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2015 Suzuki V-Strom 650 XT Review

The new ruggedized XT helps ADV Riders get further off the beaten path.

Published on 12.21.2015

In the Dirt

Off asphalt, the stock Trail Wing dual sport tires offer just enough traction to feel comfortable riding on graded dirt roads. The soft hitting low-end power works perfect off-road and there’s really no need for a traction control system. With such a tractable motor, you’d be hard pressed to get the rear tire to break loose on acceleration.

v-strom 650 review gravel road


As the terrain gets more challenging, the V-Strom requires your full attention to ride at an average pace. The XT struggles to keep up with more off-road oriented adventure bikes — even with an experienced pilot at the controls.

The forward mounted foot pegs and low handlebars make stand up riding feel awkward at first, especially for taller riders, but eventually you become accustomed to it. Thanks to its smaller chassis and 19″ front wheel, the V-Strom is manageable on fairly rugged terrain at slower speeds.

V-Strom 650 XT Riding Off-Road
The stand up riding position on the XT can feel a little awkward at first, especially for taller riders, but eventually you become accustomed to it.

The V-Strom’s ABS is usable off-road but it’s not the most “off-road friendly” system we’ve ever tested. Loose rocky descents can overwhelm the ABS allowing the bike to roll almost uninhibited toward impending doom. Suzuki does not provide an off switch for the ABS, but it is possible to disable it by removing a fuse.

The exposed underbelly of the bike is the biggest concern off-road. Any type of ledge or loose rocks pose a major threat to the protruding oil filter and front header pipe. If you plan on doing any serious off-road riding on the V-Strom 650, getting a skid plate is mandatory. Getting more aggressive dual sport rubber is also advisable, because the stock Trail Wings lose grip abruptly in just a few inches of sand and slip around in rocky terrain.

Suzuki V-Strom 650 XT oil filter
A low seat height may be confidence inspiring for shorter riders but you pay for it with minimal ground clearance that makes even rolling off a street curb a risky proposition.

The lack of a skid plate and the street-biased tires made us feel like we’d just scratched the surface on the V-Strom 650 XT’s off-road potential. But with such a sweet motor and comfortable ride, we weren’t ready to write off the Wee-Strom just yet. That’s why we decided to continue evaluating the bike after adding a few essential off-road upgrades. Check out our follow up story where we test the V-Strom 650 XT’s off-road capabilities with upgrades installed.

Final Thoughts

We logged more than 2,000 problem-free miles (except for a sticky pannier key) on the XT riding everything from technical trails to interstate highways. Whether commuting or out on a long-term expedition, the Suzuki proved to be a comfortable and economical Adventure Bike that is easy to live with on a daily basis. The bike loves to travel and even though the riding position is a little unorthodox, it’s extremely comfortable for long days in the saddle. We regularly achieved 50+ mpg, giving a range of 250 miles or more between fill ups.

v-strom 650 on the highway
The V-Strom proves you can get all-day comfort on long highway rides, even with a 650cc.

The Suzuki V-Strom 650 XT checks all the boxes for utility and keeps it interesting with a surprisingly powerful 650cc motor. We also like its manageable size, low seat height and smooth power delivery — which makes it attractive for new riders or those that just like to cruise.

v-strom 650 off road upgrades
We weren’t ready to write off the V-Strom 650 XT for its limited off-road performance in stock form. Check out our follow up story where we evaluate the XT off-road after applying a few essential upgrades!

As the more-rugged off-road model, the XT does improve on the standard V-Strom 650 in durability. But we felt Suzuki could have gone a step further to differentiate the XT from the standard model by outfitting it with more aggressive dual sport rubber and a basic skid plate. However, adding more accessories to a V-Strom 650 XT that already costs $10,399 starts to bring alternatives from European manufacturers into range. Even so, we think Suzuki could have added a few inexpensive touring add-ons like heated grips and an auxiliary power port to improve the value at that price.

For 2016, Suzuki has decided to remove the side cases, windscreen and crash bars to bring the XT’s price down to $8,499. The lower price tag will no doubt attract more buyers and give owners the option to customize the bike to their own taste.

Middle-Weight Adventure Touring Models Comparison

Adventure Touring Models  HP  Wet Weight
Susp. Travel
Wheel Sizes
Seat Height
Fuel Capacity
 2015 Kawasaki KLR650 37 432 7.9/7.3 21/17 35.0 6.1 $6,599
 2015 Honda NC700X 51 502 5.4/5.9 17/17 32.7 3.7 $7,499
 2015 Kawasaki Versys LT 69 476 5.9/5.7 17/17 33.1 5.5 $8,699
 2015 Suzuki V-Strom 650 XT 68 474 5.9/6.3 19/17 32.9 5.3 $10,399
 2015 BMW F800GS 85 472 9.1/8.5 21/17 32.3* 4.2 $12,190
 2015 Triumph Tiger 800 XCx 95 487 8.7/8.5 21/17 33.1* 5.0 $13,499  
* Lowest setting.

Suzuki V-Strom 650 XT Up Close:

V-Strom 650 aluminum panniers

The included aluminum panniers provide 82 liters of storage space.

V-Strom 650 Foot peg feelers

Unusually long foot peg feelers touch down rather quickly if you try to ride aggressively on twisty roads.


Suzuki V-Strom 650 XT instrument console

The V-Strom’s instrument console includes all the essentials in a clean and simple design that’s easy to read at a glance.

v-strom 650 rear rack

The V-Strom 650 includes a solid rear rack that’s perfect for mounting soft luggage or a top box.


v-strom 650 wire spoked wheels

The V-Strom 650 XT’s reverse spoke wheels are strongly built.

Suzuki V-Strom 650 crash bars

Steel crash bars offer adequate protect for the upper body work.


Gear We Used

• Helmet: Touratech Aventuro Carbon – Companero
• Jacket: AETHER Apparel Expedition – Graphite
• Pants: AETHER Apparel Expedition – Graphite
• Gloves: Racer Gloves Guide – Black/White
• Boots: TCX Infinity EVO Gore-Tex

Photos by Bill Lieras and Carlos Diaz

Author: Rob Dabney

Rob Dabney started a lifelong obsession with motorcycles at the age of 15 when he purchased his first bike – a 1982 Honda MB5. Through his 20’s and 30’s he competed in off-road desert races, including the Baja 250, 500 and 1000. Eventually, his proclivity for exploration led him to dual sport and adventure riding. Rob’s never-ending quest to discover what’s around the next bend has taken him on Adventures in Mexico, Africa, Europe, and throughout the American West. As a moto journalist, he enjoys inspiring others to seek adventure across horizons both near and far.

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Author: Rob Dabney

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mark p.
mark p.
December 21, 2015 12:09 pm

Great report! I wish Suzuki would make this bike just a bit more off-road oriented.

December 21, 2015 12:33 pm

I have a 2012 V-Strom 650… same bike but without the (IMO idiotic-looking) beak and with cast wheels instead of spoked. It’s a great bike. It’s way better off-road than you would think possible, but like the review says, if you take it slow, it does fine. I installed an ABS off switch (Google “Eastern Beaver”) for about $20.

I’d love to have the spoked wheels for mine, but I do most of my off-road riding on my DR650, so it’s not worth the nearly $2000 cost to add them.

The V-Strom is an awesome bike, and between its price new plus what you can buy them for used, it’s hard to beat it.

Rob Dabney
Rob Dabney
December 21, 2015 12:56 pm
Reply to  RobG

True, it’s an awesome bike and we really hated to see it go when it was time to give it back to Suzuki. Thanks for the tip on the aftermarket ABS Off switch Rob G!

surly jason
surly jason
December 21, 2015 2:47 pm

Bought my 2014 DL650A new in January 15 and have ridden it 11,000+ miles and love it. It never seems to run out of power, has tons of luggage space and gets great fuel economy. I added an Air Hawk seat pad and Madstad windscreen — both of which make a huge difference in comfort. I love the big fuel tank and the pessimistic gauge warning of NO FUEL !! at 230 miles. Even after covering 250 miles, I’ve never managed to squeeze in more than 4.5 gallons. I ride off-pavement — not off-road — and it’s great for fire roads, forest roads and the like. I have no interest in riding it on technical trails and, while I’m sure it would be ok (except for the front pipe) there are definitely better choices out there for off-road use.

I wish someone would make a low bike with semi-knobby tires, six speed, big fuel tank and saddle bags. Such a bike would be an “all-road” bike — suitable for highway, back roads and dirt roads — not off-road. I’m thinking of something like a Star Bolt but with the lusty (and torquey) Vstrom 650 motor. Bikes all seem built to fit a niche — road racer, standard, “adventure,” cruiser. How about one that does everything well?

Rob Dabney
Rob Dabney
December 22, 2015 9:14 am
Reply to  surly jason

Hi Surly Jason. Suzuki really created a classic with the V-Strom 650. True, there are better choices out there for off-road use but it would be nice to have one bike for virtually every type of riding. We’ll see how much we can expand the XT’s dirt riding capabilities after a few mods in our follow up story. Thanks for sharing your experience with the V-Strom 650!

December 26, 2015 5:22 pm
Reply to  Rob Dabney

The cure for the sticky key operation is too apply slight downward pressure on the key as you turn it.

January 5, 2016 1:27 pm

Are the crash bars actually solid steel? And, if so, how much do they add to the weight do you think? My 2014, they are tubular for sure. Bike is quite likeable.

Rob Dabney
Rob Dabney
January 5, 2016 1:57 pm
Reply to  David

Hi David. Yes, it is quite a likable bike. The bars are actually tubular steel. The solid reference was meant to emphasize their strength. Sorry for the confusion. We’ve updated the text. Thanks!

January 31, 2016 7:18 am

Look at Twisted Throttle’s offerings and you’ll see that the Wee’s panniers, luggage mounts, and engine guards are either made by or licensed from SW Motech. As part of an OEM accesory package they added another $1,200 to the cost of my 2013 Wee ADV, so I’m guessing that they’re the real deal.

Michael Sineni
Michael Sineni
May 26, 2016 11:02 am

Thanks for the article – so seeing that you’ve ridden the latest and greatest since this was written from other manufacturers – wondering how your accessory add-ons / protection improved the off-road chops of this bike and how it compares to others for more money? Thanks for any updates!

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