2004-2009 Suzuki DL650 V-Strom

Smart Money

Devotees call it the "Wee-Strom." We call it one of the most purely pragmatic motorcycles you can throw a leg over. The fact that the 650 'Strom can slice off more different flavors of motorcycling for less money than just about anything else doesn't exactly hurt the cause. The 62-horsepower heart of the matter is essentially the same 90-degree V-twin you'll find in Suzuki's nearly naked SV650, with cam timing tweaked to make more power between 3500 and 6500 rpm, along with a bit more crankshaft inertia courtesy of a weight on the starter clutch.

Sitting closer to the pavement than bigger, badder adventure-twins, the DL is more agile than its long wheelbase, laid-back steering geometry and relatively hefty weight (458 pounds wet-30 lbs. heavier than an SV) would suggest. Real-world gearing and a torque curve to match make for instantaneous acceleration. It is a 650, which means you can expect to do some shifting to keep the wee one in its 6000 to 9000-rpm happy place. Thankfully, a cooperative six-speed transmission makes that easy. A healthy specimen should cover the quarter-mile in about 12.6 seconds at 109 mph-plenty quick for a Saturday in the twisty bits. The fork and shock are predictably adequate price-point bits, complete with predictable price-point limitations. The same goes for the brakes: good, not great. Still, for most real-world riding, the 650 is more than good enough.

Armed with a comfortable seat, admirable wind protection-expect some cockpit turbulence behind the adjustable windscreen-and 5.8 gallons of fuel on board, the DL can put 240-280 smooth miles between stops for regular unleaded. Installing a 16-tooth countershaft sprocket makes it even smoother in cruise mode. Getting 50 mpg on the freeway is the rule, not the exception. Bolt on some luggage and it's a serviceable touring rig-two-up or solo-as long as you're not in a hurry. And aside from changing the oil and filter, there's not a whole lot to service. Removing the fuel tank and most of the front cowling for air-filter access is a pain. Bodywork fasteners are fragile, and so are the fuel-line connectors. Some bikes came with an improperly routed wiring harness. Loose connections can cause coolant leaks. Fuel in the evaporative canister will cause rough running. Otherwise, the mid-size 'Strom is an accessible, enjoyable, reliable adventure bike for about half what you'd pay for one of the big boys.

Affordable, easy on gas and eminently reliable.

Chain and sprockets could last longer, DIY maintenance should be easier.

Watch For
Uneven tire wear, broken front turn signals, improperly grounded electrical accessories.

An economical medium for enjoying life's excellent adventures.

2004 | $3580
2009 | $5775


2000 | $5850
Arguably the best way to buy a whole lot of high adventure on the cheap. It makes less power than the 1200, but more than an 1100. Expect maybe 70 lb.-ft. of torque, excellent handling and dependability as reliable as the sunrise.
Ducati Multistrada
620 2006 | $4850

More all-purpose street ride than all-surface globetrotter, Ducati's 618cc Multistrada gives away maybe 30 horsepower to its 992cc brothers. Those who can live with less thrust and price-point suspension will be laughing all the way to the bank.
Kawasaki KLR650
2007 | $3445

How did the omnivorous 651cc budget-thumper live 20 years without a redesign? It's simple. It's cheap. And it works. If you have the skills, a KLR650 will take you just about anywhere. Perfect? No. But there's a bolt-on fix for every shortcoming.