If you’ve read my 2017 Suzuki SV650 First Ride Review, you’ll know how I feel about the new SV. I’m a big fan of the new bike and feel that it’s recaptured the magic of the original SV. With its charismatic and refined 645cc V-Twin, I was instantly drawn to its fun-loving character, and now that Suzuki has wised up and given the bike an attractive – and competitive – $6,999 price tag, it’s clear Suzuki is answering the challenge thrown down from its crosstown rival, Yamaha, and the $6,990 FZ-07.

The two have a lot of similarities, with nearly identical price tags, twin-cylinder engines with similar displacements, and minimal bodywork. So naturally, it made sense to pit them against each other. However, as we were plotting the course for this test, another motorcycle came up on our radar screen: KTM’s 690 Duke. At $8,999, it costs a fair bit more than the Japanese bikes here, and its single-cylinder engine is only half the cylinders of the others, but it, too, can be classified as a naked middleweight so we decided to throw it in the mix. And for nostalgia’s sake, former MO staffer and current MO contributor, Gabe Ets-Hokin, was gracious enough to bring his 1999 Suzuki SV650 along for the ride to see how much progress the category has really achieved in the past 17 years.

Joining myself and Gabe was MO’s Editorial Director and former SV650 racer, Sean Alexander, and everyone’s lovable curmudgeon, John Burns. Three of us are unabashed SV sympathizers. Meanwhile, we tricked John into coming by telling him we’d have a Honda NC700X along for the ride. He really does love that thing. Sucker.

Let’s Get Right To It

Motorcycles like the SV and the FZ live and die by their engines. The bikes’ low price points are achieved through the use of bottom-bin parts, so manufacturers can focus most of its resources (read: money) on engine development. Because, in the end, an exciting engine will make up for many shortcomings in other places. Especially if the price is attractive. The SV and FZ are examples of what happens when a manufacturer gets this formula right.

The three modern bikes are so close you could also call this test the 70-horsepower shootout. All three are separated by exactly one horsepower, but looking at the graph you can see the Yamaha edges both the KTM and Suzuki at nearly every point on the graph. The SV really needs to rev before it can compete with the others. The KTM really comes alive in the mid-range. Dyno operator Chris Redpath of MotoGPWerks says a loose chain is at least partially to blame for the spikes and dips in the KTM’s curve.

The three modern bikes are so close you could also call this test the 70-horsepower shootout. All three are separated by exactly one horsepower, but looking at the graph you can see the Yamaha edges both the KTM and Suzuki at nearly every point on the graph. The SV really needs to rev before it can compete with the others. The KTM really comes alive in the mid-range. Dyno operator Chris Redpath of MotoGPWerks says a loose chain is at least partially to blame for the spikes and dips in the KTM’s curve.

If you remember from the SV video, I mentioned how the SV pumped out 72.8 hp and 46.0 lb-ft of torque. The Yamaha and KTM weren’t available yet at the time of that run, so in the interest of fairness we ran all three bikes together on the MotoGPWerks dyno, where the new SV spun the drum a second time to 70.8 hp and 44.9 lb-ft. While it was a little disappointing to see the minor drop in power, it goes to show how much dyno runs of the exact same bike on the exact same dyno can vary on different days and different times of day.

What was impressive, though, was the separation of all three bikes. Both the KTM and Yamaha made 69.8 hp at their peaks, resulting in a separation between the three bikes of exactly 1.0 horsepower. All three bikes made peak power between 8500 rpm and 9000 rpm, to boot. In the torque department, however, the SV falls behind, as it has the least displacement; the Yamaha made 48.0 lb-ft and the KTM 50.4 lb-ft. Making matters worse for the SV is the fact its peak torque is produced at 8100 rpm, while the KTM only needs 6900 rpm to reach its peak, and the Yamaha 6500 rpm. Gabe’s old SV never made it to the MotoGPWerks dyno, but it’s no matter since his bike may look stock on the outside, but features a number of modifications, including a jet kit for the carburetors(!) and a camshaft upgrade from the second-gen SV. Gabe estimates his bike makes somewhere in the ballpark of 68 hp.

Once again, the Suzuki, with the smallest displacement here, comes up short on the torque front. The peak numbers might be close between all three, but look how much the SV suffers below its 8100 rpm peak. Again, the SV really has to spin to make its power.

Once again, the Suzuki, with the smallest displacement here, comes up short on the torque front. The peak numbers might be close between all three, but look how much the SV suffers below its 8100 rpm peak. Again, the SV really has to spin to make its power.

When you’re sitting on them, you don’t need dyno charts to feel the power differences. Judged on its own, the new SV is a fun and lovable 645cc V-Twin, with crisp, clean fueling and just the right amount of punch. Gabe said the new SV “is so nice to ride, especially if you’re used to first- or second-gen SVs. Smooth, quick-revving and the intake growl sounds good.”

But then you hop on the KTM and remember that there’s no replacement for displacement. The 690cc Thumper makes more torque than the SV, only one less horse, and crucially, it weighs a massive 85 lbs less than the Suzuki. The KTM basically sheds the weight of a prepubescent teen compared to the SV, and thusly feels more powerful than the new Suzuki.

“This is a Single that feels like a Twin,” says Gabe. “It’s very nice down low and really fun when it gets to the top of its rev range.” Gabe also liked the KTM’s midrange.

KTM’s 690cc Single powering the 690 Duke is mighty impressive for a Thumper. It’s quick to rev and makes the most torque here.

KTM’s 690cc Single powering the 690 Duke is mighty impressive for a Thumper. It’s quick to rev and makes the most torque here.

The Yamaha, too, has a weight and cubic-centimeter advantage over the SV. It’s not 85 lbs lighter like the KTM, but a 33-lb deficit is nothing to sneeze at. Couple that with significantly more torque than the SV below 5000 rpm (and more horsepower below 8000 rpm), and the 689cc FZ-07 leaves the 690 Duke and both SVs behind once it’s time to get moving.

“Compared to the Duke and SVs, the FZ accelerates my large load with noticeably more urgency out of low-speed corners,” notes Sean “I Heart Pork” Alexander. “It simply has a better spread of torque for street use.” The parallel-Twin, and its 270-degree crank, sounds great but “it’s extremely quiet,” says Sean. “It could really use an aftermarket – or stock Aprilia – silencer.” Zing!

The three normal-sized testers had no complaints about the Yamaha’s fueling, as we thought it didn’t have anywhere near the jerkiness and abruptness of its larger-displacement sibling, the FZ-09 (before Yamaha updated its ECU tuning). Sean, however, felt Yamaha went too far, describing the “anti-FZ-09 throttle response… a little too smooth and seems to lag slightly behind wrist inputs, making it feel somewhat disconnected.”

It’s rare to complain about a motorcycle being too refined, but that’s exactly what Sean has done, calling the FZ-07’s throttle response too soft. Are you likely to notice? Probably not. The rest of us didn’t. It’s fine. Move on.

It’s rare to complain about a motorcycle being too refined, but that’s exactly what Sean has done, calling the FZ-07’s throttle response too soft. Are you likely to notice? Probably not. The rest of us didn’t. It’s fine. Move on.

That said, it should come as no surprise that the FZ-07’s inline-Twin won unanimously among the four testers on the MO Scorecard, its 93.1% rating besting the KTM’s 87.5% score. The new SV tallied 86.3%, and the old SV 84.4%.

Playing In The Hills

In the handling department light should make right, right? It should, but our testers are all over the board here. Indeed, at 345 lbs and the lightest bike in this test, the KTM was easy to flick around. The leverage provided by the wide bars helps to throw the bike wherever it’s needed. The suspension was firm and taut, at least according to Gabe and Yours Truly. In fact, the combination of the bars, suspension, and weight made the 690 Duke my favorite in the handling category of the scorecard.

Hey, there’s a first-gen SV, complete with its distinctive aluminum trellis frame! The old girl did well and still looks good after all these years. At least from afar.

Hey, there’s a first-gen SV, complete with its distinctive aluminum trellis frame! The old girl did well and still looks good after all these years. At least from afar.

Oddly, Sean called the suspenders too stiff, while JB wasn’t a fan of the amount of dive on the brakes and squat on acceleration, never truly feeling comfortable with the Duke. Then again, SA and JB were spoiled by the accessorized 690 Duke we flogged two years ago in our Middleweight Mashup Shootout. Nonetheless, despite lowering their expectations for this non-accessorized new 690, neither of these two were big fans of the KTM’s handling.

Then again, the KTM is the outlier in this test in many ways. Besides the fact it’s significantly more expensive than the rest, you’re also sitting more upright than the others, almost in a supermoto-type position.

“This is more like a street-legal supermoto racebike than a budget all-arounder,” says Gabe. “It rewards an aggressive and expert riding style, so probably won’t inspire confidence in new and intermediate riders like the SV or FZ will.”

There are also mixed feelings for the Yamaha. Weighing in at 397 lbs full of gas, its sub-400 weight is hugely impressive. It shows in the twisties, as the FZ-07 feels nearly as easy to toss and turn as the KTM. After hopping off the SVs (especially the new one) and onto the Yamaha, I jotted in my notes how the difference in weight during transitions is especially pronounced when riding them back-to-back.

The KTM might be the most supermoto-esque of the bunch, but the new SV650 isn’t so bad at backing it in, either.

The KTM might be the most supermoto-esque of the bunch, but the new SV650 isn’t so bad at backing it in, either.

Of course, the issue you face with $7,000 motorcycles is mediocre suspension components, and unless you’re riding on smooth pavement when you’re ripping in the twisty stuff, it’s easy to upset the FZ. “Suspension and chassis are the weak points here,” notes Gabe. “Gets out of shape (but kind of in a fun way) when you push it hard.”

Here’s Sean:

“Our test FZ gave me the same mixed responses between the front and rear suspension that I disliked the last time it was in a shootout. The impression it gives me, a fat and fast rider, is that the rider is placed a bit too far aft in relation to the center of the chassis, my extra heft resulting in a slight choppering of the front end and a general lack of cornering feel. I can ride through it and still go fast on the FZ, but it just doesn’t feel as “natural” compared to all the other bikes we’ve tested it against. Increasing rear spring preload didn’t seem to help the FZ’s front end feel during our first shootout, only making it rebound a little quicker and generally feel a bit less refined. I left it alone this time, but to be fair, the stock suspension was not at all designed for riders of my ilk.”

At 397 lbs soaking wet, the Yamaha FZ-07 changes direction nearly as quickly as the KTM, but its chassis loses some composure on rough roads.

At 397 lbs soaking wet, the Yamaha FZ-07 changes direction nearly as quickly as the KTM, but its chassis loses some composure on rough roads.

And now, John’s take:

“When I think back upon it to the days when we used to split hares among sportbikes, the less powerful ones always felt like they handled better. Guess why? You’re not going as fast. With its much greater low-rev lunge and 33 less pounds [compared to the SV], the FZ is lightening its front end more which could explain why its front end feels less planted. Though I agree slightly stiffer springs or maybe just thicker fluid wouldn’t hurt it. For me at my weight, no complaints. Maybe just little more rear preload to load the front a tad bit more. On that bumpy section, I rode [the SV and FZ] and they were both not so great. Both cheap suspension, but for me the FZ’s is tuned better. In fact I think it’s some of the most-dialed cheap suspension ever.”

Despite the suspension complaints, the FZ-07 was top pick on JB’s scorecard for handling, and was tied with the KTM on Gabe’s scorecard.

As for the two SV650s, things get a little interesting. It isn’t entirely an apples-to-apples comparison between the two, as Gabe’s 1999 SV has heavier fork springs, thicker oil, and 20,000-plus miles (oh, and a ZX-6R rear shock). However, the character from the chassis between new and old, aluminum frame versus steel frame, is so similar. Both change direction in one fluid motion, and both give the rider great connection to the road.

The new SV has the opposite issues the Yamaha does. It’s heavy, and it feels so from the saddle (when judged against the others), but once leaned over it’s hard to upset it.

The new SV has the opposite issues the Yamaha does. It’s heavy, and it feels so from the saddle (when judged against the others), but once leaned over it’s hard to upset it.

Really, the major difference being the added weight of the new bike – at 430 lbs, it’s about 20 lbs more than the first gen. Gabe notes, “The SV’s weight (heaviest here) made it feel old compared to the KTM and Yamaha, but it also felt smoother, more stable and more refined.”

That’s a statement both Sean and I agree with. Sean’s a fan of the chassis geometry, ranking the SV his favorite handling machine on the scorecard, and I liked how stable it felt leaned over. Call it the road-hugging weight compared to the others, but the new SV feels relatively planted on its side, even if the road is far from perfect. The Yamaha, while lighter and easier to flick, gets unsettled easily when you combine speed, lean angle, and a bump in the road.

The 690 Duke was made to carve a twisty road. Its wide, MX-style bars make the 345-lb Duke feel like a toy underneath you.

The 690 Duke was made to carve a twisty road. Its wide, MX-style bars make the 345-lb Duke feel like a toy underneath you.

A little bit of instability is something John’s able to accept. Burns, who’s never been much of an SV650 fan, calls the new SV old fashioned.

“I think it’s a great bike for carrying a lot of corner speed a la Lorenzo. I don’t like to ride that way on the street (even if I was able to) because of all the blind corners. I like to slow down for the corners and squirt out. For that, the FZ buries the SV.”

Out And About

As fun as all four of these bikes are in the twisty stuff, all also make great motorcycles for general commuting duties. As noted in my Top 10 Features of the KTM 690 Duke story, the Austrian’s seat is very roomy, which is obviously great for larger riders. But it’s also nice for taller riders, too “as long as you can live with a big Single on the freeways,” notes Sean. To that end, the “big Single” really wasn’t much of an issue to the rest of the testers, its dual counterbalancers doing a great job to cancel out vibes. There is slightly more buzz than the others at 80 mph and above, but you’d have to be riding them all back-to-back to really notice it.

This screengrab from Sean’s helmet cam shows how hard the KTM’s TFT display is to see. Yes, the bike is running, but the display is pointed almost straight up and harsh sunlight blocks any view of the screen.

This screengrab from Sean’s helmet cam shows how hard the KTM’s TFT display is to see. The display is pointed almost straight up and harsh sunlight blocks any view of the screen.

The bars place you more upright (though you can rotate them within the triple clamp if you prefer a slightly different position), and the pegs are relatively low, so the rider triangle is ideal for commuters. However, I found this position to work against me on the highway. As there’s zero wind protection on the Duke, my chest became a sail while traveling 80 mph on the freeway. The others at least point the rider in a slightly forward bend, making it less tiring to fight the wind blast.

The new SV has the rider reach the furthest of all to grab the controls. In Suzuki’s quest to make the SV as narrow as possible, the fuel tank follows the contours of the frame. This narrow appearance is visually appealing, but Suzuki also fitted the SV with narrow bars. The combination of long reach and narrow bars doesn’t do the riders any favors when it comes to hustling the bike around. But if you’ve got a long torso and/or longer arms, this may be less of a concern.

Another screengrab from Sean’s helmet cam shows the proximity of the FZ-07’s gauge cluster is to the rider. Contrast that with the SV pic below.

Another screengrab from Sean’s helmet cam shows the proximity of the FZ-07’s gauge cluster is to the rider. Contrast that with the SV pic below.

Yamaha’s FZ-07 falls somewhere in between. The seating arrangement is compact in relation to the others, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing unless you’re big or tall. Only Sean fits that category among us. Gabe thinks Yamaha “made the seat too low and the pegs too high. When you’re sitting on it, it looks like somebody hacked off the front with a Sawz-all.” I didn’t mind it, and in fact Burns rated the FZ highest on his scorecard in the Ergo/Comfort category.

I had the FZ  and the 1999 SV tied as my favorite. I liked the compact feel of the Yamaha, especially in the twisty stuff, but also didn’t mind it on the freeway, either. When it comes to piling on the miles though, the Goldilocks of the group, in my eyes, was the first gen SV. The reason is simple: the seat on Old Red had the most padding of any of the bikes here, by far. It’s like sitting on a pillow compared to sitting on planks for the others. Ultimately, the KTM got the highest overall score in the Ergo category, but these four testers are split as to their outright favorite.

Here’s the SV650 cockpit. Bars and gauges are clearly further away and easier to read than the Yamaha.

Here’s the SV650 cockpit. Bars and gauges are clearly further away and easier to read than the Yamaha.

Other Odds and Ends

All three modern bikes here have some sort of electronic dash display, including a gear-position indicator. However, they were all hard to read at a glance, especially in the harsh daylight sun. The KTM was particularly bad, as its beautiful TFT display is completely useless under the glare from the sun. Despite the fact the numbers on the 1999 SV650’s analog tach were peeling off, I think we all renewed our appreciation for a simple needle to tell us how fast we’re going and how fast the engine is spinning.

All four bikes easily surpassed the 40 mpg threshold, with the Yamaha getting an average of 54.4 mpg, followed by the new SV650 at 51.3 mpg, the old SV at 47.1 mpg, and the 690 Duke at 42.3 mpg. (EiC Duke spun several hundred miles solo on the KTM and averaged 60.8 mpg.)

Both the Yamaha and 2017 Suzuki have mediocre brakes at best, but they really aren’t that bad for the price. “Both have good brakes,” said Burns, “but I like using the FZ’s more. It seems to trail-brake better with more feel of the contact patch.”

Despite the backing coming off from the 1999 SV650’s tach, there’s something special about the simplicity and functionality of a pair of analog gauges.

Despite the backing coming off from the 1999 SV650’s tach, there’s something special about the simplicity and functionality of a pair of analog gauges.

By virtue of having the best specs in the braking department, the KTM with its 320mm disc and four-pot Brembo caliper easily won the this category of the scorecard. The huge brake and light weight of the bike meant stopping power was fierce. “Really great brakes,” said Gabe,”especially for a single disc. Nice bite and feel.” The KTM also benefits from being the only one with ABS.

The KTM wins by default in the tech department. It being the only one with riding modes (not that you really need them), ABS, and traction control.

Despite finishing last on scores, the first-gen SV was a hoot to ride, and thanks to Gabe’s tastefully chosen mods, it could hang with the other bikes just fine. Seventeen years of wear and tear have taken their toll on the SV’s appearance, but isn’t patina in style these days?

062416-650-Twins-Shootout-Gabes-SV650---suzuki

In The End…

As these tests usually go, there can only be one winner. But this is a case where the Scorecard decision doesn’t truly reflect how each rider feels. The KTM really took a blow in the objective section of the Scorecard because of its price, but clawed back a lot of ground by having the least weight and best power-to-weight ratio. And there were some categories where we clearly had to give it the best score, like brakes, tech and suspension.

In fact, the KTM finished first or second in nearly every category of the Scorecard except one – it finished a distant last place in the Instrument category for the terrible positioning of the TFT instruments display. Ultimately, with an 84.2% score, the KTM 690 Duke is the winner of this test. In reality, however, of the four, only Gabe’s scores align with this conclusion.

Objectively, the KTM 690 Duke is superior in many ways to the other bikes here. Less weight, great agility, and more tech help offset the higher price tag. It’s clearly a very good motorcycle, but our eclectic tastes resulted in a split decision.

Objectively, the KTM 690 Duke is superior in many ways to the other bikes here. Less weight, great agility, and more tech help offset the higher price tag. It’s clearly a very good motorcycle, but our eclectic tastes resulted in a split decision.

The Yamaha, however, came a very close second, 0.36 percentage points adrift. Sean, sticking steadfast to his SV devotion, is listening to his heart. Despite objections from his brain, which ranked the Yamaha number one.

“In total, I have to give the edge in refinement, power delivery, appearance and seat comfort to the FZ-07,” said Alexander. “That said, the new SV is the bike I’d actually buy. To me, the SV’s chassis geometry, friendly feel near the limits of adhesion, 90-degree V-Twin sound, and basic natural talent mean it stimulates the happiest parts of my brain.”

John, meanwhile, took this opportunity to smack talk the rest of the SV-loving fanboys and pledge his allegiance to the FZ-07.

“Sorry I don’t share the SV love, but for me that bike has been lackluster ever since Gabe’s bike. When I came to Cycle, we tore Latigo Road up on Honda Hawks, and I learned from those guys that a small bike is by far the best way to go down Latigo. For me the FZ-07 is the modern Hawk. I had to downgrade it in the tech for no TC, but the beauty of these bikes is 70 hp isn’t enough to need it. You can open the throttle on the FZ really early. If speed is the goal, I think I’d get to the Rock Store quicker on the FZ. The Duke is the one I’d want if we were going on dirt roads too; its saving grace is it’s a semi-Adventure bike.”

Try as Suzuki might, the new SV650 comes up short to the Yamaha FZ-07. While not a perfect motorcycle, the Yamaha’s engine delivers strong bottom-end and midrange power. Its handling woes can likely be solved with a few choice upgrades from the aftermarket, and the relatively tight ergos are really only a problem if you’re big and tall.

Try as Suzuki might, the new SV650 comes up short to the Yamaha FZ-07. While not a perfect motorcycle, the Yamaha’s engine delivers strong bottom-end and midrange power. Its handling woes can likely be solved with a few choice upgrades from the aftermarket, and the relatively tight ergos are really only a problem if you’re big and tall.

As for me, it looks like I need to eat a slice of humble pie. After gushing about the SV after coming back from its intro, this test proved to me that the Yamaha FZ-07 is the superior machine – though the KTM is a really close second. There really is no replacement for displacement, and the SV is unfortunately outpaced here. Its heft doesn’t do it any favors, either. In my first ride review I mentioned how the new SV has captured the magic of the original. I still stand by that. The problem is motorcycles like the FZ-07 and 690 Duke are simply better.

Suzuki’s SV650 Takes on the Competition Scorecard
Category 2017 Suzuki SV650 2016 Yamaha FZ-07 2016 KTM 690 Duke 1999 Suzuki SV650
Price 81.4% 81.5% 63.3% 100%
Weight 80.2% 86.9% 100% 83.5%
lb/hp 80.3% 86.0% 100% 80.3%
lb/lb-ft 70.8% 81.9% 100% 75.6%
Total Objective Scores 79.1% 84.1% 87.8% 87.2%
Engine 86.3% 93.1% 87.5% 84.4%
Transmission/Clutch 82.5% 85.0% 83.8% 73.8%
Handling 85.0% 87.5% 85.0% 81.3%
Brakes 82.5% 80.5% 88.8% 57.5%
Suspension 77.5% 76.3% 80.0% 66.3%
Technologies 76.8% 76.3% 91.3% 50.0%
Instruments 78.8% 77.5% 52.5% 90.0%
Ergonomics/Comfort 80.0% 80.0% 82.5% 81.3%
Quality, Fit & Finish 76.3% 83.8% 83.8% 80.0%
Cool Factor 72.5% 81.3% 91.3% 72.5%
Grin Factor 82.5% 91.3% 86.3% 68.8%
Gabe’ Subjective Scores 85.6% 87.7% 91.3% 74.2%
John’s Subjective Scores 78.3% 86.3% 82.9% 71.3%
Sean’s Subjective Scores 77.9% 79.6% 77.9% 75.0%
Troy’s Subjective Scores 80.4% 81.7% 81.3% 76.3%
Overall Score 80.3% 83.9% 84.2% 76.8%

Suzuki’s SV650 Takes on the Competition Specifications

2017 Suzuki SV650 2017 Yamaha FZ-07 2016 KTM 690 Duke 1999-2002 Suzuki SV650
MSRP $6,999 – $7,499 (ABS) $6,990.00 $8,999.00 $5,699
Engine Type 645cc Liquid-cooled, EFI, DOHC, four-stroke, 90-degree V-Twin, 4 valves per cylinder 689cc liquid-cooled parallel Twin 690cc Liquid-cooled, EFI, SOHC, four-stroke, Single, 4 valves per cylinder 645cc Liquid-cooled, Carburetted, DOHC, four-stroke, 90-degree V-Twin, 4 valves per cylinder
Bore and Stroke 81.0mm x 62.6mm 80.0 x 68.6mm 105.0mm x 80.0mm 81.0mm x 62.6mm
Compression Ratio 11.2:1 11.5:1 12.6:1 11.5:1
Horsepower 70.8 hp @ 8600 rpm 69.8 @ 9000 rpm 69.8 hp @ 8500 rpm 68.0 hp @ 8750 rpm
Torque 44.9 lb-ft @ 8100 rpm 48.0 @ 6500 rpm 50.4 lb-ft @ 6900 rpm 45.7 lb-ft @ 7400 rpm
lb/hp 6.10 5.70 4.90 6.10
lb/torque 9.60 8.30 6.80 9.00
Transmission 6-speed; multi-plate wet clutch 6-speed; multi-plate wet clutch 6-speed; multi-plate wet clutch 6-speed; multi-plate wet clutch
Final Drive Chain Chain Chain Chain
Front Suspension 41mm conventional fork. 41mm Telescopic fork; 5.1-in travel 43mm WP inverted fork; 5.3-in travel 41mm telescopic fork, coil spring, damping rod (preload adjustable 2002)
Rear Suspension Link-type single shock, preload adjustable. Single, preload-adjustable shock; 5.1-in travel WP shock absorber with Pro-Lever linkage; 5.3-in travel Link-type single shock, preload adjustable.
Front Brake Dual 290mm floating discs, two-piston calipers. ABS Dual 282mm discs, 4-piston calipers Single 320mm floating disc, Brembo four-piston caliper. Dual 290mm floating discs, two-piston calipers.
Rear Brake Single 240 disc, Single-piston caliper 245mm disc, 2-piston caliper Single 240 disc, Brembo single-piston caliper Single 240 disc, Single-piston caliper
Front Tire 120/70-17 120/70-17 120/60-17 120/60-17
Rear Tire 160/60-17 180/55 ZR-17 160/60-17 160/60-17
Rake/Trail 25.0º/4.1 in 24° / 3.5 in 26.5º/NA 25º / 3.9 in
Wheelbase 56.9 in 55.1 in 55.9 in
Seat Height 30.9 in 31.7 in 32.9 in 31.7 in
Curb Weight (Claimed) 430.0 lbs 397 lbs 345 lbs 413 lbs
Fuel Capacity 3.8 gal (3.6 gal CA) 3.7 gal 3.7 gal 4.2 gal.

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  • TheMarvelous1310

    I hear a lot of chatter about how Yamaha won’t bring the XSR-700 Stateside, but I actually prefer the FZ! This is the best looking in a very ugly class of motorcycles, it has a nice cohesive look. The XSR always looked kinda sparse to me, unfinished. It might have better suspension bits, but for this price I can find some R6 shoccks and get busy! https://i.ytimg.com/vi/Xopmrl2jpU4/maxresdefault.jpg

    • Grant

      Disagree. I would love to buy an XSR700. Wish they’d bring it to the US.

      • TheMarvelous1310

        Well, my personal opinion on style aside, I’ll never say no to another bike.

  • Born to Ride

    Wow, I’m shocked at how poorly Gabes bike performed on the good ol MO card. I would have expected it to wipe the floor with the other bikes in the handling department. When I rode the FZ-07, I remember thinking is was a good deal gruntier than my SV but that its suspension and road holding manners were vastly inferior. But I remember thinking that my SV handled poorly before I upgraded the suspension front and rear. Given that Gabes upgrades are very similar to what I had, shock swap and cartridges in the forks, I thought it’d be a no brainer. I guess time does indeed march on. I think the real winner here is the KTM. Get the suspension set up for your weight and riding style, and you have the lightest and gruntiest and best braking bike of this trio. Technological superiority is just icing on the cake. I’m also glad you guys brought an SV dissenter to keep it real. Y’all might of got too nostalgic without Burns there.

    • http://www.motou.info Gabe Ets-Hokin

      Actually, Troy was mistaken–the fork is stock, but with heavier springs and thicker oil, no emulators. It’s also got 20,000-plus miles and doesn’t work as smoothly as a new one. I didn’t notice it, as I’m used to this old POS, but Sean and JB did. Troy’s in a new-daddy haze and didn’t mind.

      • TroySiahaan

        Maybe your crappy bike reminded me of my old (and crappy) SV. Actually, I distinctly remember how terrible the stock suspension was on my SV before I upgraded. Yours felt nothing like that.

        • http://www.motou.info Gabe Ets-Hokin

          I’m surprised at how nice my fork feels compared to a stock bike. Damper-rod forks with the right springs and oil are surprisingly good.

      • Born to Ride

        20k miles really isn’t much on those bikes. I had 40k on mine when I sold it and it still handled wonderfully. Of course I had it tuned for my weight and preferences, but still, I remember how I felt after that test ride of the FZ-07. I remember being happy to be back on my bike.

  • Ian Parkes

    Sean’s point struck a chord with me. I like lightness and chuckability in principle and I was slightly disappointed to read the steel frame of the new SV helped make it heavier than the ally original. But on the road the stability conferred by mass is also a blessing. The bike I’ve kept longest is a bit heavier than average for a middleweight – its V4 configuration adds another engine bloc, cylinder heads, plumbing etc. It’s still nimble enough for the twisties and its planted feel just gives it a wider comfort zone, making it a happy choice for longer rides.

  • Flubbly

    Perhaps I’m showing my age here, but I find the 1999 SV650 to be the best looking of the bunch.

    • TroySiahaan

      Naw, I still think the first-gen SV holds its own just fine all these years later, styling-wise.

  • Craig Hoffman

    The ’07 sounds like a fun and affordable project bike. Some braided brake lines, suspension work, exhaust and then ride the wheels off it for many trouble free miles with little further involvement needed. This sounds a lot like the SV650 has been for years.

    Say hello to the new SV650. It has a Yamaha sticker on the tank.

    • TroySiahaan

      Exactly. Those are the same thoughts I had about the Yamaha after I first rode it. Maybe a project bike is in the works?

      • Craig Hoffman

        The peanut gallery chants “do it, do it, do it” Hahaha…

  • Scott650

    Pony up the extra $500 for the ABS and the SV is hard to beat. I’ll admit, as a northern rider I don’t ride near enough miles to have the ability to out perform ABS with skill.

    • Benjamin Hasselgren

      No one have the ability to our perform ABS – it’s like out perform a calculator with complex calculations. The only situation you don’t want ABS is if you wanna skid around off-road (and you can turn off ABS on most off-road oriented bikes)

  • Old MOron

    I really enjoyed reading how and why different testers preferred different bikes. Different riding styles, different shapes and sizes, and different preferences come into play and make for interesting reading. Well done, you MOrons.

  • http://www.motou.info Gabe Ets-Hokin

    Right on Trizzle! Great story. Thanks for including me and Ol’ Red, which will sadly go on the auction block, replaced by New(er) Blue.

    • Flubbly

      Gabe, how did your tricked up ’99 suspension compare to the stock ’16 SV? My assumption was that it would be much better, assuming you put in cartridge emulators in the front and revalved the rear shock. The stock ’16 SV only has damper rod forks (as well as the FZ07). Anything to report there?

  • aweds1

    It’s amazing to see how analog gauges for speed and rpm still outperform “modern” digital displays. Sometimes less is more, especially if you can actually read it.

    • Kenneth

      “Sometimes less is more…”
      I’d say that, in many cases, it’s about “old is better than new” because new is often primarily about cost-cutting by a manufacturer, which is then sold as an “improvement.”

  • JSTNCOL

    Great write up!

  • http://www.motou.info Gabe Ets-Hokin

    Prior owner of the bike just told me my old SV made 70 hp on the dyno, but that was with aftermarket exhaust, cam swap and K&N filter.

  • Colin

    The handling characteristics of the 2017 SV650 (stable, planted, refined, slightly less flickable) might have something to do with it having the largest wheelbase and trail measurements.

  • reysys

    In the comparative a line with Euro compliance level will be excellent!

  • reysys

    FZ-07 has a akrapovic with catalytic converter how change the emissions level & performance

  • DickRuble

    “…. when we used to split hares between spotbikes” How did you do that? You quartered them medieval style between 4 bikes or just eviscerated them? This may be splitting hairs to you but PETA would want to know.

    • Born to Ride

      I was waiting for you to post that exact comment. I was a little disappointed when you hadn’t for days. Glad to see you aren’t slipping Dick.

      • DickRuble

        It took me days to decide.. should I …no..maybe I should…nah.. Then I realized people were counting on me.

  • Russ Archer

    Love naked bikes! Especially cheap naked twins. If only Suzuki would see fit to stuff the liter v-twin engine in a new bike. The TL1000 and SV1000 models were far and away my favorite motorcycles out of over the dozen I have owned (the 2007 Speed Triple a very close 2nd).