Suzuki V-Strom 800DE review: All-round capable ADV


10 lakhs is quite a sweet spot in terms of big bike pricing. It’s high enough to be a truly aspirational dream, but not so high that it becomes an impossible one. The one thing that we’ve missed at that price point for all these years was a Japanese ADV, but that has suddenly changed and we now even have two options. First there’s the new Honda Transalp 750, which we reviewed last month and now there’s this - the Suzuki V-Strom 800DE.

Suzuki V-Strom 800DE off-roading, suspension comfort

Right off the bat, there’s plenty to be excited about, not only because the V-Strom 800 is quite feature packed, but also because it offers a different experience to the Honda. Where the Transalp thrives on the road, the V-Strom is more of a well- rounded ADV. You’ll get a hint of that from the specifications, and where both bikes have the promise of 21-inch front wheels and long travel suspension, the V-Strom has more suspension travel and higher ground clearance.

Remote preload adjuster is great to have on an ADV.

The big first impression is that the V-Strom’s suspension feels more composed off-road, particularly at the rear shock. On the Transalp, the soggy rear shock robbed confidence off road and the V-Strom certainly felt more at home in these conditions. However, when you start riding hard, particularly when hitting deep ruts or landing jumps, the V-Strom’s suspension feels too soft and would bottom out. Thankfully this bike has completely adjustable suspension at both ends and making a few tweaks greatly improved things. If you own this bike, it would be worthwhile getting the suspension set to your weight and riding style by a professional if you aren’t experienced with this stuff yourself.

Fully adjustable suspension at both ends.

Once the damping was firmed up and a little preload was added at the rear, I had plenty of fun off road. The V-Strom has a good sense of balance and its big front wheel brings in great stability. The suspension could now take in some pretty solid impacts and it soaked in medium sized jumps well. That being said, this suspension still doesn't have that same beautifully plush and controlled feel that you get in more expensive ADVs, but for this price, it is really quite good. 

Suzuki V-Strom 800DE weight, manageability

What this bike does demand to some extent is confidence, because it's a surprisingly large and hefty thing. One of the big appeals with the Honda Transalp was its low 208kg kerb weight and its pleasantly light feel on its feet. At 232kg, the V-Strom carries a lot more weight and it’s even heavier than larger bikes like the Tiger 900 and Ducati DesertX. To its credit, it also feels like a large bike from a segment above and taller/larger riders will like this. Seat height is at 855mm, which is similar to the Honda, but this bike does feel taller.

Seats are comfortable but not very spacious for pillion.

That’s not to say that this is an ungainly, excessively top-heavy bike either. While it certainly isn’t as effortless as the Transalp it's still a well balanced and relatively easy to ride bike  - the point is that it's a big machine and you should be aware of that. 

Suzuki V-Strom 800DE engine, performance, highway cruising

While the V-Strom’s name originally hinted at its V-twin engine, the 800DE switches to uses a new 776cc parallel twin motor that puts out 84.3hp and 78Nm. That's a slightly higher torque figure than the Transalp, but about 9hp down on power. On its own, this is a nice engine, with a typically deep 270 degree crank exhaust sound that’s pleasing to the ear. Low end torque is generous and this a quick bike by any measure. But compared with its immediate Japanese rival, this engine has a lot more weight to haul around and it doesn’t feel quite as effortlessly quick.

With this amount of power, highway cruising is a breeze and the V-Strom feels effortless upto about 130kph. Once you cross the 5,000rpm mark, vibrations do start to creep in, but by then the speeds aren’t really sustainable so this isn’t a significant issue. The engine does throw off some heat around your legs in traffic, and it's at a similar level to the Honda - impossible to ignore, but not unbearable.   

Something worth mentioning is that this is a surprisingly high compression engine (12.8:1) and there's a sticker on the tank that recommends a minimum of 95 octane. Thankfully that fuel is now widely available across the country and it's not painfully expensive either.

Suzuki V-Strom 800DE comfort, ride and handling

On bad roads, the V-Strom is just as delightful as you’d expect a big ADV to be and it simply shrugs off potholes and broken sections with zero fuss. Handling wise, you are aware that this is a big, heavy and somewhat soft motorcycle. Again, tweaking the suspension definitely improves things and the bike holds its line well, but it certainly isn’t as light and effortless as its main rival. 

The riding position is very comfortable, but the seats are a little shorter than I’d expect and your companion might want a little more room if you plan to do long days of two-up touring. 

TFT is logically laid out, very easy to use.

Where the V-Strom scores big is in the equipment on offer. This bike packs in great features like the fully adjustable suspension as well as a remote preload adjuster for the rear shock. The electronic rider assists are also easy to use and pleasantly non-intrusive in their function. It’s also very easy to turn off the traction control or rear ABS and you can even do so on the move, which few bikes let you do. The TFT display is laid out in a simple and logical manner and the switchgear is very straightforward to use as well.

Suzuki V-Strom 800DE missing features

The bike also comes with an up/down quickshifter as standard and the only missing features as such are heated grips and cruise control. However, there is one massive downer and that’s the fact that like the Transalp this bike comes with tubed tyres. This is especially disappointing given that the old V-Strom 650XT had a set of spoked rims that supported tubeless tyres.

Lack of tubeless tyres is the main downside.

Suzuki V-Strom 800DE price, verdict

The other potential downside is in the ownership experience. A service will cost you about Rs 8-9 thousand rupees, which is not bad in the world of big bikes. However, Suzuki wants you to service this bike every six months or every 6,000 kilometres. If you are someone who rides a lot - which you could be considering that you are buying an ADV - that could get quite tedious, especially if you don't have a Suzuki big bike service centre in your city. Speaking of, Suzuki currently has nine specialised Bike Zone dealerships that sell and service big bikes in 8 cities across the country.

Nevertheless, where the V-Strom 800DE truly excels is as an all-round ADV. It's not as accomplished a road bike as its main rival, but it's a better adventure bike in the breadth of its capabilities. Moreover, it's far better equipped right out of the box and because Suzuki has gone through the effort of bringing this in as a CKD, the price is more appealing as well. At Rs 10.30 lakh (introductory, ex-showroom, India) this bike makes for a great all-rounder and it’s your best bet for a capable ADV at this price.

Also See:
Suzuki V-Strom 800DE video review

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