Test ride: Less is more – Suzuki V-Strom 800RE

You don’t always appreciate something until it’s gone.

I liked my V-Strom 650 but was not passionate about it. It did everything I asked of it without fuss. It rode well but was not exciting. To be honest, I took it for granted, says motoring writer Andy Russell.

After four years of faultless service, I wanted a change but not another V-Strom because it hadn’t really changed.

I went for something sportier, flashier, more fun but less practical but still hanker after my old V-Strom.

When the V-Strom gained the new 776cc parallel twin-cylinder engine earlier this year I thought it might be the answer. It’s a great engine but the off-road ready 800DE (that’s Dual Explorer) did not make sense for me.

I don’t ride off-road so why do I need rugged tyres, long-travel suspension and a 21in front wheel which makes the handlebar higher? This vertically-challenged rider would not feel happy wheeling it backwards out of his garage.

Now Suzuki has launched the 800RE which stands for Road Explorer.

It keeps all the DE’s good bits but gets a 19in front rim, cast aluminium rather than wire spokes, a wider, taller screen for better wind and weather protection and more road-friendly riding position.

At £9,699, it’s £1,000 less, so you can add some options to tailor the riding experience.

It shares the frame and punchy twin engine. It pulls strongly in the mid range and 84.3PS at 8,500rpm and 78Nm of torque at 6,800rpm are enough in real-world riding.

The demo bike’s engine was tight but 60mpg was not far short of the official 64mpg. A 4.4-gallon tank means a good touring range.

It also has a suite of electronics including bi-directional quickshifter, three power and traction modes, two ABS settings and ride-by-wire throttle.

The big difference is how the 800RE rides. It’s not just down to a smaller front wheel and suspension travel reduced from 220mm to 150mm.

The riding position is more about sitting comfortably than standing on the pegs for off-road riding.

The footpegs have been moved 14mm back and up 7mm while the 15mm narrower handlebar is 13mm lower and 23mm further forward compared to the 800DE. A 30mm lower seat, at 825mm, makes it easier for short-legged riders to be firmly grounded.

The 800RE is better to ride on road, flowing through corners on grippy road-biased tyres. It’s not exciting but the handling inspires confidence and is more entertaining than you would expect an adventure tourer to be.

Uprated front brakes are more suited to road use and give powerful, progressive stopping power.

Less ground clearance lowers the centre of gravity.

The RE’s suspension does not have as much adjustment as the DE, but enough for most riders who will appreciate its simplicity, and it does the job well. It helps cut 7kg, bringing the RE down to 223kg.

The five-inch colour TFT display is clear, logical and easy to navigate.

The 800RE gets a lot of useful equipment, given the value price tag, and that £1,000 saving means you can delve into the options list. Free heated grips are part of the deal until the end of January.

The engine is potent and punchy, the V-Strom 800RE is rewarding to ride and its lower price means less is more.

The 800RE has rekindled my desire to own a V-Strom again.