2012 Suzuki V-Strom 650 Adventure | One for the Road

By Brian Catterson, Photography by Andrea Wilson

No adventure-touring bike is worthy of the name if it doesn’t come equipped with everything you need to hit the road for days, or months, or years on end. That’s where the new-for-2012 Suzuki V-Strom 650 Adventure comes in.

Like its big brother, the V-Strom 1000 Adventure, the 650 receives a raft of touring amenities. Most noticeable is the hard luggage—real aluminum panniers in the Jesse/BMW tradition. These mount to a tubular-steel framework that includes a luggage rack set up to accept a top case (a $449.95 accessory). Farther forward is another tubular-steel framework that protects the fairing and the V-twin’s forward cylinder—perfect for mounting driving lights. Last but not least is a windscreen with a hinged winglet at the upper edge that tailors airflow to suit weather conditions or different-height riders.

Because the single muffler resides under the right side of the seat, the right-side bag is smaller than the left. Never mind the propaganda, neither is big enough to accept a full-face helmet (though I did manage to cram a 28-pound bag of dog food into the left one). Curiously, there are two keys just for the luggage: one to open the bags and the other to remove them. The lids flip forward to ease loading/unloading and the bags go on/off easily, though there are no handles for carrying them off the bike—best to use liners. The bags could be tucked in tighter too: Measuring 45 inches from edge to edge, they’re impossibly wide for lane-splitting and prone to banging off of car bumpers, garage-door jams, lamp posts and the like.

All of those amenities add weight, of course, and sure enough, the Adventure is 47 lbs. heavier than the base V-Strom even before you put anything in the bags.

Not that this matters to adventure-tourers, who are all about farkles, and farkling. True to form, Suzuki’s accessory catalog is bursting with worthwhile add-ons such as a 12-volt power outlet, heated handgrips, hand guards, a centerstand, low and tall saddles, and a chain guard. There’s also a lower cowling, but noticeably absent is a proper skidplate to ward off rocks—for that you’ll have to venture outside your Suzuki dealer.

Overall, the Adventure is what it appears to be: a V-Strom with everything. As such, it works superbly. And at $9799—just $1500 more than the base model—there’s no arguing it’s an excellent value. Still, adventure-touring bikes should be capable off-road as well as on, and there are a few things we think would improve the Adventure without increasing the price much, or at all…

First, some straighter (meaning less rearward-swept), dirtbike-style handlebars, which would work better while standing up. Second, some dirtbike-style, serrated-steel footpegs (with removable rubbers), which would provide better footing in muddy conditions. Third, some knobbier tires, preferably mounted on wire-spoke wheels. And last, it would be beneficial to be able to turn off the ABS. As is, it’s far too intrusive and seriously increases braking distances off-road.

All of that done, the Adventure would truly live up to its name. Suzuki gets you halfway there. The rest is up to you.

By Brian Catterson
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