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Suzuki V-Strom 650 Project Bike

This looks like a working motorcycle, like a quarter horse is a working horse! It sits right, it’s practical and the author is relaxed and comfortable on it.

This looks like a working motorcycle, like a quarter horse is a working horse! It sits right, it’s practical and the author is relaxed and comfortable on it.

Photo Credit: Peter Starr and Steven Heuer

Peter Starr
February 1, 2013
Filed under Motorcycle Parts + Accessories + Luggage: Reviews

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For some, the Suzuki V-Strom 650 is complete right out of the box. My 2008 model, though one of the most practical and ergonomically pleasing bikes I have ever owned, seemed to be begging for modification. The chance of my ever riding it off-road is slim to none, so I set about improving it for medium- and long-distance road trips.

The suspension and tires needed to work more like they were designed for a street bike. Matt Wiley of RaceTech, after considering my 165-pound weight and the type of riding I planned, modified both fork legs with 45-pound springs in each side and RaceTech Gold Valve emulators. The latter changes the single-stage damping rod into a two-stage adjustable damping mechanism, smoothing out the ripples and taking away the big hits (racetech.com; about $500 plus shipping).

Either one of the Kappa cases can be used as a top box, making them highly versatile.

Either one of the Kappa cases can be used as a top box, making them highly versatile.

Progressive Suspension recommended a 465 Series rear shock with RAP adjuster (p/n 465-5007), which I found very easy to fit and set up. The rider’s weight and the use of the bike are important information to get the correct recommendation (progressivesuspension.com; MSRP $745.90).

The DL650 came equipped with Bridgestone tires that had provided over 8,000 miles of good service, so I decided to stay with the brand and fit Bridgestone’s sport touring, street-only Battlax BT023R front and rear (bridgestone.com; MSRP for the pair $437.17).

A Leo Vince exhaust system saved eight pounds with an increase in horsepower and torque while maintaining an acceptable sound level. The fit was easy once the rear shock was removed. Looks and sounds the business too (leovince.com; MSRP $719).

Greater midrange power, less weight and a crisper exhaust note make the Leo Vince a positive asset.

Greater midrange power, less weight and a crisper exhaust note make the Leo Vince a positive asset.

I’m a prostate cancer survivor, and during my battle with it I discovered a style of seat that—unlike regular seats—does not apply any pressure to the perineum area, relieving a cause of inflammation. I discussed this with Tom Seymour of Saddlemen, and he was quick to see the advantages for older riders and incorporated the design into various models of his seats (saddlemen.com; MSRP $399.95, with heater $549.95).

Every touring rider needs a practical set of luggage. I saw the Kappa set at a recent bike show and it was just what I needed. Either saddlebag can be used as a solo top box for use around town. Bags and mounting hardware are available only through tourandride.com (MSRP $732).

Probably the most bang for the buck is to simply change the brake pads. DP pads for the front and rear made a nice improvement in braking feel (dp-brakes.com; MSRP $87.90).

This Saddlemen seat with center indentation relieves pressure and is recommend for men of “that age.”

This Saddlemen seat with center indentation relieves pressure and is recommend for men of “that age.”

Accessory lighting certainly improves safety, particularly for night riding on backroads. A pair of PIAA LP 530 lights were recommended and installed (piaa.com; MSRP $299.99).

Frustrated that car drivers simply do not respond to the wimpy standard horn? Get a pair of (high and low note) Fiamm Freeway Blasters (fiamm.com; MSRP $34).

I like riding in cold weather, but not with thick, bulky gloves. Problem solved with Suzuki’s own heated grips. Easy to fit, except the harness plug on my bike was buried behind the radiator, which had to be removed to make the connections (suzukicycles.com; MSRP $349.95).

Hand guards work well in cold weather; Suzuki offers a pair that fit well and look good (MSRP $59.95).

The PIAA lights are oh-so practical, and the Fiamm Freeway Blasters out of sight (between my leg and the crash bar) make drivers take notice. Overall, my V-Strom has become a medium- to long-distance tourer with some personal style and panache.

The PIAA lights are oh-so practical, and the Fiamm Freeway Blasters out of sight (between my leg and the crash bar) make drivers take notice. Overall, my V-Strom has become a medium- to long-distance tourer with some personal style and panache.

A centerstand is essential for long-distance touring, particularly if you have to remove the rear wheel. Suzuki offers one that was straightforward to fit (MSRP $269.95).

At 8,000 miles there was no need to change the chain, but I wanted to raise the overall gearing for less stressful freeway speeds, and fitting a new chain with a new sprocket is good practice. I used a 44-tooth rear sprocket from Sprocket Specialists (sprocketspecialists.com; MSRP $86.99) and a chain from RK (rkexcelamerica.com; MSRP $141.91).

With all the changes I had made, I just had to change the bike’s look to simple but striking. “Sparky” at Castle Body Shop in Los Angeles, a long-time motorcycle rider himself, recommended Screaming Tangerine from the Ford Paint catalog (castlebodyshop.com; $800).

The balance and width of the luggage is both an aesthetic and engineering challenge. The two differently sized Kapppa bags do the job well at a reasonable price.

The balance and width of the luggage is both an aesthetic and engineering challenge. The two differently sized Kapppa bags do the job well at a reasonable price.

With lots of electrical gizmos to power and charge, a 12-volt power outlet is essential. Powerlet has a great system that is very easy to install and comes with all the needed connectors (powerlet.com; MSRP $59.95).

Finally, a higher rated battery is a smart choice. I went with the latest Shorai LFX Lithium Iron 18 amp-hour battery. It is incredibly light and small compared to conventional batteries (shoraipower.com; MSRP $159.95).

(This article Wee-Strom Makeover was published in the February 2013 issue of Rider magazine.)

The 12-volt power outlet bolts onto the passenger footpegs and is almost invisible.

The 12-volt power outlet bolts onto the passenger footpegs and is almost invisible.

The 12-volt power outlet bolts onto the passenger footpegs and is almost invisible.

The 12-volt power outlet bolts onto the passenger footpegs and is almost invisible.

Comments

5 Responses to “Suzuki V-Strom 650 Project Bike”

  1. Bill H. on February 1st, 2013 11:25 am

    Let me know when you want to sell this bike!

    [Reply]

  2. Kirk on February 1st, 2013 5:13 pm

    Hey Peter, Nice job on your paint and mods. That’s a very good lookin’ 650!

    [Reply]

  3. Gordon B. on February 7th, 2013 2:28 pm

    Beautiful bike Peter – you must be proud. I’m thinking of adding the exact Kappa bags to my 2007 V-Strom (stock burgundy colour & am considering colour matching the bag panels ). Did you consider colour matching the bag panels to the bike? Also, and I’m being picky here, I noted the trunk lid does not fit evenly to the trunk corners – is this normal for Kappa bags? Thanks in advance for your response. Still a great job!

    [Reply]

  4. Tankerman on April 4th, 2013 1:53 am

    After many years of denial I come to the conclusion that the DL 1000 should be my next bike. In the meantime I have had two of Bavaria’s finest based on their reputation for durability only to be sadly let down at the most inappropriate times. Things like rear bearings disintegrating, fuel pumps going out several times, coils burning out . Now I think is the time to pick up a DL and concentrate on riding not repairing. What say you.

    [Reply]

  5. Eddie on September 27th, 2013 12:12 am

    $5,300 in accessories on a $9,000 bike? Too each his own. If you have it spend it if you want. I have it, but would never put that kind of money into accessories. I paid less than $5,300 for my 06 Vee with 14,000 miles on it and sold some of the farkels that came with it a couple hundred.

    [Reply]

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