Jul 6, 2016
2004 vs. 2015 650 V-Strom
One of the cool things about riding with Scott is that he often has something new to play with. In this case, a 2014 Suzuki V-Strom of the 650 persuasion. He had about 7,000 miles on the bike and he bought it last fall. Scott is the rider I used to be. My poor V-Strom has barely been ridden, hardly been maintained, and every time I look at it I think about selling it and looking for a cheap convertible. It's a perfectly good motorcycle, but I'm old and looking down the barrel of "my last bike" and a 4-wheel future. Scott, on the other hand, appears to have a couple more decades of mountain adventure riding in front of him. So, about 9/10 of the way through our hot springs Colorado trip, we swapped bikes for a perspective on 10 years of Suzuki's iconic adventure machine.
Right off, I noticed that the transmission has dramatically less lash. One of the original complaints about the 650 V-Strom was the play between the engine, transmission, and driveline. That is not a "thing" in the 2014. My tired old 2004 V-Strom has even more lash than it did 60k or so ago, but his bike is tight as a new chain. That increases rider confidence, especially during low speed maneuvers and on tricky terrain.
The engine is both smoother feeling and quieter. Throttle response is slightly smoother and the feel of the throttle is much lighter. Again, that helps with low speed maneuvers and getting off at stop lights, especially on a hill is improved. The 2014's power and torque is insignificantly greater, number-wise, but it feels significant. I think he's depending on the on-board computer mileage estimate, but he seemed to think he was getting 4-8mpg better mileage than me on the same routes. Having experienced those computers in rental cars, I prefer to do my own math. Like motorcycle speedometers, they are consistently optimistic.
The fairing looks easier to work around and appears to be lighter. There is a lot more "air" between the inside of the fairing and the chassis, forks, and tank. I like the look of the new fairing, too. However, since Scott didn't want me disassembling his bike in the motel parking lot I'll have to assume Suzuki made some service-ability improvements here.
The seat is comfortable for a stock seat, but a poor second to my Sargent. Scott made a few positive comments about my bike's suspension, but he tempered all of them by admitting everything he liked could have been due to the Sargent seat. I agree. The new stock seating position seems more narrow, possibly due to the 0.4 gallon smaller tank? I felt like I was a little more "in" the 2014 than my bike; less perched on top of the ride or something like that. It's an almost insignificant difference, but it inspired a little more corning confidence.
The stock windshield works as well as my often fooled with Madstad system. In fact, we both felt that the air pocket behind either windshield was exactly the same.
The new stock luggage is cool and VERY large. I honestly like my GIVI stuff better, but that's just opinion BS. The Suzuki stuff packs from the top and you can cram a buttload of stuff into those three huge bags. Not enough, apparently, for Scott, but enough to take me to Alaska or Nova Scotia without any extra luggage or bags.
The Suzuki ABS system is terrific. Hauling Scott’s bike down from 65 with full pressure applied was smooth as possible. Like my experience on the Yamaha Super Tenere, I don't know how you can fault this braking system. Scott seemed to think he needed a way to shut it off, but I wouldn't. It was firm, yet had good feel and stopped solidly without no chatter or indication (other than a little bit of a soft feel to the lever) of interference. I loved it. Back on my 2004, I applied the same kind of pressure and nearly skipped the front tire in a 50mph to nothing stop. I could get used to ABS like this.
Overall, I was a little sorry to have to give the 2014 back. If I were a decade younger, I'd be thinking about trading up. I liked his Honda NC700X because of the incredible fuel efficiency, but I like the V-Strom more because it was really fun to ride.