Zane jetted off to Whanganui, New Zealand, to check out the Suzuki V-STROM 800DE. See how the new machine handled the tough conditions... Photos: Geoff Osborne, Steve Caudwell.
Suzuki’s new V-STROM 800DE is a far stretch from the humble beginnings the V-STROM range, which started in 2002, but it is a far stretch in the right direction… Suzuki sent us to New Zealand to put the all-new machine through its paces on some serious terrain.
March has been a massive month for me, filled with adventure bikes. I’ve been scooting around on my Benelli Leoncino 800 Trail long-termer, attended the unveiling of the Ducati Multistrada V4 Rally, did a few hundred km of riding on the Aussie V-STROM 1050DE launch in Melbourne and tackled some scary conditions at the AUS/NZ launch of the V-STROM 800DE in Whanganui, New Zealand.
Read Zane’s V-STROM 1050DE launch review here…
Up at 4:00am on a Monday, Suzuki booked us on an early flight out to New Zealand as we had a lot of travel and riding jammed into three days. We landed in Auckland for a quick changeover to a little turbo-prop plane that would take us to Whanganui, a small town on the South Island with a population of under 50,000 and where the Suzuki New Zealand offices are located.
I would describe Whanganui as similar to Port Macquarie to the Aussie readers, far away from the nearest major city, heaps of early architecture and everyone looks at you funny when you say you’ve travelled from another country to be there. The one thing Whanganui has over Port Mac is the Cemetery Circuit…
A lap around Wanganui’s Cemetery Circuit
On our way to have dinner and get a first look at the new 800DE at the Suzuki NZ HQ, I ask “What’s with all the ripple strips on the road?”, to which I get the answer, “That’s for the Cemetery Circuit racing that runs on Boxing Day every year”. The event, sponsored by Suzuki on a 1.5km road course, runs past the Suzuki NZ HQ and looks absolutely insane! Running every year since 1951 (besides 2021 because of COVID-19), it’s got a serious heritage and is a highlight of the NZ racing calendar. I’ll have to try and wriggle a ride in it at some point in my life…
Rocking up to check out the all-new V-STROM 800DE and I’m met with familiar styling from the new-gen V-STROM face. Dressed in Champion Yellow No.2, the bike looks absolutely stunning. A compact headlight, tough bash-plate, large tank, tall suspension, and LED lighting all-round. The beak and tough equipment really confirm the path that Suzuki are going down with the V-STROM range, a way more off-road capable machine compared to the earlier generations.
Despite being down a few cc compared to the V-STROM 1050DE, the 800DE actually looks slightly larger due to the longer suspension travel. I did have thoughts coming into the launch that the 800DE would trump the 1050DE, especially in weight and price. Just looking at the bike, I’m already eager to throw a leg over it…
An early night in bed and I’m awoken by the sound of heavy rain, at least the day will be a good opportunity to see how the electronics systems handle tough conditions. Throwing a leg over the new 800DE and I’m met with a much more accessible seat height compared to the 1050DE. The bike looks the same size but when sitting on it, it feels much narrower and smaller overall! Before we left, I adjust my ‘bars to slightly more upright and take the rubber inserts out of the ‘pegs, we have a few hundred km off-road in horrid conditions, I need all the advantages I can get…
The first leg is a few laps around the Cemetery Circuit, which was cool to do, and about 100km on the tarmac. Keeping the riding pretty tame around the wet street circuit, none of us wanted to crash within the first 10 minutes of the launch. For the road ride, I set my TCS to the max, ABS to the max and started the Power Mode at the most aggressive response to begin with.
The 5in TFT is the exact same to the one on the 1050DE. The super clear and ultra colourful display is simple to use, just click through the modes you want with the buttons on the left hand side of the ‘bars and you’re in business. The screen is angled well so you can see it clearly standing up or sitting down, however a vertical stacked one is more suited to adventure riding.
“The torque really shines on the 800DE, there’s so much usable grunt through to the midrange that it almost doesn’t matter what gear you’re in…”
On the road the 776cc twin has a compliant character, plenty of torque down low and loves to rev all the way to redline. Output of 62kW@8500rpm might not sound like a lot, but it’s that 78Nm@6800rpm that really shines on the 800DE, there’s so much usable grunt through to the midrange that it almost doesn’t matter what gear you’re in.
I even managed to take off from a standstill in third gear without stalling it! This is the same powerhouse that will be in the Suzuki GSX-8S and given its linear power throughout the rev range, I can’t wait to see how it goes in a roadbike chassis.
The slipper and assist clutch works amazing as per expected from Suzuki. The clutch action on take-off is smooth and easy, once you’re moving you don’t have to touch it again thanks to the up and down quickshifter. Slamming through the gears is smooth and one too many downshifts is simply sorted by the slipper clutch, saving the rear wheel from a lockup.
The chassis is spectacular on the road, I don’t feel cramped at all. I’m just above the average height at 184cm, so I struggle to feel comfortable on a number of bikes due to my knees hitting something or me being hunched over. The 800DE promotes an upright seating position that allows for plenty of visibility and manoeuvrability, but the seat height in comparison to the footpegs mean your knees aren’t tucked up super high, it all makes for a really enjoyable ride.
The SHOWA USD forks are fully adjustable and boast the longest suspension travel out of any V-STROM model ever at 220mm. I will admit that seeing the suspension drop down a fair bit when taking it off the sidestand and sitting on it didn’t fill me with a lot of confidence for it’s twisties handling ability, but I’m pleasantly surprised. Despite the front-end being super soft on stock settings, the way it tracks through the corners is amazing.
There is a lot more compression under braking than what I’m used to, but the bike doesn’t feel sloppy, nor does the front pogo-stick back up like other systems do. Looking back at the clips of me riding, it does look like the 800DE is bouncing through the corners but the rate it does it at doesn’t affect the handling greatly. Both wheels make constant contact with the road and offer plenty of grip.
The rear is the same story, a super comfortable shock on the softer side. I clicked the comp up a few clicks before hitting the twisties, which helped some of the bounce in the back with my 85kg frame on it. The suspension as a whole is spectacular for touring, it just soaks the bumps up with zero issues. With my bad back, I haven’t felt this comfortable on a bike in ages (besides the 1050DE, also awesome).
Braking power is plentiful, the two Nissin four piston calipers that grip the 310mm rotors at the front manage the bike a lot better compared to the Tokico brakes on the 1050DE, which I found had too much initial bite for my liking. The Nissin system allows for much more rider control, responding to pressure really well and allowing for smooth trail-braking, which comes in handy riding unfamiliar roads. Can you believe some of the twisties in NZ don’t have corner signs? Luckily the rear brake is also impressive, with good feel, for tightening those apex’s…
A big complaint I had with the 1050DE was the high centre of mass, making the machine hard to manage at slow speeds and coming to a stop. The 800DE does away with 22kg over the 1050DE but feels like a whole lot more of a weight saving thanks to a lower seat and what feels like a lower centre of mass despite the suspension being taller… the slimmer chassis also helps.
“The 800DE does away with 22kg over the 1050DE but feels like a whole lot more of a weight saving thanks to a lower seat and what feels like a lower centre of mass…”
The Dunlop Trailmax MAXTOUR wrapped around the 21in front and 17in rear spoked wheels handle the wet roads quite well. The tread pattern cleared the water on the road and I still tipped the bike over plenty through the corners. The TCS light does flash while set on max under heavy acceleration but not enough to feel it cut in.
By this point the rain is hammering down, enough to cut our ride shorter. What was infront of us are some of the slipperiest conditions I’ve ever ridden in, some form of clay road with some rocks on top which heaped up in the middle due to logging trucks. If the V-STROM 800DE can stay upright through here, then there’s not a lot it can’t do.
Switching to the new Gravel TCS mode and clicking the ABS off, the 800DE is in full attack mode for the treacherous conditions. As was the case with the 1050DE, the Gravel mode on the 800DE is an awesome addition. It allows me to crank the throttle with little regard for losing the rear end. Not being the most comfortable rider off-road, it does give an extra level of confidence to be a bit more of a hoon on the loose stuff.
“Not being the most comfortable rider off-road, the Gravel mode gives an extra level of confidence to be a bit more of a hoon on the loose stuff…”
My go-to power mode on every bike is full, however, the conditions are starting to get so bad that I end up making the choice to switch down from A to B and then to C. The difference between the power modes makes for a seriously easy-to-ride machine, the power doesn’t go down but the way it applies it does. In the very slippery conditions, C mode actually makes the bike noticeably easier to ride and stand up riding in this mode puts heaps less strain on the wrist as there’s no jerky action.
Getting more comfortable with the conditions, I make the decision to switch to no TCS. The difference between the G Mode and no TCS is noticeable, especially with the Dunlop Trailmax hoops. I don’t doubt that G Mode will work a lot better with more off-road capable hoops, but the Trailmax’s fail to grip up in the rough conditions and the TCS knew about it.
I cannot stress how much better this bike would be off-road with different hoops on it, the Dunlops just don’t handle the hairy conditions well at all on the loose stuff. Keeping speeds to around 60-80km/h, the front wants to wash out at any chance of an input. It’s a really interesting decision to choose these over a Pirelli Scorpion STR or something with more prominent tread.
“The suspension is just as plush on the rough stuff as it is on the tarmac. Those SHOWA USD forks just love soaking up any sort of deep pothole or obstacle.”
Tyres aside, the suspension is just as plush on the rough stuff as it is on the tarmac. Those SHOWA USD forks just love soaking up any sort of deep pothole or obstacle. Even while sitting down off-road there’s no aggressive vibration from the gravel and the shock soaks up anything that’s going to send some back-breaking bumps up through the frame.
Ergonomics for stand-up riding are remarkable. As mentioned previously, I adjusted the ‘bars to an upright position and it completely transformed the ride. Even at 184cm, I can stand up with my legs mostly straight and still be within reach of everything. There’s no wrist strain or ankle fatigue and that quickshifter is remarkable for stand-up riding, I don’t know how adventure riders live without one.
The brakes are also second-to-none off-road. The improved feel over the more bitey brakes on the 1050DE make for an impressive ride, the rear brake has plenty of feel to allow for heaps of low-speed control. Even with the ABS switched off, the front brakes give plenty of feedback to ensure you don’t lock the front up on the dirt.
Somehow we make it back to Suzuki all in one piece thanks to the V-STROM 800DE. A delayed flight means I have plenty of time to reflect on the new bike as a whole: Would I buy one? Would I choose it over the 1050DE? Despite going into the launch thinking that the 800DE would be better at a lower price to the 1050DE (due to the spec’s), I’ve come to the conclusion that they’re just two different bikes.
Both bikes have their positives, the 800DE is a lighter and more accessible chassis for a wider range of riders, the 1050DE has a gem of a powerhouse, feels more capable for touring. It’s going to be a tough choice for customers but both bikes are seriously impressive.
At $18,590 rideaway The 800DE trumps the Yamaha Tenere 700, KTM 890 Adventure R and Aprilia Tuareg 660 in pricing and, in some cases, equipment. I do believe that with the correct tyres for off-road, and with the suspension setup to the rider, the V-STROM 800DE will shine and it should also do a good job of upgrading riders from the V-STROM 650XT, and bring in customers from other brands.
We will get the V-STROM 800DE back this year and put a full two weeks under the wheels to bring you a comprehensive full road and dirt review…
2023 Suzuki V-STROM 800DE Tech Talk
The parallel-engine has a 270-degree crankshaft configuration with a patented Suzuki Cross Balancer – two balancers positioned at 90 degrees to the crankshaft – contributing to even smoother operation. The Euro5 engine, which is also used in the all-new GSX-8S naked roadster unveiled at the EICMA motorcycle show in Milan, has maximum output of 62kW@8500rpm and peak torque of 78Nm@6800rpm. Wet weight is just 230kg, including 20 litres of fuel.
V-STROM 800DE Engine Highlights:
- Newly developed 776cc parallel twin DOHC engine delivers a fine balance of smooth, controllable power from low rpm and the pleasant feeling of free-revving performance through to the high end.
- The 270-degree crankshaft configuration helps maintain a pleasant feeling in common with the model’s V-twin brethren.
- Suzuki Cross Balancer, the first of its type on a production motorcycle, contributes to smooth operation and a compact, lightweight engine design.
- Cooling system inlet control helps maintain consistent engine temperature and eliminate rough idle while warming the engine in cold weather.
- The electronic throttle-bodies help achieve faithful response and a linear feeling to throttle action.
- The 2-into-1 exhaust system features a dual-stage catalytic converter inside the collector that helps satisfy Euro 5 emissions standards, and a long, upswept muffler.
- The six-speed transmission realises smooth shifting and improved controllability.
- Suzuki Clutch Assist System (SCAS) helps reduce fatigue on long rides and contributes to smoother shifting.
Suspension travel from the fully adjustable SHOWA suspension is 220mm at the front and rear, which is the same measurement for the ground clearance. Made from sturdy steel pipe, the V-STROM 800DE’S steel frame is engineered to provide all the strength needed for negotiating even the toughest terrain, and that also holds for the seat rails which feature a narrow profile that helps riders better control the bike with their legs.
Chassis Key Features
- A rugged new steel frame developed for the V-STROM 800DE contributes to comfort, straight-line stability, and nimble handling.
- The seat rails are engineered to withstand the rigours of riding on unpaved surfaces, even with the optional top and side cases mounted, and also feature a narrow profile.
- Fully adjustable Hitachi Astemo (SHOWA) inverted front forks featuring a long 220mm stroke deliver a smooth, controllable ride.
- Adjustable Hitachi Astemo (SHOWA) rear suspension with link, with its 220mm of travel contributes to agility and stability. The spring preload can be adjusted easily by hand, which is beneficial when preparing to ride tandem or carry a load.
- The longest front and rear suspension stroke on any V-STROM model enhances performance on unpaved surfaces. Its 220mm ground clearance is the tallest of any V-STROM model.
- Dual front disc brakes with 310mm floating-mount discs provide sure stopping power and controllability.
- Wire-spoked wheels with corrosion-resistant coating on the spokes.
- Large 21-inch front and 17-inch rear Dunlop TRAILMAX MIXTOUR adventure tires feature a new semi-block pattern and custom-engineered internal structure.
- Adopts a uniquely shaped lightweight aluminium swingarm with enhanced torsional rigidity to support the increased suspension travel and contribute to straight-line stability.
- The fuel tank features a large 20L capacity that helps deliver superior touring range.
- Wide tapered handlebars use a strong yet flexible aluminium that absorbs shocks on rough surfaces.
- The solid-mount rider seat is designed to withstand the input load of riding on unpaved, surfaces to be comfortable and to allow the rider freedom of movement.
- The riding position is designed for comfort and to offer the rider plenty of room, even when riding tandem with the optional top and side cases mounted. The design also enables the rider to shift their weight forward for greater control on unpaved surfaces.
- Wide rubber-covered steel footpegs feature a textured surface that prevents slipping.
- The short windscreen is designed to maximise visibility when exploring gravel roads or trails, and also to protect the rider from buffeting when touring at higher speeds.
- Fitted with a plastic under cover as standard equipment.
- Rear carrier makes it easier to load gear or mount the optional top case.
Suzuki Intelligent Ride System (S.I.R.S.)
The Suzuki Intelligent Ride System (S.I.R.S.) features a collection of advanced electronic rider assist systems. The rider can freely choose the settings for each system to best suit their level of skill and experience, and to optimise performance characteristics for the riding conditions and road surface at any given moment.
V-STROM 800 Assist Highlights
- Suzuki Drive Mode Selector (SDMS) better supports the rider in matching performance to the conditions of the riding scene, road conditions, or preferred riding style.
- In addition to its 3 standard mode settings (+ OFF), Suzuki Traction Control System (STCS) for the V-STROM 800DE introduces G (Gravel) mode as a fourth setting designed to help riders better negotiate gravel roads and flat trails.
- Suzuki’s ride-by-wire electronic throttle control system realises throttle action that responds faithfully to the rider’s every intention.
- Suzuki’s Bi-directional Quick Shift System (with ON/OFF settings) provides quicker, smoother, more assured shifting, without operating the clutch lever while in motion.
- The ABS system features a choice of two mode settings for differing road conditions, as well as Rear ABS OFF mode, which offers more control over braking on gravel by letting the rider switch off rear ABS.
- The Suzuki Easy Start System starts the engine with one quick press of the starter button.
- Suzuki’s Low RPM Assist function helps maintain engine idle speed for smoother and easier starts.
Suzuki has maintained the distinctive V-STROM ‘beak’ on the 800DE, but it’s now positioned higher which they say is to convey the model’s exceptional ability to handle gravel roads and tough trails. The short – but three-way adjustable – windscreen is designed to maximise visibility off-road, as well as protecting the rider from buffeting at higher speeds.
V-STROM 800 Styling Highlights
- Styling for the V-STROM 800DE aims to set a new trend and usher in a new era of functional beauty that symbolises the future of Suzuki design, even as it pays full respect to the distinctive features of its V-STROM heritage.
- Stays true to the Suzuki design ethos of creating unique styling expressions that gave birth
to the distinctive character of the V-STROM series.
- The distinctive V-STROM “beak” is positioned higher to visually convey the extended suspension stroke and the model’s ability to handle gravel roads and flat trails.
- The bodywork features flatter surfaces with sharp lines that emphasise the model’s look of
- The headlight, rear combination light and long muffler accentuate the image of readiness to
perform on unpaved surfaces.
- Dynamic decals create an iconic presence that is instantly recognisable.
- Riders can choose from trio of body colours carefully chosen to convey the appeal of the V-STROM 800DE’s distinctive character and accentuate its functional beauty.
Owners can customise their V-STROM 800DE by selecting options from the wide range of Suzuki Genuine accessories available for this model via the Build Your Bike online tool on Suzuki Motorcycles Australia. Items include three-pieces of branded hard luggage with optional locks which can be fitted for simultaneous use, engine and bodywork protection, heated grips, brake pedal height adjuster, side stand extension plate, centre stand and variable height seat units (+/- 30mm).
The V-STROM 800DE will arrive in Australia in July 2023 in a choice of three liveries: Champion Yellow No. 2, Glass Mat Mechanical Gray, or Glass Sparkle Black. The MSRP is $16,980 ($18,590 Ride Away*). Meanwhile, the existing V-STROM 650XT V-twin will continue to be sold locally, in both full-power and LAMS configurations.
2023 Suzuki V-STROM 800DE Specifications
Price: From $16,980 (+ORC)
Warranty: Two-years unlimited km
Colours: Champion Yellow No. 2, Glass Mat Mechanical Gray or Glass Sparkle Black
Claimed Power: 62kW@8500rpm
Claimed Torque: 78Nm@6800rpm
Wet Weight: 230kg
Fuel capacity: 20L
Fuel Consumption Claimed: N/A
Fuel Consumption (measured): N/A
Engine: Four-stroke, two-cylinder, liquid-cooled, DOHC, 84.0mm x 70.0mm bore x stroke, 776cc, 12.8:1 compression, two-into-one exhaust Gearbox: Six speed Clutch: Wet, multiple disc
Chassis: Frame: Steel Frame
Rake: 28 degrees Trail: 114mm
Suspension: SHOWA inverted telescopic, coil spring, oil damped, adjustable (f), travel 220mm, SHOWA Link type, coil spring, oil damped (r), travel 220mm.
Brakes: Twin 310mm discs(f), Single 260mm disc (r)
Wheels & Tyres: Wire-spoked wheels, 90/90-21M/C and 150/70R17M/C 69H Dunlop TRAILMAX MIXTOUR tyres.
Seat height: 855mm
Ground clearance: 220mm
Overall width: 975mm
Overall Length: 2345mm
Overall height: 1310mm
Max lean: N/A
Instruments & Electronics: Full-colour TFT dash, Suzuki Intelligent Ride System (S.I.R.S.), LED light all round.
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The Verdict | Launch: 2023 Suzuki V-STROM 800DE