sv650 owners, speak up please
April 22, 2009 1:06 PM   Subscribe

Have you owned a Suzuki SV650 or SV650s? What did you not like about it?

I've been obsessing and researching about motorcycles for a couple of months now. I believe I've narrowed my choice down to the Suzuki SV650s (just like the SV650 but with a fairing and a slightly lower posture).

I've heard all the amazing things about this bike. I'm totally psyched to get one as soon as I can afford it. I've read several posts on AskMe where owners have lauded it, and I've been reading a couple of fan/devotee/cult sites dedicated to it. Nobody ever says anything bad about it.

I'm considering a 2004+ model ('99-'02 were not fuel injected, and the '03 model was a one-off design).

If you have owned this motorcycle and there was something you didn't like about it, please speak up. I'd like to hear it.

I've taken the MSF class, I have the endorsement on my license, I have all of the gear minus riding pants, I'm 6'0"
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints to Travel & Transportation (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I own a 2005 SV650, and I love it. Bought it 2 years ago from a guy who used it as his daily driver, it had 21k miles when I got it. First bike I've ever owned, and it's been a fantastic experience - predictable, I feel very much in control, it's very forgiving, and the thing is generally bulletproof - the only time it didn't start, it was the result of a dead battery, having spent 4 months outside in the wintertime. Battery took a charge, and I was good to go.

What I haven't liked:

First and foremost, the suspension. The SV rider forums are full of complaints about the suspension. Front suspension is soft (weak springs, thin fork oil), and the rear suspension isn't much better.

I dealt with this problem in a common fashion:

1) Front suspension got a new set of springs from Racetech, and much thicker fork oil. $130 in parts/oil, $125 of my mechanic's time. HUGE improvement. Much more control in the turns, much more precise handling.

2) The OEM rear shock isn't great either, and it gives out before 15k miles - I was well over 20k. It's in the shop right now, getting a used rear from a GSXR-1000. I'll have the bike back tomorrow, I'll let you know what it's like. Shock was $75 (private & used - new replacements start at $400!!), new battery (GSXR1000 shock isn't a perfect fit, and I now need a smaller battery) is $115, $250 worth of labor.

Second, the stock seat is awful. After an hour, I was in major butt-pain. 150 miles? My back would be killing me. Replaced it with an aftermarket seat from Seargent (Corbin has an option as well). $300.

Other than that? Nothing else I'm planning. I bought a windscreen for long-distance riding (doing 1,000 miles this weekend, down to the Blue Ridge Mountains), and a tank bag, but that's it.

It's an awesome bike - it's not the sexiest thing on the planet, but it's a little mule. Faster than you'd ever need on the street, lots of fun to ride, totally reliable. Tons of parts available for it, a real SV rider community online for resources & support. Also a popular track bike if you decide to go that route.

MeMail me if you've got more questions, I'd be happy to go on further about it.
posted by swngnmonk at 1:24 PM on April 22, 2009

Disclaimer: I ride a TL1000R, not a SV650S.

The only two things I can think of are 1.) it's a v-twin motor - it won't rev as high as an I4 & may vibrate slightly more than an I4 and 2.) the riding position - are you used to the riding position on a modern sportbike? You should be in moderately good physical shape with strong abs, wrists, forearms and shoulders. Gimp knees are not very forgiving in this riding position, either.

Otherwise, I've heard nothing bad about the bike (& I belong to several riding/racing forums) as far as performance/reliability issues.

There's some great roads around Austin, you should have a blast riding it. Good luck & enjoy!
posted by torquemaniac at 1:24 PM on April 22, 2009

Oh, other note - I took the MSF basic rider course as well (I was on a 250cc bike, never above 25mph), and moved directly to the SV, riding it in & around downtown Brooklyn - where riding a bike that is beyond your ability is *bad*. Hardest part was refining my skills, but the SV never overwhelmed me.

FWIW, I'm 5'8", 165 - and get the pants, good all-weather pants are very much worth it.
posted by swngnmonk at 1:27 PM on April 22, 2009

Just a minor thought on faired vs. unfaired bikes: I have a 2008 Ninja 250 that I adore and wouldn't trade for the world. But, I park on the street in San Francisco and people sometimes knock bikes over. Fairings crack easily. I'm midway through replacing all my left side plastics as well as my clutch lever and left turn signal, because some asshole knocked my bike over, and didn't leave a note.

Also, as a new rider, you may very well drop your bike yourself. -shrug- I love my bike, wouldn't trade it for the world, but the fairing thing is a pain in the ass, and something to consider.

Have fun, and keep the shiny side up!!
posted by mollymayhem at 2:03 PM on April 22, 2009

I had an SV650, and I loved it. If I had to complain about anything, I'd say that the gearing was a little too spread out. I could go days without needing 5th, and you'd have to be really moving to need 6th. But then, I wouldn't call that a complaint, just the only answer I could come up with to your question.

Also, I found the seat to be pretty uncomfortable until I replaced it with a Corbin, but then, a lot of people would say that about a lot of bikes.
posted by Stylus Happenstance at 2:39 PM on April 22, 2009

Following up on mollymayhem's note - Framesliders are a must - best $50 you'll ever spend, especially if you get a faired bike. Parking in Brooklyn can be brutal, and the scuffs on my framesliders are far cheaper than on the bike.
posted by swngnmonk at 2:58 PM on April 22, 2009

Phenomenal bike. You'll love it. It is a nigh perfect bike.

Seconding swngnmonk's recommendation of Sargent seats. Stay away from Corbins. I've had both on various bikes (though only the Sargent for the SV). I've liked all the Sargents I've ever sat on and hated all of the Corbins. Plus Sargent is a great company to order from.
posted by thekiltedwonder at 5:08 PM on April 22, 2009

I had a 2000 SV650 as my second bike, it was the unfaired one though.
Bought it "used" with only 650 miles on it from a guy who'd bought it and just decided riding wasnt for him.
I put 14000 miles on it and never had a single problem. Used plain castrol 10w40 in it and new tires, sparkplugs, brakes occasionally and that was it. Ran like a champ, many trips to Dallas and all over with it.
In all, I'd say it nearly equals my Busa (current bike) in fun factor - very easy to flick through turns, I like the low end torque of the v-twin. True you wont be running high revs with a v-twin but the power is there and you will have a ton of fun with an SV - it's a great choice for a first bike.

Only cons I could think of was lack of a center stand, but I got a pitbull and spools for the swingarm for chain maintenance. Maintaining an SV yourself is really easy and will save you money. Some people complain that the SV like many Suzukis are loud or clunky to shift, the SV was loud shifting into first, but so was every one I ever heard - dont worry about it. I heard the clutch would get "sticky" in shifting if you switched to synthetic but you could switch back to dino oil and the prob would go away - not sure if thats changed since the 2000 - 01 models or not but I'm sure you can check it out in forums. Check out - its where I read up on all things SV related when I had one.
posted by clanger at 9:52 PM on April 22, 2009

Best answer: I had an 03 (which, by the way, is only different from the 04+ in very, very minor ways), and put about 8k miles on it before it was stolen. I could wax poetic about it all day, since I loved that goddamned bike, but you asked what's bad, so here I go:
  • Clunky shifter. Seriously, ride a Honda and then tell me the 'zuki gearbox doesn't feel like dragging a dowel through a box full of glass. I also regularly found false neutrals between 5th and 6th if I didn't shift with authority.
  • Suspension. Oh my god, the suspension on the SV is made of leftover 80s Katana parts. The forks are damping rod design, have weak springs, and aren't meaningfully adjustable. The rear shock, as well, is poorly-damped and un-adjustable. Sure, you can fix it, but why the hell should you need to? As a result, the stock bike inspires very little confidence in its ability to handle bumpy surfaces, which can lead to timidity, running wide, etc.
  • Inconsistent fuelling. Suzuki's EFI leaves a lot to be desired. It's very snatchy at low revs, and hard to modulate around the neutral point (between accelerating and decelerating), which can be hard for a newbie rider to handle. On the upside, it basically trains you to just whack the throttle open in a turn, which is nice because of its...
  • Unfriendly turning characteristics. Don't get me wrong, the SV is a lamb - you can do almost anything to it, and it will just take it without spitting you off. But if you don't consciously and deliberately open the throttle when you're trying to lean it over, it just. won't. turn. Which means, in a decreasing-radius turn, if you start to run wide, you must open the throttle more to get it to really lean over. And that catches a lot of newbies out.
It's for all of those reasons that I'm now lusting after a Ducati S2R800, but haven't ruled out the idea of getting an SV1000. :)
posted by TheNewWazoo at 8:23 AM on April 23, 2009

Okay, I can't resist. I loved my 03 SV650S, and it was my first bike. I'm a more competent rider with a few more bikes under my belt now, and I would (and do!) gladly recommend the SV as a first bike to people who will likely pay attention to the MSF's lessons. I love, love, love the SV.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 8:25 AM on April 23, 2009

Best answer: I roadraced an SV650 for two years in WERA. The SV is the reason that the Lightweight Twins class exists, now that the Honda Hawk is dead. SVs are cheap fun, easy to work on and maintain, and there's a ton of stuff in the aftermarket for them. Obviously, a racebike is a different animal from a streetbike, but here's what I did to mine (for superstock classes):

Suspension: Race Tech fork internals including stiffer springs and gold valves. Ohlins shock on the back for general Ohlins-goodness plus adjustable ride height.

Brakes: Stainless lines from Spiegler, and Vesrah pads (RJLs are their race compound, but I love their RJ pads on my streetbikes.)

Motor: Mine was carbureted, so I re-jetted it. The newer fuelie models benefit from a Power Commander to smooth out any off-idle twitchiness.

Random: as a racebike, mine wore race plastics and an M4 exhaust. I do NOT advocate loud exhausts on streetbikes, so don't do that unless you've really thought it through. I also didn't worry about the seat because I was only ever on it for 30 minutes at a time (45 for the Solo 20 races) and I wasn't paying attention to my arse anyway. If the seat is bad, I nth the posters above who suggest Sargent. They're a better company who build a better product.

And I gotta say to TheNewWazoo: The SV's stock suspension isn't great but SVs don't turn slowly like you describe. I think something was wrong with yours. Maybe it was set up wrong (fork tubes too low in the triple clamps or something.)
posted by workerant at 8:46 AM on April 23, 2009

workerant, perhaps I mis-spoke. In my experience the SV is flickable as all hell, but if you don't affirmatively open the throttle, it will want to stand up. And when a newbie gets in a bind, the last thing they want to do is open the throttle more.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 10:43 AM on April 23, 2009

(I should add that this is in direct comparison to the NT650, which I owned and hated. Drop the throttle on that bike while leaned way over, and it barely notices.)
posted by TheNewWazoo at 10:44 AM on April 23, 2009

Best answer: I had a 2002 SV650S and really liked it. It was an affordable, sporty fun bike to commute on, looked great and was great fun to take up into the hills above Santa Cruz. My two previous bikes were both Kawasaki Concours ZG1000, very big, very powerful sport cruisers. The SV felt like a minibike for the first several months.

My only complaints have to do with the riding position, its a little cramped for me and a little too far crouched down for commuting.

The engine is excellent, revvy and gets you rolling very quickly.

I replaced my SV with a V-Strom, same 650cc engine but a very different bike. Some people think its ugly but I think its quite beautiful because it is so very capable, incredibly comfortable and has an upright riding position that makes commuting easy. Also, the larger front wheel seems to give better road feel and control.

The SV was a great bike. Lots of fun and an outstanding value. It should be pretty easy to learn on and you won't grow out of it too quickly.
posted by fenriq at 11:14 AM on April 23, 2009

Best answer: So it might be too late, but I'll throw in one last thought:

I just returned from a 4-day, 1350-mile road trip on my SV, and rode it hard the entire time. The bike is a total champ, did not quit at all. 50mpg the entire way, with a significant amount of that above 55mph.

Even with the upgraded suspension, and the comfy seat, anything over 250 miles (unless it's all freeway) will beat you up. We did 310-350 miles/day, and I was worn out at the end of every day. In fairness to the SV, it's *not* a touring bike. It's a great ride, but if you're looking to cover significant distance on a regular basis, you might want to consider something else.
posted by swngnmonk at 9:36 AM on April 28, 2009

Response by poster: I'm not considering it as a touring bike. If I'm traveling over 50-100 miles I'm almost always doing it with my wife and kid, and so we'd be using the car for that. This will mostly be used for going to/from work and to get to where I need to go faster than my bicycle. I really like that it's regarded as a reliable bike and that it has most of its power delivered as low-end torque, not top-end speed.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 8:14 AM on April 29, 2009

Response by poster: Damn. Just when I thought I had this figured out I spy the V-strom. I think that might be the bike for me.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 1:02 PM on May 1, 2009

Response by poster: Update: Purchased a V-Strom today. Huzzah!
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 7:45 PM on May 30, 2009

« Older I'll be using table knives... damn.   |   Help me administer Mac OSX Mail Server Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.