By Scot Harden
Photos: by Simon Cudby
It’s no secret we live in an age of information overload which means first impressions are more important than ever. Everyday we make judgements based on our initial response to a given stimulus; those important first few seconds where we formulate an opinion based on a first reaction. We rely on this more so today than at any other time, almost by necessity. First impressions save us time, and if we are any good at all we are usually pretty much on target in the end. The only problem with first impressions is that over time companies evolve, people change, products develop and yet we stick to our first impression along with the built in biases that come along with them. Take the 2018 Suzuki V-Strom 1000XT for example, I formed my first impression about Suzuki’s V-Strom line long ago. And to sum it up I viewed the V-Strom as an “econo-adventure” or “adventure-light” motorcycle. A motorcycle styled as an adventure but in reality just another street bike with an upright seating position and a high front fender; a decent motorcycle for the money but not a serious adventure motorcycle.
Had I not had the opportunity to spend time on one with Greg and Simon recently I probably would have gone on thinking just that. And that would have been a shame because at the end of the day the V-Strom line was never what I thought it was. More importantly it has evolved. The new 1000XT is a lot more than just some pretender in the ever-growing adventure motorcycle marketplace. It’s a legitimate adventure motorcycle capable of handling a wide range of on and off-road duties competently and confidently. My experience with the bike over the course of the past month has been nothing short of relevatory. I really like this motorcycle and found it more than capable for the application it is designed for exceeding my expectations at every step of the way. What changed my first impression? Let’s break it down:
Powerplant: Suzuki’s tried and true DOHC 1035cc V-twin 90 degree four-stroke powerplant is a proven commodity. Originally developed for racing, it produces broad, linear power (claimed 92hp and 69 ft lb torque) over a very wide 8300 rpm range. It launches effortlessly from corner to corner and comes equipped with Traction Control that includes a low sensitivity primary setting for everyday use, a high sensitivity rain or cold road setting and last but not least an “off“ setting for hard core off-road applications. Our test bikes came equipped with Yosh aftremarket slip-ons, which not only saved a substantial amount of weight and looked cool but also seemed to improve fuel mileage. Best of all they are CARB certified. The power is smooth, abundant and vibration free.
Chassis/Suspension: The twin spar chassis is a dream to ride, changing direction with minimal rider input due to its relatively light 511 pound overall weight (without panniers or any other accessories). 43mm KYB inverted forks handle the suspension requirements up front while the rear shock has a hand crank for easy pre-load adjustment. Stock suspension settings are very compliant for on road use and will work for 80% of the riders off road while more aggressive compression damping will be required for more extreme off road riding situations. The overall handling is very neutral with both a comfortable seated and stand-up riding position.
The more time I spent on Suzuki’s 1000XT the more I realized how much things are changing especially in the adventure motorcycle market and how much my original impression missed the mark when it came to thinking about this particular motorcycle. On our ride through the eastern sierras we took plenty of off road options and I never felt out of control or lacking for dirt performance. The torque and lightweight made the bike plenty rideable even in nasty conditions. Only by logging tens of thousands of miles could I report on how well the bike holds up over time but for the time I was on it seems very well put together. I never experienced any odd sensations or feedback that I was over riding the bikes beyond its design capabilities. I’ve developed a pretty good sense for when I’m abusing the machine and I never felt that way when riding the big Zook.
Its no secret that adventure motorcycling is receiving a lot of attention these days. Every OEM is upgrading its product offering. Afterall it’s the only growth market in the U.S. motorcycle industry today so everyone is really paying attention. No longer soley the dominion of the Europeans, the Japanese have struck back in their own way with varying degrees of success. From the much anticipated and highly regarded new Honda Africa Twin to Yamaha’s sleek Tenere. And now Suzuki throws its hat back in the ring (although in its typically understated way) with an updated version of its V-Strom line. Maybe because it has launched so many new models in such a short period of time or maybe because it simply doesn’t know just how good a motorcycle it has on its hands but Suzuki should be banging the drum very loudly over the new XT1000 as well as for the entire V-Strom range and for good reason. Value and performance!!!
Just look at the huge social media following V-Stroms draw on sites like ADVrider.com and StromTroopers.com. There is no question it has found a fairly sizeable niche with a certain rider and market demographic. Typically referred to by motorcycle industry marketing wonks like me as “no frills” adventure enthusiasts or maybe perhaps the “cost-conscious” adventure crowd, maybe even “adventure-dabblers” the typical V-Strom owner has long since been defined as the entry level adventure rider, the beginner adventurer. I’m not so sure anymore. These guys and gals may just be the smartest bunch of the whole group. Instead of paying $15,000 to $20,000 to support their adventure motorcycle habit they have realized you can have almost the exact same experience on a machine that offers similar performance, excitement and pride of ownership as anything else in the category and for thousands of dollars less.
This brings me back to my original topic about first impressions and biases. Do I still trust my gut reaction? Sure I do, more than ever. I just remember now to give every first impression a second thought.
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