2023 SUZUKI V-STROM 800DE
BY CHAD DE ALVA
Suzuki has a new adventure bike on the market: the V-Strom 800 DE. Riders who are familiar with V-Stroms will no doubt be thinking of a V-twin powered bike at this point, but the 800 DE is a V-Strom only in name – for it is powered by an all-new 776cc parallel twin. Housed in an all-new chassis with 220mm or 8.7inches of fully adjustable front and rear travel, a 21 inch front and a 17 inch rear wheel, this new ‘Zook is the most dirt-focused V-Strom ever. Yet the middleweight adventure bike class is full of good bikes, so what is Suzuki’s interpretation of a modern, middleweight adventure bike like?
Seeing a new bike in person for the first time is always an exercise in scrutineering. Prior to this point, you’ve studied marketing photos and made assessments about the bike based on its spec sheet, but those impressions are all subject to change when the bike is standing in front of you. Our 800 DE has the bright yellow and dark blue livery, and in person it looks good. The angular tank shrouds feed into the beaked nose and stacked headlight that make the bike look very Suzuki. It’s new yet on-brand, and apparently it’s quite the head turner based on the way people respond to it when riding around town.
Sitting on the bike for the first time, the seat makes a great first impression with its comfort and position. The fuel tank occupies a reasonable amount of space between the knees, and holds 5.3 US gallons of fuel. The bars are quite raked back as delivered, yet that puts them lower and closer to the rider so they’re well within reach. Turning the bars to the steering stops exacerbates this unique feeling caused by super raked bars, but it’s just a trait to get used to. The cockpit feels like a comfortable place where you could cruise for hours on end, and other than setting lever position to my liking, I’ve been happy with the bike’s ergos.
Looking forward beyond the bars, you’ll find the 5 inch TFT display, which is bright and easy to read. The 800 DE is ride-by-wire, so the TFT is where you’ll find the throttle curve setting, traction control setting, ABS setting, and all the usual bike metrics like trip distance, temperatures, and consumption. On the left side of the display is a USB port that supplies 5V at 2 amps for charging the navigation device of your choice. Interfacing with the TFT is done with a three button interface on the left hand control cluster.
Beyond the TFT, the 800 DE’s windshield is compact, but it can be configured in three positions to help riders dial in the airflow to suit their preferences. The overall cockpit reminds you of a DR 650 in that you’re sitting more on the bike, as opposed to in the bike like many other modern adventure bikes. For everything but high speed riding where wind protection is a welcome feature, sitting on (versus “in”) is a nice change in cockpit experience.
Press the start button on the right-hand control cluster and the DE 800’s motor purrs to life. The stock exhaust is very polite (reserved), but we know the aftermarket is working on changing that. The motor responds instantly to the throttle, and here is where you’ll appreciate the benefits of a ride-by-wire throttle and the Suzuki Drive Mode Selector (SDMS).
The C setting provides the softest, most linear throttle response. B provides a little more aggressive throttle response, and A provides the most aggressive (read: fun) throttle curve. Each curve has a noticeable difference in performance, and the A curve provides for a very fun, torquey motor that pulls all the way to peak power of 83 HP at 8,500 RPM. Things are a touch buzzy around 5,000 RPM, but that’s more of an observation than a complaint. The motor is great, and I can’t wait to see how it responds to being able to breathe freely.
Other rider aids show up in the form of traction control, of which there are five presets: Off, Gravel, and three Street settings. ABS is either off on the rear wheel, or in mode 1 or 2, with mode 2 providing more aggressive intervention than mode 1. It’s important to note that there is no Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) on the DE 800, so ABS performance doesn’t factor in pitch or roll angle. Fun fact: with stock tires and the ABS set to Off, doing stoppies is possible on pavement while sitting. With knobbier tires like the AX41’s that we fit, the bike will just ABS to a halt.
On road with the stock tires, the 800 DE is a treat to ride. Its torquey motor pulls hard out of corners, the well-calibrated quick shifter executes every gear change you can throw at it, and the feeling of sitting on versus in the bike makes for a great riding experience when you’re sampling some twisty-windy two lane. No matter the shape or elevation profile of a corner, the bike holds a line and tracks through like a champ. Yet when the speeds increase, say on a freeway, the stock windscreen isn’t going to do much in the way of screening wind for the rider. How exactly the screen works for you depends on several variables, but for my ADV helmet on my 6 foot one inch frame, I found the low position to give me the best airflow characteristics with a helmet full of undisturbed air at freeway speed. On road is also where you’ll find yourself missing cruise control, which isn’t a thing on the 800 DE. (Dear Suzuki: Add cruise control for model year 2024. Sincerely, Everyone)
To better assess off-road performance, we mounted and balanced a set of Bridgestone AX 41 tires and ultra heavy duty tubes. The 800 DE comes with tubed tires, so this tire swap is an easy process. With known tires in the game, we set out for some of our favorite off-road routes to see how the 800 Dual Explorer (DE) handles exploring dirt roads and just a little bit of off-road hoonery. Okay, maybe more than a little.
The 800 DE is a dynamic bike in that it can go from delivering a reserved utilitarian experience to a more aggressive exhilarating experience all depending on how far you twist the throttle. Moseying down a dirt road in a seated position is as easy as drinking a cup of coffee. The bike is perfectly happy to just idle along and take in the views.
It does a great job with road imperfections, embedded rocks, and corrugations while maintaining the exact line you set it on, so it’s very easy to ride at a relaxed pace. With its comfortable seat and bar position, the bike is great for cruising the dirt roads of the world. Adventure bikes don’t have to be ridden in attack mode to be enjoyed, and the 800 DE is capable of delivering a great riding experience at a leisurely pace.
For riders who prefer to enjoy their dirt roads in the standing position, the 800 DE has the legs to deliver the aforementioned aggressive exhilarating experience. With the rubber inserts removed from the foot pegs and the rear brake lever adjusted up to a proper off-road position, the 800 DE becomes a solid off-road adventure bike. The bodywork does let the rider move their knees forward and aft on the bike while standing, but the narrowest spot will lock your legs into one position. Riding in the standing position will also make the impacts of the bike’s raked out geometry more evident, as the bike isn’t what I would call light on its feet. The upside to this geometry is that the bike goes where you point it through soft sandy sections and down lumpy bumpy roads without getting knocked off course. Seriously, it’s uncannily good at holding a line through rocky sections. The downside is that making quick alternating turns on singletrack takes more effort.
In the suspension department, the weak link is the rear shock, which will bottom out when the bike is jumped or run into a G-out at speed. Yet its fully adjustable design means that it’s a much better starting point than other Japanese bikes on the market. A few clicks here or there may be all some riders need, and valving / springing for a given rider should make this bike quite capable for most riders. In stock form, the bike’s boingers allow for a respectable pace, and a bit of rowdy off-road riding. As soon as you ride over a log that’s too big, or put a little too much air under your tires, you can almost hear the 800 DE politely reminding you that you’re getting a little too rowdy.
Suzuki has a great bike in the 800 DE. On one hand, it is a very approachable bike that can deliver miles of smiles on the road, and it’s a great option for exploring gravel tracks and dirt roads. If you’re looking for a balanced adventure bike that isn’t made to be ridden at full throttle in attack mode, the 800 DE is your huckleberry. On the other hand, experienced riders can still have a great time on the 800 DE. I have to admit that the bike exceeded my expectations with what it could do off-road with the help of some AX41’s and a more aggressive approach to riding. A proper skid plate would be a good call for anyone who is going to push it off-road though. Make no mistake about it, the 800 DE can explore singletrack and power slide corners all day long if you ask it to. That’s what’s neat about this bike: you can have a perfectly utilitarian commuter and townie during the work week, and on the weekends you can go get a little rowdy with your buddies doing everything from carving canyons to exploring off-road.
Suzuki says that DE stands for Dual Explorer, and while they’re certainly correct in that the bike does a great job exploring routes both paved and dirt, DE should really stand for Dirt Express, because the V-Strom 800 DE is like an express train in the dirt. Its fun motor and plush suspension make it great fun for riding on everything from freshly bladed gravel to dirt tracks and back roads. Suzuki has delivered a great option to the middleweight adventure bike market. Go to www.suzukicycles.com for more information.
For Suzuki V-Strom 800 DE graphics kits: CLICK HERE
For our First Ride on the Suzuki V-Strom 1050XT in Issue 46: CLICK HERE
Engine:776cc, 4-stroke, liquid-cooled, DOHC parallel-twin
Bore x Stroke:84.0 mm x 70 mm (3.3 in. x 2.8 in.)
Fuel System:Fuel injection
Lubrication:Force-fed circulation, wet sump
Drive-train:Clutch Wet, multi-plate type
Transmission:6-speed constant mesh
Final Drive:O-ring style chain, D.I.D. 525 x 126L
Suspension Front: Inverted telescopic, coil spring, oil damped
Suspension Rear:Link type, single shock, coil spring, oil damped
Brake Front:Nissin, 2-piston calipers, dual 310mm discs, adjustable ABS-equipped
Brake Rear:Nissin, 1-piston, single disc, adjustable ABS-equipped
Tire Front:90/90-21M/C (54H), tube-type
Tire Rear:150/70R17 M/C (69H), tube-type
Fuel Tank Capacity: 20.0 L (5.3 US gal.)
Ignition: Electronic ignition (transistorized)
Headlight:Mono-focus LED x 2
Overall Length: 2345 mm (92.3 in.)
Overall Width:975 mm (38.4 in.)
Overall Height:1310 mm (51.6 in.)
Wheelbase:1570 mm (61.8 in.)
Ground Clearance:220 mm (8.7 in.)
Seat Height:855 mm (33.7 in.)
Curb Weight:230 kg (507 lb.)
Champion Yellow No. 2
Glass Matte Mechanical Gray