Ok, so I have now picked it up.
Love the look of the thing, apart from the mental oil-filter, which is not only begging to spurt oil all over the place the first time a pebble looks at it - it also makes the bike look a bit like an overly happy dog without any sense of what’s appropriate in public. Apart from that though, it looks good.
I really don't like all the pipes hanging off the right hand side of the engine. See photo. Sticks worry me and the chance of them surviving even a minor off on rocky roads does not seem high. Will need engine bars.
I am still running it in so making a real effort to keep the engine below 5000 rpm, so bear that in mind. It feels like a very comfortable, civilised, competent little package. The engine is very smooth, at least compared to what I am used to. Far too quiet for my taste though – a pedestrian nearly stepped in front of me the day I picked it up – this would never have happened on the Tenere with Staintune pipe. In traffic it is easy and you feel very safe – the height is good for seeing over traffic – has less steering lock than the Tenere did which is a bit annoying for very low speed turning.
The first ride I went on was out of Melbourne up through Bonnie Doon and the Strathbogies. It is such a comfortable and civilised little package that even short-shifting you end up clipping along much faster than you think until you look at the speedo, and with much less effort than the Tenere took. The seat is fantastic. The riding position feels good. The mirrors are easily the closest to being useful of any bike I have ridden.
The range is good. I filled it up after 347 ks, which included city commuting, reasonably spirited back roads, a stint on the highway and another couple of stints on dirt. The fuel indicator was flashing and carrying on but it turned out I had over 3.5 litres left still in the tank. This gives a real range of well over 400ks, and my feeling so far is that you could pull that far without needing to give your backside a rest as the comfort is high.
Off-road it is easy to forget that it is not a dirt bike and begin riding it like one. I have a couple of videos attached – they were taken with a cheap pen cam that I had in my jacket pocket, so the angle is not great, and the sound is terrible. The first is through a fairly tight fire-trail in a forest – I could do this track in my Dad's Saab, it is just that it would take about ten minutes, not two. But the V-Strom was fun. The ABS was not as appalling as I thought it would be – I like the feeling of being able to slam on the front brake without worrying about it locking up and washing out. I do not like not being able to lock up the rear. I have been in situations going down steep hills slowly where you need to be able to lock up, but the main thing is that I use the rear brake to help steer in dirt, and I don't like not being able to lock it up. You can often get the same effect with compression lockups, but it is not as controllable as rear-brake lock, and I have not tried to with compression on the V-Strom yet anyway – I am still running it in. Reckon my ideal set up with this bike off-road would be rear-brake ABS off, front brake ABS on. Don't know if that is possible.
The power is good off-road. Again, the engine is so smooth and civilised you kind of forget how much power is there. It is easy to spin up the rear even keeping the revs low. Would like to know what it feels like with knobbier tyres.
I took it across a dry creek and paddock and up a hill on the farm – have another video attached here. This hill is not one that I would attempt in the Saab, although you might just get away with it if your life depended on it. On a more off-road bike it is trivial. On the V-Strom it is, again, easy to forget you are not on a real dirt-bike. The results can be seen at about 52 seconds when I hit a rock with the front that the suspension couldn't handle – I didn't come off but did get out of shape and ended up stopped with the bike pointing at a tree. But it does it without too much fuss – it is just easy to get carried away and forget that you are not driving a Jeep so much as a Subaru. This is potentially going to be a bit of a crash danger for me - making sure that I don't chuck it around off-road more than the combination of this bike and my skill level can actually cope with - it all feels very easy but it does get out of shape quicker than the Tenere did. This kind of hill is about the limit to what I would want to do with a pillion on the back.
I took some more videos of me riding through a range of hills on tar, but the pen cam in my pocket was pointing at my right wrist the whole time so they were not worth uploading. This is a shame because that kind of tight bitumen is where this bike excels, and you are not panicking when the surface has potholes in it. A lot more fun that either of the pure road bikes I have had over the same road – and a lot less effort than the more dirt orientated bikes.
Not a big fan of the switch positions. I would rather have the passing flasher as the trigger finger switch – I use the flash a lot more than I need to cycle through the numbers on the digital speedo. This might be just a muscle memory thing from the Tenere though.
Returned to Melbourne on the Hume Highway, easily one of the most boring motorbike rides in the country. It is a ride that quickly reveals how uncomfortable a bike is, as you are not throwing your body around at all – on tight roads when you are moving your body a lot any lack of comfort on a bike is not apparent – on highways it always is. The V-Strom is easily the most comfortable bike I have owned, far less painful to ride on a highway even that the GSXF750 I owned years ago, which is supposed to be a legitimate sports-tourer.
Overall I am so far very happy with it. Although I plan to make a few improvements over then next year or so depending on expense.