ADVRiderMag is the ultimate Australian dedicated adventure-riding journal.
Discover the versatile and enduring appeal of the 2023 Suzuki V-Strom 650XT in our comprehensive review. As a sport-touring motorcycle with adventure capabilities, the V-Strom 650XT continues to impress riders with its reliable V-twin 645 cc engine and agile handling. Whether you’re a commuter, weekend warrior, or off-road enthusiast, this middleweight motorbike offers a unique blend of performance and practicality. Join us as we explore the features, performance, and overall experience of riding the 2023 Suzuki V-Strom 650XT.
One tank of gas through the 2023 Suzuki V-Strom 650XT
I didn’t have to wonder for long, though. When I picked up the 650XT, a Suzuki spokesperson assured me the V-Strom 650 was absolutely staying in the line-up. That then sparked my next question: What is it about the fun-sized V-Strom that continues to give it a long life on showroom floors?
A reintroduction to the V-Strom 650
For a complete nuts-and-bolts first-ride review of the current-generation Suzuki V-Strom 650, check out what our guest writer Abhi had to say about it from the 2017 press launch. Back then, it was the first time Suzuki had attempted to portray the long-standing V-Strom sport-tourer as a truly off-road capable “ADV” option.
Nowadays, Suzuki firmly positions the V-Strom 650 as an adventure bike on its website. One might say the “XT Adventure” version is a touring machine masquerading as an adventure bike. Sure it has handguards (all plastic, better for deflecting bugs than as a bark buster), obligatory aluminum panniers, a protective lower engine cowl (also plastic and missing a skid plate), and tubeless spoked wheels (but in a 19-inch front, not the favored 21-inch front of most dedicated ADV machines). If you thrust the V-Strom 650XT Adventure into the deep end of the middleweight ADV pool, it would struggle to stay afloat against the competition, say against the likes of the Yamaha Ténéré 700 or the KTM 890 Adventure.
Yet if we reel the little V-Strom back to its familiar waters in sport-touring, even after all these years it just keeps diligently meeting expectations. In large part, this is thanks to the long-enduring V-twin 645 cc powerplant. As a previous owner of a SV650S for over 10 years, I am all too familiar with the winsome thump of Suzuki’s 650 V-twin. It has a playful character to it, like a golden retriever bounding about in a backyard. It is agile, it can be quick, but overall it feels like non-threatening, wholesome fun, good for all ages and skill levels of riders. Its forgiving powerband has made it an extremely versatile engine configuration and it is no surprise that Suzuki has no intentions of abandoning it.
The approachability of the V-twin is further enhanced by the addition of the low-RPM assist technology. It was my first time riding a Suzuki with this capability and it was one of the most impressive aspects of the ride for me. As I slowed to a few miles per hour in a quiet parking lot, I fought all my instincts to pull in the clutch. Instead, I kept the V-Strom in first gear with the clutch fully out, and my right hand completely off the throttle. I waited for the inevitable shuddering as the bike would choke out, but instead it miraculously kept rolling. It maintained a near perfect six mph and even trundled uphill without ever coming close to stalling. The only other motorcycles I’ve ridden that are similar have a Rekluse clutch in them, which can be a pretty pricey aftermarket addition. For newer riders trying to avoid the dreaded stoplight stall-outs, or for riders off-roading at slow speeds, the low-RPM assist is a valuable feature of the V-Strom.
While my long-lasting love affair with the V-twin 650 platform was reaffirmed, the V-Strom does have some serious departures from the SV650 I knew so well. First, the V-Strom 650XT weighs 30 pounds heavier than the SV and sits two inches taller. The V-Strom also has a higher capacity fuel tank of 5.3 gallons and a significantly different riding position, thanks to a twin-spar frame versus the SV’s trellis frame. I had approached the V-Strom 650XT with cocky confidence because of my past experience on the V-twin platform, but in a lot of ways that is where the similarities start and end with the two famous Suzuki middleweight models. I could barely touch down my tip-toes on the V-Strom 650 (thanks to my petite proportions of five feet, four inches), and the extra weight of the bike sat high and left me teetering uncomfortably at stops.
This being the case, I decided to make momentum my friend and headed out to the flowing backcountry roads to evaluate cornering and handling capabilities of the V-Strom 650XT.
Commuting > Touring > Off-roading
It is apparent right away why the V-Strom 650 is a popular choice for commuter riders. The seat is thickly padded and comfy, the rider triangle is upright and neutral, and the windscreen parts the winds for a relatively smooth ride. It has the power for quick overtakes and will trot along at highway speeds without protest. A short-stuff rider like me would have gripes about city stop-and-go agility, but I imagine the more average-sized rider would have far fewer qualms about this. As for braking, I gave the V-Strom the old “panic brake test” on a quiet backroad and found it difficult to get the ABS to engage. When applying firm force on both the front and rear brake, the rear brake ABS would kick in relatively quickly. Applying just full front brake only, no matter how hard I went for it the ABS never revealed itself. It made me curious as to what excessive force would be needed to trip it on, but it was also made clear to me in this exercise that the Suzuki had plenty of stopping power. There is no denying it, the V-Strom gets high marks for this type of riding. “Commuter” box: check.
How about putting the “sport” back into sport-touring? The V-Strom 650XT handled the curves of the desert canyon roads with a competency I had come to expect from all the hype and years in service. I had a few doubts about the non-adjustable fork and rear shock at first, but whatever magical settings Suzuki settled on for the V-Strom 650, they were working. Through all the stages of the corner, from entry to exit, the V-Strom was composed and stable. It even allowed for a few mid-corner corrections to dodge rock debris in the road and it soaked up potholes with ample plushiness. On the fast sweepers, I pushed the V-Strom and ultimately found my own limits first before settling it down back to a casual pace. “Sport-touring” box: check.
Now for the “Adventure” side of things. Anza Borrego has plenty of mild gravel and sand roads to sample the V-Strom’s adventure capabilities without straying too far from civilization. I rode to some of my favorite metal sculptures in the dirt and had some immediate slide outs on the front tire that got me spooked. While the Bridgestone Battlax was a solid option for the tarmac, it isn’t exactly designed with off-roading in mind. As I know from all of my adventures on the BMW G 310 GS, the swap to a more capable tire like the Continental TKC 80 makes a massive difference in how capable a bike can be off-road. With that said, perhaps the V-Strom has more to offer when properly shod, but for the purposes of my ride I had a lot of hesitations going off pavement.
I tried out some deeper sand sections, mellow whoops, but it was on the hard-packed gravel where unsurprisingly the V-Strom felt the most comfortable. While plenty of riders have made upgrades to the V-Strom over the years to make it more ADV-worthy, I struggle with point blank calling it an adventure bike. As we have shown before here at Common Tread and on Highside/Lowside podcast, what exactly makes an “ADV” bike can be endlessly debated. That all said, what can be wholeheartedly stated with little pushback is that the V-Strom 650 is one heck of a sport-tourer, instead. “Adventure” box: not checked.
Nobody puts the Wee-Strom in a corner
It’s my not-so-humble opinion that the V-Strom getting passed on the “Adventure” box for this test ride is not a bad thing. Back in the early 2000s when the V-Strom 650 was born, I can’t imagine its designers were thinking about it as an off-roading adventure bike. As the ADV segment grew too large to ignore, Suzuki made understandable tweaks to try to nudge the prolific V-Strom series into the dirt.
The new 800DE on paper is certainly checking all the right boxes for a more serious adventure bike contender (21-inch front wheel, adjustable suspension with longer travel, higher ground clearance, etc). So how about it, can we let the V-Strom 650 be its authentic self again? A spunky middleweight sport-tourer that is affordable, reliable, and happiest eating up the miles on the commute and the weekend trip? I sure hope so, because it has rightly earned that reputation and its place on dealer showroom floors and in riders’ hearts.
|2023 SUZUKI V-STROM 650XT|
|Engine||645 cc, liquid-cooled, 90-degree V-twin|
|Front suspension||43 mm fork, not adjustable; 5.9 inches of travel|
|Rear suspension||Single shock adjustable for preload; 6.3 inches of travel|
|Front brake||Dual Tokico two-piston calipers, 310 mm discs, with ABS|
|Rear brake||Nissin single-piston caliper, 260 mm disc, with ABS|
|Rake, trail||26.0 degrees, 4.3 inches|
|Seat height||32.9 inches|
|Fuel capacity||5.3 gallons|
|Tires||Bridgestone Battlax Adventurecross Scrambler AX41S tubeless, 110/80R19 front, 150/70R17 rear|
|Claimed weight||476 pounds|
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