In case you haven’t read my First Ride Review of the 2017 Suzuki SV650, let me sum it up for you: It’s an awesome motorcycle. Of course, if you’ve been reading MO for any length of time you’ll likely know I’m a big fan of the SV, having previously owned and raced one myself. With that, you can likely conclude that I’ve thrown journalistic objectivity out the window when it comes to the new SV. However, if Suzuki had missed the mark, I’d be sure to criticize instead of praise.
My fellow MO cohorts are probably tired of me talking about the SV, but too bad. We’ve all got our favorite bikes here: Evans adores his 13 year-old R6, Duke his classic Ducati 900SS, Tom’s a Ural guy, and ‘ol Burns won’t shut up about the NC700X and the Harley Street 750. So now it’s my turn to wax poetic about the new SV650. Still with me? Here we go.
10. The Sound!
It’s difficult to convey the pleasing notes a motorcycle makes through words, but if you’ve heard a V-Twin sportbike with a nice pipe on it you’ll understand. Stock, the SV’s exhaust note is pleasing, if not a tad muffled. Fortunately, Suzuki had on hand an SV with a Yoshimura exhaust fitted. When allowed to roar, the little 645cc twin sounds downright mean. As an added bonus, the intake noise as the outside air gets shoved through the Suzuki’s redesigned airbox is an unexpected yet very welcome surprise. Deep, throaty, and raw.
9. RPM Assist
I didn’t truly appreciate this feature until I loaded the SV onto my truck along with another bike to take to the dyno. This particular time, having the revs rise slightly once the clutch is engaged was the difference between me stalling the bike halfway up my ramp and successfully loading it. It’s a sad truth that more and more youngsters are growing up in a world where manual transmissions in cars are nearly non-existent, so whatever the motorcycling community can do to make the learning process of using a clutch and shifting gears easier is a plus in my book.
Horsepower may win you bragging rights when you’re bench racing, but torque is the one that elicits giddy emotions in the real world. V-Twins are known for torque, and the punchy 645cc one the SV carries is no exception. Our SV test bike put down 46 lb-ft to the wheel, easily enough to loft the front wheel in the air in first gear if you’re the heavy-handed type. In the canyons, it’s enough to blast the SV from one corner to the next at a rapid pace, and on the freeway it’s enough to simply cruise in sixth gear and know there’s power available when you need it. Yeah, torque rules.
7. Gear-Position Indicator
While I personally prefer analog tachometers, I will admit the new digital dash display on the 2017 SVs is pretty snazzy. My favorite part of the new gauge cluster, however, is the GPI. No, it’s not a necessary item to have on a motorcycle, but it’s such a helpful tool when riding, especially for new riders. Racers will appreciate the addition too, because let’s face it, many SV owners will be taking their bike to the track, and being in the wrong gear can kill your lap time.
6. Low Seat Height
Officially, Suzuki says the seat height is 30.9 inches and the leading edge of the seat is 30mm narrower than the Gladius. This narrow junction between the seat and tank can almost fool someone to thinking the seat is even lower. At 5-foot, 8-inches, my 30-inch inseam is easily able to plant both feet firmly on the ground. Newer and/or shorter riders will especially appreciate the ease with which feet touch the floor, too. First-gen SV owners used to shave the seat foam or use lowering links to help paws reach the ground. That’s not necessary anymore.
5. Slim proportions
Not that the Gladius/SFV were wide motorcycles, but the fuel tank on the new SV is 65mm narrower than the SFV. That’s a difference you can visually distinguish when looking at the two. For me anyway, this creates a more pleasing machine from an aesthetics point of view. From a practical standpoint, slim motorbikes are always a plus when splitting lanes, too. Now to contradict everything I just said, I wouldn’t mind if the SV’s bars were a little wider, but a swap to an aftermarket bar is easy and fairly cheap.
4. Aftermarket Support
If past SVs are any indicator, the new one is going to blow up in the aftermarket. Yoshimura has already developed an exhaust system for it, and it’s only a matter of time before suspension and brake upgrades are made available. Considering how versatile the SV is, I’m sure we’ll soon see touring accessories, too.
Hmm. Are you reading this, Suzuki? I smell a project bike in the making…
3. One Press Starter
We’re nitpicking here, but having to be in neutral and pull in the clutch to start a Suzuki motorcycle was getting rather annoying. Shouldn’t one or the other be enough? All the other OEMs seem to think so. In fact, I ground the neutral switch on my 2002 SV just so simply pulling the clutch lever was enough to start the bike, whether I was actually in gear or not. When Suzuki tacked on a one-press starter, first seen on the GSX-S1000, to the SV I celebrated a little victory. Yeah just tapping the starter button once is cool, but I’m glad Suzuki finally has enough faith in its customers to start the bike without a redundant safety system in place.
As much as I like the new SV650, if it carried a price tag significantly above $7k, like the $8,149 Gladius did in 2014, I would have been the first to tell Suzuki that it made a mistake. Instead, at $6,999, it’s seriously impressive that such a fun motorcycle can be so affordable. I said similar things about the Yamaha FZ-07, which is only $9 cheaper than the Suzuki, and it seems both companies have found a good recipe to follow, focusing resources on a fun engine while wrapping it in a chassis the aftermarket can customize and perfect later.
Did I mention I really like the new SV650? Because I really like the new SV650. Why do I like it? The answer is right there in the picture above. That engine really is magical, just as it has been since 1999 when the SV was first introduced. Loads of power, delivered smoothly, whenever you ask for it. It’ll pleasantly, but firmly snap your head back above 5000 rpm, and Suzuki even says it’ll return 61 mpg. Assuming you’re not a ham-fisted MOron, of course. On paper, the SV has never been much of a spec-sheet standout, but its cult following proves that the specs don’t really matter. Character is not something you can quantify on a spec sheet.
It’s Not A Gladius