Haven't I seen you before somewhere? Deja-vu strikes as Urry rides Kawasaki's KLV1000.
Looking at the KLV1000, I can't help but feel slightly cheated. It may look like a brand new bike, but this is just a sheep in... well, sheep's clothing. The KLV may have Kawasaki on the tank, but this is simply a Suzuki V-Strom in different attire.
Surprisingly, Kawasaki isn't too bothered about this. I'd have thought the fact that one of the largest motorcycle manufacturers had to take a model out of its competitor's range, paint it a different colour and try to flog it on would be a cause for some embarrassment. Not so to Big K apparently, because it has even left the bloody Suzuki sticker on the frame. Next time you see a KLV, check out the frame number plaque - it has "Suzuki Motor Corporation" stamped on it!
So what's different? Kawasaki has taken the V-Strom, painted the frame and swingarm black, stuck on a slightly different front fairing with an adjustable screen, changed the mirrors and clocks and painted it orange. That's it, not a sausage more. This makes it feel very similar to the V-Strom, believe it or not. But ironically for Suzuki, it actually improves the bike.
The big V-twin engine is the same TL1000 derived motor as the V-Strom and is the bike's best feature. It thumps out a decent amount of stomp, which makes the KLV surprisingly fast. Low in the rev range it gets lumpy and can feel a bit rough, but get it up and spinning and it's got loads of power. And usefully enough the top gear is very tall, making it a good overdrive.
The riding position is typical big trailie. It's comfortable with high bars and a wide seat that actually feels more padded than the V-Strom's, although my arse may have become more padded since I last rode one. The new Kawasaki clocks are better than the V-Stroms, clearer and with a larger and easier to read fuel warning, and the mirrors are an improvement. More importantly, the screen is now adjustable, which makes a noticeable difference as the V-Strom's was always a bit too low.
In corners, the KLV slightly lacks a secure feel. It's mainly due to the skinny front tyre and is inherent with big trailies. You soon get used to it and learn not to push it too hard, especially in the wet as the long travel suspension and off-road style tyre lack feedback. This is especially noticeable when braking in the wet.
The brakes have always been a weak spot on the V-Strom and although the KLV's feel sharper I think this is mainly due to the bike being brand new with less than 1000 miles on the clock. The two-piston sliding calipers really aren't up to the job and lack both power and feel.
Ironically, the KLV is better than the V-Strom. It looks meaner, the adjustable screen helps its touring potential and the clocks are clearer. But the lack of any effort by Kawasaki to hide the fact it is a Suzuki is pathetic. As big trailies go, the KLV is on a par with the Honda Varadero, not quite as good as Aprilia's Caponord and no where near as good as the BMW R1200GS. Then again, it's around £3000 cheaper - but you'll probably lose this in the resale value.
2001: Kawasaki and Suzuki sign an agreement to share development costs. 2002: Suzuki launches the V-Strom, and everyone wonders if it spelt the name correctly. It did, apparently its some kind of German stream. The big trailie uses a re-tuned TL1000 V-twin motor.2003: The first Kawasaki-badged Suzuki off-roaders emerge.
BMW R1200GS: £9275 The best big trailie around. New for 2004 and simply brilliant at everything, touring, commuting and so on.Suzuki V-Strom: £6349 Unsurprisingly, it's very similar to the KLV. Poor brakes, seat isn't too comfortable and silly name.Honda Varadero: £7349 A surprisingly dull bike. Does everything well, but without any real spark.
TYPE - ALL ROUNDER PRODUCTION DATE - 2004 PRICE NEW - £6399 ENGINE CAPACITY - 996cc POWER - 86bhp@7300rpm TORQUE - 63lb.ft@5000rpm WEIGHT - 207kg SEAT HEIGHT - 830mm FUEL CAPACITY - 22L TOP SPEED - 125mph 0-60 - n/a TANK RANGE - N/A
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