Fuel economy: 41-50 mpg, 46 mpg avg.
Roll-ons: 60-80 mph/4.09 sec.; 80-100 mph/4.24 sec.
Quarter-mile: 11.31 sec. @ 116.7 mph
Top speed: 135 mph
Fuel economy: 42-47 mpg, 45 mpg avg.
Roll-ons: 60-80 mph/4.45 sec.; 80-100 mph/6.2 sec.
Quarter-mile: 12.40 sec. @ 104.1 mph
Top speed: 109.7 mph
Suzuki DL650 V-Strom
Fuel economy: 45-52 mpg, 49 mpg avg.
Roll-ons: 60-80 mph/5.42 sec.; 80-100 mph/NA
Quarter-mile: 12.57 sec. @ 102.0 mph
Top speed: 105.1 mph
|SR RATINGS ||BMW |
|Fun to ride ||7.0 ||8.0 ||8.0 |
|Quality ||8.0 ||8.0 ||8.0 |
|Instruments and controls ||7.0 ||8.0 ||8.0 |
|Ergonomics ||7.0 ||7.5 ||8.0 |
|Chassis and handling ||7.5 ||8.0 ||7.0 |
|Suspension ||8.0 ||7.5 ||7.5 |
|Brakes ||8.0 ||7.0 ||6.5 |
|Transmission ||7.0 ||7.5 ||7.5 |
|Engine power ||9.0 ||7.5 ||8.0 |
|Engine power delivery ||7.0 ||7.0 ||8.0 |
|RATINGS TOTAL ||75.5 ||76.0 ||76.5 |
The F800S was an absolute joy to ride. It dove right into turns and soaked up everything in its path. Unfortunately the S also dove on the brakes quite a bit, and the bars had an annoying buzz at speed. But if this category weren't so much about price I'd pick the F800S. For the rest of us in the real world the other two choices are very comparable in performance and cost almost $3000 less. If I had to choose only one my money would be on the Versys. Not that the V-Strom is an inferior motorcycle; I love the character of the venerable V-twin, the comfortable ergonomics and the great wind protection. But I still get nervous with that 19-inch front hoop. Whenever I hop on the Versys, however, I get the urge to go to the local twisties and give the sportbike guys a fit-something I know the bike is ready and willing to do.
In this category I'm looking for the most functionality for the least amount of money, and that fits the Suzuki DL650 V-Strom just about perfectly. It was surprisingly fun to ride through the canyons, and I was equally surprised at how well the longer travel suspension and large front wheel worked on the street. The Suzuki wasn't as confidence-inspiring as the BMW or Kawasaki, but only by a fraction. The V-Strom's engine has good torque and spreads the power evenly throughout the rev range, only flatlining at the very top. If you are more of a sport-tourer, the V-Strom is all-day comfortable and has the best weather protection, a large gas tank and a vast amount of touring accessories like heated grips and hard luggage. It also doesn't hurt that the DL650 is the least expensive of the three. Still, it's too bad the F800GS wasn't available for this test.
The roads in my backyard happen to be the same roads we test on occasionally. This and the frequent L.A. commute showcase the three bikes' significant differences. The Beemer still flows quality and performance, but its price tag sends me searching for a better value in this category. If I just wanted to roll up the garage door and hit the corners then I'd be grabbing the Kawi key. The new Versys has good midrange power and offers impressive cornering prowess thanks in part to the 17-inch wheels front and rear (as opposed to the DL650's 19-inch front). The V-Strom excels across the board when all categories are tallied though. A roomy, comfortable cockpit coupled with a neutral-handling chassis is what has me leaning toward the Suzuki. Power delivery is smooth and commute-friendly. The Wee-Strom feels at home when the terrain becomes more technical as well and wins by a wheel at the line.
It always amazes me how much fun we end up having on these budget-bike rides. We have to keep a sharp eye out for the law-and our own well-being-when riding flashy sportbikes that go 100 mph in first gear, but on these bikes no one seems to take notice of our antics. And 60 horsepower doesn't get out of hand like 160 can. Of these three bikes I had the most fun on the V-Strom because of its smooth and user-friendly V-twin engine. The parallel twins both vibrate in the higher rev range, which I found distracted me from using the F800's extra power or the Kawasaki's better front end when we started hammering. You'll need to use every last pony the Suzuki can offer to keep up with the other twins down a canyon road, but it chuffs along near redline as smooth as a sewing machine, making it easy-and fun-to tag along.