It turned pitch black even before we could approach the ghats of Kodaikanal – our destination for the day. The lush green forests and mist-filled mountains were wrapped in a sheet of darkness, with the Suzuki V-Strom 250 SX’s LED headlights being the only source of light on the road.
The symphony played by the dual-barrel exhaust of the V-Strom 250 SX reverberated in the canyons, waking up the creatures of the night. We had finally woken up from a deep slumber caused by straight, barren highways.
The mist that we encountered after each and every curve of the road, filled my head with cloudy thoughts. “Is this where I belong? Is this where the V-Strom 250 SX belongs?” As the dusk turned into dawn, the mist cleared a bit… making way for heaven and certain answers that lay bare naked in front of us.
Before getting down to the actual business, it is crucial to understand that the V-Strom 250 SX that we get in India, is poles apart from the international-spec V-Strom 250. The V-Strom 250 that the foreigners get, is based on the Inazuma 250 which was on sale in India but was far away from being a monumental success. In fact, it was the stark opposite. They say that if you commit the same mistake again and again, it doesn’t take long for it to become a sin. This time around, Suzuki India took a more righteous way by developing a new V-Strom 250 based on the Gixxer 250’s platform.
The modern-day V-Stroms follow a particular design philosophy outlined by a sleek single-piece headlamp, compact bodywork and a prominent beak. The V-Strom 250 SX successfully manages to fill the family’s shoes and indeed looks like a Baby-Strom.
The beak is derived from the legendary Suzuki DR-Z Racer and DR-BIG off-road motorcycles of yesteryears. Above the beak, you will find a hexagonal LED headlamp unit which is lifted off straight from the Gixxer 250. A tall windscreen accompanied by knuckle guards completes the ADV look upfront.
The dual-tone fuel tank shrouds further accentuate its athletic proportions. A 12-litre fuel tank sourced from the Gixxer 250 lies beneath these shrouds which should provide it with a range of around 350-400 kilometres.
The seat is a two-piece unit and the rear section is highlighted by a dual-tone tail and integrated LED taillight setup. This tail light is reminiscent of the first-generation Gixxer naked so it is a display of smart stock clearance by Suzuki! However, when you view it from the rear, it looks more like a Gixxer 250X rather than a V-Strom. A little more individual personification in this regard would have added much more visual drama to an otherwise appealing design.
The ‘V-Strom’ is quite a formidable moniker in the ADV-tourer segment but they have never been hardcore off-roaders. Expecting the same from the smallest member of the family wouldn’t do anyone any good. But still, Suzuki has managed to differentiate the V-Strom 250 SX from its naked counterpart by introducing a host of changes. The 19-inch wheel upfront is a major takeaway that this motorcycle is meant to take a more rugged approach towards things. At the rear, we still get a 140-section 17-inch wheel which is shod with MRF Mogrip Meteor tyres at both the ends.
While the main chassis is similar, there are quite a few modifications to it. The subframe is now longer while the swingarm is different as well. The overall wheelbase of the bike has gone up by 100mm to aid in its stability. The steering geometry is much more relaxed too. The V-Strom 250 SX tips the scale at 167 kg, making it 11kg more than the Gixxer 250. The V-Strom has a mammoth ground clearance of 205mm which translates to around 8-inches and statistics claim that 8-inches is enough to get down and dirty. In comparison, the Gixxer 250 gets 165mm of ground clearance. In an expected manner, the seat height has gone up to 835mm.
The new V-Strom SX is powered by the same 26.5hp, 22.2Nm, 249cc, oil-cooled engine that’s mated to a 6-speed gearbox – as seen on the Gixxer 250 street naked. Suzuki hasn’t made any changes to the internal gearing or the sprockets so we still get the same free-revving unit in the exact same tune.
This motor loves to get pinned if you wish to extract the most fun out of it. That’s what she said! While the V-Strom gets off in a nice manner, the actual party begins when the tachometer crosses the 4000 rpm mark. Below that, the show is rather boring as the V-Strom begs you to give it a handful of throttle. The pronounced shove that you experience after crossing the 4k rpm mark is rather addictive with the dual-barrel exhaust howling away. This strong mid-range is further assisted by a respectable top end. While its top-end won’t hit you like a corked bat, it still lends the V-Strom some character. The speedometer doesn’t take long to cross the 125km/h mark, after that, the V-Strom starts gasping for breath. A little.
However, the refinement level that we have come to associate with Japanese engines is dearly missed here. When it comes to this particular powertrain, it seems like the Japanese wizards screwed up with their wand and their spells couldn’t work in an expected manner. Mild vibrations start creeping in on the footpegs at around 5000 rpm, making their way to the fuel tank as you crawl your way up in the rev range. They aren’t bothersome and won’t spoil your playtime with the V-Strom but a little more refinement could have made the V-Strom a better tourer.
The V-Strom loves the highways and cruising at triple-digit speeds seems like a no-brainer for it. The speedo’s 100km/h mark comes up with the engine burbling at 6000 rpm in the sixth gear. Even at such speeds, the V-Strom seems eager enough to go even faster, thanks to the free-revving nature of this engine.
The first leg of our two-day trip to Kodaikanal involved pure, uncluttered highway cruising. Those arrow-straight highways accompanied by gloomy clouds created a rather grim setting, with our V-Strom covered in a bright shade of Champion Yellow 2 being the only source of joy. It was the perfect time to contemplate the riding ergonomics and highway comfort of the V-Strom. And boy, did it manage to impress us! The tall handlebar work in a perfect tandem with the centre-set footpegs to provide the rider with a comfortable triangle. Even the rider’s seat is cushioned enough to pamper your derrière.
While we couldn’t test the comfort levels of the pillion seat, it seemed wide and comfortable so even your better half won’t be needing a massage after getting off from the V-Strom. Too bad for you, mate. The tall windscreen does a decent job of shielding the rider from the windblast but some sort of adjustability to it would have added a nifty touch.
The 120mm of suspension travel up front from the telescopic fork might seem a bit meagre at first but the V-Strom really shines out on the twisties. Where it impresses the most is how connected it feels to the rider on serpentine roads. The twisty roads leading to Kodaikanal with canopies restricting the sunlight to filter through, proved to be the perfect playground for the V-Strom. The stiff suspension setup really aids in its handling but it also has a flip side to it.
The ride quality is far from supple as the front end lets you know everything that is happening under your stride. At the rear, it gets a 7-step, preload adjustable monoshock which does a fine job of masking the undulations on the road. We also found the braking setup to be a bit lacking in terms of overall bite and feedback. However, it feels adequate for the level of performance it packs so you won’t be soiling your pants bringing the V-Strom 250 SX to a halt.
The V-Strom SX is equipped with a USB charging port and a digital LCD screen with Bluetooth connectivity, WhatsApp alert, turn-by-turn navigation, ETA information and more.
Suzuki might have been a little late to the party but they came prepared! The V-Strom 250 SX isn’t a hardcore off-roader but neither does it aspires to be one. And this is exactly where its beauty lies. It aims to be an ADV-tourer for good tarmac and if you wish to tap the full potential of this motorcycle, you ought to take it to the mountains.
It’s thoroughly enjoyable on the twisties and also commands impressive highway mannerisms. Know its limits and it will bless you with a wide grin. Moreover, its 205mm of ground clearance makes it more credible than some of the other pseudo-ADV-tourers. Yes Honda CB200X, I’m indeed looking at you.
Riding Gears Credit: Rynox India