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2023 Suzuki V-Strom 800DE Review [27 Fast Facts From Sardinia]




Suzuki signals a dirt intent with the truly all-new 2023 Suzuki V-Strom 800DE. The gauntlet is thrown down with a 21-inch front wheel and the longest-travel suspension yet in the V-Strom line. There’s much more to the new V-Strom, so Ultimate Motorcycling headed to the south coast of the idyllic Mediterranean island of Sardinia to test the 800DE on the incredible Italian twisties and the plentiful unpaved backroads that crisscross mountainous terrain.2023 Suzuki V-Strom 800DE Review: Price

  1. Suzuki’s buzzword for the 2023 V-Strom 800DE is “gravel.” The big question asked of every adventure motorcycle is, “How dirtworthy is it?” Spec sheets don’t tell the whole story, and Suzuki engineers went to great effort to explain the focus of the 800DE. It wasn’t entirely clear what the “gravel” concept was all about until I rode it off the pavement; then, it became abundantly clear.
  1. That is an all-new engine powering the 2023 V-Strom 800DE. The architecture isn’t unfamiliar in the ‘20s—it’s a liquid-cooled DOHC parallel twin with 270-degree crankshaft timing—and we will also be seeing this motor in the upcoming all-new GSX-8S naked upright sportbike. We covered the engine in great detail when the 800DE was released, so we’ll refer you to that story rather than rehash months-old info. The motor gets plenty of help from an unusual electronics package that requires rider participation—there are no traditional rider modes. Also, the six-speed transmission has a quickshifter as standard equipment.

2023 Suzuki V-Strom 800DE Review: New Engine

  1. Given that the 800DE has a parallel twin, many people have wondered why it is still called a V-Strom—we have the answer. I asked a Suzuki engineer about this, and he had a reply ready to go. “The V stands for ‘versatile.’” And to think all this time, we thought it had to do with the V-twin engine. D’oh!
  1. The new chassis taps familiar technology. The frame and subframe are steel, with an aluminum swingarm outfitted with linkage for the remote-reservoir shock. The Showa suspension is fully adjustable and doles out 8.7 inches of wheel travel at both ends. The wire-spoke wheels, a 17-/21-inch combo, speak to off-road capability. However, the tube-type Dunlop Trailmax Mixtour tires, despite being massaged especially for the 800DE to be more dirty-ready, still favors paved surfaces. Suzuki went with what’s proven to work; a strategy that can succeed when updated with new tricks.
  1. The electronics package requires the rider to consider how to best combine the three parameters—throttle response, traction control, and ABS. We’re used to thinking in terms of power or ride modes that are all-encompassing. You pick one mode, and the preset settings do the work for you, though the results aren’t always exactly what you would want. Suzuki requires rider participation. To make any mode changes, the throttle must be off and no other modes actively implementing adjustments. Also, ABS is a bit more demanding for changes.

2023 Suzuki V-Strom 800DE Review: Adventure Motorcycle

  1. Suzuki is so serious about “gravel” that one of the traction control settings is G—and you know what that stands for. It is part of a traction control array that includes three levels of intrusion, plus off. The Gravel mode adds the retarding of the ignition timing rather than simply interruption to attain the desired goal. Traction control can be turned completely off by riders who don’t like it. Those who prefer the safety feature can also go with three street-oriented levels of intervention. The throttle response modes are enigmatically called A, B, and C, even though the traction control and ABS systems get numbers rather than letters.
  2. The ABS on the 2023 Suzuki V-Strom 800DE can be set to front-wheel only. In another nod to off-road riding, you can defeat rear-wheel ABS—the dash describes it as “off”, but the front-wheel ABS is always on. For street riding, there are two choices of sensitivity. While you can adjust ABS on the fly, the process is a bit tricky. With the throttle closed and the brakes unengaged, you must hold the Mode button down for a few seconds before the ABS setting readout blinks and becomes ready for adjustment. Or, you can simply come to a stop and make the ABS adjustment.
  1. There is no storing of mode combinations. If you want to change all three parameters as conditions change, you must alter them one at a time; that’s not what we would describe as convenient. On the upside, the TFT display is highly legible and intuitive to navigate with the easily manipulated left-thumb switchgear.

2023 Suzuki V-Strom 800DE Review: TFT Dash

  1. Heading into the dirt first, it didn’t take long to understand the “gravel” concept that Suzuki is promoting for the 2023 V-Strom 800DE. The unpaved roads of South Sardinia on this test ranged from easy, ultra-hardpack flat roads in the valleys to near 4×4 challenges in the mountains. The roads are mostly there to serve the local ranches and are virtually deserted. However, the occasional clapped-out vintage Piaggio Ape can appear out of nowhere, and the driver has things on his mind other than motorcycles in the vicinity. 
  1. The 800DE is great fun on hardpack dirt roads. This is where the Dunlop Trailmax Mixtour tires shine. They hook up well at both ends, and sometimes I found myself slaloming through turns, leaning as if I were on the street. The tires and chassis didn’t send back any alarming feedback, so I just kept doing it. Acceleration and braking are completely predictable in these conditions, and the V-Strom 800DE is stable at high speeds, as the power from the 775cc twin is ample. The six-speed transmission has a ratio for every situation, and the quickshifter is welcome when you don’t want to relinquish your grasp of the grips.
  2. Taking the 2023 Suzuki V-Strom 800DE on hardpack roads, I generally went with the A throttle response (sharpest), G (Gravel) traction control, and ABS off (aka front-wheel only). If I wasn’t in the mood to let the rear wheel drift, I’d drop it into B throttle response and cruise along at a friendly pace. If I was in a frisky mood, I’d turn off the traction control with the A throttle response and light up the rear Dunlop with predictable enthusiasm.

2023 Suzuki V-Strom 800DE Review: MSRP

  1. As the roads get more technical due to rocks and loose dirt, B throttle response is the way to go. Smoothing out the throttle response via B mode helps the G traction control mode do its job. The A throttle response isn’t overly abrupt, but the twin is still easier to manage with it padded down a touch. Set up this way, the rear wheel can spin up when needed, but it won’t spin wildly should all traction break loose—something that’s easy to have happen with the stock tires in low-traction conditions. Regardless of the off-pavement conditions, stick with ABS “off”.
  1. The 800DE remains rideable when the traction starts to go away, though it’s not nearly as fun. The 270-degree firing order contributes to traction finding and provides a nice throb and sound. At lower speeds, the assist function in the clutch helps you work through the slowest of technical terrain. Downshifts are less treacherous thanks to the clutch’s slipper function.
  1. When the road ventures into 4×4 territory, the V-Strom 800DE loses its mojo. Until we slip on some proper off-road rubber—say a pair of Pirelli MT 21 Rallycross tires—it’s hard to determine the operational limits of the 800DE off-pavement. Certainly, its capability will be enhanced by off-road friendly tires rather than the street-oriented Trailmax Mixtour rubber, which fully satisfied me on the pavement.

2023 Suzuki V-Strom 800DE Review: ADV Motorcycle

  1. Ergonomically, the 800DE feels a bit girthy when standing up, though the peg/grips relationship is spot-on. The footpegs are just okay—they could be a larger platform, and the rubber inserts are extremely slippery when wet.
  1. The Showa suspension is impressive in the dirt. Even the hardest-pack Sardinian roads were riddled with nasty potholes. Every time I hit the squared-off depressions at speed, I expected the shock to bottom out. That didn’t happen, as the linkage-assisted shock always had something in reserve, and there was no kick on rebound. While the inverted fork and shock didn’t make the potholes go away, they prevented brutalizing of the rider or the upsetting of the chassis. Even when landing from small-air jumps, the 800DE remained composed. Suzuki and Showa engineers make the most of the 8.7 inches of travel at both ends.
  1. Despite its off-road capability, the 2023 Suzuki V-Strom 800DE is most comfortable on pavement. Weighing it at over 500 pounds with its generous 5.3-gallon fuel tank topped off and shod with tires focused on road performance, the 800DE is happiest where most adventure bikes thrive—touring on paved roads of varying quality.

2023 Suzuki V-Strom 800DE Review: For Sale

  1. Twisties are a happy place for the V-Strom 800DE. Despite its dual-purpose nature, the V-Strom 800DE loves to go for a spirited ride through the canyons and, in the case of this test, along the craggy coast of southern Sardinia. The tires stick nicely, though the Italians have paved the Sardinian roads smoothly with sticky asphalt—it’s heaven for sport riding. Even with the 21-inch front tire, the 800DE feels confident in the corners. Turn-in is effortless, and changing lines isn’t an issue. Coming out of the corners, the new parallel twin gets frisky, especially in throttle response mode A.
  1. The multi-purpose suspension doesn’t feel mushy on the street with the stock settings. This encourages harder riding. When you get highly demanding, you can crank up the compression damping if it’s too soft for your weight, style, or both. While you do get fully adjustable suspension, changes are made manually.
  1. Picking the electronic settings for the 800DE isn’t as critical on the asphalt as it is off-pavement. Set traction control wherever you like. For the most part, you won’t feel a tremendous difference—I rarely saw the TC light flash in any setting while riding on the pavement. Mode 1 felt like a good compromise—some TC, but not too much. The A mode for the throttle control is my go-to pick. It’s not notchy, and the motor spins up noticeably faster than in B mode. The rain-oriented C mode is predictably docile. I went the same route on the ABS as I did TC—mode 1 is the way to go.

2023 Suzuki V-Strom 800DE Review: Touring Motorcycle

  1. The new parallel-twin motor is a winner. It has a broad powerband, pulling linearly from just above idle to the 9500-rpm redline. The quickshifter lets you change gears in both directions intuitively. As expected, the quickshifting is a bit clunky when used at lower rpm, and most rewarding when wringing out the twin.
  1. The much-ballyhooed by Suzuki dual-counterbalancer system keeps things very smooth below 5000 rpm or so. As you delve into the upper part of the rev range, vibrations build most noticeably in the footpegs. That’s not a big issue, as the buzz isn’t particularly distracting when riding aggressively. When sightseeing, the twin will spin at lower revs, where the vibration is negligible. The new 776cc motor’s performance in the 800DE has whetted my already ravenous appetite for the upcoming GSX-8S sportbike, which shares this same new powerplant.

2023 Suzuki V-Strom 800DE Review: Counterbalanced parallel twin

  1. When putting on the miles, the Suzuki V-Strom 800DE is happy to oblige. You can cruise all day above the speed limit without feeling like you’re stressing the motor. The rider triangle is natural and conducive to long rides. The standard handguards and the width of the fuel tank reduce the windblast on your hands and legs—every little bit helps.
  1. There is a decent amount of protection with the windscreen in the standard position. That’s a good thing because adjusting the two-position screen requires breaking out tools—unforgivable on an ADV bike that can repeatedly switch between low-speed riding and touring velocities during the day.

2023 Suzuki V-Strom 800DE Review: Versatile motorcycle

  1. Around town, the 800DE is entirely usable. Although the 800DE feels a bit big, it’s not monstrous. The upright seating position gives the rider a great view of the surroundings, so that’s a big plus when dealing with traffic. The motor does its thing, and the clutch has an assist function to reduce in-town fatigue. The 21-inch front wheel gobbles up road imperfections, big and small, with aplomb. It will undoubtedly make for a fun commuter motorcycle, if an owner needs to get the most out of one bike.
  1. Suzuki has carefully positioned the 2023 V-Strom 800DE in the V-Strom lineup, and in the ADV world. The V-Strom 650 is the do-it-all lightweight—37 pounds lighter than the 800DE—with some capability off-pavement. Step up to the V-Strom 1050, and you get a touring motorcycle that can handle someone on the pillion, though it’s a bit of a handful when the pavement stops. The 800DE is about taking things one step farther into the dirt. The 800DE is not an ADV for the hard-core off-roader—it’s designed to let the enthusiast take on tougher terrain confidently. It will be interesting to see where the new V-Strom 1050DE fits into the scheme.

2023 Suzuki V-Strom 800DE Review: Sport-Touring Motorcycle

  1. The 2023 Suzuki V-Strom 800DE truly is versatile, and its on- and off-pavement skillset matches a wide range of riders. Among midsize ADV bikes with 21-inch from wheels, the $11,349 800DE is less expensive than the Ducati DesertX (+$6346), KTM 890 Adventure R (+$3850), Husqvarna Norden 901 (+$3150), Triumph Tiger 900 Rally (+$2346), BMW F 850 GS Adventure (+$2246) and the Aprilia Tuareg 660 (+$1350)—all more sophisticated motorcycles. From the other direction, the 800DE is $850 more than the Yamaha Ténéré 700, and that’s where its main competition will come from. We’ll have to ride the Suzuki and Yamaha back-to-back before making any final comparison. In the meantime, Suzuki established the constituency for the V-Strom 800DE and delivered a motorcycle that meets its needs.

Photography by MilagroRIDING STYLE2023 Suzuki V-Strom 800DE Specs ENGINE

  • Type: Parallel twin
  • Displacement: 776cc
  • Bore x stroke: 84.0 x 70mm
  • Compression ratio: 12.8:1
  • Fueling: EFI w/ 42mm throttle bodies and 49psi fuel injectors
  • Valvetrain: DOHC; 4 vpc
  • Lubrication: Web sump w/ force-feed circulation
  • Transmission: 6-speed w/ quickshifter
  • Clutch: Web multiplate w/ slip-and-assist functions
  • Final drive: O-ring chain

CHASSIS 

  • Frame: Steel tube backbone
  • Front suspension; travel: Fully adjustable Showa inverted fork; 8.7 inches
  • Rear suspension; travel: Fully adjustable linkage-assisted Showa remote reservoir shock; 8.7 inches
  • Wheels: Wire-spoke
  • Tires: Dunlop Trailmax Mixtour
  • Front tire: 90/90 x 21
  • Rear tire: 150/70 x 17
  • Front brakes: 310mm discs w/ Nissin 2-piston calipers
  • Rear brake: 260mm disc w/ Nissin single-piston caliper
  • ABS: Standard; adjustable

DIMENSIONS and CAPACITIES

  • Wheelbase: 61.8 inches
  • Rake: 28 degrees
  • Trail: 4.5 inches
  • Ground clearance: 8.7 inches
  • Seat height: 33.7 inches
  • Fuel capacity: 5.3 gallons
  • Curb weight: 507 pounds
  • Colors: Champion Yellow No. 2; Glass Matte Mechanical Gray

2023 Suzuki V-Strom 800DE Price: $11,349 MSRP

2023 Suzuki V-Strom 800DE Review Photo Gallery

 






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With 50 years of riding experience, Don Williams is a fan of all kinds of motorcycles. He enjoys sport bikes, cruisers, dirt bikes, touring bikes, adventure bikes, dual sport bikes, and rideable customs. Ask Don what his favorite bike is and he will tell you, “Whatever bike I’m on.”


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