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MD Ride Review: 2000 Suzuki SV650

There is a feeling about bikes that many people share. If a bike is exciting enough for an experienced, talented rider, it will be too intimidating or difficult to ride for a beginner/novice. On the other hand, if a bike is user-friendly enough for a beginner/novice, it will be boring for the experienced or talented rider.

Suzuki has made a motorcycle that defies this logic. It is the SV650. Recently, while in Monterey for a press introduction, I rode in a van with a writer for Roadracing World, Kevin Duke. Somehow, we started to talk about the Suzuki SV650, and Kevin stated something to the effect that “I never grinned so much while riding a motorcycle.”

Watching Kevin ride at Laguna Seca that day, I realized that he is an extremely talented and experienced rider, and not someone who would be easily impressed by a motorcycle. In light of this, I was anxious to try the SV650 for myself.

I have been riding the SV650 for three weeks now (at least, when I can wrestle the bike away from my wife, Kim), and to say that I am impressed would be an understatement.

At a U.S. MSRP of just $5,749.00, you might expect the SV650 to feature recycled technology. With the lone exception of the relatively unsophisticated suspension (that nevertheless works well on the street — more about that later), the SV650 is far from unsophisticated in the technology department.

The ninety-degree, 645cc, v-twin features double overhead cams and four valves per cylinder. Its design is derived from its larger siblings, the TL1000S and TL1000R. This motor is absolutely state-of-the-art, and its power output confirms it. Although reported dyno figures vary, the SV produces roughly 69 horsepower at 9,000 rpm, and 45 foot pounds of torque at 7,000 rpm, at the rear wheel! Very impressive numbers for a v-twin of this displacement.

The frame and swing arm, although developed by Suzuki in part for good looks (cast aluminum rather than chromoly steel, but it still looks a lot like a Ducati Monster frame, doesn’t it?) is extremely strong and stiff. You won’t be able to tax it on the street, and it apparently makes a pretty decent racing chassis, as well.

Don’t take my word for the stout nature of the SV’s chassis. Harris Performance Products of England has a great racing pedigree, and is known for designing frames and chassis parts for high performance roadracing motorcycles. Harris took on the task of modifying an SV650, and came away so impressed with the stock frame that they decided to leave it alone. In fact, Harris developed a big-bore 750cc kit for the SV650, and found the lower end of the motor plenty strong enough to handle the extra power. Quite impressive.

Okay, so the motor and the chassis are very good. What about the handling? If anything, the handling is even more impressive. Start with the stiff, well designed chassis we have already discussed, and add to it extremely low weight (362 pounds dry — according to Suzuki) and quality rubber (the stock tires are Metzeler Mez 4s — 160/60/17 rear and 120/60/17 front), and you have a stable, yet nimble package. Although the suspension is quite soft for hard charging through the corners, the chassis almost makes up for it. With slightly stiffer suspension, the SV650 would simply rail corners like any true sportbike.

The softish suspension turns out to be perfect, however, for most everyday riding purposes. In town or freeway commuting is a comfortable experience, except for extended trips at high speeds, where the lack of a fairing can get tiresome on any naked motorcycle.

The brakes, in keeping with this theme, are excellent for a bike in this price range, undoubtedly aided by the low weight of the machine. It was easy to modulate both front and rear brakes, and haul the SV down quickly without drama.

Our test SV returned over 45 miles per gallon on a lengthy loop involving varied riding conditions (approximately 30% in-town commuting and 70% open highway). The 4.2 gallon tank provides close to a 200 mile range — more than enough on a naked bike.

The SV’s six-speed transmission, is smooth, and the gear ratios are well spaced. With the SV’s broad torque curve (providing good pull from 3,000 rpm all the way through red line), you have more than enough gears to work with, and sixth gear is comfortably high on the freeway (allowing you to cruise just about as fast as you would be comfortable cruising – without significant engine vibration).

How do I sum up the Suzuki SV650? The SV appeals to me for a lot of reasons. It reminds me of the “big” twins I first rode on the street many years ago (remember the Honda CB450, for instance) with its distinctive power pulses and induction sound. It’s light years better, of course, but the simple essence of riding a motorcycle is there — I like that. The SV is light, nimble, easy to ride, predictable and fast. It also looks like a real motorcycle, with its frame and engine contributing to its essential, functional style. At $5,749, it’s simply a great bargain.

SV650
SPECIFICATIONS

MSRP*: $5,749
Engine: 645 cc, four-stroke, liquid cooled, 90° V-twin, DOHC,
8-valves, TSCC
Bore/Stroke: 81.0 x 61.6 mm
Compression Ratio: 11.5:1
Carburetor: Mikuni BDSR39
Lubrication: Wet Sump
Ignition: Digital/Transistorized
Starter: Electric
Transmission: 6-speed
Final Drive: #525 chain
Overall Length: 2070 mm (81.5 in.)
Overall Width: 750 mm (29.5 in.)
Overall Height: 1060 mm (41.7 in.)
Seat Height: 805 mm (31.7 in.)
Ground Clearance: 140 mm (5.5 in.)
Wheelbase: 1430 mm (56.3 in.)
Dry Weight: 165 kg (363 lbs.)
Suspension:  
FRONT: Telescopic, coil spring, oil damped
REAR: Link-type, 7-way adjustable spring preload
Brakes:  
FRONT: Dual hydraulic disc
REAR: Single hydraulic disc
Tires:  
FRONT: 120/60-ZR17
REAR: 160/60-ZR17
Fuel Tank Capacity:

16 liter (4.2 gal.)
15 liter (4.0 gal.) CA model

Color: Red, Blue