The bike's frame is a very basic twin-spar and its suspended on non-adjustable front forks, but what makes the 650 XT a great offroad machine is the 17/19 set wheel set-up.
"Go anywhere, do anything." This seems to be the motto for a lot of motorcyclists in the country. More and more people are looking to the adventure touring segment for their exploration cravings and motorcycle companies do not want to disappoint. The latest entry into this territory is the Suzuki V-Strom 650 XT.
The V-Strom name itself is not as legendary as the Honda Africa Twin or the BMW GS series, but ever since it first showed up, it has garnered a lot of respect from adventure motorcyclists. Their latest iteration, the V-Strom 650 continues to carry on that legacy.
Let's start off with the engine. It is the same 90 degree V-twin that does duty on the SV650. It has been tuned differently though and thanks to the dual throttle bodies, there is ample of power right from the get-go -- 2,500 rpm is where everything starts and feels smooth and linear right through the rev band. No spikes, no dips, nothing that will make you shriek. Suzuki has also added a low-rpm assist system to help newer riders from stalling the engine. The torque spread too is fairly wide, so there is no need for a lot of gear-shifts in city traffic.
Speaking of gears, there is a slightly odd feeling in every downshift, but the upshift comes in nice and smooth. In my race to reach north of 180 on the speedo, I didn't miss a single gear. The engine gives you a slightly muted rumble that sounds really nice when you climb up the revs. What is impressive though is the lack of vibration on the bike. There is a mild buzz on the handlebar past the 6,000 rpm-mark but is barely noticeable at those speeds.
The bike's frame is a very basic twin-spar and is suspended on non-adjustable front forks and a preload adjustable rear monoshock. What makes the 650 XT such a great offroad machine, is the 17/19 set wheel set-up. You get wire-spoked rims that are shod in Bridgestone's Battlax Adventure tubeless tyres. That means I don't have to go looking for a mechanic out in the wilderness to help me fix a tube.
Remarkably, at this price-point, Suzuki offers you two levels of traction control with the ability to switch it off if needed. I tried pushing the bike, but honestly, on a well-paved street in ideal conditions, the bike wouldn't slip at all. I did take an offroad trail too and while level one let me slide the bike around a little to get the TC light to flicker, level two wouldn't let me get away with any of that. There is dual-channel ABS that comes standard, but it's not switchable and is a little annoying when you want to make a hard stop in the dirt.
Braking is good and I was delighted with the way the V-Strom stopped. Initial bite from the front brakes comes nice with smooth progression. But the rear on my test bike was a little lose and didn't really work that well.
There is something to say for comfort as I rode the bike on a 200 km stretch and I had no aches or pains to complain about. The seat is plush and large enough to move around. The flyscreen too did a decent job of keeping the wind at bay while I did speeds of over 120 kmph. What is cumbersome is if I have to make any adjustment to the screen, I need an allen key and a couple of minutes by the side of the road.
Touring capabilities are commendable especially because of the 20-litre fuel tank. Add to that, a 20 km per litre average makes the bike quite fuel efficient. The bike munches miles on the highway with relative ease and takes on the regular patch of bad roads easy to maneuver.
What I don't like though is the vertically stacked headlamp design. That, and the fact that there are no LED elements. The conventional halogen lamps while they do have a good spread, don't have a lot of intensity so it's a little dull on a really dark street. The other gripe I have is the skid plate. Well, it's plastic and does absolutely nothing to protect anything. For anyone wishing to do some serious offroading, I would advise swapping it for some aftermarket parts.The verdict? The V-Strom 650 XT is a solid bike. It can take you places, whether its just a trip down the highway or a ride in the woods. It will make sure to drop you off at the doorstep without making you uncomfortable on potholes and bumps. It feels planted even at high speeds on lean angles and is quick to flick through traffic. At a price of Rs 7.45 lakh, I would go so far as to say it is probably the best affordable mid-spec ADV in India.