November 11, 2012
I purchased my Suzuki DL-650, V-Strom on, March 31, 2007. The day that I rode away from my local dealership, there were zero miles on the motorcycle’s odometer. I had arrived at the dealership on a 2006, Kawasaki Concours, that I had purchased from the same store the previous spring. I needed to have the Concours inspected so that it was “road legal”. Upon conclusion of the inspection, the Service Department Technician told me, “Your motorcycle needs new front and rear tires to pass the Maine State Inspection regulations.” At that moment, I didn’t have the money for new tires to be mounted and balanced. So, I began sitting on different motorcycles in the showroom… It was the only way that I could legally ride away from the dealership!
When I slipped my leg over the V-Strom, and grabbed hold of the handlebars, I felt an immediate connection with the motorcycle. It fit. It fit me perfectly! When I looked ahead, imagining a ribbon of tar spun out in front of me, I felt very different then when I rode my Concours, or previous to that, my 2003 Kawasaki ZZR-1200, (The ZZR was my very first motorcycle. I purchased it used in 2004, then traded it in on the Concours in the spring of 2006.). As I sat on the V-Strom, in the showroom, I clearly remember a comment that I made to myself; “I can do stuff with this bike. I can do stuff with this motorcycle that I can do with no other motorcycle. It is different. It is different in a good way!” So, I bought it. No research was done, and no test ride was needed. I just flat out bought the bike “untested” by me, in any way.
When I rode the V-Strom home, I had to weave my way around and over, many frost-heaves and pot holes that, pock marked the back roads leading to where I live. As I did so, I was grinning a very large grin, and even laughing at times! Maneuvering the motorcycle, slinging it this way and that way, through the bumps and pot holes of that early spring day, I sort of felt like I was on a set of downhill skis. The bike had “edges” to it; edges that I could carve deep turns with! I loved the feeling! I was hooked! Unfortunately, for four days after I got my new motorcycle home, there was snow on the roads. Even though I am pretty good on a set of downhill skis, I know that any street motorcycle, including the V-Strom, is not a good traveling companion in the snow!
Five seasons later, with 110,537 miles clicked over on the odometer, I would like to share a more personal view of my motorcycle. Below are some of the details that have evolved over the many trips I have taken with my V-Strom.
I have lost count of how many times I have dropped my bike. I have nearly lost count of how many times I have laid the bike down in the street! The first time was in the Fall of 2007 when a deer jumped out of the woods, and slammed into the right rear passenger footpeg. The deer, the motorcycle, and I, all skidded up the road on our sides. By the time I got up to survey the situation and damage, the deer was gone. She left a whole bunch of hair in the road though! Follicles of hair were also stuffed into the right passenger footpeg and the hinge area of my Pelican sidecase. The most serious laydown was in northwestern New Hampshire on an early November morning back in 2010. At a speed of 55mph, I hit frost in the road, and the bike slipped out from underneath me in a split second. The motorcycle and I skidded, and slid, close to 120 feet down the road; both of us coming to a stop in a ditch on the opposite side of the road. I picked the bike up, started it, and rode away!
All of the miles and riding experiences, on my V-Strom, helped to shape me into a better rider. The same is true for the motorcycle itself. The miles, and the experiences, shaped my bike into what it has become; a reflection of my riding style, where I like to ride, and simplicity of maintenance.
Here is a photograph of my 2007 V-Strom as it currently sits; battle scared, but ready to set out on a new adventure!
A closer look at the front wheel will reveal the following:
Custom front fender; SuperBrace Fork Brace; and Fork Boots. What can’t be seen are, a set of Race Tech Emulators sitting inside the bottoms of the fork tubes themselves.
I chose to install a Buell Ulysses headlight assembly to streamline the fairing, and to eliminate the notorious “buffeting” the V-Strom is known for. The fairing is welded sheet metal that I purchased at my local Lowe’s hardware store.
The crashbars I fabricated out of ½” Black Iron Pipe, also purchased at my local Lowe’s.
I also installed a SW-Motech skidplate. I modified it a little bit, after hitting a few rocks with it.
On one trip, I lost my oil reservoir cap. I ended up whittling a stick down to size, then wrapping the newly tapered end with electrical tape, and jamming it into the oil filler hole. I rode to a nearby motorcycle dealership, (I was on the southern shore of the Gaspé Peninsula.), with the sole of my boot, holding the temporary plug into the engine case hole. I was lucky that, the parts manager was able to find an oil cap that fit my bike! When I got home, I swore that I would never have something like this happen again! I attached the new oil cap to the frame of my motorcycle with a modified Mackerel fishing jig.
Tucked in behind the right crashbar, there is a Fiamm brand automotive horn.
In the BIG laydown I mentioned above, I ripped off the right rear passenger footpeg, and I destroyed the lower exhaust shield. I made a plug and fabricated a new fiberglass exhaust shield. I also modified both rear passenger footpegs, so that they would work with what was left of them.
The rear exhaust shield has been coated with a rubber undercoater spray paint.
In 2009, I fabricated a custom luggage rack out of steel tubing scavenged from discarded cafeteria tables from my local high school. The rack is large and strong enough to carry a Pelican 1550 case, and two, one gallon gas cans on either side of the Pelican case. The gas cans are supported by the luggage rack’s “wings” on either side.
The taillight is a LED unit I purchased from my local NAPA auto parts store. The license plate light is from a marine parts store. It is a light that a person would see on the stern of a small motorboat.
Tucked in behind the left crashbars is another Fiamm brand automobile horn. I have two of these horns mounted on my motorcycle. And, they are both wired “hot”. That means, the bike’s key does not have to be in the ignition switch for the horns to work. With the motorcycle parked, turned off, and the key in my pocket, I can “tap” the horn switch, and a loud noise will emanate from the bike. This has been particularly useful to me in getting someone’s attention quickly!
One of the fist aftermarket parts that I purchased for my V-Strom was, a decent set of “dirt style” footpegs. These have been a wonderful addition! I have always been “sure footed” while riding my bike!
Every rider eventually experiences the effects of trying to set a sidestand down on top of soft ground, (Or, soft tar for that matter!). The foot of the sidestand buries itself into the soft turf. If the rider isn’t quick enough, over the bike goes! I took care of that problem by welding an old countersprocket gear on to the base of my sidestand. After that, I never had any problems with parking on soft ground. (I don’t have any clearance issues with the SW-Motech centerstand I installed too.).
Incidentally, I modified the bottom feet of the SW-Motech centerstand. I welded short “stilts” to the feet, so that the centerstand would lift the rear wheel higher off of the ground then what the centerstand was originally designed for. I had to do this because, one season, I mounted up a set of Metzeler Karoo tires. The profile of the Karoo tire was so high that, with the motorcycle up on the centerstand, the “knobs” of the rear tire still touched the ground. I didn’t like that because it interfered with chain maintenance.
I mounted a fuse box underneath the seat.
I installed a set of Suzuki handguards that I painted to match the rest of the bike.
On the left handleguard, I installed a Datel volt meter.
At 63,080 miles, I burned out the stock Suzuki instrument cluster. Water got up inside the case that houses the gauges, and shorted the circuit board out. After doing some research, (And continuing to ride the bike about 1,200 miles without any instruments!), I settled on installing an Acewell 3901 instrument cluster. It satisfies all of my needs! Particularly important to me are, “Trip 01”, which I set and reset during each fuel stop. “Trip 02” keeps track of cumulative mileage during a trip. Currently, the Acewell odometer reads, 47,457 miles.
As a “back up”, I installed a very generic marine fuel gauge to inform me of rough gas usage. I had to electrically “trim” the gauge with resistors to obtain a workable reading. When the tank is “Full”, the fuel gauge will read at the ¾ mark. When the gauge reads “E”, the tank IS empty!
There is a 12 volt accessory socket stuffed in between those cables and wires up front. And also, the switch to operate the “High” and “Low” settings of heated grip elements I installed.
It has been one heck of a cool bike to ride all of those miles!