First Impressions: 2023 Suzuki 1050DE
By Olivier de Vaulx
With its bright yellow robe, aluminum tank, gold rims, and signature nose design bringing back memories of the factory bike from the 1989 Dakar rally, the Suzuki V-Strom 1050DE Adventure 2023 is probably one of the best-looking big adventure bikes available on the market right now.
Built entirely in Japan, the DE Adventure is based on the more conventional V-Strom 1050, featuring a smooth and powerful liquid-cooled 1037cc V-twin engine. To fully deserve its appellation DE, which stands for Dual Exploration, this new V-Strom model receives a lot of upgrades. They include a longer swingarm, which increases the ground clearance by one inch, as well as spoked rims and finally a gravel traction-control mode and deactivate-able ABS. Other equipment is added to the DE, such as an accessory bar, a center stand, a wider and more flexible handlebar, and an adjustable windscreen. Last, our bike had optional suitcases and fog lights factory-mounted.
Sitting on the bike, it’s easy to have two feet on the ground, which leaves time to focus on the dashboard and controls. The color screen, controlled by 3 buttons on the left side of the handlebar, allows the rider to select between 4 different traction control modes, including the new “Gravel” mode, three ABS modes, and three engine maps. Changing any of these settings can be done while in motion, as long as the throttle is fully closed. Well done! On the right comes a switch to activate the cruise control, a feature that makes you dream of long cross-country road trips.
When living in the greater Los Angeles basin, you must deal with some heavy traffic before hitting any kind of backcountry road, and even more so to reach anything remotely looking like a dirt road. City driving is not a strong point for big ADV bikes in general, so the quick shift installed on the V-Strom eases the burden by removing the need to clutch when shifting. Thinking about it as the motorcycle equivalent to the paddle shifts mounted on the steering wheel of sports cars, and you get the feeling of riding an automatic bike. In slow traffic, it might be wise to experiment with different engine maps. Mode A gives full power, but also a very responsive throttle that makes the bike a handful at low speeds. Mode B is a softer mapping and is more manageable in the city, even if the bike seems at times underpowered at low RPM. When opening the throttle, there is still plenty of grump though, and that’s the mode we settled on.
Out of downtown, here come the eight lanes of the highway, full of commuters texting more than they are driving. Luckily, the strong acceleration of the 1037cc engine makes merging into traffic a breeze. On the treacherous mix of cracked concrete and patched pavement that you encounter on SoCal highways, the V-Strom shines. The incredibly stable chassis handles any crack and grooves without a whim of a shake. It’s a confidence-inspiring bike in these conditions, and since it’s also comfortable, thanks to the seat, the protective windshield, and the cruise control, you pass the long lines of SUVs feeling like an absolute king of the road. At the usual higher-than-normal highway speed of California traffic, the V-twin is helped by the overdrive 6th gear, sips fuel, and offers a range close to 200 miles — a number that would increase substantially at the lower posted speed limit.
At this pace, it doesn’t take long before the 1050 DE reaches the mountains and faces the winding backcountry roads climbing to the pine forest. Expecting the ride to become more sporty, we switch the engine mapping to mode A and aim for the first switchbacks. The V-Strom is easy to lean into the corners, the ample torque letting us flow through the tight spots without shifting too much. However, the stability that we enjoyed on the highway comes back to bite us. In fast corners, the bike has a very noticeable tendency to understeer and widen the chosen line. It’s probably a combination of the - new for 2023 - 21” front wheel, longer swingarm, and large engine displacement momentum. Once this trait is taken into account, the rider is able to keep a fast pace but at the cost of compensating by changing their lines or leaning more than initially desired in the apex. While adjusting their riding style wouldn’t be a problem for experienced riders, it can be tricky for people who are daydreaming a bit on long rides, as it’s easy to get caught off guard. Reaching the higher pass of our ride, it’s time for a break. The two aluminum suitcases that contain a camera, snacks, and extra layers are easy to open and eventually are detached when reaching the destination. There’s still room for a duffle bag or a top case on the rear rack, which is good news for long adventures.
This brings us to the latest and maybe most awaited test of this first ride… hitting the dirt! Switching the traction control to its gravel mode, we enter a large dirt road. The stand-up position is excellent, and it’s really easy to load the front of the bike while maintaining the body position with the knees against the tank. The throttle responsiveness is great and the bike’s stability is reassuring. Even with the stock tires, the traction is good and the front wheel is planted. The suspensions filter the small impacts with ease, and it would be easy to keep going over hundreds of miles in these conditions, flowing over the network of gravel roads that covers most of the backcountry. Encouraged by this good behavior, we enter a less-traveled double track, full of loose rocks and patches of sand. Changing lines is easy, hitting rocks a no-brainer thanks to the 21” front wheel, and it’s only in the softer sandy sections that we feel the heavy weight of the bike, with the front diving easily. Doing a u-turn to avoid one obstacle, we realize a bit late that the turning radius of the V-Strom is a bit wide, making the maneuver trickier than expected. Since it’s hard to find enough space to turn in one simple move, it means a lot of sweating and the use of the trail’s shoulder to finish the u-turn.
After one day of the mixed city, highway, canyon, and dirt road riding, it’s time to reflect on our sensations and deliver a first assessment of the new Suzuki V-Strom 1050 DE Adventure’s potential. Comfortable, stable, and very well-equipped, the V-Strom seems to have found a perfect spot as a versatile touring bike. Keeping the sporty part of the Adventure for the upcoming DR 800, Suzuki gave avid around-the-world travelers a good platform upon which to explore the wide open spaces via large gravel roads and remote highways.
For our first ride on the 2020 Suzuki 1050XT in Issue 46:CLICK HERE
For our article covering a trip through Montana on a 2020 Suzuki 1050XT in Issue 48:CLICK HERE
2023 Suzuki V-Strom 1050 DE Adventure Specs
Base price: $17,599
Engine: 1037cc (63.3 cu. In.), 4-stroke, liquid-cooled, DOHC, 90° V-twin
Fuel System: Fuel injection, Ride-by-Wire equipped
Final Drive: O-ring type drive chain
Suspension Front: Inverted telescopic, coil spring, oil damped
Suspension Rear: Link type, single shock, coil spring, oil damped
Brakes Front: Tokico, 4-piston calipers, twin disc
Brakes Rear: Nissin, 2-piston, single disc
Tires Front: 90/90-21 M/C (54H), tube type
Tires Rear: 150/70R17 M/C (69H), tubeless
Fuel Tank Capacity: 20.0 L (5.3 US gal.)
Color: Champion Yellow No. 2 / Metallic Matte Sword Silver
Overall Length: 2390 mm (94.1 in.)
Overall Width: 960 mm (37.8 in.) - without included accessories mounted
Overall Height: 1505 mm (59.3 in.)
Wheelbase: 1595 mm (62.8 in.)
Ground Clearance: 190 mm (7.5 in.)
Seat Height: 880 mm (34.6 in.)
Curb Weight: 252 kg (554 lb.) - without included accessories mounted