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What it's Like to Crash a Motorcycle

“Damn it. John Burns thinks I’m a dick.”
That was one of the predominant thoughts going through my head as I slid down a Florida highway at 60 mph back in March.
It’s weird how the mind works. Time slows in a crash. Every tiny image burns into memory, so your brain can replay it over and over and over at night for the next who knows how many weeks.
In the moments before I crashed, I was riding the Harley-Davidson Street Rod along County Road 34 in central Florida. I’m not sure which county. The accident report simply records it as “County Code 61,” but the internet can’t agree on which county that is. Maybe I was in Indian River County; maybe I was in Suwannee County; maybe I was in Flagler County; I don’t know. I guess it doesn’t matter; I was somewhere. The road passing through that somewhere was long and straight – not the sort of place where one usually crashes – and the weather was perfect.

“My God, I am so happy,” I was thinking. “I am so incredibly lucky to be here – to live t…

What I want: Suzuki V-Strom 1000

2014 Suzuki DL1000 V-Strom
Is this the first Suzuki I've put on the What I Want list? Golly, I'm pretty sure it is. I wonder what that says about Suzuki?

Nope. Wait, no. There was that minute or two back before I started riding when I was subscribing to the Start With A 250 school of thought and found myself considering a Suzuki Inazuma. But even then, the reason more Suzukis have failed to show up on my list was evident: Suzuki doesn't make very attractive machines. There's just something about them I don't really like. They look a little too buggy, I think -- even the cruisers. Or, in the case of the Hayabusa, cartoonish (a).

And years ago I test drove a Suzuki Vitara that fell apart as I drove it, which put a permanent bad taste in my mouth for all Suzuki products. Yes, I know that was 13 years ago and the car division is removed from the motorcycle division to such a great extent that the former doesn't even exist in the United States anymore, but still. Suzukis just aren't my thing.

But, that said, the Japanese manufacturer has a good number of faithful fans. And, in fact, they are the ones who have caused me to give Suzuki a second look.

So far I've clocked about 1,500 miles on Aliona, and though I'm not quite ready to give her up I do find my eye is frequent to wander. I think a lot about what sort of bike I'd want next, and to a large extent I feel I might be happy with something almost exactly the same. This is why the Honda NC700X remains so high on my personal list. Indeed, since my only real complaint is that I'd like a tiny bit more power to support a passenger and luggage, I sometimes think the bike I'd next like to have is simply a 1000cc version of Aliona. Indeed, my positive Honda experiences thus far make me inclined to be brand-loyal when it comes to my next bike.

But I keep hearing all these incredibly good things about the V-Strom. My favourite motorcycle site, RideApart, for instance, named the V-Strom 650 as one of the best on which to carry a passenger. Additionally, the V-Strom was included in their list of most comfortable bikes. On MotorcycleNews.com they gave the bike five stars. Meanwhile, regular people on both sides of the Atlantic rave and rave about the "bullet-proof" nature of the bike. In the face of that, I can't help thinking: "Hmm, maybe..."

Because here are some of the things I've learned from my 1,500 miles with Aliona: 
  1. I like reliable, gas-and-go machines. Messing about with stuff makes me angry. As much as I romanticise the idea of lovingly tinkering away on something, I actually can't stand it. I'm not afraid to tackle mechanical issues, I just don't want to.
  2. I'm not that interested in tearing through corners. I have zero desire to touch my knee to the ground, for instance. I want to go places. And I find that most of the places I want to go require a combination of high-speed motorways and poorly maintained British roads.
  3. I'm not really selfish enough to go places by myself. Any bike for me has to also be a bike for my wife.
  4. I like anti-lock brakes. They saved my life once, so I'm pretty much insistent the feature be on any bike I seriously consider.
If the cheering of so many others is to be believed, the V-Strom 650 pretty much addresses all of these issues. Additionally, a recent video by Motorcycle USA identified two other aspects about the bike that appeal to me: 

Firstly, it is described as a tall bike, which I like considering I'm 6 foot 1. Growing up in Minnesota, land of the Scandinavians, I never really thought of myself as tall, but according to the ergonomics of many motorcycles I am a gigantic freak. So, a "tall" bike appeals to me. 

Secondly, the testers point out that the V-Strom is relatively narrow, which is the sort of thing that is a bonus if you live in Europe, where filtering is allowed. The other day, for example, Jenn and I rode to Bath and probably shaved a good 45 minutes off our journey time thanks to the ability to move between cars.

Admittedly, all of the glowing praise that has turned my eye toward the V-Strom is for the 650 version. But I am assuming the new V-Strom 1000 will be more of the same thing with, you know, a bit more power for the sake of hauling around passengers.

The V-Strom 650 manages 68bhp, compared to Aliona's 76bhp. Aliona is quite capable in 92 percent of the situations I put her in, but there are certain times -- always with Jenn and luggage -- that I'll think just a little more power would be ideal. So, I'd be wary of stepping down 8bhp to get the V-Strom 650. The new V-Strom 1000 is estimated to have at least 100bhp, possibly more. I'm sure that's plenty for me.

I have been invited to a V-Strom 1000 launch event at Thunder Road in October. I'm keen to go and check out the bike, because the more I look at it, the more it appeals to me in certain ways. I like the tall windscreen, for instance. Aliona's windscreen helps keeps away some of the wind that made riding a Harley at speed such a terrifying experience, but not quite as much as I'd like. Additionally, I like the look of the bike's cockpit; it seems like the sort of dash one would find on a Star Wars speeder bike.

As I say, though, overall I'm not that fond of the look of the bike -- especially that silly duckbill thing. Tis a good thing I'm married because I'd never be able to pick up a girl while astride sucha machine. And I'm not overjoyed at the fact the V-Strom is chain-driven. I don't hate chain maintenance too much, but I'd prefer not to have to deal with it.

I look forward to seeing the bike in person in October -- getting a chance to sit on it and so on, as well as learning what the price is supposed to be. That's an issue that could easily push me back onto the side of disinterest.

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(a) I've heard the 'Busa is a love-it-or-hate-it bike. Place me firmly in the hate-it camp.

Comments

  1. Chris,
    I maintained my chain on my Ninja for 11,000 miles across the U.S. in just over 3 months. OK, to be fair, my hubs and the men at the shops maintained my chain, but I paid for it. Well, when it came time for a new chain, and apparently it does quicker than you think, I just got a new motorcycle. I love that little Ninja, but she was tired. Really tired.
    I realize that you won't be doing that kind of riding. 1,500 miles since you took possession of Aliona . . . that will make chain management pretty easy.
    Since I've taken possession of my V*Star I've ridden more than double that. It hasn't been quite 2 months yet, I don't think. But I don't have those pesky annoyances like a job or a home to get in my way of riding. ;)

    Smooches,
    Sash
    www.SashMouth.com

    ReplyDelete
  2. Chris:

    I bought my Vstrom new in 2009 DL650K9A..it is reliable, bulletproof and will take you around the world if you wished. Don't be mislead by HP it is very nimble and smooth at slow speeds, and will easily carry a passenger and luggage. You will be surprised. I look at it as an SUV of bikes, not unlike a Jeep. Looks don't bother me

    check out: stromtrooper.com for more info

    bob
    Riding the Wet Coast

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's interesting to know, Bob. Thanks. In terms of carrying a passenger, I have a question: The speed limit in the UK is 70mph and drivers are far more inclined to move in the 80-85mph range. I usually avoid motorways when I can but sometimes it is simply the only choice or the best choice by far. Would you feel comfortable (ie, nimble) moving at that speed with a passenger and luggage on the 650?

      I'm very interested to know because in terms of weight and fuel economy, obviously, the 650 is going to be better. It's just the issue of carrying a passenger that makes me think about the 1000.

      Delete
    2. Chris:

      I can't give enough praise for Suzuki. I have owned Suzuki's since the early 1980's, and that Vtwin engine is rock solid. It is a 90° V twin. I don't think I would ever own a 4 cylinder bike again. I like the lower end torque. The 650 has nearly a linear power band and will pull steady from about 2K RPM's until red-line. With a chain you can easily change gear ratios, perhaps a sprocket up on the front and one less in the rear. Your dealer will know. at 70 mph 2-up you may wish to drop your RPM's down a few hundred RPMs

      I have ridden my Vstrom to Montana and many times to Oregon. I have ridden all day at 6,000 rpms and the engine just hums. The ergonomics makes it more comfortable for a pillion. Go and sit on one, you will see.

      Suzuki had problems with the old DL1000, wouldn't pass emissions and was not good at slow speeds thus their new model coming out. More power may be better for you. Some would say that it is a bit top heavy. Sure it is when you are pushing it around esp whilst parking but once you are moving it is a benefit with the longer fork travel and able to eat up less than desirable road surfaces. I installed a Richland Rich fork brace and this makes it more stable at higher speeds and on rough roads, as it holds your LONG forks parallel to each other.

      I was thinking of updating my DL650 to the new 2014 Vstrom as well. I have gotten addicted to more power

      bob
      Riding the Wet Coast

      Delete
  3. That's a sweet bike.

    I liked my Suzuki fine, and I really enjoyed riding the SV650. I've made mention of the fact that I want a bike I can ride more than 400 miles in one day. I know I enjoy V-Twin motors. This could be an interesting bike. I may have to go sit on one and make vroom vroom noises.

    On the other hand, I love me some Euro bikes, and Triumph and Ducati both have bikes on Rideaparts comfy bikes list. I know Beemers are comfy and all around pretty nice, but they just don't do it for me. And did I mention there was a Ducati on the list?

    Hmmm... Ural? Ducati? Ural? Ducati? So many pretty things, so little garage space.

    On the V-strom - think of it as less of a duck-bill and more of the beak of a bird of prey. Or Gonzo. Anyway, the schnozz is the source of it's superpowers...

    Chain maintenance is a drag. I'm due for new chain and sprockets on the Triumph again, and keeping up on oiling is a drag - I imagine even more so in the soggy nations. On the other hand, if the V-Strom has a center stand, that might not be such an issue. The Speed Four only has a sidestand, which means I either need a rear-wheel stand, or have to roll the bike to get the whole oil chained.

    'Busa - I've got a friend who lusts after the 'busa. I've always thought they were kinda sorta entirely fugly. But, then I read those rideapart articles, and they pointed out that they were meant for speedy touring. Which piqued my interest and suddenly I see them in a new light. After all, 1,000 miles in 8 hours or less ain't bad. ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am all about the center stand. My Honda has one, which means oiling the chain is just a matter of spinning the rear wheel. It also makes it easier to position both front and rear tires when checking tire pressure/adding air. I'm pretty sure it'll also make the job of adjusting the chain easier once I get around to it.

      I've actually seen one or two dudes "properly" using the 'Busa for touring over here but I still think it is a silly-looking bike. It looks like a 1990s sex toy. I just wouldn't want to be seen on one of those things.

      Delete
  4. They are finally coming back with the V-Strom 1000's here. They've been absent for a few years. I know at least three riding friends who have the V-Strom 650's and love them. Luckily they've had no mechanical troubles. None carry a passenger though.

    I've had my Suzuki Gladius for 2.5 years with no issues although I wish the seat was more comfy. We've gone two up on my 650cc bike and it has no issues hauling hubby and I around, just isn't that comfy.

    The Suzuki's don't seem to be as popular as some of the other Japanese makes though.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If I'm not mistaken, the Gladius is basically the same as the SV650 of which Lucky is so fond. That bike gets A LOT of love in UK circles. It is known as a workhorse and a lot of people suggested it as THE bike I should get. But when I saw one in the flesh it looked a little cramped to me. But certainly with so many people speaking so highly of Suzukis I will now have to consider them seriously.

      Delete
    2. It can be cramped if you are tall or have a long inseam. I am just shy of 5'8" but with a 32" inseam and my knees can get a little sore on long rides. Would be nice to have the pegs a little lower and some bar risers. The Gladius is the revamped SV650. They tweaked the engine and body style much to SV650 fans' dismay.

      I think you are doing quite well with the bike you have.

      Delete
  5. I have had my V-Strom 650 for about six months and I think it is an awesome bike. I travelled all the way to Florida and carried a ton of gear and had no problems until the clutch burnt out. That was my fault though. You can't blame the bike.

    My wife rides around on the back and she says it is quite comfortable. I have a topbox so she can lean back against that for stability. As for going 85 miles an hour...sure...the bike can handle that speed. I've gone that fast with my wife aboard but she finds it a little uncomfortable because of the wind. As a solo rider, however, tucking in under the windshield it is a blast.

    - Dave at Motorcycle Addiction

    ReplyDelete
  6. Chris, Re chain maintenance, I had BMWs for a long time and was slightly concerned about moving to chains when I went over to Suzuki V-Stroms. I live on an Island and we're limited for choice on dealers. The Suzuki guy is the best. I have a new model 650 Strom with a Touring Scottoiler. Took the bike to Southern Spain this summer and did about 2,500. No fill up of the tank of the oiler and, most importantly, no chain adjustment. I reckon the touring version of the Scottoiler gives about 5,000 between fill ups. I can't praise them enough (I'm nothing to do with the company - just a satisfied customer). Tim.

    ReplyDelete

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