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2023 Suzuki V-Strom 800DE – First Ride

2023 Suzuki V-Strom 800DE

Flying over the second largest island in the Mediterranean gives a view of rocky coastlines, lush greenery, small villages, and surprisingly stout topography with mountains stretching more than 6,000 ft. into the sky. Idyllic yet rugged, the isle of Sardinia boasts addictively serpentine asphalt and endlessly challenging off-road terrain. This is where we would get our first test of the 2023 Suzuki V-Strom 800DE. An exciting new model for Suzuki, particularly due to its all-new powerplant, the 800DE carries on its shoulders both a legacy and an expectation of what a middleweight adventure bike should be in the modern era.

In the 20 years the V-Strom has been around, Suzuki has sold more than 450,000 of them.

While Suzuki has made other iterations of the V-Strom engine – including a 248cc Parallel Twin-powered version – most of these featured a V-Twin engine configuration. The latest ‘Strom to come to market features an all-new 776cc Parallel Twin. With P-Twins powering some of the most popular ADV and naked bikes these days, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to see Suzuki throwing its hat into the ring with this new mill. Suzuki says this latest V-Strom will be the most off-road capable yet. Considering the facts in our First Look article, I was eager to have a crack at it.

The breakdown

It seems fitting to start with the most intriguing component: the motor in this cycle. The new 776cc DOHC engine uses a 270-degree crank, 84mm by 70mm bore and stroke, and 12.8:1 compression ratio which Suzuki says translates to 84 hp at 8,500 rpm and 57.5 lb-ft of torque at 6,800 rpm. A dual-counterbalancer system is used to quell vibrations. During our presentation, Suzuki admitted that this new engine design is slightly wider than the V-Twin configurations, but much shorter front to rear allowing the company more flexibility when designing a compact chassis to fit it in. 

The V-Strom 800DE engine uses almost the exact same tune that will be used in the GSX-8S, but with a slight bump in both torque and horsepower at low rpm. Valves will need to be serviced every 14,913 miles (24,000 km).

Handling the EFI are two linked 42mm, ride-by-wire throttle bodies. These are fed by a 6.0 liter airbox tuned with different length intake pipes that deliver maximum peak power and enhanced low-rpm torque. Assisting in that job are two 10-hole, long-nose injectors which atomize a 49 psi fuel flow from a 5.3-gallon tank. The stainless-steel 2-into-1 exhaust features a high-flow, two-stage catalytic converter to keep the V-Strom Euro 5 compliant.

The footpegs will touch down with spirited riding.

The radiator uses an interesting Cooling System Inlet Control Thermostat Valve located on the right side of the engine that works to maintain consistent engine temperature. By helping to stabilize combustion, it helps to smooth the idle during warm up, thus reducing emissions. In addition, a compact oil cooler reduces oil temperatures, again for more consistent engine operation.

The six-speed transmission is rowed through via a bi-directional quickshifter and features the Suzuki Clutch Assist System to ensure botched downshifts don’t cause too much of a problem. 

The front portion of the frame will be the same used in the GSX-8S.

Suzuki opted to use a steel two-piece frame design that incorporates the engine as a stressed member. Rather than using aluminum, as it has in past models, steel was chosen for better durability and rigidity. Suzuki reps explained that aluminum could’ve been used, but the frame would’ve been wider and taller. Curb weight for the 800DE is said to be 507 lbs. Weighed previously on the MO scales, the 650 came in at 474 lbs and the 1050 tipped 544 lbs. 

Similar to the Tenere 700, the 800DE’s frame also features bolt-on lower cradles.

A fully adjustable Showa fork is attached to a 21-inch tube-type spoked wheel with 8.7-inches of travel. Slowing this big hoop down are two 310mm floating rotors clamped by axially-mounted Nissin two-piston calipers. The fully adjustable, linkage-type shock is also supplied by Showa and delivers the same 8.7 inches of travel and uses a handy, easily accessible knob for preload adjustment. A 260mm rear disc is embraced by a single-piston Nissin binder. Ground clearance is said to mimic the travel numbers. The equipped Dunlop Trailmax Mixtour tires have been tweaked specifically for the 800DE with 5% more sea/land ratio giving a larger space between the tread blocks.

The windshield is adjustable to three positions, but you’ll need an allen wrench to make those changes.

The Suzuki Intelligent Ride System (S.I.R.S.) includes three (A, B, and C) Suzuki Drive Mode Selector (SDMS) options which alter throttle response and five traction control modes – three for the street, a Gravel mode, and off. ABS is adjustable between modes 1 and 2 which provide varying levels of intervention as well as an “Off” mode which disables rear ABS while leaving the front on. All of this information, and more, is easily adjusted via the left switchgear through the five-inch TFT display. 

One of my biggest gripes from the Tenere 700 was how the clutch cover pushed my boot to the edge of the stock footpegs. Not the case here. The engine is entirely out of the way, and riding the V-Strom with off-road boots provides sure footing – although most of us opted to pull the rubber inserts out (two bolts) after the first trace of water made them incredibly slick.

What’s that, you’ve already done the reading? You’ve already researched everything there is to learn about the Suzuki V-Strom 800 DE? You just came here for riding impressions?! Well, strap in! Let’s get to it. 

The impression of riding

It’s always a treat to get first the first crack at a model with a highly anticipated new engine. The last time I got that lucky was in the case of the Harley-Davidson Pan America, which did not disappoint. Strolling out of our hotel courtyard, I was hoping for the same magic. Starting off in B mode, the throttle felt a bit muted. I wasn’t getting the punch I expected from the new P-Twin. Switching to the sharper throttle response of A mode gave me the chance to better experience the punchy characteristic common in Parallel Twins. “Yep, this is going to be fun,” I thought to myself.

The 800DE’s A mode is where it’s at if you’re out looking for a good time. On twisty bits of asphalt and hard packed truck trails, it delivered immediate throttle response without being abrupt. For looser, rockier surfaces, and perhaps for cruising around town, B mode’s softer pickup is appreciated.

The engine can be lugged down to 2,500 rpm or so, yet still pull strongly and smoothly from one apex to the next. Its strong, linear power is spread smoothly across the rev range and up until 5,000 rpm, nary a rogue vibration makes its way through to the pilot. After 5k though, you’re reminded that you’re on a motorcycle as vibes creep through – although they’re never overbearing. I found the character of the 776cc Hamamatsu-made mill to slot in nicely between the punchy torque of the Yamaha Tenere 700 and the more frenetic power plant of the KTM 890 Adventure. It’s a nice middleground that may be just what many have been looking for. It should also be an excellent power source for a naked bike.

Despite the transmission feeling solid, the quickshifter left a bit to ask for, requiring very deliberate shifts with a fair amount of pressure. As it was when quickshifters first hit the scene, this one works best when the engine is spun up into the revs. Of course, I had high expectations due to how great the unit on the GSX-S1000GT+ performed.

Despite our ride’s relatively sedate pace, there were chances to wick it up, the first of which was during our photo passes. Diving quickly from corner to corner, the bike’s handlebar feels pretty spot on in width and allows the bike to be pushed from one side to the other easily. It was the first corner where I needed to shed some speed pronto that I was met with a surprisingly weak front brake. Initially, I blamed the flex of the rubber lines, but by the end of the second day, the brakes felt much more reassuring – not showstoppers, but assuring nonetheless. Perhaps the pads weren’t fully bedded in, but that exciting first corner at speed was a much different experience from when we really got to hustle the bike down some serpentine Sardinian tarmac at the end of our second day of riding. 

The Dunlop tires worked well on pavement and hard packed trails, but in the looser terrain, a knobby tire would’ve been a better option.

I found the shape of the seat to be comfortable over our two days of riding, and it left me enough room to move back and forth a bit. Although the bike doesn’t feel thick between the ankles, the seat shape does make the 800DE’s 33.7-inch feel every bit of it. Ergonomically, when both seated and standing, the position was perfectly neutral for 5’8” me. I wouldn’t hesitate to plan for long days in the saddle. The only thing that might make those long days even easier would be cruise control, but you won’t find that here – even as an option. 

Dialing in drifts are fairly easy with the new 800DE engine.

The V-Strom 800DE feels stable both on-road and off. Its 61.8-inch wheelbase combined with a 28º rake and 4.5 inches of trail lend to this. The new 800DE also features a 25.2-inch swingarm, that’s more than an inch longer than what the 1050 uses. Sliding the bike off-road is predictable, and the way its smooth throttle response feeds the engine’s linear power delivery, managing the bike with TC off entirely is easy. Of course, if you are touring and/or simply want a safety net to keep you from yourself, Gravel mode allows for some rear tire spin without letting things get too wild.

We sampled a good mix of on and off-road riding as we zigged and zagged around the island. Most of our off-road riding was dry and gravelly with plenty of embedded stones. While we didn’t have many options to really push the suspension, the Showa components performed quite well during our moderate pace. There is some fork dive when braking on the road, but that’s to be expected with a bike that’s meant to pull double duty. Off-road, the suspension soaked up our mostly smooth riding. I opted to crank in a bit of preload to raise the rear, but didn’t have a chance to adjust the damping. Some of the other riders did and they mentioned it helped quite a bit when the pace picked up on some of the dirt sections. It’s nice to have the adjustability, and hopefully we’ll get our hands on a unit stateside soon to try some different settings.

Tube type wheels will likely be a polarizing choice for most folks.

Since we were jumping between dirt and pavement fairly often, I ended up leaving the ABS “off” (only the rear is disabled) since it can’t be changed while moving, and swapped between G and Off for the traction control. While A mode takes a little more effort to be smooth on the throttle, I still preferred this setting for almost all of our ride. For the settings that can be changed on the fly, it was easy to get used to navigating the 800DE’s display. 

Pricing starts at $11,349 for the base model which is available in Championship Yellow No. 2 and Glass Matte Mechanical Gray. The 800DE Adventure gets you 37-liter aluminum panniers, a beefier skid plate, and crash bars and will run you $12,999. It’s available in Glass Sparkle Black only. 

The air filter is accessible by removing the seat and a few bolts from the airbox.

Overall the V-Strom 800DE feels like a really well-balanced adventure bike. The machine performs well on-road and I would not hesitate to take a long pavement-only trip on the new ‘Strom. Likewise, when my curiosity gets the better of me, I also wouldn’t hesitate to take the 800DE off-road for some impromptu exploration. Suzuki has built a great new motor which I’m sure will be just as fun in the GSX-8S as it was in the V-Strom application. The chassis is also compliant and predictable. As motorcyclists, we’re spoiled with a massive swath of incredible choices in this era, and now, the middleweight Adventure segment just got another great option. 

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