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2017 Suzuki SV650: MD First Ride

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The Suzuki SV650 is an icon. It is the quintessential do-it-all motorcycle of the past two decades … a beginner’s learning device, an expert’s play thing, a racer, a commuter, and even a tourer with the right accessories. Suzuki got the formula right from the start.

We first reviewed the Gen 1 16 years ago, followed by the Gen 2 roughly 13 years ago. Not only an excellent motorcycle in stock form, the SV650 formed the base for modification by both racers and street riders. We recently ran a series of articles regarding Gabe’s own SV modifications.

Suzuki got so much right with the original SV650, but most important were the 90° v-twin engine and the stiff, lightweight frame that allowed riders to push performance levels as high as they dare. But can the basic design of a motorcycle survive, and thrive, close to two decades after it was initially introduced? We attended the 2017 SV650 press launch last week to find out.

For the 2017 model year, the SV650 does receive many changes and refinements. The 645cc DOHC 90° v-twin has more than 60 new parts. Among other things, Suzuki went to great effort to reduce friction inside the motor and increase combustion efficiency. New pistons and cylinder heads with twin spark plugs contribute to Suzuki’s claims of increased power and fuel economy. All together, Suzuki claims the new SV650 makes 10 additional horsepower — a total of 75 — when compared with the original model, and four horsepower more than the recent SFV650. Torque remains unchanged, and you can feed the bike regular, unleaded gasoline.

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A new “Low RPM Assist” feature increases engine rpm slightly as the clutch is released to smooth take-offs and reduce stalling. Suzuki is not the only one employing this type of feature in order to address one of the major concerns (stalling at take-off) of beginner riders. The SV650 also has the “Easy Start” system we first saw on the GSX-S1000, which allows the rider to start the bike with a quick tap of the start button (no need to hold it down until the engine fires). We like this feature.

Another major difference from the original SV650 is the switch to a steel, trellis frame from the earlier aluminum beam design. The new seat height (30.9″) is even lower, and the bike overall is a couple of pounds lighter than the Gen 2 (15 pounds lighter than the 2015 SFV650). A new fuel tank shape gives a different look and holds 3.8 gallons (3.6 gallons in California).

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A new instrument cluster is legible (very high contrast)  and very thorough in the information it offers (even including gear position and fuel economy monitoring). The brightness level can be adjusted by the rider.

The new SV650 continues with a non-adjustable 41 mm fork and single rear shock with adjustable spring preload. The shock features a rising rate linkage system. The 17″ wheels hold a 120/70 front tire and a 160/60 rear.

The front brakes are dual 290 mm discs pinched by two-piston calipers. A single 240 mm rear disc utilizes a single-piston caliper. Suzuki is offering both a Standard SV650 together with an ABS-equipped model (the SV650 ABS).

It is worth noting that the 430 pound curb weight claimed by Suzuki is 31 pounds lighter than the claimed weights of both the Honda CBR650F and the Kawasaki Ninja 650 ABS. The SV650 ABS adds less than 5 pounds to the claimed curb weight. Two other competitors are lighter than the new SV650, including Yamaha’s FZ-07 (397 pounds) and Ducati’s Scrambler (410 pounds).

The new SV650 combines that very low seat height (riders as short as 5′ tall should be able to touch down – on tippy toes) with an upright seating position and decent leg room. The bike is very narrow, and the new tank design contributes to this sensation with pronounced knee cut-outs.

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Pulling away from a stop, the artificial increase in rpm (the anti-stall feature primarily aimed at beginners) worked seamlessly. We were a bit surprised, frankly, because the last time we rode a bike with a similar feature, the jump in rpm felt more abrupt, while the feature on the SV650 is essentially invisible to an experienced pilot.

This is a very easy bike to ride. Small, nimble and with near perfect fueling, the new SV650 pulls away from a stop easily, and the six-speed transmission changes gears positively and with very low effort. Most modern motorcycle transmissions are pretty good, but the transmission in the new SV650 really stands out. Whether cruising around town or riding aggressively in the canyons, the bike never missed a shift and never required excessive effort at the gear lever. A fantastic transmission … even by today’s standards.

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For a 650 twin, the 2017 SV650 is fast. More importantly, the engine power delivery is very flexible with good power at lower rpm levels and a seemless rise to a good rush all the way to redline at 10,000 rpm. All the while, vibration levels are very low (the 90° twin is inherently balanced), and the feeling and sound experienced by the rider are more than pleasant. With the updates, the original SV650’s excellent engine is still excellent by today’s standards.

We rode the SV650 very hard at this press launch with our ride leader setting a blistering pace through some very tight roads. The bike got a real workout and never blinked. We never had to think about opening the throttle aggressively on corner exists while still leaned over — unlike many, modern fuel-injected machines, the new SV650 picks up from a closed throttle with no abruptness whatsoever. It feels like a dialed CV carb, in this respect.

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The chassis is very forgiving. Despite some less-than-smooth riding, at times, we never lost grip. In fact, the stock tires held like glue (Dunlop Sportmax Qualifiers), and ground clearance seemed quite generous (it was rare to touch the feelers down, despite some frequent deep lean angles). If you are wondering whether the new steel frame provides a stiff enough platform for racing, we think that it does.

The brakes provided adequate power, but not a lot of feel. The simple, front sliding two-piston binders are going to be a limiting factor at track days for sure, and even aggressive street riders may want more power and feel (particularly, for trail braking). For most riders, however, the stock brakes will do the job well enough.

Suspension action seems improved over the earlier Gen 1 and Gen 2 models. We didn’t have any complaints about the shock during our roughly 100 mile test, and the fork appears to absorb bumps better than the fork on the older models. Again, most street riders won’t have much to complain about here, but track day enthusiasts and aggressive canyon carvers might want to drop in a fork cartridge emulator system to provide more supple damping up front. Nevertheless, during some extremely aggressive riding at the press launch, the fork worked with the rest of the package to offer good grip and control.

The stock seat for the rider is hard (the padding is thin), and it slopes from back to front … pushing the rider towards the tank. Granted, our test rider (yours truly) is well over 200 pounds with gear on, and a lighter, smaller rider might not have the same issues. We will ask Suzuki for a test unit, and have riders of different shapes and sizes test it out.

Overall, we found the handling of the SV650 excellent. Not only is it nimble in the twisties, it is very stable in a straight line at higher speeds.  Again, this is a very easy bike to ride and it instills confidence. We don’t see any reason why the new SV650 shouldn’t appeal to the same broad range of riders as the original, from beginners to experts and everyone inbetween. Together with being easy to ride, it is fast and fun. The v-twin also offers that unique, endearing character.

The 2017 Suzuki SV650 will be available next month in U.S. dealers at an MSRP of $6,999. You have a choice of Pearl Mira Red or Pearl Glacier White (both shown above). The ABS model will cost you $7,499, and is only available with the red color scheme. The ABS model should be in dealers roughly 30 days after the Standard model.  Follow this link to Suzuki’s web site for further details and specifications.

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80 Comments

  1. Grover says:

    I’ve ridden SV’s a couple of times and it strikes me as a fun bike that would be great for commuting and Saturday morning rides. Sure, you can use it for longer rides, but there are much better alternatives. I have not ridden the latest version, but I can imagine it’s probably a little bit better in every sense. It would be wrong not to test ride this bike before you make up your mind as there are few bikes around in this price range that make the smooth, tractable power that the SV’s do while not looking like they were designed by UFO flying aliens from another dimension.

  2. jimmihaffa says:

    The proportions of this bike seem right on and the round headlight really adds to this effect. I’m glad that Suzuki eschewed the Darth Vader style fairing/headlight applications of some previous designs. Others have mentioned it and though I know you addressed it, Dirck, the suspension quality on these budget middleweights is often so bad that it really often does make sense to ante up for the GSX.

  3. jimmihaffa says:

    The proportions of this bike seem right on and the round headlight really adds to this effect. I’m glad that Suzuki eschewed the Darth Vader style fairing/headlight applications of some previous designs. Others have mentioned it and though I know you addressed it, Dirk, the suspension quality on these budget middleweights is often so bad that it really often does make sense to ante up for the GSX.

  4. cw says:

    “the artificial increase in rpm”

    So the rise in RPM is just made up?

  5. Iowaguy says:

    I was looking at the FZ-07 hard, then found out this bike was on its way but not until June. Who wants to wait. But I was going to. The more I looked at it, the more I tried talking myself into liking it. However, I found a red holdover ’15 FZ-07 for $6400 otd and could not pass it up. After riding it for a week, I’m glad I didn’t wait for the Suzuki. The FZ-07 is a downright hoot to ride. It’s like a locomotive in the engine department, torque everywhere. And it sounds amazing as well. Some observations between the two that jump out to me:
    wider wheel/tire on the Yamaha, better seating, better tires, can easily change color of bike with the tank covers on the Yamaha ($62 each side), modern swingarm, better lcd display with outside temp, more modern styling, MADE IN JAPAN, did I mention the engine in the FZ? Oh, the FZ is 33 lbs. or so lighter. Dealers will NOT be marking new 2017 SV’s down one bit either. The FZ is still the king of cheap, fun for all motorcycles.
    The SV is basically just an updated (barely) 2009 gladius. Looking at these pictures, I’m glad I chose the FZ.

    • xLaYN says:

      >MADE IN JAPAN

      Interesting… where is the SV made?

      Also no comments about burning tights, that radiator doesn’t look that big.

    • TomT says:

      FZs swingarm looks modern but is actually steel

    • cw says:

      “Better”.

      How do you know? You never rode the Suzuki.

      • Grover says:

        “Better” as in – don’t believe everything you ride on the Internet.

        • cw says:

          I’ve been trying to think of a shorthand way of saying this.

          This is it.

          /bestow many internet points unto Grover

      • Blackcayman says:

        You’re so glad you didn’t wait – only because you are riding… CW is right…How would you know its better???

      • bmidd says:

        I have. I owned a 2004 SV650. I see no reason to be excited about Suzuki dusting the tooling off and popping these things out again.

  6. Fabio says:

    Wonderful engine but dated brakes along with whats with the headlight is it off a 1981 GS series? Yamaha FZ7 had better styling and brakes! This is the best Suzuki is offering for a budget bike and Yamaha has it covered.

    • Neil says:

      It’s a decent bike for its desired buyer. The real fans would replace the shock and put Gixxer front ends on them. But it’s really about the motor which was raved about year after year. Now if someone could just get fuel injection to feel like a carb!

      • Jeremy in TX says:

        “…unlike many, modern fuel-injected machines, the new SV650 picks up from a closed throttle with no abruptness whatsoever. It feels like a dialed CV carb, in this respect.”

    • cw says:

      great. so go for an FZ. The point of the bike, as reported since February, is something more classic.

      And that’s something MANY people wanted compare to the SFV650.

  7. Stuki Moi says:

    Sounds pretty amazing. Suzi’s 650 twin is, as far as I’m concerned, the finest sporting VTwin engine ever put together. And the ergos looks to be about as close to perfection (aka Honda 919) as an all around naked can get.

    In addition, I think it looks spectacular. Better than any Monster since the air cooled ones. And better than the new Scrambler as well. Everyone else seems too bent on overstyling their bikes in one direction or another these days. While this one just looks like an honest motorcycle for the 21st century.

    • TimC says:

      “And the ergos looks to be about as close to perfection” – are we looking at the same seat???

      • Stuki Moi says:

        Just referring to how Dirck sits on it. Pegs look properly placed. Not too rearset, like on some later model earlier ones. I’d have to look at the bike in person (and sit on it) before having an opinion about the seat.

      • Neil says:

        I sat on this bike at Daytona and the seat is “why bother” horrendous. It might be ok for a small person but I am 5’10 and the pegs were too close for having the bars so high. I leaned forward as if clip ons were there and it was better that way. Even a race bike has a flat seat. Why? So you can move back and not sit in the same spot. – It’s a nice bike but it will need a Corbin seat like the one on my CB500F which is perfect.

        • TimC says:

          Yeah Stuki may need to try it but one look and these are exactly the type of (though not the complete list) issues that are just nad crushingly apparent.

    • dman says:

      I just saw this comment; I too think this is better looking than any recent Monster. I own a round-headlight early Monster as well as a DL650, and this new SV is a great blend of the best features of both. The seat can always be fixed, but the 3.6 gallon tank (I’m in California) is a disappointment.

  8. Jamo says:

    I didn’t see the weight difference vis a vis the Gladius. I presume they are about the same weight. Other than 4 horsepower, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of difference between the two, some farkles. Which is okay wqith me, I don’t need electronic suspension or power modes. But I don’t really see much difference with the Gladius, which might be a good used alternative at about half the price.

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      That should be enough extra power to be noticeable plus better fuel economy if the claims prove true. It is 15 lbs lighter than the Gladius and looks much better in the eyes of many. But the fact that the new SV isn’t vastly different from the Gladius or the original SV is the whole point of this bike, I think.

      • GearDrivenCam says:

        The new SV also appears to be 30 lbs MORE than the original SV. Where did that extra 30 lbs come from?

        • Jeremy in TX says:

          The fully-fueled wet weight of the 1999 original was 417 lbs according to CycleWorld. Some of that extra 13 lbs is probably in the exhaust if I had to guess. The rest is maybe a result of the steel vs. aluminum frame. I don’t really know, though.

          • cw says:

            The radiator is a bit bigger Gen 2 and up, I believe. There’s some additional plumbing for the liquid-to-liquid oil cooler. The Gladius and the ’17 have to cope with catalytic converters.

  9. SVGeezer says:

    Sooooo,

    Where’s the “S” version?

    We. Are. Waiting. (in surprising numbers)

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      So out of curiosity given good brakes, fork and shock (say GSX-R600 equivalents), what premium over stock would people be willing to pay for an SV650R?

      • Stuki Moi says:

        For a fairly low, short travel bike which worked well ridden aggressively for a 200+ plus ex motocrosser like Dirck, and with a frame that “may” not be as suited for stiffer suspension and grippier tires as the old girder stiff alu trellis, I’d want to wait and see.

        A “version” somewhere between this, a Strom, a Drz and a Hypermotard, would warrant pricier suspenders, though. Vstrom 1000 suspenders and electronics should be up to the task, in a lighter, shorter, less touring focused package with this revvier, lighter more compact and sportier engine, perhaps. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink….

    • cw says:

      What are the numbers? Is there a sign up? Online petition? FB group? Flash mob?

  10. Neil says:

    There is no reason for the rear subframe to curve up like it does and thus have a seat that is not a seat. This is a HUGE mistake. Flatten the rear subframe like ALL custom builders do. You should be able to move forward and back on the seat going into or out of corners. The FZ07 is better for this reason alone.

    • TimC says:

      Yeah I have an FZ6; I had the seat modified by a local (Fort Collins actually) seat guy, mainly to raise it/lessen knee bend without lowering pegs, but also to lessen the angle so I wasn’t having to scoot back from the tank all day long. He said he basically fixes this on every seat he does. The seat angling thing to help shorter people feel confident is a terrible design decision and the example pictured here is easily the worst I’ve seen of it.

      If touching down confidently is important (clearly, it is) then it’s time for the correct design solution of adjustable and/or different seat options (i.e. non-adjustable but tall/short) rather than this continued trend of horribly compromised ergonomics.

      • Fred says:

        I watched a youtube vid yesterday with talks from the Engineers and test rider for the SV. The seat Eng. gets a go, and he is really pleased with the seat outcome. I have hated every Suzuki seat on every bike I’ve owned (many) AND now his face and name is on my dart board.

        And if you wonder why the windscreen on any Suzi buffers, The Senior Test Rider looks on the short side AND he also is pleased with the low seat height.
        Wonder who the Eng.is who likes a stuttering fuel injection system as he gets a go on most their bikes too.

        How many shorter riders actually like this ‘sloping fwd’ outcome?

        Do they just trot off to Corbin etc anyway and all the taller riders sacrifice is for nil benefit to all.

        • Jeremy in TX says:

          Most motorcycle buyers don’t change the seat, or at least that is what I think based on years of casual observation.

          I am a short rider who has no issue with tall bikes, but most short and especially short new and intermediate riders see being able to get two solid paws on the ground as extremely important and would consider the forward slope a trivial concession in order to have the confidence provided by two flat feet.

          Just as short riders sacrifice in the adv market, so you tall bastards must sacrifice in the intermediate/beginner classes. And we both compromise with all the other bike categories in between.

          • mickey says:

            Another munchkin here. I have a hard time believeing tall people have trouble finding bikes to ride. As a short person my choices are so limited it’s unbelieveable. 31″ is about my max and 30″ is even better but please feel free to post up a list of bikes with a 30″ seat height that aren’t cruisers. Nothing in serious bike catagories. Tourers, sport tourers, adv’s ( not even the little 650s), nothing in the liter bike catagory comes to mind. All sky scrapers. A test sit on most bikes leaves legs dangling in the air. I have never bought a custom seat for a bike, but I have had to have some cut down. Yes, reaching the ground is more important to me than butt comfort. I can ride with a sore tush, can’t ride laying on my side with a bike laying on top of me.

      • cw says:

        Which there is supposed to be for this bike, but we are still waiting on official announcements regarding accessories.

  11. mickey says:

    not sure who gets the blame for the jacked up rear ends on bikes that requirs slope seats,forcing rider into tank, and appendages to hold the tail light/licence plate, forces an elevated mini perch for a passenger and an unsightly gap between the rear tire and rear fender (if you can call that a fender), but it was always and still is, a bad idea and other than KTM, Suzuki seems to be the worst offender

  12. TimC says:

    “and a lighter, smaller rider might not have the same [seat sloping forward] issues”

    No, one look at the seat and it clearly is a nutbuster of epic proportions. Good grief, half the seat is sloped. No moving around to change position on a long ride there, either.

  13. Butch says:

    Another well written review of one of the best all around motorcycles ever produced.
    Steel frame weighs less than than the aluminum version, 10 more horsepower.
    What’s not to like ?
    Well let’s start with that Donald Duck tail section.
    Makes the “twins” ache just looking at it.

  14. steveinsandiego says:

    back in the summer of 2009 i was looking for a sport bike after riding three cruisers over 11 years. i wanted an sv650, but could not find any new ones in socal; went with a ninja 650, keeping it 6 yrs and 56k miles. now i ride a 2015 suzuki v strom 650 (same engine as new sv). it’s a bit taller,and therefore falls into the curves a little more easily.

  15. mickey says:

    I really like this bike. It’s on my short list of bikes, to believe it or not, replace my ST 1300 when I retire it and quit doing the ultra long distance thing. Would make a great solo back road bomber and week end tripper.

  16. Larry K says:

    On a side note, the V-Strom 650 shares so many of the same attributes but in a roomier package with more suspension travel for a cushier but controlled ride if you’re taller/heavier/older than average. My 2006 naked-ized V-Strom (440 lbs w/gas actual weight) is my all-time favorite real-world street bike after 45+ years riding and 70+ bikes of all types.
    Like I said, just a side note, not to take anything away from the SV. Same but different.

  17. Mike D says:

    I bought 2003 SV650 as a left over in 2004. It just hit 50,000 miles this past week. It’s the most reliable vehicle (motorcycle or otherwise) I have ever owned. I’ve added Traxxion Dynamics drop in damper rod emulators and a Penske double clicker in the rear in addition to SS brake lines. Everything else is stock aside from a few OEM accessories. Looking forward to another 50K and beyond. Glad this bike got a great remake!

  18. Tom R says:

    I wish that this bike and others like it had belt drive. (Now let’s hear from all the chain and sprockets fans/masochists)

    • Half Baked says:

      A good o-ring chain requires very little maintenance and they are extremely durable. Also the larger diameter pulleys required for a belt always look out of proportion when compare to chain wheels.

      • Scott says:

        Not to mention what a pain that would be for the thousands of people who take their SV’s to the track, and need to be able to change gearing easily…

        • Dave says:

          Probably more like hundreds, but if it were enough, the aftermarket would come up with a chain conversion fast enough.

          • mickey says:

            2 things the Japanese have developed absolute faith in, shim under bucket tappets and oring chains. Doubt you will see many hydraulic valved, belt drive bikes coming out of Japan. Shame too. They could build some amazingly maintenance free bikes if they had the impetus.

    • steveinsandiego says:

      tools and i do not get along; i’m not bashful about admitting taking my bike to an indie for tires, chain replacement, and valve work. but my 05 kawi vulcan classic included shaft and hydraulic valves; gadzooks, i could pull nearly all maintenance myself: Oil/filter, shaft drive oil, plugs, air filter – all right there in your face, as accessible as possible.

  19. pacer says:

    If I were Suzuki I would offer an option to get upgraded suspension etc. Car manufactures do this why doesn’t this industry. If you want Brembos on your new Mustang you can have it from the factory. Seems like a missed opportunity.

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      It works for Triumph, Aprilia and Ducati, apparently, but no other manufacturers really do that. Maybe the price-point on a bike like the SV650 is designed around very specific economic order quantities that can’t be dinked without an unacceptable risk tolerance concerning their forecast margins.

      • Scott says:

        Seems like they could offer a GSXR front end as an option, since that’s what everybody does anyway…

      • John says:

        Yamaha has an ohlins option for the r1 and had that option on the 2006 model and so does Honda W the current cbr 1000

        • Jeremy in TX says:

          True, but the up-spec R1M and CBR1000R SP are intended to be low-volume, highly specialized machines and appeal to an entirely different kind of customer. Plus they are really the first attempts from those or any Japanese manufacturer (at least in my motorcycle memory) to bifurcate their product into to distinct component part trim levels.

          Triumph and Ducati in particular have been doing this for a long time with more “casual” machines in addition to their sport bikes.

      • Dave says:

        The homoloation special has been around for a while (Japanese & Italian makes). I do not recall many examples of a “hot-rodded” budget motorcycle.

    • azi says:

      It would probably end up the same price as a GSXR600 by the time you add sports performance suspension and brakes. So you’d get a heavier bike with less power than the gixxer for similar dollars.

      Suzuki already tried the performance V-twin thing with the SV1000 and no one bought them.

      • xLaYN says:

        There is a phrase on the gstwins forum that says: the cheapest way to make the GS500 faster is to sell it and buy an R6.

  20. Jeremy in TX says:

    Simple and honest are hard qualities to beat, IMO. This bike speaks to me in a way that other bikes in its class do not. In fact, it speaks to me in ways that many bikes from many other classes do not either. Steel frame, aluminum frame… It deserves to be called an SV. The only other bike that really tickles my wallet right now is the 2016 KTM 690 Duke.

  21. azi says:

    I was surprised to read about the forks. Still damper rod units that need an emulator upgrade? That’s one SV tradition that’s not so good. I was (mistakenly) under the impression they had moved to a basic cartridge fork.

    • matt says:

      yeah, no kidding. Keeps me (and a few others) busy putting GSXR guts into the forks, though. The FZ07’s damper rods are FAR worse than the SV’s though. Yamaha really scraped the bottom of the barrel on that one. Can you believe it the R3 has better quality rods…

      $1000 will get both ends fully sorted. If you get a junk-yard shock upgrade, you can shave 400 off that figure.

  22. Tank says:

    Best bang for your buck.

  23. falcodoug says:

    Will make a great long term daily rider.

  24. Brian Zurflueh says:

    Can’t wait for an fz07 comparison.

  25. Neal says:

    I like it a lot. I’m just waiting for the SV650S with clip-ons.