Road Test

Road Test: DL1000 V-Strom vs. Tiger vs. TDM900

The face of motorcycling may be changing...




...and bikes like Yamaha's TDM900, Suzuki's V-Strom and Triumph's Tiger might - in the near future - be not only useful, usable bikes but also desirable pieces of hardware. So just what is going on in the once-humble adventure sports class?

Hmm, let's get one thing straight right away. Neither the V-Strom, Tiger or TDM are what you'd call sexy motorcycles.

You could (unkindly) almost say they were the exact opposite - pig ugly workhorses best left to despatchers (the few that are left) and those (poor souls) who simply aren't turned on by sportsbikes. But although - to some - these kind of bikes will always be a turn off it seems - and the manufacturers obviously think so - that the market for rugged, do-anything, anytime motorcycles that are relatively cheap to own, run and maintain and, just as importantly, easy to get on with is going to grow over the coming years.

Yamaha have, to be fair, ploughed a lonely furrow for 10 years with their TDM - although for a full decade it's been second only to Honda's VFR800 in the 750-1,000cc sales arena. Triumph joined the field with the first version of their Tiger in 1994 and Suzuki have just, for 2002, livened up the harvest with the

V-Strom. And don't forget next year Ducati will be launching the funkadelic Multistrada. It's getting interesting alright in this corner, and these ain't sportsbikes.

So, in terms of metal what are we looking at? Although the TDM900 is the oldest model here it's had a makeover this year - the 10-valve liquid cooled parallel twin engine has gained a few extra cubes, redesigned internals, a six-speed gearbox and - most importantly - fuel injection. The TDM's suspension package has been uprated with a fair degree of adjustability and the front brake calipers have been robbed from the R1. Cosmetically it looks much like the previous model, just a bit sharper here, a touch smoother there, with a much tidier electronic dash buried up front in the bike's pointy snout.

The Triumph Tiger also got a tickle for 2002. Actually it got the fuel-injected 955cc liquid-cooled 12-valve three-cylinder powerplant which propels this year's 955i Daytona. The rest of the Tiger's pretty much as it was when it recieved a major facelift four years ago, bar some front fork revisions.

Stand up the Suzuki V-Strom, then.

A brand new model, powered by the 996cc 90¡ V-twin engine from the now extinct TL1000S - with some detail changes. The diameter of the intake valves has been reduced 4mm to 36mm to help low and midrange throttle response and, in much the same vein the cam timing has been altered to shift power and torque down the rev range. The pair of pistons are now forged aluminium rather than cast, saving 20g each over the TL1000S items and the rods are shot-peened, making them lighter and stronger. A hydraulically-operated clutch replaces the TL's cable and the V-Strom's fuel injection system borrows heavily from the GSX-R sportsbikes, with dual butterfly valves in each 45mm throttle body. A new aluminium beam frame clamps the motor and running gear is quality but not top shelf - the 43mm forks are non adjustable, whilethe rear monoshock at least has remote spring preload adjustment (nice touch, the Tiger has it too) and adjustable rebound damping.

YAMAHA TDM

All three are physically large motorcycles - they look big. And they are. If you're 5ft 10in or over, no bother - both the V-Strom and TDM will let you get both feet more or less flat on the deck. The Tiger, which is perhaps the most intimidating-looking of the trio is a tippy-toes job as its wide, flat seat forces your legs apart. Interestingly, bike-rusty Boothy made a beeline for the TDM as, after a quick eyeball, he decided it looked the easiest to manage. And he's right - the TDM is the smallest, neatest package. It feels slim, the bars - unlike the other two - are high and narrow and the screen and clocks seem a long way ahead of you. The lightest (at 190kg dry) by a fair margin (the V-Strom tips in at 207kg and the Tiger tramples the scales at 215kg) the TDM is a cinch to potter around town on, its ease of use only marred by a very direct low rpm throttle feel in first and second gear - both Jim and Steve described the TDM as snatchy. I felt it was more abrupt than snatchy but regardless It's not a problem anywhere other than at very low speed, because from 2,000rpm to the redline at 8,000rpm the TDM pumps out a lovely mellow twin cylinder vibe which punts it along very respectably. With 76bhp (at 7,300rpm) and 60ft-lb of torque (delivered just under 6,000rpm) the TDM's got less grunt than its peers, but also carries a lot less heft so it all kinda balances out. One area the old TDM really got some stick for was its gearbox - the new bike has laid that bugbear to rest with a licketty-snick six-speed 'box which almost changes by itself. Nicely sorted, Yamaha. Fuel economy is exceptional too - averaging in the mid-40 mpg and giving a well-useful 160-mile minimum tank range.

Out of town the TDM easily cruises at and around the ton, with some spare before it starts straining (top whack is just over 130mph). But really fast cruising is not its bag - the TDM likes to dart in and out of traffic, punchout of roundabouts and rabbit around country lanes. Suspension - on stock settings - is plush, soaking up every road irregularity and minor hillock without a touch of drama. It's very comfortable to ride on any surface is the TDM. But that does translate to woolly, slightly vague steering if you really give it a good hard shove through a set of fast sweepers, say. The answer is to firm up the rear shock with some extra spring preload and compression damping then wind more spring into the front forks - you lose a bit of comfort but it does make the TDM a little more accurate.

The brakes are spot-on, a bit too good for the front forks truth be told, really but do stop the TDM good and quick - again, firmer forks don't dive quite so much. At least the TDM's adaptable to suit any riding style, so whether you're a back lane headbanger or captain comfort you can tailor it to suit.

The only real criticism both Jim and Steve had of the TDM was its looks - or rather the fact it could - or should - have been a bit more adventurous. I'm not so sure and in blue the new TDM looks very classy but the yellow on our test bike was a bit on the pissy side.

Nice details abound though, hidden away, like the foldout bungee hooks, integrated grabrail/luggage rack and at least with an 18-inch front wheel you've got a much larger choice of rubber (both Tiger and V-Strom come with 19-inch front wheels). Even sportsbike spunka Wozza warmed to the TDMafter an hour or so in its saddle - whether he'd actually ever fall in love with it is another question but maybe the truth is the TDM's not the kind of bike built for love. It's built for use.

TRIUMPH TIGER

Talking of desire only a mother could love the boggle-eyed slightly inbred looks of Triumph's Tiger. It is a bit of a monster although it's no man-eater. Just hoisting it around on a dead engine you can gauge its heft, and it's a big ol' boy. Climb onboard and the first thing you grasp are the fat cowhorn handlebars and the horizon-full of white-faced dials, the screen rising vertically up in front of you, almost to eye level. The adjustable seat (it moves through 20mm) is squashy, wide and flat and supremely comfortable which, funnily enough also describes the Trumpet's power delivery.

These three cylinder engines Triumph are building now are in a different league to those of even a few years ago - mechanically quieter, smoother and much more efficient.

They still, however, possess a defined character. The Tiger whirrs its three pistons around with an almost gravelly urgency, which turns to a cavernous roar as the revs rise, very unlike the fluid thump of the twins. With the most outright peak power here - 89bhp at a heady (for this crowd) 9,300rpm - it can hustle, but can only just best the 25kg lighter TDM on torque with 60.7ft-lb delivered, albeit at a lowly 5,000rpm.

It's worth looking at the Tiger's torque curve, because it tell the story of the Triumph's motive delivery nicely - it's making 43ft-lbs at 3,000rpm (as much as a good 600cc sportsbike at peak) and holds a solid plateau of forward thrust until 8,000rpm, where it starts to drop off. Now that's solid performance, the sort of performance which dispenses - pretty much - with the need to bother the Tiger's clunky gearbox.

You do pay for the poke, though, the Tiger drinking gas at the rate of one gallon for every 30-odd miles covered, but the fat tank means you still get at least 150 miles under your wheels before the fuel light comes on.

Our test bike (actually it's our longtermer, adboy Giles will be no doubt adding 20,000 miles and all manner of muffage over the course of the coming year) was set up well on the soft side, which translates to lazy manners and placid response to steering input - in other words, hard work. At least you can haul on the tiller-like handlebars to get the Tiger from side to side but I know from personal experience just how much fun these things can be (I went on the launch of the model before this one in 1998) once jacked up at the back with a load more spring preload and compression damping. Believe me, the Tiger can be a real wolf in, er, sheep's clothing once set up - bags of easy to use power, great vision (you're perched well up in the air, as you are on both the TDM and V-Strom) combined with a chassis that'll cope with little short of anything that comes its way.

Faults? It's got a few - the front brakes could be stronger, and are, frankly just about adequate for a bike this fat. The spoked wheels look groovy but are a nightmare to clean and once you scratch the surface of the Tiger it's probably the least well finished bike of the three, with stray wires loitering in the nose cone and a general, slightly agricultural, feel.

The lime green paint is knockout in the flesh though and prompted some involuntary emissions from passers by. And funnily enough, Steve, who initially gave the Tiger a wide berth because he felt "it just looks too bloody big..." got on with it very well indeed. Enough to pronounce it his favourite by the end of the day.

Tiger? It's a cub at heart...

SUZUKI V-STROM

Last but not least then, the V-Strom.

I don't think I've ever ridden a bike that's elicited more response to its looks than Suzuki's new tool. Opinions varied from "ugh, it's horrific, somebody shoot it!" to "quite nice innit? Just what Aprilia's Caponord should've looked like..." I'm not a major fan of the V-Strom's exterior - from some angles at the front it looks a touch eagle-ish, quite beaky but smart with it while from others it's slabby (side-on) and just plain ugly (the back). But, regardless of what you think of its visage once you clamber aboard it's all forgotten because everything just snaps into place. The riding position is perfect, comfy, neutral and very well thought out - the bars are exactly where they need to be, the pegs are low enough to give loads of legroom and the seat is only slightly second to the Tiger's in the armchair stakes.

On the hoof the Suzuki's synergy continues - as a complete package (engine, chassis, ergonomics) the V-Strom holds all the cards. For starters, that ex-TL motor is - as it always was - an absolute gem, punching out loads of instant, useable grunt as and when you require it. Keep it in the sweet zone, between four and eight thou and you will be going forward, hard, with the elastic thump that only V-twins deliver. Peak horsepower? 85.6 bhp @ 7,400rpm with peak torque 0f 63ft-lbs arriving at 5,000rpm. Interestingly the V-Strom has an overdrive top gear - well, a little green light blinks on and says O/D whenever you hook top anyway. It is a tall gear, and drops the revs to 4,000rpm at 70mph which equates to a very relaxed cruise. Even 100mph only dials up just over 5,300rpm. It does mean you can't get too lazy though - the V-Strom will just pull out of 60mph but lugs horribly at 50mph in sixth gear and goes nowhere fast. So you have to leap on the slick gearbox if you want to get going again.

It's a great bike - like the others - for covering motorway miles with good weather protection and comfort. But, out of the crate, the V-Strom is a proper little B-road hooligan. Instant power allied to a really sorted chassis equals a right, proper laugh and I had one of the most enjoyable rides I've had in ages down 30 miles or so of twisting Cambridgeshire country roads, with speeds ranging from 50-100mph and surfaces ranging from very good to very shit. The V-Strom is the perfect platform for hooting around on and simply gels at any speed.

Where you can pick faults with both the TDM and Tiger it's much harder to do so with the V-Strom and I found no reason to fiddle - I just wanted to ride it. Its tank range is a little limited compared to the others, draining to the flashing warning in around 135 miles, at an average mid-thirties mpg.

But they've thought about the rest of it have Suzuki. It's the little things that count, like the V-Strom's adjustable span brake and clutch levers (chipolata-fingered Jim had real trouble with the reach on the Tiger's non-adjustable clutch), the enduro-style hand guards (which the Tiger also has) and, like both of the others, the grab rail come rear rack arrangement - of which the V-Strom's is by far the most substantial. The dial's are a bit old fashioned but very easy to read and I reckon the 19-inch front wheel - like the Triumph's - is a nod to a perceived big traillie heritage that is simply irrelevant. Get it on a 17-inch rim and some decent road rubber. Bridgestone Trail Wings are ok, but c'mon, this is not in any way shape or form a dirt bike now is it?

CONCLUSION

So really, when you measure these things, all three do much the same job with differing degrees of success. They're all very good transport first and foremost and will eat miles and miles. None are speed merchants but all allow you to make the best use of the power they do produce - and that power itself is very easy to explore, to the limit and back, day in day out. What they don't do is inspire any real desire, any "I simply must have that bike..." passions like maybe a 996, FireBlade or R1 might.

Of the three it's actually quite hard to pick a clear winner. On sheer rideability the V-Strom is the leader of the pack, and, all things considered the best all-round package. At roughly £7,500 plus otr (the Tiger's the same sort of money) it isn't a bargain though, although as with the Triumph you do get a lot of metal for yer money.

The Tiger's fun, but ultimately is going to be too big for some - and it does look like it's been punched in the face. Hard.

Nah, it's the quiet old TDM that just does it for me and £6,500 is the right sort of price for this sort of bike. It is vastly improved this year and with a few little nudges - trick bars, sticky tyres, fruity cans, suspension - could be a real scream. Maybe a full decade after its birth then, the TDM's time has come.

SPECS - SUZUKI

TYPE - ALL-ROUNDER

PRODUCTION DATE - 2002

PRICE NEW - £7500

ENGINE CAPACITY - 996cc

POWER - 85.6bhp@7400rpm

TORQUE - 63lb.ft@5000rpm

WEIGHT - 207kg

SEAT HEIGHT - 840mm

FUEL CAPACITY - N/A

TOP SPEED - 125.8mph

0-60 - n/a

TANK RANGE - N/A

SPECS - TRIUMPH

TYPE - ALL-ROUNDER

PRODUCTION DATE - 2002

PRICE NEW - £7599

ENGINE CAPACITY - 955cc

POWER - 88.9bhp@9300rpm

TORQUE - 60.7lb.ft@5100rpm

WEIGHT - 215kg

SEAT HEIGHT - 840mm

FUEL CAPACITY - N/A

TOP SPEED - 133mph

0-60 - n/a

TANK RANGE - N/A

SPECS - YAMAHA

TYPE - SUPERSPORTS

PRODUCTION DATE - 2002

PRICE NEW - £6550

ENGINE CAPACITY - 897cc

POWER - 76.4bhp@7300rpm

TORQUE - 60lb.ft@5850rpm

WEIGHT - 190kg

SEAT HEIGHT - 825mm

FUEL CAPACITY - N/A

TOP SPEED - 132.2mph

0-60 - n/a

TANK RANGE - N/A

The face of motorcycling may be changing, and bikes like Yamaha's TDM900, Suzuki's V-Strom
and Triumph's Tiger might - in the near future - be not only useful, usable bikes but also desirable pieces of hardware. So just what is going on in the once-humble adventure sports class?

Hmm, let's get one thing straight right away. Neither the V-Strom, Tiger or TDM are what you'd call sexy motorcycles.

You could (unkindly) almost say they were the exact opposite - pig ugly workhorses best left to despatchers (the few that are left) and those (poor souls) who simply aren't turned on by sportsbikes. But although - to some - these kind of bikes will always be a turn off it seems - and the manufacturers obviously think so - that the market for rugged, do-anything, anytime motorcycles that are relatively cheap to own, run and maintain and, just as importantly, easy to get on with is going to grow over the coming years.

Yamaha have, to be fair, ploughed a lonely furrow for 10 years with their TDM - although for a full decade it's been second only to Honda's VFR800 in the 750-1,000cc sales arena. Triumph joined the field with the first version of their Tiger in 1994 and Suzuki have just, for 2002, livened up the harvest with the
V-Strom. And don't forget next year Ducati will be launching the funkadelic Multistrada. It's getting interesting alright in this corner, and these ain't sportsbikes.

So, in terms of metal what are we looking at? Although the TDM900 is the oldest model here it's had a makeover this year - the 10-valve liquid cooled parallel twin engine has gained a few extra cubes, redesigned internals, a six-speed gearbox and - most importantly - fuel injection. The TDM's suspension package has been uprated with a fair degree of adjustability and the front brake calipers have been robbed from the R1. Cosmetically it looks much like the previous model, just a bit sharper here, a touch smoother there, with a much tidier electronic dash buried up front in the bike's pointy snout.

The Triumph Tiger also got a tickle for 2002. Actually it got the fuel-injected 955cc liquid-cooled 12-valve three-cylinder powerplant which propels this year's 955i Daytona. The rest of the Tiger's pretty much as it was when it recieved a major facelift four years ago, bar some front fork revisions.

Stand up the Suzuki V-Strom, then. A brand new model, powered by the 996cc 90° V-twin engine from the now extinct TL1000S - with some detail changes. The diameter of the intake valves has been reduced 4mm to 36mm to help low and midrange throttle response and, in much the same vein the cam timing has been altered to shift power and torque down the rev range. The pair of pistons are now forged aluminium rather than cast, saving 20g each over the TL1000S items and the rods are shot-peened, making them lighter and stronger. A hydraulically-operated clutch replaces the TL's cable and the V-Strom's fuel injection system borrows heavily from the GSX-R sportsbikes, with dual butterfly valves in each 45mm throttle body. A new aluminium beam frame clamps the motor and running gear is quality but not top shelf - the 43mm forks are non adjustable, while the rear monoshock at least has remote spring preload adjustment (nice touch,
the Tiger has it too) and adjustable rebound damping.

Yamaha TDM review

YAMAHA TDM

All three are physically large motorcycles - they look big. And they are. If you're 5ft 10in or over, no bother - both the V-Strom and TDM will let you get both feet more or less flat on the deck. The Tiger, which is perhaps the most intimidating-looking of the trio is a tippy-toes job as its wide, flat seat forces your legs apart.

Interestingly, bike-rusty Boothy made a beeline for the TDM as, after a quick eyeball, he decided it looked the easiest to manage. And he's right - the TDM is the smallest, neatest package. It feels slim, the bars - unlike the other two - are high and narrow and the screen and clocks seem a long way ahead of you. The lightest (at 190kg dry) by a fair margin (the V-Strom tips in at 207kg and the Tiger tramples the scales at 215kg) the TDM is a cinch to potter around town on, its ease of use only marred by a very direct low rpm throttle feel in first and second gear - both Jim and Steve described the TDM as snatchy.

I felt it was more abrupt than snatchy but regardless It's not a problem anywhere other than at very low speed, because from 2,000rpm to the redline at 8,000rpm the TDM pumps out a lovely mellow twin cylinder vibe which punts it along very respectably. With 76bhp (at 7,300rpm) and 60ft-lb of torque (delivered just under 6,000rpm) the TDM's got less grunt than its peers, but also carries a lot less heft so it all kinda balances out. One area the old TDM really got some stick for was its gearbox - the new bike has laid that bugbear to rest with a licketty-snick six-speed 'box which almost changes by itself. Nicely sorted, Yamaha. Fuel economy is exceptional too - averaging in the mid-40 mpg and giving a well-useful 160-mile minimum tank range.

Out of town the TDM easily cruises at and around the ton, with some spare before it starts straining (top whack is just over 130mph). But really fast cruising is not its bag - the TDM likes to dart in and out of traffic, punchout of roundabouts and rabbit around country lanes. Suspension - on stock settings - is plush, soaking up every road irregularity and minor hillock without a touch of drama. It's very comfortable to ride on any surface is the TDM. But that does translate to woolly, slightly vague steering if you really give it a good hard shove through a set of fast sweepers, say. The answer is to firm up the rear shock with some extra spring preload and compression damping then wind more spring into the front forks - you lose a bit of comfort but it does make the TDM a little more accurate.

The brakes are spot-on, a bit too good for the front forks truth be told, really but do stop the TDM good and quick - again, firmer forks don't dive quite so much. At least the TDM's adaptable to suit any riding style, so whether you're a back lane headbanger or captain comfort you can tailor it to suit.The only real criticism both Jim and Steve had of the TDM was its looks - or rather the fact it could - or should - have been a bit more adventurous. I'm not so sure and in blue the new TDM looks very classy but the yellow on our test bike was a bit on the pissy side.

Nice details abound though, hidden away, like the foldout bungee hooks, integrated grabrail/luggage rack and at least with an 18-inch front wheel you've got a much larger choice of rubber (both Tiger and V-Strom come with 19-inch front wheels). Even sportsbike spunka Wozza warmed to the TDMafter an hour or so in its saddle - whether he'd actually ever fall in love with it is another question but maybe the truth is the TDM's not the kind of bike built for love. It's built for use.

Yamaha TDM 900 Specifications

SPECS - YAMAHA
TYPE - SUPERSPORTS
PRODUCTION DATE - 2002
PRICE NEW - £6550
ENGINE CAPACITY - 897cc
POWER - 76.4bhp@7300rpm
TORQUE - 60lb.ft@5850rpm   
WEIGHT - 190kg
SEAT HEIGHT - 825mm   
FUEL CAPACITY - N/A   
TOP SPEED - 132.2mph
0-60     - n/a
TANK RANGE - N/A

Triumph Tiger review

TRIUMPH TIGER

Talking of desire only a mother could love the boggle-eyed slightly inbred looks of Triumph's Tiger. It is a bit of a monster although it's no man-eater. Just hoisting it around on a dead engine you can gauge its heft, and it's a big ol' boy. Climb onboard and the first thing you grasp are the fat cowhorn handlebars and the horizon-full of white-faced dials, the screen rising vertically up in front of you, almost to eye level. The adjustable seat (it moves through 20mm) is squashy, wide and flat and supremely comfortable which, funnily enough also describes the Trumpet's power delivery.

These three cylinder engines Triumph are building now are in a different league to those of even a few years ago - mechanically quieter, smoother and much more efficient.

They still, however, possess a defined character. The Tiger whirrs its three pistons around with an almost gravelly urgency, which turns to a cavernous roar as the revs rise, very unlike the fluid thump of the twins. With the most outright peak power here - 89bhp at a heady (for this crowd) 9,300rpm - it can hustle, but can only just best the 25kg lighter TDM on torque with 60.7ft-lb delivered, albeit at a lowly 5,000rpm.

It's worth looking at the Tiger's torque curve, because it tell the story of the Triumph's motive delivery nicely - it's making 43ft-lbs at 3,000rpm (as much as a good 600cc sportsbike at peak) and holds a solid plateau of forward thrust until 8,000rpm, where it starts to drop off. Now that's solid performance, the sort of performance which dispenses - pretty much - with the need to bother the Tiger's clunky gearbox.

You do pay for the poke, though, the Tiger drinking gas at the rate of one gallon for every 30-odd miles covered, but the fat tank means you still get at least 150 miles under your wheels before the fuel light comes on.

Our test bike (actually it's our longtermer, adboy Giles will be no doubt adding 20,000 miles and all manner of muffage over the course of the coming year) was set up well on the soft side, which translates to lazy manners and placid response to steering input - in other words, hard work. At least you can haul on the tiller-like handlebars to get the Tiger from side to side but I know from personal experience just how much fun these things can be (I went on the launch of the model before this one in 1998) once jacked up at the back with a load more spring preload and compression damping. Believe me, the Tiger can be a real wolf in, er, sheep's clothing once set up - bags of easy to use power, great vision (you're perched well up in the air, as you are on both the TDM and V-Strom) combined with a chassis that'll cope with little short of anything that comes its way.

Faults? It's got a few - the front brakes could be stronger, and are, frankly just about adequate for a bike this fat. The spoked wheels look groovy but are a nightmare to clean and once you scratch the surface of the Tiger it's probably the least well finished bike of the three, with stray wires loitering in the nose cone and a general, slightly agricultural, feel.

The lime green paint is knockout in the flesh though and prompted some involuntary emissions from passers by.  And funnily enough, Steve, who initially gave the Tiger a wide berth because he felt "it just looks too bloody big..." got on with it very well indeed. Enough to pronounce it his favourite by the end of the day.
Tiger? It's a cub at heart...

Triumph Tiger Specifications

SPECS - TRIUMPH
TYPE - ALL-ROUNDER
PRODUCTION DATE - 2002
PRICE NEW - £7599
ENGINE CAPACITY - 955cc
POWER - 88.9bhp@9300rpm
TORQUE - 60.7lb.ft@5100rpm   
WEIGHT - 215kg
SEAT HEIGHT - 840mm   
FUEL CAPACITY - N/A   
TOP SPEED - 133mph
0-60     - n/a
TANK RANGE - N/A

Suzuki V-Strom Review

SUZUKI V-STROM

Last but not least then, the V-Strom.

I don't think I've ever ridden a bike that's elicited more response to its looks than Suzuki's new tool. Opinions varied from "ugh, it's horrific, somebody shoot it!" to "quite nice innit? Just what Aprilia's Caponord should've looked like..." I'm not a major fan of the V-Strom's exterior - from some angles at the front it looks a touch eagle-ish, quite beaky but smart with it while from others it's slabby (side-on) and just plain ugly (the back). But, regardless of what you think of its visage once you clamber aboard it's all forgotten because everything just snaps into place. The riding position is perfect, comfy, neutral and very well thought out - the bars are exactly where they need to be, the pegs are low enough to give loads of legroom and the seat is only slightly second to the Tiger's in the armchair stakes.

On the hoof the Suzuki's synergy continues - as a complete package (engine, chassis, ergonomics) the

V-Strom holds all the cards. For starters, that ex-TL motor is - as it always was - an absolute gem, punching out loads of instant, useable grunt as and when you require it. Keep it in the sweet zone, between four and eight thou and you will be going forward, hard, with the elastic thump that only V-twins deliver. Peak horsepower? 85.6 bhp @ 7,400rpm with peak torque 0f 63ft-lbs arriving at 5,000rpm. Interestingly the V-Strom has an overdrive top gear - well, a little green light blinks on and says O/D whenever you hook top anyway. It is a tall gear, and drops the revs to 4,000rpm at 70mph which equates to a very relaxed cruise. Even 100mph only dials up just over 5,300rpm. It does mean you can't get too lazy though - the V-Strom will just pull out of 60mph but lugs horribly at 50mph in sixth gear and goes nowhere fast. So you have to leap on the slick gearbox if you want to get going again.

It's a great bike - like the others - for covering motorway miles with good weather protection and comfort. But, out of the crate, the V-Strom is a proper little B-road hooligan. Instant power allied to a really sorted chassis equals a right, proper laugh and I had one of the most enjoyable rides I've had in ages down 30 miles or so of twisting Cambridgeshire country roads, with speeds ranging from 50-100mph and surfaces ranging from very good to very shit. The V-Strom is the perfect platform for hooting around on and simply gels at any speed.

Where you can pick faults with both the TDM and Tiger it's much harder to do so with the V-Strom and I found no reason to fiddle - I just wanted to ride it. Its tank range is a little limited compared to the others, draining to the flashing warning in around 135 miles, at an average mid-thirties mpg.

But they've thought about the rest of it have Suzuki. It's the little things that count, like the V-Strom's adjustable span brake and clutch levers (chipolata-fingered Jim had real trouble with the reach on the Tiger's non-adjustable clutch), the enduro-style hand guards (which the Tiger also has) and, like both of the others, the grab rail come rear rack arrangement - of which the V-Strom's is by far the most substantial.

The dial's are a bit old fashioned but very easy to read and I reckon the 19-inch front wheel - like the Triumph's - is a nod to a perceived big traillie heritage that is simply irrelevant. Get it on a 17-inch rim and some decent road rubber. Bridgestone Trail Wings are ok, but c'mon, this is not in any way shape or form a dirt bike now is it?

CONCLUSION

So really, when you measure these things, all three do much the same job with differing degrees of success. They're all very good transport first and foremost and will eat miles and miles. None are speed merchants but all allow you to make the best use of the power they do produce - and that power itself is very easy to explore, to the limit and back, day in day out. What they don't do is inspire any real desire, any "I simply must have that bike..." passions like maybe a 996, FireBlade or R1 might.

Of the three it's actually quite hard to pick a clear winner. On sheer rideability the V-Strom is the leader of the pack, and, all things considered the best all-round package. At roughly £7,500 plus otr (the Tiger's the same sort of money) it isn't a bargain though, although as with the Triumph you do get a lot of metal for yer money.

The Tiger's fun, but ultimately is going to be too big for some - and it does look like it's been punched in the face. Hard.

Nah, it's the quiet old TDM that just does it for me and £6,500 is the right sort of price for this sort of bike. It is vastly improved this year and with a few little nudges - trick bars, sticky tyres, fruity cans, suspension - could be a real scream. Maybe a full decade after its birth then, the TDM's time has come.

Suzuki V-Strom DL1000 Specifications

SPECS - SUZUKI
TYPE - ALL-ROUNDER
PRODUCTION DATE - 2002
PRICE NEW - £7500
ENGINE CAPACITY - 996cc
POWER - 85.6bhp@7400rpm
TORQUE - 63lb.ft@5000rpm   
WEIGHT - 207kg
SEAT HEIGHT - 840mm   
FUEL CAPACITY - N/A   
TOP SPEED - 125.8mph
0-60     - n/a
TANK RANGE - N/A

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