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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…

Owning a Suzuki V-Strom 1000: The first 1,000 miles


The odometer on my V-Strom just clicked over 1,000 miles this weekend, so I thought I'd offer my first long-term review of the bike (I plan to write more as I hit other milestones), just in case there's anyone out there considering getting a Strom of their own.

By and large, I would say that if you are considering buying a V-Strom 1000, it won't be a purchase you'll regret. Indeed, my appreciation of the bike has only grown over the past few months. I find I am much happier with the purchase now than I was initially. Each time I take the bike out, it manages to put a smile on my face because of how well or simply it does this or that thing. 

Pretty much everything I said in my initial ride review remains true. The V-Strom is torquey, intuitive, and fun to ride. It is amazingly well-balanced, and offers a real sense of presence on the road without being KTM-like ridiculous.

Building on what I've already said, here are some other things that have stood out for me as I've grown more accustomed to the bike:

Oh my gosh, it is so well balanced
The V-Strom weighs 228 kg wet, but it wears that weight incredibly well. In stop-and-go situations I am often able to keep the bike upright without having to put a foot down. As of this writing, I have had the good fortune to ride 23 different motorcycles in my life and none have been so perfectly -- almost magically -- well-balanced as the big Strom.

As a result of this, the bike is rock solid on the motorway. Obviously, its top-notch suspension plays a part in that. Both work in conjunction to deliver a motorcycle that performs fantastically on the superslab. Maybe that doesn't sound like a selling point, but it is. We so often get wrapped up in a bike's niche abilities that we forget to ask how it performs at everyday tasks. 

The V-Strom 1000 excels at handling the drudgery and, in fact, making it feel worthwhile. Meanwhile, adding luggage and a passenger has no negative effect. Jenn and I rode down to Exeter the other day (about 120 miles from Cardiff) and I hardly noticed her being there -- handling remained as effortless and steady as always.

It moves
In singing the bike's praises for its ability to do boring stuff, I don't want you to get the impression that it is in any way dull. The V-Strom goes. All its low-down torque will launch you to the Land Of Not Legal Speed before you leave 3rd gear and there is plenty of horsepower to keep you there.


In the piece I wrote for RideApart about riding with British police I mentioned the concept of "making progress," and how instructors in the UK use that phrase to encourage you get a move on. Well, the V-Strom has no trouble making progress.

Meanwhile, the well-balanced nature of this bike means it is a lot of fun in corners. It may not be quite so flickable as some machines, but it holds its lines well. I find myself far more willing to hustle through corners than I was on my Honda CBF600SA.

And again, all of the above remains just as true when you are carrying luggage and a passenger.

Mrs. Cope approves
Jenn really likes the bike. I mentioned heading down to Exeter recently: that trip was just for the sake of an afternoon visit -- popping in to have tea with her grandparents -- so we returned to Cardiff on the same day. At the end of that 240-mile day, Jenn had nothing but praise for the bike. Its roomy passenger accommodation meant she had plenty of room to move around. The solid nature of the bike meant she was able to relax and better enjoy the experience of riding.

"I used to like your Honda because it could get us places," Jenn said. "But on this one I'm enjoying getting to those places. It's engaging. It's such a better way to travel than a car."

That windscreen, though
It's not all praise; there are one or two things I dislike about the V-Strom. Chief among them is the stock screen. When I first got the bike, I had the adjustable screen at its highest setting, which I found to be pretty awful. Wind coming off the screen created a lot of noise and a certain amount of buffeting. Even at maximum height it was too short for my 6-foot-1 frame. 

I have since lowered the screen to allow the wind to hit me a little more cleanly. This situation is better, but far from great. As soon as I can do so, I plan to get a Givi AirFlow screen, of which I've heard many good things.

The throttle takes some getting used to
In many of the reviews of the V-Strom 1000 and the new Suzuki GSX-S1000 you'll see criticism of the bike's throttle response. I'm guessing the two bikes use similar mapping. In the V-Strom it means things can be a little jumpy at low revs.


Apparently the issue can be fixed relatively easily with a throttle tamer, but I'm too lazy for that. I have simply learned to live with things as they are. It simply means concentrating a little more on how I use my right hand, and occasionally regulating things a little with the clutch. Another trick is to put the bike at higher revs. Things are steadier above 3,000 rpm. Meanwhile, the problem disappears once you're beyond second gear.

Lots of bits to clean
I hate cleaning, so perhaps this is something only I would notice. But there are a lot of nooks and crannies on the bike. If you're trying to be thorough, you will find it a pain in caboose to try to get at every little edge and angle and corner of this bike. 

I've actually given up. I now just douse the bike with a hose, liberally spray on some MucOff, then douse it with a hose again. That saves me some grief, though I am still forced to contort myself in all kinds of silly ways when drying the bike off.

_____


Overall, though, I'm happy. Every time I get off the V-Strom 1000, I'll find myself thinking: "Man, I really like this bike." 

And I'm always just a little surprised to be saying it. I guess that's because it's not as sexy as, say, a Moto Guzzi Griso. It doesn't have the sort of raw, base-level emotional appeal of, say, a Victory Gunner. But it wins me over by doing everything so well. 

It's comfortable, it's big, it's sturdy, it's powerful, it's as fast as I'd ever want a bike to be, it's amazingly fuel-efficient and it's managed to charm my wife to such an extent that just the other day she was entertaining the idea of getting a bike of her own. 

Honestly, you can't ask for much more than that.


Comments

  1. When it comes to appearances the only taste that matters is your own.
    That being said, I don't understand what you don't like about that sexy, sexy machine!

    ReplyDelete
  2. "Mrs. Cope approves"

    Most important feature in any bike right there.

    Happy to see you are enjoying your new ride :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. It seems like an interesting purchase. And I fear that screen buffeting will always be an issue with a lot of bikes. Unless it's a naked or has a fully fledged 80's screened fairing like mine has on it in the winter, then you won't get rid of the wind issues!



    If you don't like cleaning your bike... Do what I do, and simply don't.

    http://i56.photobucket.com/albums/g164/Blurredman/Cars%20and%20Mine/DSC_0192.jpg~original

    ReplyDelete
  4. I'm just over the 1000 mile mark on my new (to me) vstrom 650, and I'd say that the older bikes are just about as much fun as your new model Chris.

    Nice torque on the bottom end, fun to ride, and my wife approves of the ride as well (surprising because she is mainly into larger cruiser style bikes). The windscreen is problematic, as is the twitchy throttle response, but like you said neither are deal breakers.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I picked up a used 2003, was amazed at the smoothness of the ride from 0 to 130 felt like I was driving a Mercedes-Benz SL450. This bike has a larger wind screen and at illegal speeds (>89 where I'm at) and below it's good but I don't like the distortion.

    ReplyDelete

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