The BG 2011/12 winter hack departs. Memories are made of this…

Suzuki’s SV 650 is such a familiar bike – this is our second SV hack – that adding to the considerable knowledge base is a challenge. Nevertheless, with the current SV priced new at less than £5k, and the plethora of cheap used examples on the market, it’s clear that this machine in its various guises remains relevant, all the more so in a recession. It therefore seems well worth while setting down a few thoughts on the bike’s tenure with us. What follows is an overview: greater detail on mods and performance can be found in previous extracts of our hack diary.

  • In standard form, SV ergonomics are far better suited to shorter riders.

You already knew that. What you might not know, is that modding to accommodate six foot plus jocks can easily upset the balance of the naked bike. We found that the combination of a built up saddle and a modestly raised rear end made straight line performance on anything less than a perfect surface twitchy. This was exacerbated by the fact that without a screen, the naked version offers zilch blast deflection (a problem made worse by a raised saddle or larger rider). Modding any bike so that it fits you can create unforseen problems: you might be better off paying slightly more for something which feels right from the off.

  • Go easy with sharpening up the handling, especially on the N.

We’ve found with both our SV’s that  fairly modest tweaks can suddenly de-stabilise things on the road. Obviously, this is exacerbated by altering saddle and/or bars to suit individual requirements (see above). Suffice to say that bringing the forks up through the yokes and altering rear shock linkage can make the naked bike prone to the jitters: so one thing at a time, and in small doses. This bike handles well from the get go: you wont be needing radical set ups for road use.

  • Use torque rather than revs to make progress.

Being a V2, the SV isn’t a natural screamer, so don’t ride it like a Super Four or R6.  Hanging onto the revs within 1500 rpm of the red line is pointless. Granted, the SV is no torque monster – but on the road, shorter shifting will pay off.

  • Fit some decent springs and hoses.

Hel lines and K-Tech fixed rate springs (with some quality 7.5 grade oil) transformed the front end – beyond what we’d normally expect. Highly recommended.

  • Tyre choice matters more than you’d think.

Being light and nimble, we would expect the bike to go well on most modern tyres. In our experience, ageing behemoths are far more subject to the transformative effects of a change of rubber. But this was another area where the SV surprised us. When we picked the bike up, it was shod with ancient Bridgestone 020s, albeit with plenty of meant on ’em.  Although we weren’t expecting great feel from them, somehow they suited the bike. When winter kicked in, we changed to Pilot Power 3s.  Although the latter were far superior in the wet, and more eager to turn in irrespective of conditions, we both felt that they underperformed in the dry because of a lack of feedback. That’s not to say you couldn’t do a track day on them: it’s more a case of suspecting that there is a better summer tyre out there for this particular machine.

  • In the right hands, the naked SV is a serious B road contender.

Let’s get one thing straight. Without a screen, we found the N a pain in the arse on long A road journeys. You are forced into a crouch early doors, which always seems faintly ludicrous on a naked, like you’re riding the wrong bike. However, with some very minor mods (see above) and adjustments, there isn’t much that will get past in the twisties, where the naked bike comes into its own. Taken as a whole, the SV belied its decade of service on UK roads. It isn’t a Street Triple (king of the class): the willing motor can’t compete once the 675 kicks in, and while a standard Striple needs no modding and precious little adjustment from the off, the SV does need a partner – ie the right hands –  prepared to spend a little time sorting it to his or her requirements: the sort of thing you would expect to have to do with any older bike. And you can pick up a clean SV for a grand if you’re prepared to search.

In conclusion, it’s about managing expectations. To get the most out of this ten year old middleweight, you have to accept that 65 bhp at the wheel (or thereabouts) is the bottom line, and that means tailoring your journeys to suit whenever possible, maximising the bike’s predeliction for cornering. For all its willingness, a 650 V2 will run out of puff when exposed to endless straight lines. The SV looks and sound the part, the trick is making sure it’s in the right movie. Finally:

  • Don’t off road (in the dark). Even on Pilot 3s…

Our lips are sealed…

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