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Suzuki V-Strom 1050 XT (2020) | REVIEW

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Suzuki V-Strom 1050 XT (2020) | REVIEW
Suzuki V-Strom 1050 XT (2020) | REVIEW
Suzuki V-Strom 1050 XT (2020) | REVIEW


Suzuki’s 2020 V-Strom 1050 gets a retro restyle, more power, an upgraded electronics package, a few more gadgets, a new seat, a new capacity in name only, and a price rise.

Can the updates elevate the Strom from mid-pack mediocrity to essential adventure bike? Bennetts Bike Social is at the press launch in Malaga to find out.


Suzuki V-Strom 1050 XT (2020) | REVIEW


Old V-Strom 1000 v new V-Strom 1050

Since its resurrection and revamp in 2014, and a tech and styling update in 2017, Suzuki’s big V-Strom has hollowed out a specific niche in the adventure bike market. Cynics (and sales figures) say it fills a much-needed void, which is harsh because the DL1000 is a decent, doughty, dependable, substantial but not unwieldy chunk of all-round motorcycle. It’s appropriate, even excellent, for a wide range of biking fundamentals – two-up distance in comfort, spirited road riding with confidence, day-to-day commuting with dedication, and weekend jaunts with a cheery grin. And it’ll do all that at the bottom end of the adventure bike price ladder. Sounds like it should’ve been a smash hit. You can still get them, too, heavily discounted.

But. With a 19in front wheel, plenty of weight, not a great deal of ground clearance and road-biased suspension, it’s fair to say the old Strom has the least natural off-road chops of the adventure bikes. In terms of road/off-road balance, the V-Strom 1000 is barely half a step up from a Multistrada 950 and two steps back from most of the ‘middleweight’ and flagship adventure bikes. And it has little of their pizzazz.

And that’s the old Strom 1000’s problem – it hides its utility belt beneath a cloak of undesirable. It’s understated, introverted and has no splashes of splendour to seal a showroom deal. You don’t get hot under the collar doing the backward glance thing in the car park. Styling is average, it has a paucity of flagship spec, detailing and finish is ordinary and it has an almost total absence of wow-factor – ironically, the same ‘qualities’ that made the original V-Strom 650 so beloved. Owners will grow to become very fond of their V-Strom 1000s – but they aren’t often mad-keen-passionate about them.

When I rode the current V-Strom 1000 at its launch alongside the smaller 650 less than two years ago, it was the Wee-Strom that shone brightest as the most fun, vigorously entertaining and charismatic – tough characteristics to measure and design into a bike. But the 650 had them in spades and the 1000 less so. Later that year I rode the big V-Strom – in XT guise with wire rims and lots of luggage – alongside Ducati’s then-new Multistrada 950 and Honda’s Africa Twin; the Ducati was flashier, cheekier and more exciting, the Honda more Fast Show gripped and sorted. But the Suzuki was the biggest surprise; excellence was expected of the other two, but the Suzuki exceeded expectations by a way larger margin. It’s a bloody good road bike.

So now, here’s the 2020 V-Strom 1050 with a significant – no, it’s a damn sexy – re-style, an electronics and gadgets upgrade and a tweaked Euro5-friendly motor. And, of course, a price hike.

Can what is essentially a new set of clothes and more electronics elevate the 2020 V-Strom 1050 from average to essential; from sensible to sexual chocolate?

I should cocoa.


Suzuki V-Strom 1050 (2020) | In-depth Review and Opinion

The 2020 Suzuki V-Strom 1050 gets a retro restyle, more power, an upgraded electronics package, a few more gadgets, a new seat, a new capacity in name only, and a price rise.


2020 Suzuki V-Strom 1050 price and availability

The 2020 V-Strom 1050 comes in two flavours; a base bike and an XT model. The XT is the main event; it’s the one with the retro paint scheme in orange/white, yellow/blue or black – the base bike is simple black, grey or black/white. The XT is the only model available to ride at the launch.

Both bikes share the same basic engine and chassis, but the XT has the following extras:

• wire wheels (instead of cast)

• cruise control

• dual-mode cornering ABS (instead of plain ABS)

• hill-hold control

• two-position adjustable seat height

• 12v under seat socket

• centre stand

• adjustable screen

• engine covers and hand guards

• LED indicators

The V-Strom 1050 XT costs £11,445 on the road. The base 1050 is £10,145 on the road.



Suzuki V-Strom 1050 XT PCP example*


Price otr



36 x

Final Payment



1050 XT








*based on 5000 miles p/a



Suzuki V-Strom 1050 PCP example*


Price otr



36 x

Final Payment











*based on 5000 miles p/a

 Here’s how the 1050 XT and 1050 compares with various rivals, in price order*:

Ducati MS 1260 Enduro


Triumph Tiger 1200 XCa


KTM 1290 S-Adventure S


Ducati MS 950 S (wire wheels)


Honda Africa Twin AS


BMW S1000 XR (base)


BMW R1250 GS (base)


Honda Africa Twin (base)


Triumph Tiger 800 XCa


Triumph Tiger 1200 XR


Suzuki V-Strom 1050 XT


KTM 790 Adventure


Moto Guzzi V85 TT (colours)


BMW F900 XR (1050 XT spec)


BMW F850 GSA (base)


BMW F850 GS (base)


Suzuki V-Strom 1050


BMW F900 XR (base)


Suzuki V-Strom 1000 XT (2019)


Triumph Tiger 900 (base)


Triumph Tiger 800 XR


Triumph Tiger 900 Rally Pro


*current online OTR prices; can vary significantly depending on spec levels etc

So even the new 2020 1050 XT, regardless of spec, is still weighted to the bottom end of the bigger adventure bike market – and even undercuts several mid-class rivals. But it’s less conspicuously good value than it was, and new arrivals such as BMW’s F900 XR are turning the vfm screws (although whether the BMW is a rival for the V-Strom is a moot point).



Three ‘packs’ are available for the V-Strom 1050 range:

• City – adds 55-litre top box and centre stand: £699 (base model)

• Tour – adds aluminium adventure panniers and top box: £1299

• Explore – adds aluminium adventure panniers and top box, engine bars, LED fog lamps, aluminium bash plate and heated grips: £2499



Power and torque (claimed)

106.0bhp @ 8500rpm (V-Strom 1000 was 99.2bhp @ 8000rpm)

73.8 lb-ft @ 6000rpm (V-Strom 1000 was 74.5 lb-ft @ 4000rpm)



Engine, gearbox and exhaust

Let’s deal with the elephant in the combustion chamber first: last year the V-Strom was a 1000, this year it’s called a 1050. But the 2020 V-Strom’s capacity hasn’t increased from the 2019. Both engines are 1037cc – Suzuki have just renamed it for marketing purposes. At best this is trivial; at worst it’s disingenuous – unless rounding 1037 up instead of down soothes your numerical OCD.

Either way, Suzuki’s 90° dohc 8v V-twin started out life a long time ago, as a 996cc unit in 1997’s half-faired TL1000S. Back then, the original press bike made a genuine 121bhp at the wheel, and the following year’s fully-faired TL1000R made close to the same. But unflattering reviews of the latter and famous stability concerns with the former cut their development plans short.



Determined to recoup R&D costs, in the early 2000s Suzuki detuned and repackaged the TL motor into the semi-sports SV1000 and adventure-styled V-Strom 1000, and also sold it to other manufacturers (it popped up in Bimota’s SB8R and K, Cagiva’s Raptor, X-Raptor and Navigator in 2000, then Kawasaki’s unlikely tie-up with Suzuki, the ‘V-Strom in orange’ KLV1000 in 2004 – which I think makes it the most ubiquitous bike engine to date).

But when Suzuki canned the original V-Strom in 2009, citing emissions regs, everyone assumed that was the end of the TL-based V-twin. It had a good run.



Wrong. In 2014 Suzuki announced a new V-Strom 1000. The old motor was bored-out by 2mm to give 1037cc which, along with improvements in catalytic converter and engine management technology, meant the engine could not only pass Euro 4 regs, but eventually Euro 5 as well.

Which brings us up to date. The 2020 motor – now called a 1050 – has had a few tweaks over the previous model. But they are only a few. Same crankcases, transmission and gearing, clutch, crank, rods, pistons, cylinders and head. The valvetrain (still a fairly novel mix of camchain and idler gears) is largely the same as well – only cam timing has altered to meet Euro5, with shorter duration and less overlap (the moment in a four-stroke cycle when both intake and exhaust valves are open at the same time).



This gives a more complete burn and reduces partially or unburned gas escaping into the exhaust – good for emissions – but limits the cylinder’s ability to pump gas in and out at high rpm, which tends to limit peak power. Suzuki have got the top end back – in fact they claim they’ve added seven bhp at the top – by increasing valve lift – the height to which the valves open, letting more mixture fill the chamber. One of the downsides of this is it increases valve acceleration (because it has to travel further in less time), but presumably the V-Strom’s valvetrain is still well within safety limits.

The result, along with changes to ignition timing, a reprogrammed ECU, a re-plumbed exhausts system, a larger catalyst and ride-by-wire 49mm throttle bodies means the new motor has added horsepower from around 5750rpm upwards, and shifted peak torque from 4000rpm to 6000rpm. It sounds as if the motor is more peaky – and on Suzuki headed paper, it is.



But in reality and on the road, the big V-twin feels much the same as it did before at the bottom end, with maybe an added hint of go at the top end; it’s hard to tell without having old and new side-by-side. But open the taps below 5000rpm and there’s a beat before the Strom gets into its stride (maybe a result of the missing bump in the torque curve around 4000rpm, which in itself might be result of ditching the butterfly valve in the exhaust on the 1050). If you can’t wait that long you need to go down and find another gear (the box doesn’t quite feel as slick as Suzuki’s usual, but no changes are missed all day).

But crack on above 6000rpm and the motor tests the bargaining power of its electronics and the tenacity of the rear Bridgestone A41 with a plundering, fulsome charge for the next apex. In total there’s a lot of stomp available – clearly the Strom can’t shred the way a 135bhp 1250 GS or 158bhp KTM or Ducati can, and lighter, more agile mid-class 94bhp KTM 790 Adventures and Tiger 800s would be swarming all over the 1050. But when it comes to maintaining an all-day, unruffled, unobtrusive pace, the V-Strom is capable of surprising gnarly old sportsbike riders with its sustained high average road speed (I can think of at least two who’ve ridden the old bike and said so, almost disbelievingly. Three, if you include me. And the new V-Strom definitely isn’t slower!).

Yet maybe the reason the 1050 is so surprisingly rapid is because the V-Strom has an almost intangible something missing from its motor’s character; a hint of a visceral thrill, a naughty cackle, a defining essence of mischievous metal and oil. The sort of capacity to misbehave Yamaha manage to get in almost every bike they build. For sure the Suzuki’s engine is capable of great things, because in a previous life it would crack on for Harry, England, and Saint George. But in the Strom it’s way too modest and the best you get is a flash of ankles, the saucy minx. There’s a lot more to come – and I, for one, am intrigued. I imagine a decat, remap, less restrictive air filter and suitably juicy exhaust would transform the bike. And I’d drop the gearing while I was at it. Sounds like a plan.




For 2020 the V-Strom 1050 XT comes with a big electronics upgrade – but not 2020 Africa Twin big. The most obvious sign something is afoot is the dash – redesigned into a central tacho (looks like a dartboard) with TC, engine mode and ABS settings off to the bottom right.

These aren’t pretty clocks by any stretch – certainly less garish in daylight than the photos suggest, but a bit plain in today’s full colour TFT flat screen world. We perceive quality by looking at and touching stuff – and if Suzuki spent a few more quid on the dash, the bike would feel much more upmarket as a whole. As it is, the screen is functional, just – some of the info is a bit too small to see at a glance.



But the switchgear operation is simplicity itself. The Africa Twin has something like 11 buttons on the left bar cluster – the V-Strom uses only three. A centre button selects the parameter to adjust, a rocker button toggles up or down. Some functions need a long press, some not. The same buttons also set cruise control. It’s very, very easy.



Meeting Euro5 emissions regs and using complex traction control and ABS systems requires such a deep, integrated set of electronic systems – think of all the sensors, the CAN bus wiring system, ECU, IMU, ABS control unit, programming etc – it probably makes financial sense for most bike manufacturers to simply buy in the system as a whole from a single supplier. That way you get it tailored to suit your specific model’s needs, but really the package is much the same as the other manufacturer down the road.

When most manufacturers buy their systems from the same supplier, that’s why so many modern bikes suddenly sprout the same sets of gadgets at the same time – so when Bosch, say, develops a new gimmick, they’ll incorporate it into the generic system they flog to everyone. Africa Twin got a 6-axis IMU? Yes, and cruise, and cornering ABS, and all that stuff. V-Strom got a 6-axis IMU? Yes, and cruise, and... etc. Both made by Bosch. The only difference is what features the bike manufacturer is prepared to pay for.

Anyway, the 2020 V-Strom 1050 uses a... six-axis Bosch IMU – and presumably therefore uses Bosch expertise if not actual hardware in its ABS, ride-by-wire and traction control plumbing. Thus the V-Strom XT model gets a bunch of new, but familiar, features the old V-Strom 1000 didn’t have: 



• ride-by-wire makes cruise control relatively simple to implement. The activate button is on the right bar cluster, the set and resume on the left – it’s very easy to use. Only on the XT model though. 

• Hill Hold Control is standard, only on the XT – on an incline, the XT knows you’re liable to roll back and will put the brakes on. I didn’t even notice the system was doing anything and I definitely stopped on a few hills, so it must be transparent.



• The 1050 has better-informed cornering ABS than the 1000, which now – on the XT – has the ability to be switched between two levels of intervention (but you can’t turn it off, or switch it off only at the rear – which points to how seriously Suzuki take the off-road side of the V-Strom). Radial 4-pot calipers and 310mm discs do the hard work, and feel sharp and progressive.



• Traction control now has four levels of intervention, with 3 being maximum intervention and 1 the minimum; or it can be turned off with a long button press, while riding – which very much is fun for wheelies and off-road sliding



• There are three throttle response curves – C is soft, B medium and A maximum (Can’t Be Arsed?). All still evolve to peak power; it’s just an engine response gradient. C-mode feels exactly the way it suggests, offering a curve so gentle it almost feels like you go backwards. A-mode is fine for almost all circumstances.

The engine mode and throttle response curves can be mixed together; using TC3 and Mode C is effectively a rain mode; TC1 and Mode A is optimal in the dry.

Oddly, only the last two are available on the base model V-Strom 1050; despite last year’s bike having what Suzuki called ‘cornering ABS’, this year it hasn’t. And it hasn’t got cruise control either, or a 6-axis IMU. Being cynical, this sounds like the base V-Strom has the capacity to have cruise control and cornering ABS – why would Suzuki go to the effort of designing, homologating and having to produce two different electrical systems for essentially the same bike? But Suzuki say there’s a different wiring harness in each model.

It’s worth mentioning a few features the V-Strom – either XT or base model – lacks: heated grips as standard or a quickshifter, up or down. The grips are a £244 extra and there isn’t even an option for a quickshifter in the accessory list, which is a glaringly bonkers omission. “Hello, is that”

Neither Strom XT nor base comes with a semi-active suspension option either, and with a resolutely old school LCD dash comes no Bluetooth whizzery, no control over your iPhone, and no fancy pictograms. A 2amp USB socket on the dash is a crucial 0.5A more than Honda’s Africa Twin and means your big smartphone won’t run down while charging. Oddly, the XT V-Strom gets a 12v socket under the seat; the base model doesn’t.



Styling, ergonomics and comfort

The XT’s new retro colours – especially the orange and white bike – are, frankly, completely delicious (yes, it’s orange – with a glossier, deeper red hue than KTM’s flat orange. Digital pics don’t do it justice). Nostalgic off-road styling has been a thing for a while, and lately we’ve seen Yamaha’s Ténéré 700, Guzzi’s V85 TT, BMW’s R nineT Urban G/S and Scramblers from Triumph and Ducati invoke varying degrees of rose-tinted off-road chic.



And now Suzuki, with no shortage of DR-Z Dakar-inspired designs from the 80s to draw on and following the recent Katana revamp, have joined in. The 2020 V-Strom 1050 is re-coloured and re-styled to reflect the 1988 DR750 of 1988 and the honkingly sexy DR-Z Dakar racer. And my goodness, there’s nothing wrong with that. Gotta admit, the Strom is a looker.



Suzuki habitually claim to have invented the rally-style ‘beak’ on the 1988 DR750 and had the actual, original designer on hand, Ichiro Miyata, at the launch. Miyata-san also styled the 2020 V-Strom. I asked him if, when he sees rivals copying his ‘beak’ design, he feels proud or annoyed. “Oh no, I am very pleased,” he said. “And I’m pleased it is still something people like all these years later.”

However, under the 2020 V-Strom’s retro skin, its actual ergonomics are only a little different from the 1000 – the 1050 has same riding position as previously, give or take. Bars are the same position, but now tapered for aesthetics; foot pegs are steel, not aluminium, which matters not for anything much in reality, other than reinforcing a perception of downmarket quality.



The V-Strom’s seat is now a stepped two-piece design, meaning more room because the rider’s seat is flatter at the back (it no longer has to taper upwards to the pillion seat. It’s also less deeply padded than before (possibly because Suzuki needed more room under the seat to cram electrical and emissions gubbins, so instead of having the raise the seat height they just made it thinner). The pillion might have a bit less legroom, too.



The XT’s is seat height adjustable from 850mm to 870mm, using a rail and spacers located on the underside of the pillion pad, along with four extra bolts. It’s a five-minute job to adjust, but it’s not as simple as re-clipping a seat in position (although once set, how often will you be changing it?). The Strom isn’t one of your typically dauntingly tall adventure bikes to ride – the suspension isn’t tall and gangly, and feels much more road-oriented (in set-up and travel) than off-road. The seat’s low, too – a six-footer will get both feet flat on the floor. For me, I suspect the seat will work best on its tall setting – but takes so long to swap I didn’t get a chance.



The wide, fat, rigid screen is new too – on the XT it’s adjustable up-and-down through 5cm (it feels like more) using a large, stiff, alloy flip handle on the front of the bike. Yes, there’s no way to adjust it on the move – very, very daft. But at least it’s a good screen – wind management is effective, with none of the buffeting you get with certain rival screens (ahem, Africa Twin). The base model’s screen is three-position adjustable using an Allen key. Both bikes have a brace bar for sat navs, phones or cuddly mascots.

The V-Strom is a comfy bike – the seat is wide and firm, bars in the right place for a relaxed, natural stance. Hands aren’t as far apart as usual on an adventure bike – the first time you get on a GS or KTM after a while, you tend to notice just how wide its bars are, as if you’re paddling a canoe. The V-Strom feels much more conventionally laid out. Plenty of leg room too – and the 1050’s engine bars are ideal for stretching out your legs and resting them on top.

Comfort is a clearly a personal calculation, and although I only rode around 100 miles at most on the launch route (over a period of six hours – yes, there was a lot of sitting on the bike waiting for photos), I found the V-Strom fitted me just fine. A frustrating 25mph crawl for an hour at the end of the day made my bum ache; I suspect it was circumstance rather than poor ergonomics.



Handling: frame, suspension and weight

The V-Strom 1050 uses the same aluminium frame, subframe and swingarm as the previous Strom 1000, with approximately the same steering geometry and wheelbase. Suspension is also outwardly identical, using 43mm usd KYB forks with compression, rebound and preload adjustment, and a KYB shock with rebound and preload – and the hydraulic adjuster sits on the left side of the bike so with a bit of a reach-around you can adjust it while you’re riding (which is more than can be said the screen). Internal settings are tweaked slightly with stiffer damping and springs to accommodate the V-Strom’s extra mass (Suzuki say it’s because the Bridgestone A41 tyres have a new, softer construction, but I’m not buying that).

But handling is very modern Suzuki, in that stability is a core value; the V-Strom is steady, planted, unflappable (ironic, given the motor’s origin) but not slow steering. It rolls over into corners with a progressive, predictable lilt and assured, graceful fluidity; very much like a sports tourer and with none of either the snappy leverage or vague 21in-shimmying of some of its adventure rivals.

And The Strom 1050 is no flyweight either. With 247kg claimed for the XT, some 14kg more than its predecessor, that’s a fair chunk of heft to be slinging around. The bike doesn’t feel heavy, but it does feel substantial – more flagship adventure than mid-class. This is good for that comforting sensation of mass, when you want your bike to be your home over a long ride – it’s a feeling of “No worries, I got this.”

The extra weight comes from a number of additions; the new XT comes with a centre stand, and has a substantial set of engine bars running under the engine, up either side and around in front of the new-shaped exhaust. They ain’t light. The new motor also now has a water-cooled oil cooler, with added pipework driven from the water pump – maybe because the engine runs hotter, because it’s leaner to get through Euro5 – and a bigger radiator to cope. And the new bike has steel foot pegs; the old bike’s were alloy.



2020 Suzuki V-Strom 1050 Economy

Same 20-litre tank size as the previous model, and with an on-board measurement of 40.0mpg across the launch ride, means a theoretical range of 175 miles. With one bar down on the fuel gauge, the remaining range was showing as 180 miles, so it’s safe to say you’ll be looking for a garage at around 150 miles under normal riding conditions.


2020 Suzuki V-Strom 1050 XT: VERDICT

I have an anti-cool, street-sleeper-style respect for the previous V-Strom 1000; I like the value of big, snoozy, underrated and overlooked bikes no-one considers worthy. I like its lack of pretention, glamour and showy extroversion. I also like how fast it can go when it gets down to it. But I also completely understand I’m a bit weird and those are not attractive, headline-stealing attributes for most riders. Your bike should make you feel like a boss – either in tech, savvy, looks or performance. What you ride says something about who you are to your peers, and a V-Strom 1000 sends out the wrong message for a lot of folk.

The 2020 V-Strom 1050 XT solves at least one issue – it no longer looks ordinary; the new colours and styling are undeniably handsome and, call me shallow but when you put them on a chassis and engine already blessed with some degree of competence, that’s a good thing. I think it now looks worthy of any garage, including mine.

The feature upgrades are welcome too – more engine control options, cruise control, USB socket, adjustable seat height... but no quickshifter or heated grips are glaring omissions. And even riders who profess to be unimpressed by rider aids and gadgets still expect all of them on a flagship adventure bike. And even if they don’t use Bluetooth integration or care about flat screen dashes, they still matter.

And then there’s the price; it’s hard to pin down exactly where the V-Strom XT will fit because Triumph’s upcoming Tiger 900 will have the final say over the whole market – it could turn out to be the best adventure bike of 2020. And with the base model starting at a ridiculous £9500, every spec level might undercut all its rivals.

But if you want a good-looking, big adventure bike feel with more presence, more mass and less seat height than most mid-class adventure machines, and with impeccable road manners, a durable engine and chassis – and if the ultimate in techno-bling isn’t so important – then I’d recommend giving the V-Strom 1050 a look. Twice.


Three things I love about Suzuki’s 2020 V-Strom XT

• looks – you either like it or you don’t, but damn it’s good

• handling – Suzuki make high-speed stability and neutral steering a trademark characteristic

• practicality – less gangly and dainty than an Africa Twin, more solid than a mid-class adventure bike, and less techno-fangled than a flagship adventure bike


Three things I don’t...

• no heated grips of quickshifter – almost unforgivable in 2020

• engine sparkle – for a 1000cc V-twin that could make over 120bhp, it’s a bit uninspiring

• clocks – come on, give us something better to look at please Suzuki


2020 Suzuki V-Strom 1050 XT Spec



Bore x Stroke

100.0mm x 66.0mm

Engine layout


Engine details

8v dohc, l/c


106.0bhp @ 8500rpm


73.8 lb.ft @ 6000rpm

Top speed

140mph (est, ish)

Average fuel consumption


Tank size

20 litres

Max range to empty

170 - 185 miles

Rider aids

traction control, engine modes, cornering ABS, hill hold control


aluminium twin spar

Front suspension

43mm KYB usd forks

Front suspension adjustment

fully adjustable

Rear suspension

KYB monoshock

Rear suspension adjustment

adj. preload and rebound damping

Front brake

310mm disc, four-pot radial caliper

Rear brake

260mm disc, one-pot caliper, ABS

Front tyre


Rear tyre



25° 30’/109mm



Seat height


Kerb weight



unlimited miles/2 years




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