.3 33.5 5.3 $13,299
 KTM 1090 Adventure R 125 80 507 8.7/8.7 35.0 6.1 $14,699
ADVPulse.com  
Alfonse Palaima ProfileAbout the Author: When not in Los Angeles hiding from society, Alfonse Palaima is far, far away from home, collecting passport stamps and slicing through traffic on two wheels with a smile on his face. Slowly rounding the world one country at at time, riding countless miles, on countless motorcycles, covering 6 of the 7 continents so far. While he is a rider like you and I, he has also been a moto journalist in the field since 2003.

Photos by Alfonse Palaima

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