Why the Suzuki SV650 is the best bike. Ever.

sv650_sport_staticOk, so there might be masses an element of exaggeration in the title but it’s still a very underrated weapon. In a world where fashion often supersedes function during the purchase stage, Suzuki’s SV650 – in all guises – may not be the most romantically satisfying. In fact, they’re positively unglamorous but serve a very broad purpose to an even broader ownership. Is it the Daley Thompson of motorcycling? Yes. Yes it is.  


44t_sv1.1They’re cheap: With early models cluttering the used market for around a grand, there’s not a lot that can equal the SV’s performance and thrills-per-pound ratio. Add another £1000 onto the budget, and there are just as many sub-10,000 mile minters ready for abuse, and all will chew up funkier, classier and more expensive rivals.

Despite the arrival of Gladys, sorry, Gladius – a newer, sleeker, less masculine model – Suzuki continue to offer the SV in its current range, even though development has been discontinued. And at £4,975 for the current asking price, the SV sits pretty against more modern, less able price-point competitors.

CatC/D ‘write-offs’ shouldn’t be dismissed either. Bodywork often tips the money scales of insurance companies and an upside of the SV’s popularity (we’ll get there in a minute) is the subsequent used parts at bargain costs, which are super-easy to obtain. Chucking it down the road or converting into a cheap, crashable trackday scalpel doesn’t necessarily have to mean selling your house or at worse, suicide.

They’re popular: At the last count, there were more SV650s frequenting Her majesty’s highways than the combined number of Range Rovers, X Factor contestants and syphilis sufferers in the UK. Everywhere you look, whether it’s urban commuters or rural funsters, you’re guaranteed to see a Six-Fiddy lurking around somewhere.

Apart from financially appealing, the SV’s charm could also include just how easy it is to pilot – whoever you are. The relatively low seat (800mm), sumptuous throttle, frugal fuel consumption, lashings of grunt and light, flickable handling all combine for a newb-friendly ride. On the contrary, feed it some twisties and it’ll munch apexes all day, not to mention stunt on request.


John loves SVs

They’re bulletproof: They say a cockroach is the only thing that’ll survive a nuclear strike. Well, that’s horseshit, as the SV650 could endure two. Despite the modest grunt and zippy motor, chasing tenths wasn’t in the design brief so engine longevity is a significant benefit. Spanked, revved, bounced off the limiter and munching miles: you’d have to try exceptionally hard to make one go BANG.

Don’t be afraid of high mileage second-hand steals. SVs will go on and on like Ariston, requiring the occasional oil change to go with fuel and tyre kicking.


They’re sportier than you think: It’s not just a rudimentary novice steed or commuter workhorse. Chuck a set of sticky tyres at a SV650 and there’s an abundance of sporting talent waiting to be unlocked. The economical suspension might be a little bouncy and loose but intrinsically, the chassis is superb and capable of a lot more than its ancillaries can cope with.

The UK patriotically prides itself on inventing sports like cricket, football and egg-chasing. You can add minitwin racing to that momentous list. Yes, that’s it: Minitwins, ‘the 21st century gentleman’s cricket.’ If you’re not au fait with the rules and regs of minitwins, they’re very constrictive (aftermarket exhaust, shock, rearsets, braided brakes and race bodywork is the crux), which means good, clean, bloody cheap racing. It also highlights just how proficient the SV is in standard-ish trim, capable of lapping Brands Indy in 50-seconds.

Supertwin_wheelie copy

Yes, that is a Suzuki SV650

100bhp is possible without a cube increase: The arrival of the Supertwins class in racing has seen a radical upsurge in development for budget happy shoppers like the SV650 and Kawasaki’s ER6. James Hillier managed a 117mph lap of the TT aboard a (heavily-modified) ER6 and, with all due respect to Kawasaki’s creation, Hillier would have managed it on a Suzuki but for a big, fat Kawasaki contract getting in the way.

Ryan Farquhar triggered the ER6 crusade (and is partly responsible for the Supertwins’ inception) but the Suzuki hasn’t been given the chance to prove its minerals. JHS Racing – Suzuki GB’s official entrant in the Lightweight TT – have worked their magic on the SV and massaged a modest 95bhp from the 645cc motor, albeit at huge cost.

JHS Racing also spent years developing a ram-air system and an intricate (and massive) set of injectors in the quest for horses and success at the TT, yet reverted to all the standard equipment as it made more power. Chucking an exhaust can and fuelling module alone will reap benefits – around 70bhp’s worth of benefits.



SV650s are even dapper at flat-tracking…

What to look out for…

– Often used as commuters and slaves to the daily grind, oil levels tend to be overlooked in favour of a quick getaway and clocking in on time. If you’re buying, check it’s been maintained to a half-decent standard.

– Gear lever and rear brake pivot joints can seize up over the years, but that’s pretty much it. And now we’re being pedantic

Then again, Yamaha went and built the MT-07…




  20 comments for “Why the Suzuki SV650 is the best bike. Ever.

  1. Josh Humphries
    March 24, 2015 at 1:27 pm

    Absolutely cracking machine… I know lots of people see them as beginners bikes, and I was the same haha! They are a bit ‘gopping’ to look at, but the back end is definitely better to look at that the front, more so with the pointy models!!
    I decided to go for one as my second bike, after a klx250 to complete my 33bhp restriction on and evern restricted it was quick to about 80mph, on a private road ofc ;) But when the restriction came off there’s plenty of power to make the front come a bit light, soo easy to ride and genuinely does feel rewarding when its been ridden right. Ramps straight up to 100mph and pushes on to about 127 before acceleration gets a bit more scarce… But realistically, the acceleration up to ‘sensible speeds’ are plenty to keep anyone happy! And for the price too, I’d say you can’t go wrong at all!

    Oh, and then there’s that V-twin sound through a straight through exhaust pipe…. Oooooft!

    • Peter
      February 16, 2016 at 10:09 pm

      The SV650 is very popular for ‘classic twins’ racing in the U.S., and that’s a very good place for it. On the plus side it’s a nice looking bike, with a super engine – lightweight, torquey, very smooth, and very happy to rev. The downside is that the seat is little more than a flat slab with a very thin cushion on it, and for street riding the extremely low clip-ons are viciously uncomfortable. I have no doubt that the SV650F Gladius with a real seat, and upright bars would be much easier to live with on a daily basis. At least on our side of the pond the recently announced 2017 SV650 is clearly more similar to the Gladius than the old SV, and to me that makes perfect sense. I have yet to ride one, but with the excellent motor, and more upright ergonomics the Gladius looks like a good choice when and if I decided to upgrade my trusty old Bandit (not obvious that’s going to happen). To make the Gladius even more attractive, lately they’re heavily discounted as a result of poor sales. The V-strom is probably not as well suited for general street use, but marketing-wise the adventure bike segment is what’s selling these days, so once again it’s style over substance.

  2. March 24, 2015 at 5:49 pm

    I love my SV it never lets me down on the way to work at 5am 365 days a year and at the weekend it eats up the Cotswold twisties all day long. Brakes are a bit iffy though and stock rubber sux. Any advice on upgrades would be greatly appreciated.

    • Leonardus
      January 26, 2016 at 9:35 am

      I would advise some stainless steel braided brake lines. I have HEL ones installed and they work like a charm. Give much more control and confidence while breaking. Furthermore some decent brake pads help a lot. (I like resin pads personally because of a bit more initial bite).
      For rubbers I am currently running Michelin PILOT Road 4 which are good tires all round. Pilot Road 2 also performs fine and are a bit cheaper. Have ridden Bridgestone’s t 20s before but was not fond of those.
      Friend of mine runs Pilot power on his cbr600r which are great for some extra grip but he has to change tires a lot!

  3. Morley
    March 24, 2015 at 8:01 pm

    Nice to see the SV getting some love.

    So easy to ride and very forgiving. I always recommend these to anyone looking to get their first “big” bike.

    Get rid of the massive stock exhaust and change the god awful stock Dunlop tyres (honestly, those things are dangerous) and you’ve got yourself a fantastic bike that will take anything you throw at it.

  4. Andy
    March 24, 2015 at 9:54 pm

    Feature on the JHS SV please!

  5. Josh Humphries
    March 24, 2015 at 11:02 pm

    I second the want for a feature on the JHS Racing SV650.

    also, an article on the best upgrades as a whole… I think MCN did an article on the best 10 upgrades for an SV650, but its been long outdated now and could do with a 44teeth spin on it!

  6. Paddy
    March 25, 2015 at 11:39 am

    I’ve recently bought one of these as my first ‘Big Bike’ – I’m as pleased as punch with it. Ten year old bike with less than 4k miles on it. Bargain..

  7. Eddie
    June 8, 2015 at 9:57 pm

    List of Best upgrades for sv650
    1 Get a set of sticky tyres.
    2 Braided brake hoses( cheap but very effective, especially if stock ones are on their way out)
    3 Brake pads (smth like bendix)
    4 Front springs and heavier oil (smth like k-tech)
    5 Rear shock (k-tech, nitron, WP …)
    6 Last but not least suspension set up (preferably by professional) this goes a long way.

    IF money is no object you could do gsxr front end swap or go for let’s say k-tech internals but then you wouldn’t be riding an sv :)

  8. Dave
    July 7, 2015 at 10:18 pm

    More on the MT 07 pls chaps. It’s a super bike in my opinion, (squidgy suspension aside) keen to hear your thoughts.

    • Mike
      December 9, 2016 at 7:28 am

      Ive tried both back to back and the SV comes out ahead by a long way. Sv is a proven design MT07 is very new. Apart frpm lighter wt the sv is better bike for nearly all riders . MT07is very vibby compared to the sv(it is vibby compared to just about anything).The seat is horrible -not enough length and WAY too soft padding. Hard plastic just where your bum touches down!Instruments hard to read when riding..handling is prob ok for someone just off a 50cc scooter but it is very unrefined. The MT is an ok round town bike if u dont go that fast -over 6000rpm th e vibs set in-unpleasant.MT brakes have good bite but will throw a beginner down the road in the wet. SV better for a beginner because of its no stall feature. Also much better for an expert who can use the better perfomanace from the handling THe Sv fits shorter riders better -down to say 5ft 4″ and up to around 6ft. Beyond that you would have to add say 40mm of padding to the seat. THe MT07 seat should be ditched and a new one constructed. I noticed along stretch to the MT bars (Im 5FT 10″ and 13stone). Also the SV is quite a bit cheaper plus has AB std.

  9. October 8, 2015 at 3:33 pm

    I’ll stick with my ER6 me thinks… but will say the stock SV has a nice note to it!

  10. November 1, 2015 at 9:49 am

    I used to have a ’99 in yellow with the bikini fairing. When I picked it up in 2010 it had 30k on the clock. In the space of 2 years, the power regulator went, which trashed two batteries. After replacing that the rear calliper seized and locked up at 50mph. The horrible bolts that Suzuki insist on use on all their seats sheered, the throttle cable and throttle bottle seized when we had the heavy snow and that resulted in me brutishly breaking my Oxford heated grips thinking the tube had stuck. I could never decide whether it wanted to be in 3rd or 4th.

    I’d absolutely have one again!

  11. Dave King
    November 15, 2015 at 5:26 pm

    I have a 2001 SV650S in Canada. Mine has an Arrow big bore titanium pipe. Great sound.

    Done 130,000 kilometers on it. Done nothing to the engine, just changed wearing parts. Rear tyres do not last long, about 12,000 kilometers.

    Just a great bike, gets down real low in corners, choppy bends upset the front forks.

    If it ever comes to it, I do not know what bike I would replace it with!

  12. Neil Farline
    November 19, 2015 at 8:24 am

    I purchased a K7 last year after passing my test, Great first bike, I am nowhere near it’s limits yet, Pulls great in low revs. Planning a trip to Stelvio pass next year with SV650s

  13. Rod
    November 23, 2015 at 4:55 pm

    Nice article boys! I’ve never owned one but over the years I have gained a respect for the SV. They are tw AK47 of the track bike world. Cheap to buy, cheap to run, punches well above its weight and shrugs off anything.

  14. Roger
    December 20, 2015 at 4:41 am

    Bought a new 2015 V-strom 650 , same engine , slightly detuned . Manual say not over 5,000 rpm for 1st 1000k (1st service ), i thought that was a bit low but after riding around for a while its quite easy to blast off at lights and change at under 5k , heaps of torque and 6 gears. So far getting 3.7 L to 100km . Had a roll on drag (6th gear ) with a friends Suzuki cruiser 1500 cc from 100 kph and he had to drop 2 gears to catch me up . Comfy bike to ride (Bad back) but had to lower the bike 20mm F&R from the 835mm std to suit my 170 cm body . Great budget all rounder and when they had a end of year sale AU $9990.00 ride away with 12mths rego and they did the fitting of my lowering links and a handle bar – Back and Up riser and some crash knobs F &R . PS Love the Baron Von Grumble site and videos .

  15. December 1, 2016 at 9:45 pm

    I am 65 years young, and an active motorcyclist as my sole transportation since 16. I’ve commuted to work on bikes and toured extensively in Europe and North America in all weathers. I’ve owned 17models of 6 different brands while gathering well over a million miles of riding. The point: the SV650 is beyond a doubt the best bike I have ever owned. Reliable, comfortable, economical, good-handling and powerful. Not bad looking either while being completely unique in appearance. When I go over the ‘statistics’ that I have religiously kept on all my bikes it is also apparent that it has been the least expensive in terms of maintenance with the exception of my BMW R100 – and then only so because I lazily let the dealer do mundane tasks I should be doing. So … buy one used and keep it forever. No, you can’t have mine and I am definitely going to get TWO more to have replacement parts since Suzuki started manufacturing the horrific appearing Gladius, which you also might buy since the engine is the same …
    Heres what I suggest you buy to make the SV650 perfect for touring: Plexifairing 3 fairing, Corbin seat, crash-bars and center-stand if you can find them, progressive springs for the front fork and after-market rear shock, a LOUD horn and night-driving lights, and a REV-PACK Tour Pack which will give you massive storage capacity while being unobtrusive and convenient.
    Change the oil every 6 months or 4,000 miles with 10/40 synthetic, and clean the air filter and change the sparkplugs every 10,000 miles. I have 100,000 thousand miles on mine in ten years. Only gone through five chains/sprockets, 7 sets of tires, 4 sets of brake pads, 2 fork seals, 3 sets of wheel bearings, and three batteries. Still the same head bearings, and I am ashamed to admit I have never lubed the rear shock bearings. Or cleaned/lubed any electrical contact points. The valves have never been adjusted, and just now the fuel pump is getting grumpy. Hows that for manufacturing tolerances? No bike I have had has come even close to this ease of maintenance with complete reliability. Not one incident of breakdown. The only problem with my SV650 is my inadequacy as its owner. I don’t deserve her. She has been a God-send to me. Thank-you Suzuki engineers and assembly line workers. ARIGATO big-time!

    • Dave King
      December 2, 2016 at 11:32 am

      Totally agree with your comments. I’m 75 had my SV560S since 2002, was used for a few months before I owned it. Done 135,000 kms, not quite as much as your bike, but I will work on it. Rear tires are the thing that needs replacing about every 14,000 kms.
      Mine has a full titanium Arrow pipe, high level, cost $2,000. You cannot buy them now. Makes it sound just like a Ducati Done several long trips, been to California 4 times, 1,000 mile trip one way. Great to see that Suzuki have brought back a decent looking bike with the same engine. I bought a spare engine, just in case.
      Great bike, if you don’t have one, pity. .

  16. Mike
    January 17, 2017 at 7:42 pm

    That picture of the sv650 on the flat track is mad cool and Sv650 is a wonderful machine.

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