Bike-scooters/ First-ride/ V For? | Suzuki V-Strom 800 DE First Ride Review

V For? | Suzuki V-Strom 800 DE First Ride Review

It has enough cred to establish that at least on paper, the 800 DE is the most capable V-Strom Suzuki has ever built.

For

Touring capabilities, versatile yet very potent motorcycle

Against

Wind protection could have been better, no cruise control

Overview

Are you prepared to get your mind blown even before we spill the beans on how the Suzuki V-Strom 800 DE is to ride on Indian terrain? Motorcyclists around the globe have been living in a delusion that the ‘V’ in the ‘V-Strom’ moniker stands for the V-twin layout that some of the most mythical V-Stroms had. If we go by the same logic, the single-cylinder powered V-Strom 250 SX should be renamed ‘S-Strom’ and the new 800 DE with its parallel-twin layout? ‘P-Strom’? Get your ears checked if you think they have a nice ring to them. It’s not the layout that the prefix stands for. It is the ‘v’ersatility that every V-Strom has brought on the table. Mind blown? Mine was, after riding the V-Strom 800 DE.

Vehemence

The vehemence of seeing the V-Strom 800 DE for the first time in flesh goes long back. A dear friend of mine who’s now a co-founder of another automotive publication, has a certain V-Strom 650 named ‘Sherpa’. Rightly so, because that V-Strom took him to the rooftop of the world and when I met him as he was returning from the expedition, he couldn’t help but sing accolades for his Sherpa. A few years later, I found myself on an expedition too - to cover 6000kms across India in 15 days on a trusty V-Strom 250 SX. The same motorcycle took me to the Kingdom of Bhutan and became a part of my ritualistic ride to my hometown that spans 3500kms. Having clocked around 15,000 kilometres on the V-Strom SX, it was bound to be an emotional moment seeing the 800 DE for the first time.

I get it. Its robotic face with twin projector headlamps isn’t going to inspire a poet to write a love song about it but to me, it exudes a sense of purpose. It could have looked prettier to the eyes but it wasn’t developed to walk down the ramp flaunting its beauty. For the purpose it was developed, it sticks true to it. The large beak up front establishes that it is indeed from the family of DR-Z racer and DR-BIG. The DE suffix means that it is the more serious motorcycle out of the two - the other one being the road-focused touring model. The DE gets wire-spoke wheels, a 21-incher at the front, more suspension travel and ground clearance. Enough cred to establish that at least on paper, the 800 DE is the most capable V-Strom Suzuki has ever built.

Riding ergonomics have always been a V’s forte. V-Stroms of the past and the present might not have possessed ungodly offroading capabilities but there’s one thing for sure - when it comes to pure mile munching capabilities, they have been second to none. Even the smallest of them all, the V-Strom SX turned out to be quite a hungry yet composed beast when it comes to eating miles. The V-Strom 800? No different, at least when it comes to how you sit on it. It gets a wide handlebar for great leverage and slightly rear set footpegs. The way you sit on it, makes you want to stay in the saddle for hours. That goes for the pillion too because the rear seat is well padded and has great real estate.

Velocity

Suzuki ditched its well trodden conservative route while developing the V-Strom 800. Radicality and Suzuki isn’t something that you would read in the same sentence. The V-Strom 800 disagrees though. Tell us one thing. When was the last time that we witnessed an entirely new platform from Suzuki? Can’t recall? I don’t blame you either because Suzuki has been working in a certain way and that has been working for them. The 800 DE seeks to break new grounds with its new 776cc parallel-twin motor pumping the affairs. It seems like Suzuki knew about the potential flak that it was going to receive from keyboard warriors when it was making this transition from the famed V-twin layout. Trust the Japanese to have an engineering trick up their sleeve. When it comes to the 800 DE, the two pistons are fired in a 270-degree order, lending the V-Strom with a v-twin like lumpy, characterful exhaust note and good grunt low down. The numbers? 84hp and 78nm of torque. Not earth-shattering but once you give it the beans, the V-Strom reveals itself to be a properly fast motorcycle, making the landscapes passing by, a mere blur.

With this new platform that has already seen two other variations: Naked (GSX-8S) and Supersport (GSX-8R), Suzuki has also introduced a new Cross Balancer, one per cylinder. At sane speeds, the V-Strom is the epitome of smoothness that we have come to associate with Japanese motorcycles. More velocity, however, brings few vibrations on the pegs and on the handlebar. In the sixth cog when the V is doing around 120kmph, there are some vibrations to be felt but cross the bridge of sanity to see more law-provoking numbers on the screen and the motorcycle becomes smoother. Fast is smooth for the V-Strom.

Over the course of 250 kilometres that I rode the motorcycle for, the engine made sure to steal as much thunder as it could. There are three engine maps on offer: A, B and C. The differences in each map are stark with the C being the most sedate of the lot and A being the most aggressive. When I picked up the motorcycle, as a rational being I rode it in the C mode for the first few kilometres. The V-Strom behaves like a playful puppy in this mode with everything dialed down, yet, with enough potential to leave everyone behind. In the B mode, the V-Strom becomes considerably louder and more aggressive. The throttle inputs made me realize that 84 ponies are no joke, especially in Indian conditions where machines as exotic as a Porsche Taycan Turbo and animals as calm as a cow, can kill you in an instant. The A mode? It popped my eyes wide open. Ears too, with the V-Strom growling angrily. The 270-degree firing order made all the sense in the world. You don’t even realize on the V-Strom the kind of speeds it is clocking. The best that I saw was 190kmph with the engine still singing in full glory. Planning a cross-country road trip with the 800 DE? The engine will make easy work of it. Just keep looking down at the speedometer because you don’t even realize you’re flirting with death at 150kmph.

Despite the sheer velocity that it is potent enough to clock, the signature trait of V doesn’t leave the rider’s stride. It is still a very forgiving and accommodating motorcycle, even for motorcyclists who aren’t accustomed to taming these many horses at once. The power delivery is linear and the way it works in tandem with the throttle inputs, makes for an easy, connected ride. Isn’t this exactly what you need from a great ADV-tourer? Even in the lower revs, the grunt is impressive but the mid-range is where the V-Strom comes into its own as it claws its way up in the rev range. The slip and assist clutch is light too, making the life of the rider that much convenient when it comes to commuting and offroading. Then there’s the standard bi-directional quickshifter which works flawlessly. Velocity? The V-Strom 800 has oodles of it.

Vectoring

The rider’s cockpit view while vectoring through different scenarios is another highlight of the V-Strom experience as the TFT instrument cluster is vibrant, well laid out and pretty intuitive to use. Apart from the engine maps, there’s a 5-level traction control too, including a gravel and off road mode. The crisp display might be one of the highlights of the ride experience but the real star of the show is how the V-Strom rides and behaves irrespective of the terrain you’re riding on. With the 800 DE, Suzuki wanted to create the most potent V-Strom in its two decades of illustrious history. The number 220 takes primal importance here.

The fully adjustable Showa USD forks have a suspension travel of 220mm, same goes for the adjustable monoshock at the back too. Ground clearance? 220mm. The numbers reflect on the streets and on the dirt too. Despite the terrain, the V-Strom exudes a sense of confidence and stability. Its steel frame is a thing of beauty as it masks the sheer dimensions of the V-Strom pretty well. Since we had very less time with the 800 DE, we couldn’t fiddle around with the adjustable suspension but in its stock setting, the setup struck a finer balance than the concept of Yin and Yang. In corners, the V-Strom tips and holds its line with the urgency of a naked streetfighter, if not a thoroughbred sportsbike. It reminded me of the V-Strom SX again, the way the 800 DE danced around bends. On a small off road patch that we exposed the V-Strom to, it didn’t mind being a ballerina. A very confident one at that. The 21-inch front wheel, mammoth ground clearance and a potent suspension setup translated into an experience that is still fresh in my mind. The V-Strom 800 DE features twin disc brakes up front with a single rear disc - and the braking power is seriously good. A decent bite on initial usage, with progressive stopping power as you ramp up the pressure.

Verdict

When the time came to finally bid adieu to the V-Strom 800 DE, I could feel my tear glands filling up. That one day felt like a decade where I reminisced about the short-spanned yet unforgettable love story with the V-Strom SX, only to have a thunderous one-day affair with its adult, more beautiful and wild version - the V-Strom 800 DE. Even if you factor out the personal relationship that I have with the V-Strom moniker, the V-Strom 800 DE is a seriously potent and competitively priced motorcycle. Pricing it at INR 10.30 Lakh (ex-showroom) was another smart move by Suzuki Motorcycles India. I don’t care whether the world agrees on what ‘V’ in the ‘V-Strom’ moniker stands for. Irrespective of the layout, it is safe to say that the V-Strom 800 DE is not only versatile, it is a proper touring weapon which wouldn’t mind going off the beaten path, at all. To me, the V-Strom is venerable. Absolutely so.



TopGear Magazine June 2024