For some, the Suzuki V-Strom 650 is complete right out of the box. My 2008 model, though one of the most practical and ergonomically pleasing bikes I have ever owned, seemed to be begging for modification. The chance of my ever riding it off-road is slim to none, so I set about improving it for medium- and long-distance road trips.
The suspension and tires needed to work more like they were designed for a street bike. Matt Wiley of RaceTech, after considering my 165-pound weight and the type of riding I planned, modified both fork legs with 45-pound springs in each side and RaceTech Gold Valve emulators. The latter changes the single-stage damping rod into a two-stage adjustable damping mechanism, smoothing out the ripples and taking away the big hits (racetech.com; about $500 plus shipping).
Progressive Suspension recommended a 465 Series rear shock with RAP adjuster (p/n 465-5007), which I found very easy to fit and set up. The rider’s weight and the use of the bike are important information to get the correct recommendation (progressivesuspension.com; MSRP $745.90).
The DL650 came equipped with Bridgestone tires that had provided over 8,000 miles of good service, so I decided to stay with the brand and fit Bridgestone’s sport touring, street-only Battlax BT023R front and rear (bridgestone.com; MSRP for the pair $437.17).
A Leo Vince exhaust system saved eight pounds with an increase in horsepower and torque while maintaining an acceptable sound level. The fit was easy once the rear shock was removed. Looks and sounds the business too (leovince.com; MSRP $719).
I’m a prostate cancer survivor, and during my battle with it I discovered a style of seat that—unlike regular seats—does not apply any pressure to the perineum area, relieving a cause of inflammation. I discussed this with Tom Seymour of Saddlemen, and he was quick to see the advantages for older riders and incorporated the design into various models of his seats (saddlemen.com; MSRP $399.95, with heater $549.95).
Every touring rider needs a practical set of luggage. I saw the Kappa set at a recent bike show and it was just what I needed. Either saddlebag can be used as a solo top box for use around town. Bags and mounting hardware are available only through tourandride.com (MSRP $732).
Probably the most bang for the buck is to simply change the brake pads. DP pads for the front and rear made a nice improvement in braking feel (dp-brakes.com; MSRP $87.90).
Accessory lighting certainly improves safety, particularly for night riding on backroads. A pair of PIAA LP 530 lights were recommended and installed (piaa.com; MSRP $299.99).
Frustrated that car drivers simply do not respond to the wimpy standard horn? Get a pair of (high and low note) Fiamm Freeway Blasters (fiamm.com; MSRP $34).
I like riding in cold weather, but not with thick, bulky gloves. Problem solved with Suzuki’s own heated grips. Easy to fit, except the harness plug on my bike was buried behind the radiator, which had to be removed to make the connections (suzukicycles.com; MSRP $349.95).
Hand guards work well in cold weather; Suzuki offers a pair that fit well and look good (MSRP $59.95).
A centerstand is essential for long-distance touring, particularly if you have to remove the rear wheel. Suzuki offers one that was straightforward to fit (MSRP $269.95).
At 8,000 miles there was no need to change the chain, but I wanted to raise the overall gearing for less stressful freeway speeds, and fitting a new chain with a new sprocket is good practice. I used a 44-tooth rear sprocket from Sprocket Specialists (sprocketspecialists.com; MSRP $86.99) and a chain from RK (rkexcelamerica.com; MSRP $141.91).
With all the changes I had made, I just had to change the bike’s look to simple but striking. “Sparky” at Castle Body Shop in Los Angeles, a long-time motorcycle rider himself, recommended Screaming Tangerine from the Ford Paint catalog (castlebodyshop.com; $800).
With lots of electrical gizmos to power and charge, a 12-volt power outlet is essential. Powerlet has a great system that is very easy to install and comes with all the needed connectors (powerlet.com; MSRP $59.95).
Finally, a higher rated battery is a smart choice. I went with the latest Shorai LFX Lithium Iron 18 amp-hour battery. It is incredibly light and small compared to conventional batteries (shoraipower.com; MSRP $159.95).
(This article Wee-Strom Makeover was published in the February 2013 issue of Rider magazine.)