2023 Suzuki V-Strom 1050DE review


The big Suzuki V-Strom 1050 finally gets dirty with adventure spec upgrades for the 2023 model year

Say "adventure bikes" to bikers and most will reply "BMW’s R1250 GS". Some might go a little leftfield with Honda’s ultra-capable Africa Twin, while KTM's 1290 and 890 Adventures and Ducati's Multistradas could expect several shout-outs too. The 2023 Suzuki V-Strom 1050DE, however, would be expected to go largely unspoken for.

Yes, it's been around for aeons, and everyone knows it exists, but the big V-twin certainly isn’t the first adventure bike most people would think of.

But take a ride out on a Sunday and you’re likely to see a V-Strom or two parked up at the local bike-friendly café. Board the ferry to the Isle of Man or from the UK to Europe and I would confidently bet there’s a V-Strom or two strapped down and ready for a touring adventure on the car deck below. They are out there, doing a job.

The V-Strom first appeared in 2002 and is without question the unsung hero of the adventure market; the dependable goalkeeper who quietly does their job behind the rest of a team of far more glamorous, headline-grabbing strikers and wingers.

It’s easy to see why it has remained so popular. Robust, easy to ride, relatively straightforward and with just enough rider aids for most, it has retained a price-competitive position throughout its 20-year run. A top-spec Multistrada V4 will set you back a little over £20k while the Suzuki DR1050DE can be had for £6000 less. That’s a saving worth several trips around Europe plus a head-to-toe riding kit refresh too.  

In the real world, away from the sales brochure and the spec sheet, the Suzuki has consistently offered an uncomplicated ride, as the pricier competition became ever more festooned with electronic technology and luxury. Lacking a little glamour and desirability, perhaps, the V-Strom has been a bike you're happy to ride all winter without worrying about returning to pristine condition before placing back underneath its silky indoor cover.

But as robust and trustworthy as the V-Strom has been, Suzuki knew their flagship adventure bike was missing something – an X-factor beyond its price point to help it level up against the competition. Well, that's changed now because finally, they have produced a machine with off-road ambitions. Let me introduce you to the new 2023 Suzuki V-Strom 1050DE.

2023 Suzuki V-Strom 1050DE review

The 1050DE is the Japanese factory's fourth-generation V-Strom. Yes, it has the familiar water-cooled 1037cc V-twin platform which, in concept at least, can be dated back to Suzuki TL1000S from the late '90s and produces precisely the same peak power and torque – 106bhp/79Kw @ 8500rpm and 100Nm/73.76ftlb of torque @ 6000rpm – as the old model­, but the changes elsewhere are significant.

The DE chassis receives a major transformation with the introduction of a 21-inch (steel spoked and ally rim) front wheel, a first for the V-Strom. The headstock is new, and the chassis geometry is more relaxed, with increased rake, a longer wheelbase, longer travel suspension, more ground clearance and wider bars. Its dirt intentions are clear. 

There's a move from 41 teeth on the rear sprocket to 45, a huge jump and a simple way to make a bike feel livelier. Internal gear ratios have also been modified and combined with a new bi-directional quickshifter to add even more zip to the relatively low-powered unit.

The electronics have been upgraded on the DE (and road-focused, non-DE model that retains a 19-inch front wheel), which acquires a 5-inch full-colour TFT dash. Power modes remain the same – there's an A, a B and a C mode – with each altering the torque and throttle characteristics. Lean-sensitive ABS and TC remain the same as before but get more adjustments, including a new ‘Gravel’ mode and switchable rear ABS.

Cruise control comes as standard and again has been revised for 2023. The DE also gets a smaller non-adjustable off-road screen, wider pegs with removable rubbers, and the front mudguard is slightly higher to give more clearance for mud and gravel. Longer travel suspension also means the seat height is higher in the new DE: 880mm compared to 855mm.

So while Suzuki hasn’t reinvented the wheel with the new V-Strom DE, it has given it the tools to attempt a little off-road riding. Styling-wise it’s similar to the previous model but the extra travel on the suspension, those spoked wheels and crash protection have made the ‘beaky’ Strom visually more appealing. It might not have the desirability of, say, the Multistrada but it's not bad looking, and certainly a vast improvement on the original 1000DL. That was no beauty queen.

The good stuff continues when you jump on board. That new 5-inch display is a huge improvement: clear, legible and, like the switchgear, simple to use. DE owners will not require a degree in electronic engineering to change the modes or reduce the TC.

The perch is on the high side, as you’d expect from a long-travel, 21-inch adventure bike. The standard 1050 seat sits between 855 and 875mm, but the DE is fixed at 880mm. I’m 5ft 7in and, wearing stiff enduro boots with little ankle movement, struggled at times, and would recommend the 30mm lower seat option for shorter riders.

This taller riding position is noticeably more focused than both the older DE model and the standard 2023 1050. The bars are now 40mm wider and that fixed, off-road biased screen is 80mm shorter and narrower while the pegs, with removable rubbers, are wider. All of this lends the DE a 'bigger', more dirt-biased stance but, even as a small rider, I felt comfortable.

Suzuki chose Greece as the venue for this first road test of the DE and riding through narrow urban streets on our way out of town, the V-twin felt as friendly as Stroms of old. But there was also something new.

The fuelling is as clean and friendly as ever but now, especially in the imaginatively named 'A' mode, there’s an extra zip in performance. While the V-twin may produce exactly the same torque output through the revs as the older Strom, lowering the final gearing has given the Suzuki a welcome punchiness when you open the throttle and injects new energy into what is a relatively weighty adventurer. 

Turn off the TC – which you can easily and intuitively do on the move – and the DE will happily loft its new 21-inch wheel, something I wasn’t expecting on a long-wheelbase machine that tops the scales at 252kg. On the switchbacks that took us high into the hills, the DE cast off its slightly dull image and rewarded me with a fun and exciting ride, the up-and-down quick-shifter adding an unlikely sprinkling of sportiness.

It's not a total transformation, of course. There are limitations to what can be achieved with a change to the final drive ratio. And when you compare the V-twin's 106bhp and 252 kilos to the Honda Africa Twin (113bhp and 226kg with a full tank of petrol) or Ducati DesertX (110bhp and 223kg), it brings home how much extra bulk the Suzuki continues to carry.

Those kilos are constantly there in the background; I was always aware of how much heavier it felt compared to its more modern class rivals. It’s not a massive hindrance, especially for stronger and larger riders, but it is noticeable. Fast direction changes require more rider input through those wider new bars and, while stability is not in question, you would never describe the DE as agile either. The longer wheelbase, large front wheel, and more relaxed steering head angle haven’t helped, but carve up a mountain pass at speed and you’ll soon work up a sweat.

Suspension travel has increased to 170mm up front and 169mm on the rear, but not to the usual 230mm (front) and 220mm (rear) combination you’d normally associate with a 21-inch front-wheel adventure bike. Riding normally or briskly the KYB fully-adjustable 43mm forks cope with the weight of the V-Strom, and the rear, with remote preload and rebound damping adjustment, offers a secure ride. Overall, the ride is on the soft side and more suited to comfort for everyday riding and touring rather than anything aggressive. For the majority of the time, the Strom's chassis is hard to fault and just gets on with the job at hand.

To be fair, coolish conditions during the test didn’t encourage anything too aggressive – and nor did the tyres. Suzuki has opted for slightly unusual rubber and sizes: a 21-inch Dunlop Trialmax up front, with a tube, and a 17-inch Trailmax on the rear, which is tubeless. Most adventure bikes with dirt ambitions use a 21-inch/18-inch combination and while I’m sure the cold temperatures didn’t do them any favours, I never got the confidence to push the handling to a peg-scraping angle of lean. Warmer weather, though, may change all that.  

Like the V-Strom's engine and suspension, the brakes, too, do a job. Cornering ABS comes as standard and it has two road levels, plus the new off-road setting which simply deactivates the rear ABS. Suzuki also has a load-dependent braking system that modulates ABS intervention. This means that, in theory, if you add weight such as luggage or a pillion or both, this changes the ABS intervention as you’re asking more of the brakes, pulling the lever harder. Braking is also linked, the front lever activating the rear, but not the other way around, as the rear pedal is independent of the front. To add to the list of marketing-led terminology, the Suzuki has Slope-dependant Control System, which simply put, prevents the rear lifting – also known as stoppies.

On the test ride in Greece, I had no serious issues with the Tokico stoppers, and ABS intervention was only felt on the rear on the slippery surfaces we encountered. I would expect 90% of V-Strom owners to have no complaints but, again, the bike's weight problem raises its ugly head. After all, 252kg (including fuel) plus a rider, possibly a pillion and luggage as well represents a sizeable mass and a lot to ask of the front stoppers. The DE certainly isn't over-braked.

Suzuki’s V-Strom has always scored highly when it came to churning out miles, and the new DE should continue that tradition. Cruise control is standard and can now be set at lower speeds, although I'm not sure anyone sets their cruise control to lower than 30mph. The riding position is roomy and the shortened screen does a decent job. Hand guards are standard, as is the USB port on the left side of the dash, while under the seat is a 12v DC outlet. As mentioned, the new dash is clear and far easier to navigate than much of the competition. Heated grips, fog lights and full luggage are available as accessories.

Due to the change in gearing, Suzuki has admitted fuel consumption has been compromised slightly, meaning the DE is not as frugal as previously. Suzuki claim 54mpg, I managed 45.5mpg, but this was after a fun but by no means rapid test ride. The realistic tank range will be between 150 and 200 miles depending on the conditions.

2023 Suzuki V-Strom 1050DE verdict

In Suzuki’s marketing material, they don’t show the V-Strom taking on sand dunes in the Dakar Rally or performing huge jumps off-road. Suzuki has been realistic; the V-Strom is now more capable off-road, and therefore more versatile, with a 21-inch front wheel and a more dirt-focused chassis. It’s an improved V-Strom that can take on more adventurous riding, up to a point. But it's not an aspirational machine to fuel fantasies of reaching out into the Sahara.

The dash is one of the clearest and easiest to use on the market. I like the new colours, stance and looks and, as always, the V-twin motor and fuelling are soft and easy to manage. Performance is ample for most riding duties, as are the handling, stopping power and electronics.

In essence, the Strom is enjoyable in a simple, robust and trustworthy way ­– just as it always has been – and nothing more. And now it’s more versatile than ever with some off-road potential. If you don’t look at the competition it is hard to fault.

However, the competition can’t be ignored. At just shy of £14,000 there is some strong competition out there, some of it actually cheaper, with a higher spec than the Suzuki, like Triumph’s Tiger 900. Honda’s standard Africa Twin is lighter, more powerful, has more gadgets and even with DCT is the same price. My favourite in this class is the Ducati DesertX, which is incredibly capable both on and off-road and only a fraction more than the Suzuki.

The 2023 Suzuki V-Strom 1050DE carries all the great qualities of the older bike along with more off-road potential, but now at close to £14,000, it’s up against some stiff competition.

Riding the 2023 Suzuki V-Strom 1050DE off-road

It’s always difficult to fully evaluate a big adventure bike off-road and to work out who’s actually going to take a quarter-ton machine onto the dirt. And if they do, to what level of commitment?

Has Suzuki improved the off-road ability with the 2023 Suzuki V-Strom 1050DE? Yes, unquestionably. We took on some mixed terrain, nothing too challenging, and the Suzuki took to it with relative ease. Will it now reward those with more serious off-road intentions? I'm not so sure.

Firstly, the ‘Gravel’ riding mode doesn’t act as a true rider aid and prevent slides but simply re-maps the throttle to reduce power delivery, so you can't rely on it to save you. The fuelling and power are so soft as standard, I mainly rode in A and B modes anyway.  

It’s useful, however, to now have the ability to deactivate the rear ABS, even if the front ABS hasn’t been calibrated for serious off-road abuse and is simply the same as on the road.

But I enjoyed the Strom off-road, its wider bars, soft suspension and fuelling worked well together, and it’s relatively easy to ride as long as you don’t take on anything too challenging.

Up the pace, though, and you’ll soon reach the limit. The suspension bottoms out and lacks control and suddenly you’re all too aware of that weight. Trying to stop 252kg heading downhill on loose gravel can be challenging. This isn’t a bike you can easily pop over rocks and small obstacles and, in this context, comparing the Strom to the class-leading Ducati DesertX seems unfair. The X was designed to work off-road, whereas the Suzuki feels like it’s being forced to do something it doesn’t really want to do. Like getting your kids to eat vegetables. But if you’re only going to venture onto some very light trails the Suzuki DE can certainly tick that box.

2023 Suzuki V-Strom 1050DE spec





Water-cooled, DOHC, 90-degree V-twin

Bore & stroke

100 x 66mm

Compression ratio




Electronic fuel injection

Ride by wire


Six-speed with quick shifter, up and down

Final drive




106hp (79 kW) @ 8,500 rpm (claimed)


73.76lb.ft (100 Nm) @ 6,000 rpm

Top speed

140mph (est)

Fuel consumption

54.2mpg (claimed) 45mpg (tested)


Four power modes, lean sensitive traction control, cornering ABS, hill control, cruise control, up/down quickshifter



Twin Spar











43mm USD, fully adjustable,170mm travel


Monoshock remote preload and rebound adjustable, 169mm travel


Front wheel

21 spoke

Rear Wheel

17 spoke


Dunlop Trailmax Mixtour


90/90 - 21


150/70 - 17


Tokico, Cornering ABS


Twin 310mm disc, four-piston calipers


260mm disc, single-piston caliper



253kg kerb, (claimed)

Seat height


Fuel capacity





Two years



Colour options

Champion Yellow, Pearl Vigor Blue, Glass Sparkle Black



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