What's with the Whole Beak Thing?

I’m really not sure whether I should be spending my brain cells thinking about this matter, but from the industry’s point of view, I’d say it’s worth talking about the motorcycle beaks. With the new version of the Suzuki V-Strom 650XT ABS, something tells me that we’ll see more of these beaks in the future.
Far from being a matter of right or wrong, to me this whole beak thing seems like yet another marketing trick… again related to the segment of adventure or adventure-ish bikes. That is, because this segment has started to sort of fall apart in the last 10-20 years, meaning that it got fragmented into multiple sub-classes. Problem is that the real do-it-all adventure bike of yore has become a rather rare bird these days, with the manufacturers opting out for ruggedized street bikes with more compliant suspensions they still call “adventure,” despite an obvious lack of proper nerve for the task.

The V-Stroms have never been exceedingly beautiful or ugly bikes. The new ones are following in the trend of the class, but still, what Suzuki refers to adv bikes are delivered with cast wheels which simply can’t tackle rough terrain too well. Because the big V-Strom 1000 is trying to get a piece of the cake other big-bore bikes enjoy, it got a beak.

The standard 650 Strom is beakless, but its new, better equipped XT ABS version got one. Of course, it got decent wire wheels which are more useful off the road than all the beaks in the world, but still… why this completely unnecessary add-on?

Suzuki has a beak reminiscent of the old big DR bikes, such as the 750 and 800 Big models, but this could be easily attributed to the rather peculiar design approaches some bikes designed in the ‘90s had. The BMW F650GS also had a beak, and the R1100GS, R1150GS and even the new F1200GS and GS Adventure have one. Or the F800GS. And a front fender, too.

Other similar machines have thankfully not bought into the beak industry, and we can still enjoy bikes such as the Yamaha and KTM with good-old clean looks. triumphs are beak-ish, too.

Oh, and there were some other beaked bikes, but they were on another hardcore side of the motorcycling world. The Ducati Hypemotard and the SMC machinery from Mattighofen, the KTM 690 SMC and 990 SM R… which did not have a full front fender and could be somehow exempted from this.

The beak is surrounded by urban myths

Now, we might start a debate as to the functionality of the beak, with the most common reasons I’ve heard being the extra protection from the muck one rides in and some added downforce at highway speed.
In my book, neither of these affirmations stands. First of all, I’ve personally ridden a lot of bikes on dirty roads and muddy trails and they seemed to get just as dirty – or stay as clean, for what’s worth as the Beemers which had sometimes been present. Whether it was a TDM, a Transalp, 990 Adventure or Varadero, there was nobody in the group who would look at the BMW guy in awe and wonder how come his bike was so clean.

As for the downforce, this claim is even funnier. First of all because these bikes are seldom ridden at speeds high enough to provide such a lift that needs winglet or spoiler compensation. If we looked at the Kawasaki Ninja H2R, maybe such discussions made some sense, but when speaking of downforce to keep the font wheel of a 650 Strom down, things become funny.

After talking with several other buddies about the beak thing, we have sort of agreed that this add-on is merely an aesthetic upgrade to the bikes, and is meant to convey a more off-road-aggressive message. Even on this level, things can be refined, especially as putting “off-road aggressiveness” and “V-Strom 1000” in the same non-negative sentence is funny. Further down the hair-splitting lane, it looks like the beaked version of the V-Strom 650 has not received the warm, enthusiast welcome Suzuki may have expected. Au contraire, some riders were not at all shy to say the bike is fugly.

At the same time, it’s hard to fail to observe the strong resemblance between the design cues of Ducati’s new Multistrada generation. Even though positioned differently, the “nostrils” are nevertheless there and they DO ooze Multistrada looks.

Until better explanations come at hand, I’ll stick with the adv-ish looks theory. If I were to take a wild guess I’d say we WILL see more beaks in the future, simply because they seem to help a bike look more evil and off-road-worthy. They are about as helpful as the wings of the ’59 Cadillac convertible, even though I have to admit that some of the cars in that era looked sharp. But it’s definitely not the case with the new V-Strom 650, which looks more like a last-minute idea some guys came up with after the last design brainstorm meeting was canceled.

A poor, useless so-called update and a rather pathetic way to “draft in” some credit from the bigger BMWs or the Multistrada which, even though is far from being a popular adventure machine, is still shrouded in a mysterious, alluring halo. Please stop.
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