Okay, he’s not the glitziest of the bunch. Certainly compared to its direct competitors, even a new SV looks downright dated, even if you look at it through retro glasses. But no matter how you turn it, the SV650 is and remains one hell of a motor. Thanks, especially, to that great V-twin in the front.
First launched in 1999, the SV650 immediately found a particularly loyal following…who looked crestfallen when their favorite V-twin was replaced by the Gladius in 2009. Same block, different styling, weird marketing (presented as an accessible ladies bike, but named after a virile sword). Long story short, the Gladius flopped quite a bit – though there wasn’t much wrong with it, your servant had one as a long-term test at the time and had little cause for complaint overall – and in 2016 Suzuki had no choice but to sidestep the Gladius again. slide and reintroduce the SV650. Since then he has remained virtually unchanged, although he has since been lifted to Euro5.
The SV comes in two versions: the naked bike, and the S version with a fairing. Except for the fairing, they are technically identical. Over the years it got a lot of styling updates, in 2003 the V-twin switched from carburettors to injection. A year later it got another catalytic converter and in 2005 the swingarm and frame lost their silver color, only to go through life in black from then on. Incidentally, many SV’s were additionally decorated by their owners with a full cockpit. So you will find them in all kinds of designs and sizes, but one constant remains: that delicious, lively block.
Now, since the launch of the very first model in 1999, a few hundred thousand (!) SV’s have been sold so finding one won’t be such a problem. They have also shown themselves to be extremely reliable over the years, although we must humbly admit that the ’99 SV with which we entered the No Budget Cup about ten years ago had to be welded around the ball head several times – although that is perhaps the exception that the rule confirms because the SV’s are known to be bulletproof, both in terms of frame and block.
Anyone who has ever ridden an SV cannot ignore it: the thing is just great fun. Nice and light, low, agile, ridiculously easy to ride, forgiving… Recurring points of criticism are the brakes that lack bite force, the fact that the styling has actually been dated since the re-introduction and lacks a modern touch, and a finish that is a bit messy and looks plastic. The SV650 is a very compact engine; that makes it popular with smaller riders, but it also means it can feel cramped once you go over 1.75m. The SV650 is the kind of motorcycle that you can learn to drive perfectly, and which you can turn into a formidable circuit underdog after some ‘upgrades’ to the brakes and suspension. Ideal for those who find it fun to brake loudly and roaringly fat liter bikes. Good clean fun, nothing more, nothing less.
645cc | liquid-cooled V-twin | 69 hp | 169 kg | 17 l.
Photography Thierry Dricot, Jonathan Godin