I looked at a plethora of different bike types before settling on a Suzuki V-Strom. It is relatively cheap, reliable and mechanically straightforward.Its designed mainly for paved roads, but its long suspension is perfect for negotiating the rough surfaces of South American roads.
I purchased the bike in March of 2011 with 9,000 miles. In preparing the bike for the trip I added following accessories:
- Fork brace – the front fork brace makes for much improved handling.
- Adjustable, oversized windscreen – cuts down greatly on wind buffeting.
- Aluminum skid plate – The oil filter is very exposed on the V-Strom, so this was a must have for the numerous speed bumps in Mexico and points south
- Aluminum panniers Offer extra security, waterproof, and make the bike easier to pick up when it falls over (don’t ask how I know).
- Heated handlebar grips – for extra comfort in cold conditions
- Led auxiliary headlights – make the bike extra visible
- Stebel Nautilus air horn – as well as being as visible as possible to other traffic, the air horn ensures that I will be heard also.
Update March 2012
I’ve now put over 15,000 miles on the V-Strom and it has exceeded my expectations.
In that time the bike has been ultra reliable. I’ve had a few issues mostly due to bad fuel, but otherwise the bike has held up exceptionally well, given the conditions. Maintenance in those 15,000 miles consisted of:
- Two tyre changes, front and rear. I could have gotten extra mileage out of the first set, but I changed the tyres in Colombia, where there is decent availability. The tyres had a few thousand kilometers life left in them at that point, but I was concerned about availability further south of Colombia. I am using Metzeler Tourances, and am very happy with the grip and durability.
- Five oil changes, two filter changes.
- Two front brake pad changes. I change them well before they are worn out and carry the old ones as spares.
- One fuel system cleaning – Needed due to idling issues caused by poor quality fuel in Costa Rica and Colombia.
- One Air Filter change – replaced stock air filter with a washable filter.
- Replaced battery: The original battery gave out not long after departing.
Aside from regular maintenance, there have been two issues that have needed attention:
- Bolts securing headlight assembly/upper front fairing came loose after months of riding on rough roads
- Stebel Air Horn compressor failure – Months of accumulated dust and dirt had jammed up the compressor, but after a good cleaning it is functioning again, although not quite as loud as before
I’ll post a longer update at the end of the trip.