DL1000 vs DL650

Check out any of the V-Strom forums and you'll certainly run across a common and controversial question--I want to buy a V-Strom, but should I choose the DL1000 or the DL650?  Since I am in the unique position of having owned both models, I'll devote a page to a comparison of the two.  I'll do my best to be objective, but at the end of the day each rider must choose a motorcycle that best matches his/her own personal preferences and riding style.  Now that the disclaimer's done, lets look at the two side-by side:   

APPEARANCELook at the photo above and decide for yourself.  I've found that most folks think that  the V-Stroms are quite ugly, but to me their homeliness is really quite endearing.  The two models might appear almost identical, but I prefer the looks of the dual exhaust on the DL1000 and also the appearance of the belly pan below the engine on the big brother.  Not a big advantage, but I really like the appearance of the DL1000 a little better.

ACCELERATION:  Just what you'd expect; the performance numbers favor the more powerful DL1000.  The few road tests I've seen on the two have the litre-bike about 1/2-sec quicker in the 0-60 sprint, 6 or 7-tenths quicker in the 1/4 mile and a top speed of about 125 MPH vs 115 MPH for the DL650.  If you are making your decision strictly on straight-line acceleration the obvious choice is the DL1000, but then again if that is of supreme importance you might want to consider a sportbike instead.  My own opinion is that the real-world difference is not as great as the numbers might indicate; I have never felt underpowered aboard the 650, and in most riding situations it just doesn't feel significantly slower than its big brother.

STREET HANDLING:  Though Suzuki lists the DL650 as about 40 pounds lighter dry weight, it feels even smaller; perhaps it's the slightly lower seat height, but the wee-Strom seems to have a decidedly lower center of gravity.   These factors translate into a ride that makes the 650 much more nimble and "flickable".  Low-speed  and parking-lot maneuvers are simply easier on the smaller bike.  This is not to say that the DL1000 is a slug; it's not a superbike, but it can be a very capable canyon carver in the hands of a capable rider.  Both bikes are a pleasure to ride on the street, but the handling nod must go to the DL650.

OFF-ROAD HANDLING:  Neither bike is an enduro machine, but either can survive pretty well off-road.  I do quite of bit of riding on gravel ranch roads, and I have found that this is the area where the differences in the two bikes are the greatest.  Simply put, the lower weight and lower center of gravity of the DL650 give it a real advantage over the DL1000 when the pavement ends.  Either ride will be too heavy for the average rider to toss around, but  it's definitely less work to keep the 650 in the vertical position.

HIGHWAY RIDING:  Most of my riding is done solo, at highway speeds on lightly-traveled state highways.  I was surprised to discover that there was very little difference between the two bikes under these circumstances; I had assumed that the larger motorcycle would be much more stable on the road, but that simply wasn't the case.  Both cruised smoothly and effortlessly, and both offered plenty of passing power when needed.  I don't normally ride two-up, but I asked a buddy along on a ride to see how both machines fared under load.  The results were predictable; the DL650 performed pretty well with a passenger and luggage, but the added grunt of the big Strom might be welcome in the hills or in passing situations.

MISCELLANEOUS:  Both bikes run well on 87-octane fuel, but the DL650 delivers 8-10% better economy than does its big brother.  The DL1000 has a hydraulic clutch mechanism, but the cable-operated setup on the 650 is so smooth that there is no noticeable advantage to either.  Speaking of smooth, it's a nice one-word description of the DL650's engine; it's a real jewel.  It is much more quiet and refined than the DL1000 powerplant, which emits a large range of mechanical noises.  The overall ride experience of the 650 is much smoother, with the DL1000 responding with more brute force.  Perhaps the biggest surprise for me is the difference in the way the two engines deliver their power.  You might think that the smaller engine would be "peaky" with low torque, but it seems to me to be quite the opposite; I found myself downshifting the DL1000 more often that I did the DL650.  The Wee-Strom just seems to be more linear in its power delivery.

As might be expected, the DL650 lacks some amenities that are standard on the larger bike--hand guards are just one example.  In my opinion, neither bike  offers adequate protection for the front-mounted oil filter, but the DL1000's plastic belly pan at least offers some protection from flying rocks.  The aftermarket has recognized the popularity of both the V-Stroms, however, and you'll find a pretty good selection of add-ons, accessories and farkles to make your ride uniquely your own.

SO WHICH IS BETTER?  Depends on your reasons for buying the bike.  If you're a sensible Consumer Reports-type of buyer you'll be wise to choose the DL650; you'll get about 90% of the performance of the larger bike for about 74% of the purchase price.  You'll save on gas, and the 650 is generally much less expensive to insure.  It's for good reason that many motorcycle publications include this machine on their "best buy" lists, and Cycle World magazine (09/06) says that the DL650 "may just be the most shockingly competent machine in the world today." On the other hand, if 2-up touring is your style or if you just can't live with a bike that won't run sub-12-second quarter miles then head for the DL1000.  It's a little embarrassing for an AARP-eligible minister to say, but there's something about lifting the front wheel off the pavement that still brings a silly grin to my ugly mug.  Either machine will leave its owner with a smile, but if you force me to make a choice I'll pick the Wee-Strom every time.  At this time there's only one bike in my garage--a DL650--and I couldn't be more satisfied with the choice.