Purists would claim that these two bikes are dissimilar enough to eliminate the possibility of comparison. That misses the point, at least for me. I’m trying to find out which bike is best for me so this is a subjective comparison based on my own criteria. Some of my readers may find this comparo to be irrelevant while others may find it to be the right stuff at the right time. Read on if you dare…
2007 Suzuki V-Strom 650 (model: DL650)
I currently own this bike. In fact, the bike pictured here isn’t something I grabbed off of Google, it’s my bike. I’ve put 43,000 miles on it since February 2007 when I bought it new. It cost $7,995 and I’ve put more than $2,000 worth of farkles on it, although the engine, suspension and brakes are all original factory equipment (well, I replaced the brake pads once). Only the tires, seat and wind screen are after-market brands.
This bike is very versatile. It can carve up the paved twisties, shoot me across unpaved deserts, and carry me on mountain fire roads all in the same day. It is inexpensive to buy, inexpensive to accessorize, inexpensive to insure, and inexpensive to maintain. Parts are relatively cheap and service is available just about everywhere I would choose to go. It has also been extremely reliable, with TPS sensors being the only part that’s gone bad.
Because the V-Strom is a dual-sport, by its very nature it is meant to be reasonably good at several different types of riding. Because of this it doesn’t really excel at any of them. It excels at being versatile so it makes an excellent single bike (not everyone is rich enough to have a different bike in their stable for every riding style). The V-Strom can be modified with knobby tires, skid plate, etc. to work as a great adventure tourer, and if you were to specialize a Strom this is where it shines. But if your love lies on asphalt, this bike has a problem. It is very flickable and can carve up the twisties with the best of them, but it lacks in raw horsepower and off-the-line grunt. Top speed tops out around 110 mph and 0-60 performance isn’t something that will make you say “Whoa!” anytime soon. The brakes are mushy as well. Unlike accessorizing the Strom for off-road performance, there are very few options to boost on-road performance and most only provide single-digit improvements in horsepower.
There really isn’t anything particularly ugly about the V-Strom. It has no major faults or warts.
2011 Yamaha FJR 1300A
This is the bike I am currently researching as a possible replacement for my 2007 Suzuki V-Strom. It is Yamaha’s flagship sport-touring model and is highly rated for its performance, comfort, and styling. The reliability of the FJRs has been excellent, with a few kinks in early models worked out in subsequent releases. Compared to competing models from BMW, Kawasaki and Honda, the FJR wins in motorcycle press shootouts time and time again.
There are several characteristics and features about the FJR that appeal to me. It has a very sporty engine that is powerful yet manageable. Unlike liter-class sport bikes such as the Suzuki GSX-R 1000, the FJR won’t get out from under you because you gave the throttle the tiniest extra bit of unintended twist. Despite it’s 670 pound wet weight, the FJR is surprisingly flickable, especially at low speeds, and this has made it a strong player among mounted law enforcement agencies.
The riding position is somewhat sporty but still upright enough to allow high-mileage multi-day rides without requiring frequent visits to the chiropractor. The seat and handlebars are height-adjustable as well. The wind screen is power-adjustable and the fore- and aft-seat densities vary, giving pilot and pillion their own appropriate level of cushion.
Hard side cases with removable soft bag liners are included and after-market top cases are readily available, including offerings from Givi, a brand I’ve grown to love. The grips are heated as well. The drive train uses a low-maintenance shaft drive and oil changes are a snap. The styling is dramatic and appealing without looking gawdy.
Because the FJR puts out close to 140 horsepower and has a top speed in excess of 150 mph, insurance rates are relatively high. It has a 6.6 gallon fuel tank but only gets around 40 mpg, so range is about the same as it is for the V-Strom — which is more than adequate. The purchase price is also around $14,500 so initial cost is twice that of the Suzuki. My insurance agent told me the FJR will cost $140 more per year for the same coverage I currently have on the V-Strom.
At this point in my research, need to find a dealer willing to let me take an FJR for a test ride. If none will, I need to find a rental shop that will rent one to me for a day. I’m not willing to buy a new bike without test riding it first.