Suzuki pretty much had the budget middleweight market sewn up in the 1990s. Their Bandit 600 was greater than the sum of its parts and a real best seller, but sitting on their laurels wasn’t an option for Suzuki.
The middle ground was to go for a happy hunting ground occupied by Ducati and their pretty Monster 600, which is more than likely what prompted Suzuki to tool up and develop the SV650. Arriving in late 1998, the new model followed the Bandit format – there wasn’t just one SV650 but two to choose from. The naked bike was obviously cheaper and retailed at £4,200 with the faired model, called the SV650S, costing around £300 more.
Pricing any new motorcycle can make or break it. Suzuki got the market just right and the SV650 went on to be one of their most successful models of recent years. The heart of the bike is a 645cc four stroke V twin developed especially for the new bike. Early ones used carbs and it wasn’t until 2003 that Suzuki reworked the SV and kitted it with emission friendly fuel injection, as well as more angular styling.
Early bikes were very curvy, from that rounded off fuel tank to the seat unit, it looked good and not dissimilar to Suzuki’s own TL1000S, another V-twin cashing in on the late 1990s trend for thundering great twins . What version of the SV ticked your boxes very much depended on what sort of riding you did, longer trips would be better with a fairing but if you did lots of urban riding, the naked was probably the better bet. Either way, the price was budget and the suspension basic. In a world that was obsessed with upside down forks and ample rebound adjustment, the SV was no trendsetter. Even the brakes weren’t that advanced, but somehow it worked ok. The V twin engine is a little gem and it was no wonder the SV spawned its own race series. Even now, those ex mini twin bikes regularly appear at track days. They were built to a cost though, so build quality is the SV’s biggest downfall. Exhausts are a weak spot, much like the Bandit, they suffer around the collector box area. Aftermarket parts are popular but many detract from Suzuki’s efforts. A standard bike will always be better on the second hand market.
How does it ride?
The SV650 makes a great first big bike, that V twin engine allows for a nice slim chassis. The riding position is relaxed, more so on the naked version, but even the sportier S version won’t cause you any aches – although it is more ‘sport’than ‘sports touring’. Standard set up bikes will always ride nicer. The SV is sensitive to exhaust and end can swaps, if you want a noisier silencer be prepared to pay out to get the carbs set up accordingly. The SV gives you that punch that only a twin pot motor can. Even when you’re giving it a good thrash, the brakes will do a decent job of stopping you, although the soft suspension at each end hinders the bike’s full potential. This can be addressed by fitting upgraded kit. Longer journeys aren’t really its strong point and it’s much more of a point and squirt option, but if touring is your thing the V-Strom 650 was launched in 2004 using the same engine. These V-Stroms have a strong following as entry level adventure bikes.
What goes wrong?
We spoke to Vinny Styles, sales manager at Suzuki dealership Wheels Motorcycles in Peterborough. He said: “The fact that Suzuki can still sell you a brand new SV650 shows how important this bike is. The earlier bikes often arrive for part-ex deals, many have passed their sell by date but every so often we get a mint one arrive. Exhausts are a weak spot, badly repaired originals are often the norm. Like the new SV650 these bikes appeal to those who are after their first bike post test. There’s no shortage of existing customers that started out on a SV650.”
What goes wrong with them? We spoke to Chris Tombleson at Grumpy 1260.
“We get plenty of these in and many of our customers buy these for track day bikes. With some new fork springs and a decent rear shock, you can cheaply inject new life into the these old girls. The engine is pretty solid, the cam chain tensioner can stick which leads to a noisy motor, but it’s a cheap fix. Rectifiers are a weakness, again, it’s a cheap job to remedy. Prices have actually started to go up for good ones, maybe they’re heading for classic status?”