The Journey

A lovely ugly machine

The story of my new V-Strom starts back in February. Tuesday, 3 February, to be exact. That was the day I took off work and rode 80 miles in the freezing cold and snow for the sake of being one of the first people in the UK to test ride the new Indian Scout.

When I got to the dealership, however, I learned the salesman with whom I had set up the test ride was not there. Nor had he told anyone I’d be coming. The bike was not prepped for a test ride and when I found someone to ask, it became clear they didn’t really want to let me take the bike out on such a rough day.

I spent a little time cursing the dealership, then dropped the issue and wandered to other parts of the large multi-brand dealership. I ended up talking to the Triumph guys and the wheels started turning in my mind over the possibility of getting a Triumph Sprint GT on finance.

You might not have read the post I wrote about the Sprint GT. I wrote it in early February, then kept it on ice for a while because I had applied to be the rider for Harley-Davidson’s Discover More 2015 tour. I thought it might hurt my chances of winning if they read a blog post about my seriously considering getting something other than a Harley-Davidson.

More than 10,000 people applied to be part of Discover More 2015 and I ended up being in that rather large majority of people who will not be getting a free motorcycle and €25,000. Once I learned the bad news, I quietly went back and published the Sprint GT post. Quietly because by that time I had already changed my mind about the Sprint GT.

It’s a hell of a lot of bike for comparatively little money, but a few things put me off. Specifically: the idea of financing one. Generally, when you finance something you’re agreeing to ultimately pay more than what the bike is worth. It’s like going into a clothing store and saying: “Guys, I really like this pair of pants, but I don’t feel you’re charging enough. Let me give you 9 percent more than what you’re asking.”

Like pants, motorcycles and cars don’t go up in value. Whereas it might make sense to take out financing on a house, to do the same with a motorcycle, car, or the like is to throw away money.

The exception to this, of course, is when someone offers you 0-percent financing. OK, yeah, technically you are “losing” the amount that interest would deliver if you were to put the same amount of money into a savings account rather than a finance payment but interest rates of UK savings accounts are presently so poor as to be almost irrelevant.


Long story made slightly less long, on Jenn’s suggestion, I hunted down a dealership offering a 0-percent Personal Contract Purchase deal on a number of different bikes. On top of this, the dealership was offering the Suzuki V-Strom 1000 Adventure for £1,000 less than Suzuki’s suggested OTR price. Plus, they threw in heated grips and a centre stand.

With my Honda as partial trade in, I was able to get monthly payments that are less than the amount I was putting into savings each month toward a new bike.

This, I’ll admit, is what put the Suzuki on my radar: to quote James Carville, “The economy, stupid.”

From that point, I started reading as many reviews as I could find and comparing it against similar machines, namely: Kawasaki Versys 1000, Triumph Tiger XR, Honda Crossrunner, BMW F800GS and Yamaha MT-09 Tracer (aka Yamaha FJ-09).

The Kawasaki is probably the most similar to the V-Strom 1000 in terms of its ergonomics and abundant passenger accommodation. Moto-journalists tend to give it the nod because it has a little more horsepower. But I don’t like the new look of the Versys 1000, and there’s suggestion its inline four can be buzzy at high speeds. Also, to get all the bells and whistles I’ve got on my Suzuki I’d have had to pay almost £2,000 more.

To get the Triumph similarly equipped would have cost about £500 more. It’s even uglier than the V-Strom, its seat doesn’t look quite as accommodating of a passenger, and it wasn’t available with 0-percent financing. Also, the Tiger XR is an all-new model, released only a few months ago, and Triumph doesn’t have a great track record of getting things right the very first time.

As for the rest, the Honda is insanely expensive, the BMW is insanely expensive to equip and not quite as road-focused, and the Yamaha looks cheap to me.

What about the Thruxton?

In the comments for my previous post I had a handful of folks say they wouldn’t have expected this move.

“I must say I’m surprised,” wrote Le Chofforobe. “I thought you would buy a cruiser or the Thruxton.”

Well, that was sort of the plan, wasn’t it? I’m a big fan of the Triumph Bonneville and the Triumph Thruxton but have temporarily written them off because they lack certain features I find essential, namely anti-lock brakes.

If Triumph were to offer a Bonneville with just a few more horses (at least 80 horsepower), anti-lock brakes and tubeless tires I’d be all over that. After all, I’ll admit I’m not a huge fan of my V-Strom’s adventure looks; but the features and overall riding experience more than compensate for aesthetics.

There have been spy shots in recent months of both a new Thruxton and a new Bonneville being tested. These, along with EU regulations that take effect in 2016, have most people anticipating a new Bonneville line being revealed at EICMA in the autumn.

But, you know, there’s no guarantee that these new Triumphs will be what I want them to be. They’ll have ABS, but what about other aspects? Power? Tires? Additionally, see what I said above about Triumph not always getting things right the first time. These bikes will be running new or dramatically changed engines. It’s probably best to wait until at least 2017 to allow time for kinks to be ironed out.

Add to this the fact the Honda I used as partial trade-in was not getting any younger. It was 10 years old and right at the point where its value was certain to start plummeting. Especially once I had clocked up all the miles of my trip to Italy this summer.

The opportunity to get the V-Strom came at the right time, at the right price, and it seemed silly to me to wait and hope that Triumph would finally deliver something they’ve made no strong indication of delivering.

Plus, you know, motorcycle ownership is not marriage. If Triumph (or Moto Guzzi or Victory or anyone else) does produce my dream bike in a year or two, I can always trade in the Suzuki.

For the time being, though, I think I’m going to enjoy riding my lovely ugly machine. The weather has just turned nice here in the UK, the clocks have gone forward and delivered more daylight after work, and I can think of all kinds of places I want to go.


(a) I am still targeting a return date of 4 July 2019