It doesn’t know it’s a big bike.
Southern California is a motorcyclist’s paradise. Year-round sunshine, diverse terrain, and a maze of roadways draw thousands of riders to nearby canyons on a weekly basis. Whether you enjoy long sweepers or tight chicanes, the Southland has a route to suit your mood and skill level. As the V-Strom 1050 XT and I continue to get acquainted, I figured I’d introduce the Suzuki adventurer to the local customs with a twisties tour.
From Angeles Crest to Mulholland Drive, from Glendora Mountain Road to Ortega Highway, the Greater Los Angeles area features some of the most noteworthy passes in the country. Each presents its own set of challenges and demands, but also offers stunning views of diverse landscapes. Just as dynamic, the new V-Strom is one of the most versatile platforms on the market and there’s no better place to put it to the test.
While Suzuki classifies the V-Strom as an adventure model, the flagship tourer earns most of its mileage on the blacktop. With a 19-inch front wheel and a 17-inch rear, the stock tires are more appropriate for the road and you’d be hard-pressed to find an aggressive set of knobbies to spoon on the road-biased wheelset. However, the smaller diameter Bridgestone Battlax Adventure A41s benefit the Suzuki with responsive handling—especially on winding stretches of tarmac.
With clickers on the fork tubes, the 43mm KYB inverted front end allows users to adjust the compression and dampening to suit their needs. A link-style rear shock also ensures a comfortable ride with a preload adjustment knob and dampening settings. Depending on your riding style and weight, you may need to alter some of the dials, but a healthy percentage of owners will be able to set sag and forget it.
Out of the box, the suspension suited my 160-pound frame perfectly and I haven’t tweaked the factory configuration yet. While the bike soaked up potholes and speed humps with aplomb, that doesn’t mean the suspension is soft. Mid-corner, the shock was supportive and never wallowed. The V-Strom always felt accommodating but firm, sure-footed yet nimble.
Upon corner approach, the front end withstood heavy braking and sudden weight transfers without suffering from nose dive. The chassis remained poised even with engine braking and the dual Tokico calipers at work. Despite my last-minute downshifts, Suzuki’s slipper clutch system smoothed out the abrupt gear changes, preserving stability and rear wheel traction. Thanks to the 1050’s unwavering composure, I was able to focus on the turn’s camber, radius, and potential hazards before ever tipping in.
Leaned over, the XT felt planted regardless of the speed. Though Suzuki carried over the same frame from the 2019 model, the rigid, lightweight twin-spar aluminum frame steadied the handling when the pace hastened. During corner exit, the V-Strom’s broad powerband enabled seamless drive out of each turn—even in the event of a missed downshift.
Of course, the 2020 V-Strom 1050 XT features three ride modes with sharp, moderate, and soft throttle response. For routes with long sweeping curves, I sided with A mode. For switchbacks with 15-20 mph hairpins, I went for B mode. C mode is usually reserved for rainy conditions, but luckily, I never encountered any.
While A mode was the most spirited setting, I found myself in B mode for most of my trips. Any rider with a supple wrist and vigilant clutch hand can make A mode work in the tighter technical sections, but over time, my throttle hand became strained due to a buildup of resistance and tension. Mode B allowed me to spend most of my attention on blind corners and decreasing radius turns instead of obsessing over every flutter of my wrist.
For those looking for safety aids, the XT also touts a new 6-direction IMU. The Bosch-supplied system belies the model’s traction control system and cornering ABS. With three levels of sensitivity and an off mode, the traction control caters to the novice and the most experienced riders. On the other hand, the ABS system can’t be disabled, but users can toggle between two modes for standard and reduced ABS intervention.
I gravitated toward moderate traction control (mode 2) and minimal ABS intervention (mode 1). Fortunately, I never relied on them to save my hide from overcooking a corner or accelerating out of a turn too hard. Though traction control and ABS never kicked in, they provided a psychological safety net that imbued my rides with more confidence and reassurance.
When it’s all said and done, the V-Strom is still a 545-pound motorcycle with a 61.2-inch wheelbase. In spite of its size, the 1050 XT doesn’t know it’s a big bike and doesn’t handle like one. Aside from the sharp initial bite of the four-pot Tokico calipers, it’s hard to fault the Suzuki’s performance in the twisties. Not to mention that once I applied some finesse to my braking lever pulls, the dual-caliper setup shed speed in a smooth and linear fashion.
I wanted to find more wrong with the new V-Strom. I wanted to complain about its length and weight, but the full-sized tourer surprised me at every turn—literally. Yes, the 1050 XT exceeded my expectations in California’s canyon country but winding roads is only one part of the equation. Adventure riders also pound the pavement on the highway and kick up dirt on the trails. I look forward to seeing how the V-Strom fairs in both situations.