1999 Suzuki SV650

 While navigating through Westside Los Angeles traffic, the Editor noticed that the SV650 produced a consistent and generous amount of torque across the entire powerband.

This is a motorcycle that pulls away from low rpms quickly, and its slim profile and light, quick maneuverability make it ideal for urban commuting, although its lack of a windscreen is a liability on the freeway.

The acceleration is smooth, although on the test bike the MO Editor did feel slight lean surges while holding the throttle steady between 5000 and 6000 rpm. More of a test bike, carb needle and jetting issue than a design problem, the Editor thought.

A view of the front header pipe, which routes into a 2-into-1 exhaust system."This bike was designed to be an urban commuter that can do everything," the MO Editor remembered the Suzuki Press Rep saying. As a sporty urban commuter, the SV has little competition. With its less-than-intimidating styling and rider-friendly ergonomics (handlebars and relaxed footpeg position), the SV practically begs to be hopped on. A big reason, the Editor thought, is psychological. Think of one of the new 600 Supersports: Fully-faired with low clip-ons that hurt your wrists and shoulders while navigating through stop-and-go city traffic as well as higher, swept-back rear sets that will cramp your legs when not busy in the twisties. These bikes may ask to be pushed fast, yet they don't exactly invite themselves for a ride around town for errands. Even throwing a leg over seems to take a bit more effort: The rear seat tail is higher, and once on board, the concentration required is greater. In comparison, the SV650 almost feels like a scooter, albeit one that is way fast and way more fun.

"Splitting through weekend LA beach traffic is a breeze", the MO Editor said to himself while leaving the Pacific Coast Highway and riding into the Malibu Mountains. Now we'll see how the bike handles in the fun stuff.

"It rules. It's fun. Way fun."

Despite the relaxed riding position ground clearance was excellent. Unfortunately the suspension could be better. The front forks are old fashioned non-adjustable fork oil damper rod types. The rear shock is a single, link-type progressive linkage with seven-way adjustable spring pre-load. Clearly these were incorporated into the design in order to keep the cost down.

Max horsepower: 68.0hp @ 8750 rpmWhile fine for city driving and adequate for moderately aggressive sport riding, the state of the art chassis and engine more than compensated for the suspension's shortcomings. At 68.0 measured rear-wheel horsepower, the 645cc V-twin produces more power than some engines twice its size. The torque tops out at a respectable 44.5 ft/lbs doesn't dip below 37 ft/lbs throughout the usable powerband (it drops to 32.8 ft./lbs. at 10250 rpm, but you'll have shifted well before that) and short shifting is not only possible but desirable while railing through the corners. Also, unlike on larger displacement V-twins, very little vibration is transferred through the handlebars. This could also be due to the vibration reducing end weights on the handlebars. The clutch has a light pull and shifting is so seamless that even the MO Editor, who can find false neutrals in automatic transmissions, breezed through the gears.

The SV rack is state-of-the-art.Suzuki also didn't cut corners while developing a chassis to hold the excellent engine. Although the aluminum-truss style frame looks as thought it was borrowed from the TL1000S, it has been designed specifically for this bike. According to Suzuki, the truss-style frame, with its low weight and high torsional rigidity, takes better advantage of V-twin power delivery characteristics as opposed to the heavier twin-spar frames found on in-line fours. Although Suzuki wasn't confident enough in their design to incorporate it into the TL1000R, the truss frame is a great fit for the 650 engine. It's lighter and 20 millimeters shorter than the TL1000S frame, and it places the front wheel closer to the center of the motorcycle to produce quicker steering characteristics. folding, aluminum footpegs are mounted directly to the frame as well.

The SV650 is quick turning, to say the least. Because it's so light, 395-pounds measured wet, and the chassis is so tight, the SV flicks into turns almost effortlessly and holds its line. Remember that this is an unfaired motorcycle and the front end will feel a little loose when compared to a fully-faired sportbike, but it's still very stable. The SV650 flicks over so easily that at times the MO Editor had to ease up after going too far inside during a few turns. Increasing radius turns are a breeze on the SV. However, the suspension begins to feel mushy and the bike tends to wallow as it's pushed closer to a ten-tenths pace. Even so, the progressive dual front and single disc brakes rule and they'll slow you down if you find yourself a little overwhelmed. Certain design elements were incorporated to make riding easier, like good brakes.

At the Rock Store a small crowd gathered around the SV650 and the MO Editor soon found himself answering questions.

How do you like this bike?

"It rules. It's fun. Way fun." I was think of buying one for my wife. What do you think? "Maybe. Depends on how good of a rider is your wife is. Despite its entry-level price, the SV isn't necessarily a beginner's bike. It's an extremely light and quick turning motorcycle and throttle response is immediate and strong. But it's also forgiving and easy to ride."

How are the tires?

"Metzler ME4s. Good stock tires."

Does it come in any colors other than red and blue?

"Not this year."

How's the gas mileage?

"Well, lemme see. It has a 4.2 gallon tank, I've put 140 miles on the odometer and the fuel light has yet to come on (it would about 10 miles later on the way back down to the ocean), so, you do the math. Not bad. Oh yeah, it doesn't have a petcock."

Does it come with a fairing?

"Hmmm. That is a bone of contention for many Americans since a faired S version is available in Europe. The rationale is that American Suzuki believes they offer more than enough faired sport bikes. Personally, I suspect that they are afraid a faired SV650 will cannibalize Bandit and Katana sales, which it probably would. Still, Suzuki says the parts department is looking into a bikini-style fairing."

A few months and a couple of thousand miles later the Suzuki Press Rep called to wonder what was happening with the story.

"Um, nothing," said the MO Editor.

"Well, are you planning on posting a story?"

MO's token artsy shot: We call this New Japanese Two-Wheeled Technology in Front of Rusty American Station Wagon. Well, that is a difficult question. The deal with the enthusiast press is that the manufacturers give us brand new super-cool motorcycles to ride and impress folks with and in return we're supposed to write reviews. The MO Editor understood this part of the bargain, yet some stories are easier to write than others. Some bikes are so full of new high-tech materials and alloys that the story writes itself. Other bikes don't inspire tremendous passion, and these reviews are written quickly just so we can turn them in for something cooler. Then there are the bikes that don't easily lend themselves to prose, they just like to be ridden. The SV650 is one of these.

"Um, yeah, eventually, when we get enough miles on the bike."

"When will that be?"

"Soon," said the MO Editor with a hint of regret in his voice, since he knew it wouldn't be soon at all.

"But you know," the Editor said just as the Suzuki Press Rep was about to hang up, "I could write the review right now. I would simply say 'Just ride it'."

"You'll have to write more than that," said the Suzuki Press Rep.

"That says it all. But I'll try to think of something more to write."


Manufacturer: Suzuki           
Model:  SV650                            
Price:  $5699 (USD)                 
Engine: liquid cooled, DOHC, 90°V-twin                  
Compression ratio: 11.5:1       
Bore and Stroke:  81.0 x 62.6 mm       
Displacement: 645cc           
Carburetion: 2 Mikuni BSDR39             
Transmission: 6 speed, constant mesh           
Tires/Front: 3.5 in, 120/60 ZR17 Metzler            
Tires/Rear: 4.5 in, 160/60 ZR17 Metzler             
Wheelbase: 56.3 in (1430 mm)              
Seat Height: 31.7 in (805 mm)           
Fuel Capacity: 4.2 gal (16 L)         
Claimed Dry Weight: 363 lbs (165 kg) 
Measured wet weight: 395 lbs (179 kg)

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