Wednesday, January 23, 2008

This is Adventure Touring!

Any questions?

LED Side Markers Add Visibility

Although equipped with superb headlighting power, the V-Strom is limited in the lighting department elsewhere. With no parking lights, side lighting is nonexistent and this worries me that I'll be easy pickins' in traffic where unwary motorists won't 'recognize' my V-Strom like other vehicles are normally viewed. To avoid that confusion, I'm installing side marker LED assemblies - two amber units up front and two red units at the rear. They'll be mounted on the bottom surfaces of the fairing 'tupperware' and illuminate the side of the bike while in traffic.

For just $6 per unit at WalMart, these weatherproof, three-LED encapsulated marker lights are perfect - their flat sides allow for industrial strength Velcro fastening out of sight in the daytime but clearly visible at night - classy and practical. A separate switch on my fabbed rear power panel will control these parking light additions.

The Electric Kit and Kaboodle

The immediate desire to upgrade one's V-Strom is too easy with all the great resources online. To make use of the many electrical accessories, it is wise to install a fuse box with the capacity you'll need for future add-ons. After researching the subject, this is where I went to accomplish my electrical upgrade path.

Jim Davis lives in Japan and builds premium electrical harnesses for motorcycles. He also dispenses the Powerlet line of plugs and connectors, a variety of fuse boxes and all the electrical components you'd ever need to wire your bike to the highest automotive code. His Eastern Beaver ( cycle website is replete with kits and bits that will turn your ride into a local utility for accessories through fused protection against the elements.

I asked Jim to rig me up a variation of his deluxe 6-fuse box harness to equip an even bigger 8-fuse version with ground cables and all - what he calls the Whole Kit and Kaboodle. And it's just that - a fully fused electrical harness that will accomodate all the add-ons I have planned: LED side lighting, a Battery Tender charger conduit, future GPS and XM connections, Symtec heated grips, a Kuryakyn battery monitor and more. Here's what I got:

Main Harness

Ground Harness

I'll be documenting the installation on this transformation to the V-Strom, along with help from John at V-Strom Riders International (, who's electrical writings offer excellent guidance to any budding bike electrician's dreams.

More as this project develops...

The Perfect Adventure Tourer

I've only had my 2007 650 V-Strom a month or so now, but after riding and reading all that is published on this Suzuki wundercycle, it's hard to be modest. I mean, when you hear of Beemer F650 and GS riders opting for a brandy new V-Strom and praise it's lighter weight, linear power and torque, low maintenance, high reliability, uh... do you see what I mean? Once you get started it's hard to stop telling the world what you've found.

Tell you what - I'll change the subject a little. Let's talk about me instead, OK? As an aging adventure seeking, young at heart type, the V-Strom fills the bill for my style and need in an adventure touring cycle. It's not heavy (I thought so at first, but I'm acclimated and love the whole feel now), it turns on a dime, it's incredibly smooth fuel injection/throttle technology is state-of-the-art in motorcycles (goodbye carburation!), it possesses a modest suspension for us mature laid back riders, and has a slew of mainstream name brand accessories available for it.

As good as it was debuting in 2004, the 650 V-Strom keeps getting better - and in important ways, not just trim packages and color changes. Check out these changes for 2007:
  • Optional ABS brakes (right on!)

  • Wheelbase increased from 60.6 into 61.2 in (more comfy...)

  • Dual spark plugs for increased combustion efficiency and improved emissions

  • Graduated Chevron Tank Graphic (that's cooler too)

  • New rubber boot protectors at swingarm pivot

  • Hazard switch was moved outboard of the Hi-Lo beam switch as a separate button switch

  • Larger kill switch and starter button is a larger sprung rocker switch instead of a button

  • Luggage rack revised from silver to black.

  • Deletion of idle adjustment screw (requiring special tooling for throttle body synchronization).

  • Dry weight increases from 418 lb to 427 lb (no biggie here)

Motorcycle Nirvana?
With an abundance of used 650 V-Stroms available online - and many with a list of farkles to sweeten the pot - the V-Strom phenomena is like nothing I've ever experienced. This is the most reasonably priced bike of its kind - and it beats out the competition in almost every way. For example, Kawasaki's Versys is a competent design, but it can't hold a candle to the V-Strom's stock configuration for daily use. A Beemer delivers a higher level of handling performance but costs plenty more with its maintenance-heavy schedule and expensive parts continuum. KTM dual sport bikes are legendary, and you'll pay for it with your wallet and your posterior. Besides, I wanna go to rural America, not Cairo - but I could if I wanted to, huh?

And yet, the V-Strom is no slacker in the get-up-and-go department - I can always hit 70 mph a lot faster than I want to. And that without an embarrassing fuel mileage average either. The Wee is a potential 200-250 miles per tank road bike, thank you very much. Ask your buddies how far their bike will take them on a tank. Finally, add some offroad clearance for fire roads and hauling capacity to the V-Strom for a bike that balances more needs than any other design for the money. And here's the best part - it's rock solid dependable. Even first year models are still purring along at 50,000 miles or more due to Suzuki's world class build quality and user-friendly service intervals. (Hey, I intend to do the 12,ooo mile valve check/adjustment myself...)

So, are you looking for an easy to ride, affordable, power and torque-endowed, on-road/off-road, coooomfortable, dependable and economical motorcycle? I think I found the perfect choice for you. It's called a Suzuki DL650A V-Strom.

Why a DL650A V-Strom?

After a hiatus from riding on two wheels for a few years (due to a stolen, but recovered, Honda NX250), I finished off 2007 with the purchase of a slightly used (6,234 miles) 2007 Suzuki DL650A V-Strom in classic metallic Oort Gray (the 2008's are painted in Yellow and Flat Black - yuk!).

Almost bought an end-of-year stock model but found this jewel a day before buying. So, on December 8th I found myself in Ft. Payne, AL (three hours from Knoxville, TN) at Pro Source Motorsports and looking at a very well farkled machine. I had made my deal on the phone and although a fellow from Texas was making plans to buy and freight the bike to his house, my check was written first and I trucked it home in my son's pickup.

What a deal! Besides being ridden only 5 months, this bike was loaded! First, it is the ABS model which is a bit hard to find and even better when you're not really paying for it! I managed to get this bike with all its accessories for $1000 under its original street price. Now, add these premo farkles :

Hepco and Becker Engine Bars

Stebel Air Horn (this thing is loud!)

OEM Suzuki Gel Seat

OEM Suzuki Center Stand

OEM Suzuki Handguards & Mirror Extenders

Fenda Extenda


Givi E36 Monokey Hard Side Cases

Avon Distanzia

Windstrom Manta Windshield

And best of all - a 48-month Suzuki Extended Warranty through 2011! I'm still shaking my head in disbelief...

Here in East Tennessee we get many warm days and I'll be on the V-Strom every chance I get. My few hours on the 'zuk have already convinced me this bike is going to be perfect for commuting and long/short range trips any time I get a chance.

In the meantime, during these colder winter months, I've been modding this adventure tourer as follows:

OEM Swingarm Spools (for dealer repairs, etc.)

Dan Vesel Switchplate and Kuryakyn Battery Monitor

46-liter Bestem Hard Top Case

3M Black Reflective Tape

Koozi Koka Kola Kooler (PVC pipe & test plug...)

LED Side marker Lighting (from WalMart)

Symtec Heated Grips

8-Fuse Wiring Harness (from Eastern Beaver)

Rear Power Panel (Battery Tender and auxiliary power)

Grip Puppies

In another couple months, I'll be ready to write some trip reports from our area - so stay tuned!

DL650A Rear Brake Pad Upgrade: EBC FA174HH

Among the compromises in performance the DL650 series suffers from is its squeamish rear brake performance. Stock organic brakes are designed to remain cool and functional but compromise the potential braking capability in the process and just don't provide enough 'bite' to make the rear brake as useful as it needs to be in traffic and trail braking on the road. What to do?

Higher performance HH-rated brake pads are a sintered type with embedded metallic components that really grab your rotor well. EBC's HH-rated sintered brake pads are among the best available brands for increasing efficiency in your DL650 V-Strom's rear brakes. The newest version comes with stainless steel liners to segregate heat at the pad base from migrating into the caliper assembly - cool, literally and otherwise.

But it's important to get the 'right one' as the base plates on all brands are not alike. Apparently, the DP versions have a different tabbing and move a bit in their slots - not recommended. I spent some time locating data on the subject and this is what I found:

These are an older version - we don't want them...

... this is what we're looking for! Two pads with a cooling groove and look at that stainless liner!

In addition to the spiffy liners, look carefully at the profile of the pad for proper fit with correct tabbing and use with stock retainers. Damaging parts at installation is not a confidence builder when it comes to your brakes, huh? And although one vendor published a warning of not mixing sintered with non-sintered front and rear brake pad sets, my ABS-equipped V-Strom will obviously not suffer from this issue.

Here in the States, the EBC FA174HH rear pads are the obvious choice for fit and performance. I purchased my EBC 174HH Rear Brake Pads from Motorcycle Accessory Warehouse on January 22, 2008 for $35.50 shipped.

Sunstar 16T: Add a Tooth for a Bigger Grin

The DL650A's stock 15T front sprocket keeps you a little busier than I would like in slow speed driving (up to 50 mph) - especially the short shift from first to second gear at traffic lights, etc. I'm installing a 16T Sunstar to increase gearing by 6.5% and get more use out of the lower gears in local driving. (With its already generous low-end gearing, the higher sprocket ratio shouldn't affect sub-20 mph navigation either.) This change-up will also slow the engine down at highway speeds (65-80 mph) by about 300 rpm for less overall bike buzz and a bit more fuel mileage as well.

For all aspects of riding from street to highway, you would almost think the bike should have had the 16T from the factory and let those who want to gear it down do so for more low speed performance on strictly local commutes. Some folks have gone up to a 17T sprocket for extended highway travel, and that makes sense too, but a 16T is considered the best choice for mixed travel.

I purchased my Sunstar 16T on January 22, 2008 at Dennis Kirk for $25.94 shipped.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

European GT and Touring V-Stroms

Guess what? Along with the X semi-offroad model, Suzuki offers a GT and Touring model of the V-Strom in the UK. Here's a quote from a V-Strom forum in Europe...

"Its a Uk edition (GT), that gets 2x35litre hard case panniers, 1 48litre hard top case, heated grips (love those heated grips!) and a centre stand."

Here's a lineup of 'em all:

Hey, Suzuki, what about US (United States, that is)?!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

ABS Brakes - How Good Are They?

This is an extract from an ABS test published by MOTORRAD edition 19/2006.

Tested motorcycles:
BMW R 1200 R (with the new Continental-Tewes ABS)
BMW K 1200 S (FTE ABS)
KTM990 ABS (Bosch-Brembo ABS)
BMW F 800 S (Bosch ABS)
Honda CBF 1000 (Nissin-Honda ABS)
Honda Varadero 1000 (Nissin-Honda ABS)
Ducati ST3 a (Bosch-Brembo ABS)
Triumph Sprint ST (Nissin ABS)
Suzuki V- Strom 650 (Nissin ABS, similar to a Bosch system)
Kawasaki ZZR 1400 (Nissin ABS, similar to a Bosch system)
Yamaha FJR 1300 A (Nissin ABS, similar to an early Bosch system)

Stopping performance is measured from 100 - 0 kph, as an average of three runs.

Dry Stretch - equals a normal road

11,7 meter - these are worlds in between the BMW R 1200 R and the Yamaha FJR. Here we have to say that even the FJR in actual practice still functions safer and realizes shorter braking distances than the average rider.

Bad Stretch - includes bumps, edges and potholes of randomly different dimensions

Again the R 1200 R leading an the FJR trailing. But in between them the test field is changing positions. Here the KTM benefits from its longer suspension travel, which filter peak impacts out before it reaches the ABS sensors. The oposite is demonstrated by the Kawasaki. It develops too much slip at the front wheel. The BMW R ABS regulates well with only minor impact on braking performance. 42.6 m means earlier stand still than others on the smooth stretch.

Wet Stretch - evenly water treated with the help of a sprinkler system

With 9,43 m/s the BMW K 1200 S reaches phenomenal braking power in the wet. A contribution of the long wheel base, which keeps the front stabil. The DL650 demonstrates the importance using the rear brake even with ABS. The brake distance was 10 m longer without the rear brake.

'Friction Jump' - a stretch of alternating wet and dry segments, each 20 cm wide

This is the acid test for the ABS's regulating quality. Brake distance of more than 50 m delivered even by the top performers do speak a clear language. The BMW F 800 S ABS regulates harshly but effective. The Kawasaki ABS is careful and therefore too defensive.


Never again without! The is the short version and actually all we needed to say, after our experiences with 11 ABS motorcycles. And here is why: What even a very skilled rider can do only occasionally under best conditions, and sometimes only with a lot of luck, that is what the newer ABS systems can do any time - safe braking in the shortest possible distance! The art is to master the effectiveness of the regulating logic in conjunction with the comfortable and clear operation for the rider. It is BMW who gets both under one roof with their new ABS generation. Honda is second with only average braking results, but these systems are top in terms of regulation sensitivity.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

ABS vs. non-ABS Brake Performance Study

The following 2003 excerpt was published when many bikes were still without an ABS option. The meters per second squared figures they refer to are a measurement of stopping power over distance - more is clearly better. Once you get past the clunky Europeanized English grammar you will learn a good bit about this superior braking technology.

As a 2007 Suzuki DL650A (ABS) owner with touring aspirations aplenty, I appreciate this feature more than any other aspect of my bike. It will make a believer of ABS out of you, so read and appreciate this study - it may save your life someday! It already has done so for others... enjoy.

The Human and ABS


Can ABS systems relieve the motorcyclist when doing braking errors, or even solve eventual braking problems themselves just as well? A comprehensive analysis.
by Waldemar Schwarz

From MOTORRAD 10/2003

The Top test of the Yamaha FJR 1300 with ABS (MOTORRAD 6/2003) drove them onto the barricades. Ultimative late- and megabreakers cemented their prejudices. An active discussion around the allegedly small value of 8,4 m/s² swapped over into the motorcycle on-line forum. Allegedly, because test professionals create values around 10 m/s² under ideal conditions, which approaches the physical limit, depending upon type of motorcycle. Volker Deutschmann assumed a technical mega flop, and , oh misery, he had ordered a FJR 1300 ABS blindly without test drive. His only hope: It may perhaps not at the ABS's fault, but at the tires, which were supposed to be suitable for low outside temperatures only. Or the full moon might have been the culprit. Bernd J. comments: "I cannot imagine that Yamaha designed really such a muck ... the values with ABS are accurately those, which every normal motorcyclist can achieve at any time."

Latter statement gets rightfully relative through other contributions: "With all justified criticism, the actual braking distance is still shorter, than what a normal driver without ABS gets out. Or he is landing on his beart, owing to an overbreaked front wheel. Interesting it would be, as how the breaking results with and without ABS not only for the professional breaker is. Would it be different also for the average rider?" Just the question, which MOTORRAD now finally is out to clarify - not at least in order to eliminate questionable "wisdom" once for all.

"Motorcyclist of the Year", a sumptuous fundus top driver list
Important preliminary work had already been carried out by the MOTORRAD ACTION TEAM in connection with the search for the "Motorcyclist of the Year 2002". During the prequalification rounds of the braking competition several hundred participants had to pro stop from an initial speed of 70 km/h within shortest distance possible. A measuring instrument noted accurately the process of the delay, as well as the force. From this sumptuous fundus the MOTORRAD team could get a comprehensive picture.

Exemplary the results of two mixed groups were analyzed, which are good for a nice surprise: The average braking results of 19 drivers from the first group amounts to 6.2 m/s². To make it clear: This is a value, which is regarded completely tidy looked at by itself. Under the default assumption however that this exercise shall address ambitioned motorradcyclists, who do estimate their driving abilities as rather high, it appears this value is only average. And besides, it is far from the level which was achived by the FJR 1300 with ABS.

Even more remarkable: The engaged sport driver parliamentary group with Yamaha R 1, Honda Fireblade and co. did not turn out by any means as a superior brake species, but braked with 6,1 m/s² on the average even still slightly more badly than the remainder of the motorcycle world. Absolute front runner is R 1150 GS rider Aaron T. He created - owing to ABS system – an average value of 7,9 m/s². Certainly without exhausting however the potencial of the ABS system completely.

The second group with 26 riders braked amazingly better than the first, with an average delay of 6,8 m/s². But with some analysis the difference is cleared up fast: Six BMW boxers and F 650 GS riders with ABS do drive the average of the group up. Measured isolated, they did get results from 7,2 to 8.1 m/s² - clearly over their competitors. Only a lonely Yamaha TDM 900 rider can mix together with them. With 8,1 m/s² he is in the top group of the ABS guys.

If one looks closer into the details of the braking process, the measurements prove clear as glass: Even above the average experienced motorcyclists do not exhaust the potenzial of their brakes appropiately. Because they do serious mistakes. As the normal rider uses in case of emergency far less than 50 per cent of the possibilities of the stoppers (italics ours), experienced twowheelers do likewise lose time and thus valuable meters when stopping. The reason: About the speed the speedometer informs, but with slowing down the pilot must alone rely on his feeling. And this often deceives. Individuals sure achieved during the process of their braking values of up to 10,0 m/s², but their hesitant structure of applying brake pressure destroys a good total delay. Over half of the pilots start to brake with extremely small brake pressure, and increase it continuously up to the end of the braking. An instinktive behavior, which is understandable from fear of malicious overbraking, thus already at the beginning of the braking enormously long distances are given away.

However, an ABS can manage the fast application of brake pressure safely (italics ours). A fact, which is proven by the large extent good results from the riders with ABS system. These result are from the hard grasp into the brake, so already after two to three tenths of seconds they reach about 80 per cent of their maximum delay. But not only at the beginning of the braking process without ABS valuable meters are given away, but also in the further process. Many riders increase the brake pressure continuously, forget however far before tire blocking their own courage and loosen the brake briefly, in order to then start the same braking game again.

With most participants from our search for the "Motorcyclist of the Year" indeed we noticed several overlaying weaknesses. Out of altogether 45 drivers, 25 develop the brake pressure too slowly, 16 of them loosens the brake out of fear for overbraking - completely unnecessarily far before the tires blocking. Real world result: Out of 45 routinier brakers in the whole only eight earn truly this titel, with 3 from them originating from the ABS camp. And this is the result, even the drivers had time and opportunity for exercising braking. An opportunity, which we did not give during the next scene of crime.

Rooky meets Routinier: "Good braking with ABS"
Five motorcyclists (box starting from page 65) with completely different ambitions and backgrounds first show on the highway, what the level of braking skills in real motorcycle life is like. All skills are represented: The rookie Mirjam Mueller, the normal drivers Daniel Alves de Jesus and Manuel Fuchs, as well the experienced sportracer Oliver Noske, and last but not least the seasoned routinier and milemuncher Volker Deutschmann - exactly the one, who had kicked off the discussion about the ABS of the Yamaha FJR 1300 A in the motorcycle on-line forum.

The first exercise: Each rider rides a round course of 35 kilometers in the Swabian-Frankish forest, which consists a mix of badly visible bends, fast straights, and from far visible in mountain and valley bedded changing twisties. Everything, what usually the motorcyclist heart desires. Each pilot must complete the course without route knowledge or other leading motorcycles, exactly as during a tour in the real life. Available was a choice of ABS motorcycles of completely different shades of character, choice depending upon personal gusto. The choice was in between the BMW F 650 GS, the sporttourers Honda VFR 800, and Ducati ST 4S, up to the powertourer Yamaha FJR 1300 A. Rookie Mirjam preferred the BMWS F 650, Daniel and Manuel grabs the VFR, Ducati-998 owner Oliver naturally the Ducati ST 4S, and FJR owner Volker, how could it be different, the Yamaha. The machines are equipped with DATA Recording, which notes the speed process and the delays accurately.

The result: The average braking results of all participants are in between 2 to 3 m/s². Whereby it should be reminded, that we are not talking here about full stops until standstill. With the peak values the test field was pretty close centered around 4,2 to 4.4 m/s². As a proven top braker Volker was outed. His values were tendentious more high. Once he even peaked with 6,4 m/s². Asked for the reason, he immediately replies with the explanation: "I wanted to try out whether the ABS comes into action." He would have to activate the stoppers however far more violently.

This chance is offered a short time later to the candidates. From the Swabian-Frankish forest our way leads straight onto the racecourse Hockenheim. On closed terrain each driver can not only get a sense of his own capabilities, but also of the ABS, and safely explore the borders of physics. The tasks: To complete a full stop at everyones personal limit from an initial speed of 100 km/h without net and ABS. The drivers do not know whether the ABS is activated or not. Again data recording notes each delay, additionally distance and speed measurements supports the individual results.

And this now is completely different: The bandwith is between 5,5 and 7,0 m/s², and is accurately in the range, which the "Motorcyclist of the Year" group had achived. Again Volker brakes the others out with no mercy. He needs some time in order to develop a high delay, increases then however to the limit of the FJR without ABS: 9,5 m/s². If he would not have lost so many meters at the beginning of the braking process, he would have come to an absolute top result. But still, a respectable 7.9 m/s² in average is a good achivement. Nevertheless, it misses the maximum of the FJR with ABS clearly.

Next: Exercising is what makes the master. Now the five shall push their own limits futher, and learn confidence in the different ABS systems. After numerous brakings Mirjam improves with the BMW into areas of over 8 m/s², and remarks for still higher delays her hand strength is not sufficient. We believe however it rather being a psychological barrier. Daniel uses the real potencial of the VFR ABS. The same applies to Manuel. Oliver with confidence in the electronic aids gets 10 m/s². A range, within which the Ducati slowly begins to lift the rear wheel, but the ABS still does not regulate! Volker overcomes with a trick the ABS limitations of the FJR, with individual braking pulses by proportional building up of brake pressure he creates 9,5 m/s². For the rehabilitation of the others it should be noted, that this routinier tested different ABS systems in the past already. Thus, he knew how to get most out of it. With normal ABS action we got a typical 8.5 m/s² for the Yamaha.

After the experiences with the three other motorcycle models during the test runs all five drivers came to the same result: The ABS of the VFR is among the tested systems unquestionable the first choice. It does not confront a driver with any sort of problems. Even critical Volker Deutschmann agrees, as the other participants, that ABS means an enormous increase of rider safety. The potencial of an ABS system is skyhigh over that of each normal driver. The difference is so high, that even after a lot of practicing they can not make full use of the motorbikes braking potential with no ABS.

Four of the five candidates nevertheless now have learned reaching delays, which they would only dream about at the beginning of the test. The dimensions, the knowledge, of what is really feasible have enormously shifted up. After intensive exercise. But ABS is better - and can still do more. It can care for all the little insecurities of our daily lives, as there are slippery patches from road repair works, suddenly emerging obstacles, or just a suddenly wet road within your brake zone.

Such conditions – as MOTORRAD already had proven with numerous previous tests – can only be safely mastered with the assistance of ABS. Each ABS offers a strong safety plus, which pays in case of emergency the investment of 500 to 1000 Euro completely back, not talking about health matters.