Common Tread

2017 Suzuki V-Strom 650 XT first look

Oct 07, 2016

Oh, sorry. I was distracted by the flash of an all-new 200ish-horsepower GSX-R1000, which is a great way to get around your favorite 2.4-mile closed circuit, I've no doubt. But now back to reality, where most of our rides last longer than 2.4 miles before repeating. Suzuki has other options for your Monday ride to work and Saturday ride to the campground that don't require you to assume that position.

I've long said the Suzuki V-Strom 650 is one of the most versatile street motorcycles you can buy, and the perennially popular Wee-Strom has been updated for 2017. You still get the same sweet 645 cc V-twin, but now Suzuki has added three-position traction control (two levels of sensitivity and off).  Another electronic aid is what Suzuki calls Low RPM Assist. It raises the engine speed when the motorcycle is stopped with the clutch lever pulled in, which reduces the chances of stalling the bike when you pull away from a stop. ABS is still standard.

2017 Suzuki V-Strom 650
Wheels are the main difference between the V-Strom 650, shown here, and the 650XT. Suzuki photo.

The V-Strom 650 and 650XT vary mostly in terms of off-road intent. Both ride on the same size wheels and tires (110/80R19 front and 150/70R17 rear), but the XT has spoked wheels that still allow tubeless tires while the regular 650 rolls on cast wheels. The XT also adds handguards and a lower engine cowl (which should not be confused with a serious skid plate, if you are planning to hit some rough terrain).

2017 Suzuki V-Strom 650XT
You can still run tubeless tires in the spoked wheels on the V-Strom 650XT. Suzuki photo.

While the chassis is mostly the same, the subframe was redesigned to add integrated mounts for the optional luggage. This lets you snap on the panniers easily and keeps the bike looking clean when you're not using them.

Do you like beaks? Both versions of the 650 now have a prominent schnoz as part of a restyled fairing with vertically stacked headlights. Suzuki claims better wind management from the new shape. The windscreen height can be adjusted, but tools are required. Suzuki says the new shape of the fairing also helps direct hot air away from the rider.

The fuel tank was also reshaped to be slimmer at the rear, along with the slimmer seat, to help the rider get feet on the ground. The tank still holds 5.3 gallons, however. The instrument panel is also new, with an analog tachometer and LCD displays. A 12-volt accessory outlet that was previously an option is now standard.

2017 Suzuki V-Strom 650
Analog tach, LCD display, adjustable windscreen. Suzuki photo.

Too often, a redesign and new features add weight, but Suzuki says the net effect of all these changes was a two-pound reduction (470 pounds for the base V-Strom 650 and 476 for the XT).

Prices have yet to be announced. Part of the appeal of the Wee-Strom was always how much bike you could get for your money (about $8,500 for the 2016 model).

2017 Suzuki V-Strom 650
Luggage, engine guards and other accessories are available from Suzuki to outfit a V-Strom 650 to the mission at hand. Suzuki photo.

Years ago, the first time I rode a V-Strom 650, I went on a trip that required hundreds of miles of interstate to get to some great, curvy mountain roads, some of them ridden in a drenching rain, and a few forays down unpaved and formerly semi-paved roads. It was when I got home from that trip that I started telling people how versatile the Wee-Strom was.

A garage full of specialized bikes is great, but if you need one bike to do everything from two-up rides to exploring fire roads in search of a good backcountry campsite, all at an affordable price, the V-Strom 650 is your best choice. Now, with the addition of traction control, it gets a little more capable and a bit more attractive — especially if you like beaks.