I've had my V-Strom for close to 5 years now (I think), and still love this machine like no other bike I've ever ridden. Recently I've gotten into a few conversations about it and have had a really hard time expressing what it is exactly that makes me feel so convinced that this is the best all-round motorcycle available, so here goes.
Out the box, this is a really poor motorcycle, prone to front-end cavitation on sweepers, buffeting over the mirrors that makes your neck ache, surging under power at low RPM and over-soft rear suspension. If you've ever taken one out for a test ride at a dealership, you really won't fall in love with this motorcycle unless you've got the experience or knowlege on how to remedy these conditions.
The Fix: This is really an easy set of problems to remedy. A fork brace for the front end ($80), a set of spacers to move the mirrors up and out an inch ($40) and a set of spacers in the clutch basket springs (I used hardened steel washers and the parts and labour cost me around $80). Suspension is easily fixed by installing a harder spring in the rear (although my bike has a replacement shock as well) for around $150 including labour.
The difference between these two machines is really remarkable. There really isn't anything you can do about the original impression of this motorcycle as a seriously UGLY looking motorcycle and frankly, at this stage, the looks have grown on me to the point where I like the look. Perhaps it's a case of an aesthetic that was ahead of its time? Who knows.
How does it perform? Look, I'm not a motorcycle racer, just a guy who enthusiastically and passionately rides a bike. When I bought this bike, I was looking for a replacement for my GSX-R750 because I was bored with it and needed something with a higher fun factor. I test rode the then current GSX-R1000 as one of the bikes I was seriously considering and found that it was a responsive, fast, light and powerful machine that cornered beautifully and had unbelievable power. Decision made, I rode a friend's DL1000 and within minutes, fell in love with the smooth power curve, wider seating stance, responsiveness to tiny handlebar inputs and instant (and impressive) low end grunt. At 6000RPM with a smooth clutch release from a dead stop, the bike wheelies in an amazingly controlled and predictable way. On the straight, it's capable of speeds up to 230km/h (according to the speedometer), possibly more but I don't intend to find out. Where this machine really comes into its own is through the twisties.
Now I'm not talking about Sea to Sky sweepers here. I'm talking about a road where the inputs are coming fast enough to kill an unattentive rider. I'm talking about 180 degree corners less than 100 yards apart on a road as wide as 1.5 regular traffic lanes with mountain on one side and 1000' drop on the other. Under these conditions, the bike handles like it's riding on rails, allowing the rider to maintan an easy and consistent speed, grunting out of the apex with power to spare and maintaining a speed between 90 - 120 km/hr with ease.
If you're seriously considering this motorcycle and want to get a feel for how it performs and handles, feel free to ask me to let you ride mine. Sometimes I even say yes
A final note. I repeat, I am not an expert, simply an enthusiast, so don't try this unless you've ridden similar roads at 300km/hr on a superbike or you may very well kill yourself. Riding motorcycles agressively is a very stupid thing to do. You can kill yourself or even worse, suffer irreversible life altering injuries. If someone is doing something on a motorcycle that you think is cool, impressive or unbelievable, you can be as certain as day follows night that that same person has done hundreds of hours of practice to develop the skills and technique required to make it LOOK effortless. If you've been riding for less than 20 years and have not done at least 10 trips of 1000km or more in one go, please stick to straight lines and gentle cornering.