To build the perfect travelling bike for yourself.
My bike is an 2004 Suzuki DL-650 Vstrom. I got her used on March 16th 2008 with just over 24,000 Km on the clock.
Since then we’ve logged more than a few long days together. I just rolled over 76,000Km and engine wise, the bike is as strong and true as the day I got her but like anything, you tweak and tailor to get the bike that best suits your style and needs of riding. She came with a center stand and the previous owner had done the 16 tooth front sprocket change out from the regular OEM 15 tooth one. I never cared for the stock windshield, so I upgraded it to a Cee Bailey 23″ Tall Touring Screen.
It took a bit of getting used to the height but after a few long hauls through some really windy places, I’m glad I’ve got it. Last year I added a Madstad bracket to the windscreen and now I can fine tune the airflow to suit any situation.
I do like to go off road with the bike. She’s not the best Enduro but she’ll do in a pinch. This of course meant Givi crash bars and an Ammototech Bash Plate, which I have bashed on more than one occasion. The Vstrom, lacks some of the suspension height my old XT600 had but thanks to that plate, I still have an oil cooler, oil filter and an unshattered engine case. I also hand built some highway pegs, because I simply couldn’t find any on the market that I liked. I think they turned out well and they allow me to stretch my legs as the ride grows long.
I also replaced my tail light with a high intensity LED unit that flashes three times before it goes to solid red when I apply the brakes. This went on after a distracted and confused cager in a white work van decided that my red stop light meant that I was actually going through the intersection. The LED does get their attention and I notice most of them stay back off my rear tire a greater distance now.
Heated grips are a must if you’re going to ride in the lower temperatures. I’m always amazed at how long you actually end up using these things into the year. I even found myself relying on them in late July last year as I rode through the Rocky Mountains.
Of course this revealed an aerodynamic design flaw in the hand guards but some specialized application of formed Kydex inserts, soon fixed that.
And of course, after running with soft bags for the last few years, I finally dropped the coin and picked up a set of Journey Rider Panniers and the much more expensive SW Motech mounting hardware to go with them.
Which brings me to the seat. The stock seat, at least for me, while being one of the most comfortable of any of the bikes I’ve ever owned (I spent many a long ride crying into my helmet on the XT600) is still pretty much a torture device for an ass deprived individual like myself. The first long trip out to Reno proved this. you know it’s bad when it hurts to sit on a bed. I swapped it out for a Tall Gel Seat at the first opportunity I got. I found one in St. Catherines, ON. The buyer had picked up the seat as his first mod but because he was inseam challenged and the seat gives you another inch of height, it wasn’t for him. It was however for me and for the excellent price of $200, my buttocks rode in greater comfort. Still, while the Gel does allow you to stay longer in the saddle, you can still be a bit uncomfortable at the end of a long day. Though I will say, it goes away a lot faster than when you’re on the stocker. The other day I was going through the buy and sell section of my V Strom forum (The strictly Canadian bit) and found a local guy selling a Sergeant seat, a fork brace and a set of mirror extenders. Well I’ve already got the mirror extenders (it sure beats looking at your shoulders. But the seat was good price $300 and the fork brace was also a good price. I made the call and we arranged to meet up after the long weekend.
After some fiddling, the Sergeant went on the bike. There’s no other way to describe it, it’s a plush seat and surprisingly lower than the Gel. So the plan is to give it some rides and see how it compares to the Gel (better or worse) and if it’s better, I’ll sell the Gel.
The Fork brace however was a surprise. I often figure a lot of rider feedback as conjecture as opposed to fact. In can be hard to separate the wheat from the chaff. Though the general consensus was the brace was a good addition to your front end as it takes out the shimmy of the suspension as the shocks align the wheel at the end of their travel. Yep it totally works. The front end feels like it’s on a rail and gives it a sportier feel for handling. I’m going to recommend my friends get one and throw it on.
And if you think that’s the end of the evolution of my bike, you’d be wrong. There’s still the front and rear suspensions to tackle. I think I’ll do the front first. It’s half the cost and three times less the hassle of the rear.
After all, it takes time.