As I hopped on the V-Strom, placing my feet firmly on the ground wasn’t an issue, despite the seat height being taller than its Gixxer siblings. For reference, I am a little over 5’11’’. One of my fellow journalists, who is around 5’8’’, struggled a bit initially but got used to it in no time. Now, once you’re in the saddle, you’re sitting upright with the handlebar within easy reach and footpegs being centre-set. In fact, the ergonomics are extremely comfortable too, even for long hours of riding. The seat, in particular, deserves a special mention for its dense foam and abundance of space to move back and forth.
Push the starter and you realise the exhaust note is the same as the Gixxers; it evokes the same thrum at lower revs and a little bass when fully revved. That said, a bassier and throatier exhaust sound would have given it a little more character.
Refined and tractable is how I would describe the character of this engine. It accelerates with decent urgency until 5,000rpm and the pull gets stronger and more vigorous beyond that. The build-up of pace is quick but also linear, and you don’t feel a sudden rush anywhere in the rev band. Nevertheless, it’s enjoyable in the city with enough mid-range grunt to pull off quick overtakes. And impressive tractability means pottering around in the sixth gear at 40-45kmph is doable. This is backed by a supremely light clutch and a slick gearbox which add to its city ride-ability.
On the highway, it feels the most comfortable around 100-110kmph. Until these speeds, vibrations are well contained and you can overtake by going one cog down. Keep pushing it beyond 110kmph and the engine starts feeling strained with minor vibrations creeping in on the footpegs. Not that you can’t do 120s and 130s but the motorcycle feels strangled at these speeds. Also, the windscreen only works until about 100kmph and wind buffeting reaches fatigue-inducing levels post that.
As the road quality starts deteriorating, slowing down or standing on the pegs is the ideal move since the suspension setup has been firmly sprung. As you go over rumblers, deep potholes, or tall speed bumps, you feel a slight jolt to your back, with its intensity varying as per your speed. It’s not back-breaking level stiff but the firmness is noticeable through every major undulation. It smoothly glides over small-amplitude dips and crests though.
As for the handling, it does feel a tad lazy due to the larger 19-inch front wheel. However, the well-engineered chassis facilitates the motorcycle with decent agility. It’s quick and enjoyable around corners, especially through the sweeping ones. The only thing that holds it back is its dual-purpose tyres, which are close to proper knobbies, and don’t inspire much confidence when you push the bike’s handling envelope. Talking about the brakes, things are impressive in this department. The front delivers a great bite and there’s a decent feel from the lever, while the rear brake is quite progressive.