When it comes to the now nebulous category of “adventure motorcycles,” consumers have the ability to balance the compromise in almost any way they want. From knotty, globe-trotting tanks like the BMW R1200GS Adventure to sport bikes with stilt tires like the Ducati Multistrada, there is a leggy ADV that does it all for almost all types of riders.
For those who want a mile-eater without the weight of a full sports touring machine or the cost of an exotic European ADV, we have these three motorcycles. Kawasaki’s new Versys 1000, Suzuki’s revamped V-Strom 1000, and Yama’s new FJ-09 are in a sub-category of the ADV segment that we call “ADV Lite”. Lite due to the lower prices of these motorcycles, the smaller engines, and the more reasonable curb weights. Less weight, lower cost. Same great versatility.Justin Kosman
In essence, these are slimmer and taller renditions of full-faired sporty tourers with some ADV attributes to suit the times: hand guards, not to deflect branches but to block the wind; longer travel suspension, not for handling rocks and logs, but to tame scarred pavement and provide a commanding view; and minimalist (or at least smaller) fairings to offer a minimum of protection against the wind. These bikes have room for your stuff, the comfort to go hundreds of miles at a time, and enough balance to properly round corners on the road.
To see how well these ADV Lites work, we refill the saddlebags (Kawasaki’s factory fitted, Suzuki and Yamaha fitted as factory accessories) and set our emails to auto-reply “out of office” for a period 72 hours. For the next three days we traveled from Irvine, California, to Santa Cruz and back on a mix of freeways, flowing coastal and back roads, and neglected and battered single-lane ranch roads. AD
In other words, we take these motorcycles to exactly the kind of adventure their manufacturers designed them for, demanding the same mixed-use versatility that has made the ADV class a success. At the end of our 1,000+ mile ride, we got to know each motorcycle and its strengths and weaknesses well. This is how they ended.
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From the unbridled behavior of its 1,037cc engine (a relative of the TL1000 but extensively updated in 2014) to the relaxed way it curves around corners, the Suzuki is a smooth machine. A larger, redesigned V-twin and updated chassis and brakes elevate the great Strom’s performance to a new level, but the bike still favors overall competition over excellence in any area. “It’s a great all-rounder,” said EIC Marc Cook. “It does everything well, but nothing spectacular.” The V-Strom is certainly a motorcycle Swiss Army knife, but none of the tools are particularly sharp.
The engine generates a lot of low-end thrust with the melodic hum of gear-driven cams, but the gearbox is clunky and refueling out of idle is quite abrupt. With all that torque available (the 67.3 pound-feet peak comes in at just 4,000 rpm), the resulting power boost when the gas breaks can be unnerving while leaning. It’s a shame because otherwise the Suzuki is a very quiet and composed corner carver; It doesn’t offer the agility to go from corner to corner and has slightly numbed steering, probably due in part to the 19-inch front wheel. But it goes exactly where you aim it and it always feels cool. AD
Suzuki’s ergonomics felt awkward in this group due to its 7/8 inch high bar and forward-set footpegs, but the bike is by no means uncomfortable. Suzuki’s seat got high marks thanks to its good contours and fair padding, and except for the muffler that prevents correct suitcase capacity, the luggage is excellent and quite neat. The only real complaint about the V-Strom (other than the smoothness) concerns the turbulent air swirling from the edges of the windshield. All the testers regretted the noise, not to mention …