Today, I’m going to share with you a very long-term review of the Suzuki DL650 Vstrom. It isn’t a short review so I have included timestamps below to help you find the bits you want quickly.
I’ve been a DL650 owner now for over 15 years so I think I have plenty of experience to give you an honest opinion. I’ve owned plenty of other bikes before and during this period and have honestly tried to find the replacement for the Vstrom for over ten years now. I am still looking.
As well as the bikes I have purchased to try and replace the Vstrom I have tested many others in many different environments and I’ve put a lot of miles on them, so I feel that I can provide you with a comprehensive and honest review of the bike’s capabilities, its advantages and its few disadvantages. This review refers to a 2007 series 1 Vstrom with no ABS, but most of the comments are equally applicable to the later models.
The Suzuki DL650 Vstrom is without a doubt the most versatile, reliable, and comfortable motorcycle that I have ever known. It can handle most riding situations you can throw at it and I Lovingly call it my general dogsbody. It might not do any one thing as well as certain other motorcycles, but it does everything pretty damn well. I have even thrashed it around Cadwell Park on a few occasions.
The DL1000 is also a great bike, but the 650 is just better at everything other than high speed motorway runs in my opinion, and personally, I try to avoid them whenever I can. When it needs to the DL650 will handle motorways perfectly well. This difference shows on the 2nd hand market too. DL650’s hold their price much better than the DL1000 does.
I would say that come the Apocalypse there will probably be 3 bikes that survive, The Kawasaki KLR650 The Suzuki DR650 and the trusty Suzuki DL650 Vstrom.
Some of the standout features of the DL650 are
The bike is powered by a 645cc V-twin engine that was derived from the original SV650 engine. It really does deserve the title bombproof in the SV650 and the Vstrom uses a detuned version, so it really is close to indestructible. It delivers smooth and torquey power throughout the whole rev range.
You can ride it in a really relaxed way, short shifting and making the most of the lazy power at lower revs or it is equally happy if you push it up the rev range and use that slick gearbox to keep it at peak power. It produces about 69 horsepower and 47 lb-ft of torque, which is more than enough for most riding situations and certainly enough to loose your licence.
It pulls strongly even when 2 up, fully loaded, and believe me, I have loaded it up a lot at times. It doesn’t struggle. It is very fuel-efficient too, you can get around 50-55 miles per gallon on average. Add the 25 litre (series 1) fuel tank and you can have a comfortable 250mile range from a full tank. This makes it a great choice for long-distance travel.
Despite its weight and size, the Vstrom feels nimble and responsive once you are up to speed. It is especially good on tight twisty roads, which is mainly thanks to its well-balanced chassis. The standard suspension is well-tuned for normal riding and does have preload adjustment front and rear which makes a big difference if you carry a pillion at times. The front is adjusted with easy access, wind in adjusters on the fork tops and the rear has a fantastic, easy to adjust remote preload adjuster.
The Vstrom has twin disc brakes on the front and single on the rear. The front is strong and progressive whereas the rear is fairly gentle which makes trail braking easy and controllable.
The Vstrom is not a sportbike, but it is remarkably nimble for such a big bike, It is an enjoyable, predictable, neutral ride. It has great stable handling and tracks well in the corners even when trail braking.
This is the one area where the Vstrom excels the most. The bike’s neutral riding position and comfortable seat make it easy to ride all day, whether you are touring, riding off road or playing on back roads at the weekend.
The bike also has a multi position screen that can be raised or lowered to provide better wind protection for the rider, regardless of their height. Pillion hand rails are solid and well positioned and the easily adjustable suspension means a quick stop and a few turns of the preload knob and you can soften the suspension off road or stiffen it up for the highways when needed.
The Vstrom is equally at home on long highway rides, through towns and cities, on twisty mountain roads, and even off road trails. Its rugged build quality and reliability, make it a great choice for those who like to explore the road less travelled.
The suspension isn’t fancy or as off road capable as some ADV bikes but the easily adjustable preload front and rear do make a big difference. There are ways to upgrade the suspension too. This can be done relatively cheaply for anyone who is capable with their spanners.
The torquey V-twin engine gives you great low-end power and smooth acceleration, but it revs out really well too, so you get the best of both worlds. You don’t need to push a DL650 into corners to have fun, but when you do it will surprise many riders. You get smooth power throughout the rev range and the bike’s neutral riding position makes it easy to control compared to most bikes of this size.
The DL650 Vstrom is known for its rock-solid reliability. Regular maintenance and oil changes are all that is required to keep the bike running smoothly. The Vstrom has a reputation for being a workhorse and it can handle long-distance travel better than most. Last year I did a 6,000 mile trip through 7 countries in Europe without encountering any mechanical problems. I used a scottoiler and only had to adjust the chain once and that was it.
Although yes it is right to check valve clearances at 25k intervals I haven’t had to actually adjust them ever, and I do ride the bike hard at times. It has also probably done more first and second gear miles than most Vstrom’s as I do take it off road regularly.
While the Vstrom is not a dirt bike and doesn’t have the off road credentials of some of its more modern alternatives, it will do OK off-road. The bike’s smooth torquey engine is perfect for light-duty trail riding, but the suspension is not designed for aggressive off-road riding.
The ground clearance can be a limiting factor, but despite bouncing off many rocks I am yet to bend anything terminally. Mine has spent a lot of time off road. I have taken it through rivers and up tracks it probably had no right to do. There are times I have had to accept defeat, but that is all part of the fun. It has been fun too.
The DL650 Vstrom has a unique exhaust note. The V-twin engine produces a satisfying growl that sounds great under acceleration. The bike’s standard exhaust system can easily be replaced with either a full system or you can just replace the heavy silencer. If you do replace the central section make sure to refit the O2 sensor as if you don’t it will not run right.
Various manufacturers make alternative exhaust systems but GPR in Italy and MTC in the UK both make great systems that will last you as long as the bike. I can attest that MTC do honour their lifetime guarantee.
After market Parts
The bike has been in production so long now that there are a wide variety of after market parts and accessories available for it. You can customize it to your liking and make it fit your riding style.
Although there are differences in the models and some parts are not interchangeable, most are, and there are many options to get the perfect parts you need. Higher screens, lowered peg kits, seats, and many other items are listed fairly cheaply in most online stores and any shop can get hold of them too.
You can see below some of the modifications I have done. Some are fairly standard mods that most riders do and are relatively easy. Some are more complicated but there are plenty of Vstrom riders out there ready to help.
One of the other things that you will find, is that there are few motorcycle communities more welcoming than the Vstrom community. Whether that is on the road, on the many independently started forums or the different groups of the various social media sites. If you have a problem chances are someone has had it before and will tell you the solution with no fuss, but those problems are rare to be honest.
Now, let’s talk about some of the drawbacks of the Vstrom:
The bike’s styling may not be for everyone. It has been called an ugly duckling and many other things. I used to say people who bought a Vstrom had a sense of humour because they will never win any beauty contests.
They have a no-nonsense, rugged appearance. a utilitarian look that some riders may find uninspiring. The point is, you don’t buy a Vstrom to stand at the side of the road looking good. You buy them to get anywhere you want quickly and comfortably with no breakdown worries. It is that simple for me.
The bike’s standard suspension isn’t fantastic. Some will say it can be a bit soft for more aggressive riding and it could do with a little more travel to make it better off road. However, it is more than adequate for most light-duty trail riding and learning to use the basic preload system properly will make a lot of difference. There are also plenty of ways to improve the standard set up.
I am a tinkerer and I know what I like so there have been various mods done over the years. I luckily got a 2007 DL650X, so as standard it had engine bars and bash plate fitted. The same ones are still fitted 15 years later, although they have been hammered back into shape a few times. I have never felt the need to replace them.
The Cosmo Fork Brace is a must have and was my first purchase after getting the Vstrom. It makes the front end feel much more planted and minimises any flex in the standard forks.
Braided brake lines
I always use braided hoses so again this was a mod I did early on. The standard lines can get spongy, especially in hot weather. I ran 2 independent lines to the front calipers to get rid of the crossover hose.
Yacugar progressive springs front (sometimes) and rear
This was my first attempt at making serious improvements to the suspension. The Yacugar progressive springs make a huge difference when you are carrying a passenger, they stop the front end bottoming out as much off road too. The rear is still the same standard damper with the improved spring, the front has had more work done as you will see below.
Givi monokey pannier rack and top box
The bike was always going to be used for touring so this was a must. Other brands may be better but this rack and the panniers I got are still perfectly serviceable today. Top box is a monokey rack with a Kappa top box now.
MTC twin outlet high volume stainless silencer with de-catted collector
The first system I put on to replace the stupidly heavy standard system was a GPR full system, It was made really well and was very light. After a few years and plenty of sliding down green lanes I decided I wanted a stainless silencer and after speaking to Martin at MTC exhausts in Cheshire I had him make me one to exactly the spec I wanted.
The central CAT is removed and the silencer is a very long stainless twin outlet unit that creates a lot of internal volume in the end can so it creates plenty of back pressure without having to run DB Killers or baffles.
Do be careful to make sure any system you buy has the fitting for the O2 sensor. Without it the bike will not run correctly.
Stainless radiator and oil cooler guards
As I began to ride more and more off road these became a must have. I ride a lot in Derbyshire and the limestone can be sharp, so protecting the oil cooler and radiator just made sense.
Power relay and 12V outlets
Jamie Jones who is well known in the UK Vstrom community built me a relay that tees in to the brake light feed so it comes on and off automatically with the ignition. A 12V waterproof marine grade outlet was mounted on the front dash
Flat bars and bar risers
I prefer my bars straighter than the standard Vstrom bars and use a braced pair of MX style bars on 1 inch risers. It just suits me better than the originals and gives me better control.
I just have 2 small unbranded projector lights mounted to the front crash bars
Again, as a bike used for touring and used all year round these were a must. I use R&G because spares are easy to get if needed but there are other decent makes.
Barkbuster style hand protectors
I found a much cheaper version of the bark busters with adjustable mounts and replaceable hand guards on eBay. They are great, with a steel bar running through the whole unit for maximum strength. They have lasted about ten years now despite many impacts.
Home made sat nav bar
I literally went through some old frame material I had lying about and cut an old section of subframe that slots neatly above the clocks and well protected behind the screen.
DL1000 front fork internals
After many years of adjustment and changes, the front fork set up I chose that offered the most improvement was to simply swap the fork internals from the DL1000. You have to keep the original DL650 fork legs because of the speedo drive but the stantions and internals can easily be swapped over.
I tried it with the heavy duty Yacugar springs with a longer spacer and it is great for 2 up touring fully loaded but not so good off road. The DL1000 springs did still get a longer preload spacer but I left the cartridge alone and this combination works best for most of my riding. I just swap the springs if I am going off on tour.
Conclusions and Comparisons
Overall, I have to highly recommend the Suzuki DL650 Vstrom to anyone looking for a versatile and reliable motorcycle that can handle a wide range of riding situations. Its smooth power delivery, excellent handling, and comfortable riding position make it a joy to ride on long trips, while its off-road capabilities and ease of modification make it a great choice for those who like to explore the road less travelled.
I personally didn’t see enough improvements over the years to warrant the extra weight and smaller fuel tank on the newer models but the year is really not that important. The series 2 and later do a little more miles to the gallon so they get a similar range to the older ones. Whichever DL650 you buy, you wont be disappointed.
Since I have had the Vstrom I have owned and tested many other bikes. From a Kawasaki KLR600 to a Ducati Multistrada Enduro. These are my comments on comparisons.
There is a whole other article about the best bang for your buck adventure bike for a more detailed breakdown.
Ducati Multistrada Enduro – A fantastic bike and better in many ways but far too heavy and certainly not worth the extra cost. Even in low power mode the extra power was actually a hindrance off road.
KTM1090 Adventure – I loved how good this bike was off road, but the Vstrom is just more comfortable, more economical and better for pillion, so it just wasn’t worth the extra money in the end.
Kawasaki KLE500 – The Vstrom was far better on highways and far more comfortable touring. KLE had slightly better off road performance but as an all rounder the Vstrom wins.
Cagiva Navigator – This bike was a hoot to ride and a real hooligan, but off road it was a handful, and again comfort and economy make the Vstrom a better all rounder.
Kawasaki KLR600 – One of my all time favourite bikes, much better off road than the Vstrom but for comfort, low maintenance and 2 up touring the Vstrom wins hands down.
Triumph Tiger 900 Rally – Far too complicated electronics for me. I ended up hating the menu system very quickly so any advantages it had were lost.
Yamaha Tenere 700 – I’m sorry Yamaha sort that terrible seat out, for 1 its uncomfortable, for 2 it is torturous.
Honda CRF1000 – Probably the closest motorcycle to persuading me to buy anything new, but the extra weight was enough to sway me in the end. The Newer one seemed to have electronics designed by the same idiot Triumph employed.
My Vstrom is ridden all year round and is looking a little worse for wear these days, I ride it more than I clean it. It gets treated with ACF50 for winter and I do use a scottoiler. You can see in the pictures I haven’t even had the side panel I replaced sprayed yet. It was cracked on a rock while we were away in Europe and replaced with one a friend had. I will get it resprayed at some point.
So, there you have it. Maybe in another 15 years I will do this review of the DL650 Vstrom again, I’m sure it will still be running. I hope you found the information helpful. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below