Suzuki SV-1000S: Fast 'n Fun for Everyone -

Sean Alexander
by Sean Alexander

As I lay in bed waiting for 8:00am to roll around, jetlag tells my body that it's midnight. I gaze at the mansions and yellow street lights outside my window and I'm anxious to be under way, but dawn breaks late on the Andalusian hillside. The air outside my window possesses that crystal clarity one associates with high altitudes and cold temperatures. I however, am scarcely 15 meters above the Mediterranean, in Marbella, on Spain's Costa del Sol, winter playground for the rich & famous. Today's high will be in the 70's.

The itinerary calls for us to take a blast up the autopista (Spanish toll roads and freeways should really be called "speedways") to the A376 for a curvy 30 mile ride inland, on a winding ribbon of asphalt over the Serrania de Ronda mountains, to the spectacular town of Ronda for lunch.

When I was your age, we didn't have seamless fuel injection, we had to mix gas and air in our mouths and spit at the intake.
This bridge connects the two halves of Ronda which are split by the 330' deep El Tajo gorge... Probably NOT a good place for a highside.
The 2003 SV 1000s come with this handy dandy steering damper, for those impromptu races down the autopista.
Thank god for jumping and waving Japanese technicians
The SV's new 14 LED taillights could use more contrast, between ON and BRAKE
It is a good thing that the SV's new fuel injection system, is seamless and linear, because as we leave the hotel parking lot, it becomes clear that traction management will be a valuable skill today. The pace is brisk and the traffic circles are dirty. 4 minutes into the ride and we're warming the tires with a short, 210 kph (130 mph) blast down the autopista to the A376. The new Suzuki SV 1000S feeling composed and fun at the same time.

Once into the mountains on the sinuous A376, we spread out and get a feel for the handling of the new SV at our own pace. Mark Hoyer and Kent Kunitsugu are following me up to the first photo stop and I'm very aware that I'm the new guy and probably being critiqued by my peers, so I try to curb my usual stupidity. The 1000 is not unlike its famous little brother the SV 650, it turns-in well and feels fairly flickable, albeit with 60% more horsepower. We arrive at the stop behind a crazy Austrian journalist who is wearing blue jeans and slip-on knee-sliders which he has been using with alacrity. He passes four wheeled traffic with reckless abandon and whips his helmet off to smoke after every other 5 minute photo run. Most of us decide to give him a wide berth.

Between photo passes, the U.S. journos remark on how similar the road and scenery is to California. Spain's drivers however, aren't anything like California, some slow and some fast, almost all are courteous and un-fazed when we blow past. When it's necessary to throw out the anchor for cars, cops or tight corners, the SV's brakes don't disappoint. They're easy to use, giving great feedback and power, without noticeable fade, though I found the stock lever position to be a little close to the bar and used the widest setting on the 7 position lever adjuster.

When we arrive in Ronda, we're stunned by the setting. Ronda is built on a high plateau, with the 330' deep El Tajo gorge running through the center of town and an amazing arched stone bridge/fortress connecting the two halves. While at the lunch stop, I ask for more rear spring preload and a slight increase in rebound damping. The Japanese technicians are very interested in my feedback and quick to help with the fully adjustable suspension on the SV. Compared to the 650's more basic setup, the suspension on the 1000 feels more buttoned-down and with some adjustment is perfectly serviceable for anything up to track-day use.

After lunch, I retrieve my tank-bag and camera, from Garret Kai. Garret is our guide from Suzuki America, babysitting the 6 U.S. journalists throughout this trip. He's well organized and a prince of a guy, with the patience of a saint. I mount the tank bag and camera, while the rest of the press group rides away. Now all alone in Ronda, I set out for the A376 and promptly get lost while following a tour bus through the residential side of town. It gets stuck while trying to make a 120 degree left turn, between alleys and when I get by the bus, I find myself in a swarm of 14 year old kids, who are walking home from school. They seem mighty impressed with the rakish good looks of the silver SV-S and every one of them stops, cat calls, shouts, flashes a thumbs-up or pantomimes a wheelie motion to me. All I can manage for them is a sideways departure in a shower of dirt, because there's not a shred of asphalt for at least a kilometer. I'm obviously someplace like Spain or Italy, because instead of spraying me with a hose, shouting at me or calling the cops, the adults along the street just smile and clap.

Once safely back on the A376, the camera shifted more than I wanted, because my tank bag was mounted in a teeter-totter position on the peak of the Suzuki's tank. You have my apologies for the camera angle in the videos.

The day ended with another blast on the autopista to Marbella and an impromptu race was quickly convened as I assumed a full "racer" tuck and dialed up an indicated 258 kph (160 mph) on the digital speedo. That was the highest indicated speed I saw during my two days with the SV. Allowing for hills and some speedometer error, I'd guess the SV is actually good for something in the neighborhood of 155 mph flat-out on level ground, though one of the Canadian journalists later claimed to have seen 270 kph (167 mph) on a long downhill stretch.

Day Two

Sound asleep, after a late night at the "I Love Golf" bar in the hotel lobby, I'm awakened by the bleating cry of the alarm on my palmtop PC. Crap! I'm late for breakfast and have to scramble to get downstairs for the day's 510km ride to Granada and back. Luckily I take few extra seconds to open the balcony door and check the temperature outside. Brrrrr, it's at least 20 degrees colder than yesterday morning. I skip the stylish Alpinestars racing gloves and boots and switch to a pair of Doc Martens, insulated Tourmaster gloves, over-pants, long underwear and jeans. This will turn out to be a wise choice.

Sean hauls ass through the Spanish mountains to bring you the scoop. Thanks to your $11.94, we can afford to fly him back to the states for future tests.
Ah... The sublime pleasure of a warm scarf and a heated seat
Like yesterday, the day starts with a high speed run down the Autopista. This time, we head east, towards Malaga. The crosswinds are gusting to about 30 mph, but the half-faired SV doesn't seem too bothered and we make excellent time to our first photo stop at a small limestone white village, filled with tourist hungry shops, artisans, and a most welcome scarf and glove vendor. Dave Peterson from South Africa, (former teammate to Kevin Schwantz on the Suzuki 500cc GP Team) and I sneak away from the group and buy a 6' x 2.5' cotton scarf from the old man running the shop. It takes a minute to get him to understand that we want a pair of scissors, but finally he gets the picture and performs the handy two 6' x 1.25' scarves multiplication procedure for us.

The route to Granada takes us into a high mountain village, for a coffee and pee break. It grows increasingly cold, as we approach the village and the countryside streaking past gradually lightens. I assume it is just sand and rocks, but as I approach a 90 degree left, I have a small slide and it is then that I realize that the shoulder of the road is actually covered with a light frosting of snow. No wonder my hands are going numb. At the coffee stop, we're greeted by a bunch of jumping and waving Japanese technicians, who motion us through a parking lot, in order to bypass a sheet of ice, covering the road in front of the Hotel/Restaurant. It is decided that we'll take an alternate route to Granada, because the roads ahead become increasingly ice and snow covered. While the rest of the group is feeling like the Donner party, Dave and I happily ride with our faces and necks wrapped in warmth.

The detour route is a delight. Though still cold and a little dirty, it has wonderful scenery, curves and hills. We ride briskly behind our V-Strom mounted guides and a manager from Suzuki Spain, who is flogging the hell out of his 650cc Bergman super-scooter. Most of us admit to wanting a crack at that scooter on the back roads, because it is able to maintain about 90% of the pace of the SVs and V-Stroms, anywhere but the Autopistas. At the front of the pack, we strike-up a game of corner exit wheelies and the SV remains quick, willing, able and fun. The detour takes us to another of Spain's Autopistas, where have a subdued ride through Granada and up the mountainside, to our lunch stop in the historical Alhambra.

Sean Alexander
Sean Alexander

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