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Suzuki fails to impress with its new 2012 V-Strom

The Suzuki V-Strom 650 is the "poor" mans adventure bike. Much in the same way a Cessna is a "poor" mans personal aircraft. The little V-Strom does have some glaring strengths and no weaknesses, save one: It's boring. When Suzuki announced that a new one was going to be shown off, everyone got excited. All they had to do was fix the boring aspect of the bike, that's it! So did Suzuki fix it? Nope!
Posted: June 21, 2011 - 3:47PM
Author: Roman Rosa

The problem is that BMW came out with an 800cc version of their awesome 1200GS adventure bike. Then Triumph came out with direct competitor to the BMW, with an 800cc adventure bike of their own. These two bikes are ugly, tough, well built, comfortable and will take you across any remote and inhospitable country you could ever want. When Suzuki announced that they were updating the V-Strom, we all thought that they would toughen it up, and make it a bit more dirt oriented like the BMW and Triumph.

It turns out that it looks, to the untrained eye, exactly the same as the old model. It really is like trying to tell two identical twins apart. One has slightly more arched eyebrows, but other than that you can't tell the difference. What I can't fathom is why did Suzuki even bother? Additionally I can't understand why the Japanese refuse to build an adventure bike to compete with the Europeans who are far in the lead in this category. It's not like it's a niche product, BMW sells tens of thousands of adventure bikes.

The V-Strom, until the BMW 800gs and the Triumph 800xc, sort of had a little niche all to itself. It wasn't big, powerful and intimidating like the BMW 1200GS or KTM 990 Adventure. It was smaller, lighter and modest. It performed it's role well (long distance pavement touring, with the occasional dirt road.)

The best and toughest adventure riders out there who know how to use the internet, go to Looking at the discussion currently ongoing about the release, those guys aren't impressed. When your core audience and buyers aren't impressed, you've done something wrong. In Suzuki's case, they didn't do anything wrong, they simply didn't do anything. The whole thing is confusing for everyone.

There's nothing wrong with the new V-Strom. I'm sure it will be just as good as the old model. But that's the problem, just as good doesn't cut it. It needs to be better, it needs to be miles and above better to pull sales from the other adventure bikes, and it just won't. It will sell as it normally has. More of the same, is that what you really want Suzuki?


Anonymous (not verified)    June 22, 2011 - 1:49AM

"The little V-Strom does have some glaring strengths and no weaknesses" -- It's tricky to update something which has been a sales success for many years. The only consistent problems have been the odd styling, which looks to have been adequately cleaned up, and the buffeting windshield, which has hopefully been remedied. It does everything well for a bargain price - much lower than it's Triumph and BMW competition. I'd say Suzuki did what they needed to do: This is not a maximum horsepower/"excitement" kind of bike-category.

Anonymous (not verified)    July 8, 2011 - 11:26PM

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

That's true. it's hard to make better something, what is good enough. If I have to chose, I'll chose V-Strom DL650, the handling in the terrain is easy and funny, like with a mountain-bike. And power? Still surprisingly strong and is just 650. It's proven in Alps, Iranian desert, and those guys will never reach for DL-1000 or above mentioned 800's.

DL650 is proven by dirt. BMW is still about showing at the public.....not eating a dirt ;)

Anonymous (not verified)    May 28, 2012 - 4:19PM

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

I totally agree! Why make the bike more off-road oriented while over 95% of V-strom produced never left paved roads. I think Suzuki is doing great in this segment of adventure touring. They made an entry level adventure bike that appeals to new riders, or experienced riders who are new to adventure riding. It actually doesn't make sense to directly compete with what BMW and Triumph already good at making. The super tenere is a great example! Why buy a $14,000 Yamaha when you can buy a market-proven BMW R1200GS for about $2000 more?!

Bob (not verified)    September 22, 2015 - 9:19AM

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

I have been riding bikes since 1970 and needless to say I have had a lot of bikes, from full kitted Electra glides, BMW R80's, BMW 1150GS, and most of all if we are talking of road, my 2003 fully kitted Africa Twin. I will say my 2012 V Strom 650 is probably the best bike I have ever owned. I just can't fault it at all, for it's nimbleness, weight to power, fuel consumption and value for money it's just awesome. I have seen so many American reviews about the V Strom, saying well this is not really for off road and yet all you see the riders do is a bit of dirt track, they will do so much more than a bit of dirt track, in fact I would take the little strom anywhere I would have taken my AT and in some cases it would be better because it's lighter. You will never go on any trip and say I wish my bike was heaver. So as for this review, it's just total BOLL%@£S

Suzukifan (not verified)    June 22, 2011 - 7:22PM

I don't understand your negative comments. First of all not everyone thinks it's a failure me included. Adventure touring bikes are by nature ugly and I think the new Strom looks not bad at all. I don't think any of them are what most people would call lovely to look at but the people who buy them don't care. You're attacking the bike because it doesn't excite you like more expensive bikes that in your opinion are much better. So if Suzuki made the bike you think they should have it would cost as much as the Beemres, KTM's, Ducati's etc. and what would the rest of us purchase? Not everyone can afford Euro bikes that cost thousands more to purchase and hundreds more to insure. Ever taken a GS in for routine service? VStroms are as reliable as any adventure bike out there and will take you any place those other bikes will. I know of a rider who lives in my area that rides an early model DL1000 and has 300,000 kms on it and has never had to do a major service. Just scheduled maintenance. What more do you want? People who want every bike to have every last feature on them and weigh less than the previous model should think twice. If that were to happen I can guarantee that there would be a lot fewer bikes on the road and more than half of the bike dealerships in NA would be out of business. We're in a global recession people and bikes are toys nothing more. They're the first thing to go when money gets tight especially if they all cost as much as a Ducati or Beemer.

Mike (not verified)    July 14, 2011 - 5:30PM

In reply to by Roman Rosa

We all read it. What failed to impress you? Moving the oil cooler from behind the exhaust header up into the Radiator space? That smart move impressed me, it was the first thing I noticed. Guess that and the re-tuned engine got by you. Did you really ride one for this review, really?

Anonymous (not verified)    December 25, 2011 - 10:26PM

In reply to by Mike (not verified)

Agree with Mike here.
Moving the oil-cooler from it's exposed position is a brilliant move!
Furthermore the new instruments seem to have gear indicator - also a welcome change.

As for boring - this bike is anything but boring on good gravel roads. To be sure it is not a dirt- or off-road bike, but it's capability to handle bad, patchy, bumpy asphalt roads and good gravel roads is simply outstanding - and immensely fun!

Driving it on a straight highway gets quite boring - but so does just about any bike when driving at street legal speeds.

This bike is only as boring as the road you choose to drive it !

Pricewise it is also one of the bikes out there that offers the most bang for the buck - and that can't be bad :)


rich (not verified)    March 22, 2012 - 11:00AM

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

The military uses the term 'life cycle costs', referring to the total cost of running a machine. Purchase, fuel, insurance, tires, repairs, maintenance, residual value. This is where Japanese bikes (and cars) shine. Compare the life cycle costs of the Vstrom with the F800, over 10 years and 100,000 miles and see who comes out ahead. Riding experience is subjective, more often than not its about you and where you are in life.

SteV-Strom (not verified)    January 16, 2016 - 12:50PM

In reply to by Roman Rosa

Did you even see it, let alone ride it?

It is nothing like the old bike, I have ridden both and they are completely different
The new one is better in every respect
Anyone who says it should have been an 800 obviously hasn't ridden it
The Triumph Tiger 800xc is a brilliant bike, but the new V-Strom is better
Please people, ride one before you comment, otherwise your comments are pointless

If you don't like it fine, but some of the comments I have seen written about this bike are way off the mark. I have never heard any negative comments from anyone that has ridden one even when I worked in the trade. A lot of people won't buy one because of peer pressure and what their mates think. Your loss.

I have been riding bikes for more than 43 years and the new V-Strom is the best of the lot.

geoff (not verified)    November 5, 2014 - 10:33AM

In reply to by Suzukifan (not verified)

It's not about price, I could afford any of them. I bought mine because it is proven, accessories are abundant, and I lack the experience riding off road to be able to handle the other bigger ones. Not to mention this motor is a proven and dependable.

Anonymous (not verified)    June 22, 2011 - 10:53PM

I think Suzuki missed the boat on the Wee. I like the updated look, the new dash but for the bike to compete with the other mid size adventure touring bikes it should be at least have 800cc. Everyone who has had a Wee or even a Vee I doubt they will go out and buy the new version for just cosmetic updates.

Andrew (not verified)    January 26, 2013 - 8:34PM

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

I purchased a 2012 DL650 around October, My budget could never justify the price tag of the BM or other variants.
I have to take into account the simple facts.
Running costs,
Serviceability and cost of service,
THINGS that WILL GO WRONG while you are in the middle of no where and cause you to end up being stuck
I design product for a living and am extremely aware that most riding done in hostile environments is potential for failure.
Will this product stop in a hostile environment compared with a feature packed design?
The likelihood with every added feature is yes.
The more bells and whistles the more likely it will break.
Coming from a Bussa to a 650 even the power by comparison isn't that bad.
Bang for buck I think I am in front.
We will see after I have put my first 100,000 K on it how it compares to my friends Beamer.
I am already in front after his and my first service with similar K's.
Mine didn't need anything "fixed"

Roman Rosa    June 22, 2011 - 11:00PM

Don't get me wrong guys. The V-Strom is actually a fantastic bike. It really is. The problem is that Suzuki got us all horned up about something new, but it's the exact same bike, even visually it hasn't changed at all. I was really expecting a 650 version of the 800xc or the 800gs. How cool would that have been? The 650 engine is so sweet and powerful for its size, it could have taken the lightweight adventure bike to another level.

From a business perspective, what current V-Strom owners would trade in their old models for the new ones? Nobody really, since they are the same bike. For it to have been a true success, Suzuki needed to create a bike that would get NEW riders who wouldnt normally have considered a V-Strom and ALL the old riders who would have been falling over themselves to update their bike for the newest and coolest.

Matt (not verified)    June 29, 2011 - 6:12AM

In reply to by Roman Rosa

I think the point you make re: existing v-strom owners not wanting to swap old for new is valid. I have a DL1000 and love it but after 3 years, i am beginning to look for something different. I think that the GS1200 just too expensive, the Triumph 800 Tiger is a little too small and so I was hoping that the new V-strom would offer something exciting. Having seen the photos, i am instantly dissappointed. There is no chance that i would consider a swap for something that is basically the same but with a bit of superficial restyling. Why bother? I am now hoping that Triumph will bring a new restyled Tiger 1050 thats a mouthwatering prospect - Matt, New Zealand

exHater_newlover (not verified)    March 18, 2016 - 6:56AM

In reply to by Roman Rosa

This one thing I hardly understand, you say visually it hasn't change at all. The previous look of the V-Strom, I merely hated it for all the time. It had a big head with a long neck, looking like an ugly demon from a Miyazaki movie. But than I saw this 2012 DL650 in a shop, I couldn't believe when they said it's V-Strom. It was completely changed, the head section, especially when looking from the side. So I sat on it, didn't ride but the feeling was great. I almost fell in love with the bike and I'm looking to buy a one now. No one could ever convince me to buy the old V-Strom. So, I was a hater now converted into a potential customer. A 180 degree turn! That was accomplished by Suzuki's designers appareantly. This bike is looking good and way much more sexier than the old one.

I'm a writer and journalist myself, I believe this review is sincere, but it is too personal and very subjective. Or it just wanted to say something 'different' while everyone is talking the same thing: that this bike is good. That strategy worked perfectly; this was the first review that I clicked on google, because it said something bad on its title. But wouldn't return a good reputation for its writer in the end, probably.

Strom fan (not verified)    June 23, 2011 - 12:31AM

I'm not sure ADV Rider represents the Strom's "core audience and buyers".

A total SWAG, but I bet (globally, at least) that more Stroms are commuting, 100% on-road touring, etc. than are being beaten down some gnarly single track thru the woods. It's an "off-pavement", not "off-road"-bike and Suzuki would be fools to make the re-design MORE dirt-oriented. That's what the DR is for.

I also bet the VAST majority of ADVRiders (this one included) spend the VAST majority of their riding on maintained roads; and the VAST majority of Strom riders aren't hanging out on the ADV forum, they're either incognito or on VSRI and Stromtroopers.

Compare with:
- the Jeep folk who want a rough, ready, go-anywhere Wrangler - which they drive exclusively to the office and the grocery store.
- the guy who pays extra for the long-bed pickup so he can haul stuff - but won't because he doesn't want to scratch the bed.
- the guy who has a R1200GSA fully fitted because he routinely drives on a few miles of well-mainted gravel/dirt roads, while guys are passing him on Harleys and sport bikes.

Jojo (not verified)    July 3, 2011 - 1:22PM

In reply to by Strom fan (not verified)

I have a real Stromtroppers... 2003 DL-1000 Still mostly mint shape, with LOTS's of love given to by tree branches, bushes, cactus, and gravel pecks.

What I WAS hoping for was a new 1000cc that would have a much more comfortable seat (OMG... ERRRR!!!!) better geometry, and fix the fricken buffeting windshield and fuel-surge fix.

I have aftermarket fairings to fix the buffeting, however they also suck... it's just a bad distance from the rider and and poor angle. I don't ride with my chest on the gas tank all day long and anything else it's a fricken nightmare to sit upright and go faster that 40 MPH !!!

I fully agree with you, What we got was a normal Wee-Strom with a mean-looking fairing and nothing else.

So, I'll go sit in my corner again for another year and wait it out.


Anonymous (not verified)    November 25, 2011 - 3:50AM

In reply to by Strom fan (not verified)

I could not agree more with you bro, apparently old Roman Boy thinks that the only real riding is found off road. Let me clue you in Rommy (and yes, I did read that thing you call a review). I have a Wee k7 that I ride on the street. Pavement, you do know what that is right, that black stuff most people ride on. I NEVER intended to ride it off road, it is my commuter ride and it KICKS ASS AND GETS 55 MPG. I tried riding it in the desert but the forks are just too wimpy and it was a bad experience. I went through the "crotch rocket" phase in my life and I'm very happy with my Wee thank you very much. Roman, if you think the Beemer or the Triumph are so great you should buy both. You stay in your dirt world and I'll stay in mine, I don't think you could handle the streets anyway and it would be safer for you there. STROMS RULE!

Marco (not verified)    June 23, 2011 - 1:51PM

You might think it's a boring bike, but I think it's a lot of bike for the money. My 2008 has done everything I've asked it to do, and it will do anything a BMW GS will do (except maybe inflate one's ego). To me this bike is a great commuter and light tourer. Very solid, do most-anything machine.

If I want to have fun on the twisties I'll ride my Ducati Supersport, and if I want to have fun in the dirt I'll ride my dual sport, but the little Strom will also do those things (to a lesser degree).

Allan (not verified)    June 24, 2011 - 12:36AM

The new V-Strom looks great, as it has a few visual bumps ironed out - but for all that It’s the same great bike as the original 2004 version - but with better fuel management and grunt. I'm sure it will have the same appeal as the 2009 V-Strom I ride.
Features that appeal:
- It does 4.75km/100L no matter how you ride it,
it will out-drag any car to the legal speed limit,
the ABS will stop you in a hurry no matter how much oil is on the road,
the lights are better than most cars,
The tyres will last 12000 - 18000km -
The tank will last to 440km - and still do another 20km
The list of robust unburstable workhorse features is endless, that why it aint changed much as its already bloody good!

Anonymous (not verified)    June 26, 2011 - 9:46PM

In reply to by Allan (not verified)

sorry typo - thats: It does 4.75L/100km no matter how you ride it.
- other good features - Quick hand adjustment for rear shocks, Reliability - My V-strom has dome 38.000km in 2 years the only thing that went wrong was the rectifier which was fixed under warrenty. Unlike my older Hysong GT-650s - which cost me over $5000 in repairs.