As I look forward to this holiday season I’m reminded that I have plenty to be thankful for, not least of which is the return of the Suzuki SV650 next Spring as a 2017 model. Short of telling you my life story, let’s just say the SV has a special place in my heart as it does for many other riders out there. So, as I rejoice about this good news from Suzuki, allow me to explain 10 reasons why the SV650 is such a great motorcycle.
10. They’re cheap
If you’re looking for a first bike, we always recommend buying used. Why spend your hard-earned cash for a brand new bike, only to watch its value drop the moment you leave the dealership floor? With the SV, somebody else has already taken the bulk of the depreciation hit. You can easily find one for under three grand (the 2006 model pictured above sold for $2500), and if you treat her right, you might be able to sell it one day for what you paid (but why would you want to do that?).
9. Parts are cheap, too
The nice thing about cheap motorcycles is being able to find parts for cheap, too. The SV is a pretty reliable motorcycle, but it’s a good bet that, if you need them, places like eBay or Craigslist will have replacement bars, clip-ons, fairings, wheels, pegs and other items. And they’ll be cheaper than getting them from the dealer, too.
8. Great to learn on
The debate about whether the SV is a good beginner bike has been waged for a long time. Here’s my take: if you’ve never ridden any sort of motorcycle before, the SV isn’t where you should start. However, if you’re competent on a dirtbike, or have a good sense of balance and a mastery of operating a clutch, then give the SV a look. The naked models, with handlebars instead of clip-ons, sit you more upright and make it a little easier to perform tight maneuvers like U-turns. Then, once you get proficient riding on the street, the SV is also great for learning track skills, too.
More than just a good motorcycle to learn to ride, the SV, and its relative lack of bodywork, is also a good candidate for learning how to wrench. The oil filter is right there in the open to make oil changes a breeze. Once you get the hang of that, the exhaust is easily accessible, too. And the list goes on and on…
7. Tons of knowledgeable people out there
Forums can sometimes be a place of endless drivel from people who have no idea what they’re talking about. The SV forums aren’t immune from this, but there are also plenty of knowledgeable folks, both on forums and in brick-and-mortar shops, who know a ton about these bikes. From suspension upgrades to complete rebuilds, if there’s something you want to do to the SV650, there’s a good chance someone else has already done it, and can give you tips on what not to do. In fact, MO’s sister site, SVrider.com, is a great resource for the SV owner/enthusiast (yes, that’s a shameless plug).
6. Simple mods go a long way
In stock form the SV650 is a competent motorcycle, but there are plenty of areas to improve. Fortunately, the aftermarket has made many of these upgrades simple, cheap, easy, or all of the above. The SV’s weakest point is its suspension, and upgrades like Race Tech’s cartridge emulator kits are widely available to dramatically improve handling. Folks also replace the rear shock with one from a GSX-R to help firm up the rear, too. A simple exhaust frees up some power, and jet kits for the first-gen carbureted models, or Power Commander maps for the second-gen EFI models, take it a step further. This is only scratching the surface, because…
5. Advanced mods go even further
If you really want to start digging into the SV, there are options. Stock, the SV’s 645cc V-Twin puts out around 70 horses. There are race shops out there getting into the triple digits. This, of course, is a major operation involving a complete teardown of the engine, but it’s doable (though not very reliable). Big-bore kits also exist, allowing you to hit 100 horses a little more reliably. Apart from that, replacing the forks with a GSX-R front end is a popular mod which also gives you better brakes, too. Folks also modify the rear to accept GSX-R rear wheels, giving greater options for tires. Again, if you can dream it, it’s probably already been done.
4. Jack of all trades
Speaking of which, the SV is great because it can be interpreted in so many ways. Stock, it’s a great commuter bike. Add a few mods and it’s a fun track/racebike. Put a comfy seat and some luggage and you now have a decent touring bike. In fact, people have even converted their SVs to dirtbikes and flat-track warriors. Google it.
3. Still competitive in club races
The SV650 debuted in 1999 and soon after it was winning club races nationwide. The amazing thing is that, 16 years on, the SV650 is still relevant – and prevalent – on the club racing scene, and it’s still winning races.
2. You won’t get tired of it
Sure, there are faster, more powerful and better handling motorcycles available, but the SV650 strikes that sweet spot of power and performance that keeps even seasoned riders entertained. Because there isn’t an overabundance of power to play with, trackday riders are forced to optimize cornerspeed to maintain a fast lap. Meanwhile, for average commuter duties, the V-Twin’s low- to mid-range torque makes it great for squirting through traffic. It’s probably not a coincidence I still see plenty of SVs whenever I visit San Francisco.
1. Suzuki is finally bringing it back!
Motorcycles come and go from manufacturer’s lineups all the time. Most of the time we’re the better for a model being dropped (Honda DN-01, anyone?), but when Suzuki replaced the SV650 with the Gladius, of all things, a disservice was done. Enthusiasts and media alike voiced their disagreement with the move, and the influence was so strong that Suzuki thought it best to bring the SV back. This time with updates! I’m not sure there’s a greater measure of a motorcycle’s value than its manufacturer bringing it back due to consumer demand. After seeing it in pictures and in person, it appears as though Suzuki is going back to the values that made the original SV a hit. Here’s hoping Suzuki has recreated the magic.