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‘It’s a practical adventure bike’. ‘It’s a simple motorcycle’. ‘It’s a lovely tourer if you stick to the highway’. Well, people weren’t wrong when they said all this about the Suzuki V-Strom 650XT. But while Hamamatsu’s middleweight adventure bike was receiving appreciation for its gentleman-ly personality, ADV affectionados were going gaga over the brutish European counterparts. And I think that’s what ticked off the V-Strom (and Suzuki) to let go of everything ‘nice’ about it, and turn into every adventure biker’s wet dream.

It all starts from the way the V-Strom 800DE looks. It’s a big deviation from the bulbous and flowing design of the 650XT. No longer does it want to ‘show’ that it is a big bike — one glance and you know it is. The longer I stared at it, the more I was drawn to it. Except for the tail light, none of the design elements reminded me of the 650XT. In fact, all those sharp lines and complex layers reminded me of just one thing — origami. And though it is 15 kg heavier than the 650, the maxi-enduro styling gave me an impression that the 800DE will be lighter to manoeuvre.

And I was right. The moment I swung my leg over, it was evident that the V-Strom didn’t want me to play nice. I mean, the long and tall handlebar meant I had this big motorcycle by its leash and the footpegs were placed just right for me to grip the bike comfortably while being seated or standing. With the ergonomics taken care of, even a slow motorcycle feels enjoyable.


Not that the V-Strom is slow by any means. In fact, the 776cc parallel-twin is a bratty engine. Every time I took the 800DE out for a spin, the rorty exhaust note from the 270-degree crank whispered in my ears to go faster. The near-perfect ergonomics with this lively engine were a deadly combination. In fact, in the ‘A’ mode, it was a proper hooligan in the streets and the slick quickshifter, when it worked, made it an absolute delight. But does it mean that V-Strom isn’t as good through technical trails?

Hell no. While off-roading, I found myself either laughing maniacally or hurling abuses, of course praising the engine. It had oodles of low-end grunt to fight or slide its way through any and everything I took it through. Yes, it is a big engine, so it should be able to do that, but the fact that it put down all that power without scaring me was what I was impressed by the most.

Switch off the traction control, put it in ‘A’ mode and ABS at the level 1, you’ll find yourself astride the most gentleman-ly rowdy motorcycle, if that makes sense. Come on, it’s a Japanese bike, after all.

That’s also the reason I love the TFT console of the 800DE. There are no 5-way joysticks, dials and complex button combinations to play with; a two-way switch and a ‘mode’ button is all it gets and needs. Switching through modes or adjusting the traction control or ABS levels was as easy as it could get.

You know what else was easy? Getting the bike to behave the way I wanted. The stock suspension settings with which I received the bike worked just fine through speed bumps and potholes, but for all the wild things I wanted to do with the 800DE, I had the option of setting up the suspension just like I wanted to. Plus, with the 21/17-inch setup, I could take it through anywhere. But what stopped me from executing some of those ideas were the tubed tyres. Why did Suzuki have to snatch away one of the best things that it already had on the 650XT — tubeless spoked wheels.


But in all honesty (and lack of options), I would be okay with the tubed wheels. The lack of connectivity features doesn’t bother me anyways, but the absence of cruise control or having to pull out four screws every time I want to adjust the windscreen wouldn’t come in my way of purchasing this motorcycle, and neither will its price.

At ₹ 10.35 lakh (ex-showroom Mumbai), this is a punch in the face of all the middleweight ADVs in India. Yes, it is the least powerful amongst its competitors in India, and doesn’t pack all the fancy features that most bikes in this segment do. And the thing I said about Suzuki letting go of the ‘nice’ things… Well, I was wrong. The whitecoats at Hamamatsu have retained everything that we loved about the 650XT and offered some more. 

The design, even though it is nothing like the 650, it is unmistakably a modern rendition of the iconic DR Big of the ’80s. And the engine? A V-Strom with a parallel-twin seems weird but the 270-degree crank with its counterbalancer won’t make you miss the old v-twin engine. Just like its predecessor, the 800DE remains a simple and practical Japanese bike with some feral European flair. Seems like V-Strom’s vendetta to take on the biggies of the ADV world is a success, after all.