First Ride

2009 Suzuki Gladius review

Taking up where the popular SV650 left off, the new for 2009 Gladius has a lot to live up to. Is it as sharp as the Roman sword it takes its name from?

Click to read: Suzuki SFV650 Gladius owners reviews, Suzuki SFV650 Gladius specs and to see the Suzuki SFV650 Gladius image gallery.

It’s chucking it down. I can’t really see where I’m going as yet another errant Fiat Punto rental car appears out of the low cloud halfway across my side of the road. I’m soaked to the skin, I’m on an unfamiliar road high in the mountains and I’m not too sure of the way back to the hotel. All sorts of things go through my mind, but they’ll have to wait – right now I really need to concentrate.

Of course, I could just slow down a bit. But I don’t want to. What may sound like purgatory to many is proving to be the most fun I’ve had on a bike in ages. Concentrating on my lines and feeling for grip is all I have to do thanks to the easy-going nature of the long-awaited replacement for Suzuki’s evergreen SV650.

Sitting well forward, I’m getting a real feel for what’s going on. I have to remind myself that it’s raining and that I’m only wearing jeans. Despite those innocent, almost effeminate lines this is a bike that wants to boogie. Perhaps this sense of fun and sharp handling should come as no surprise, as the chief engineer responsible for the Gladius is none other than Hiroshi Lio, the man behind the GSX-R range.

With a low, squat fuel tank and a seat height 15mm lower than the SV, the Gladius has been made even more manageable for smaller riders and, of course, the large number of ladies who loved the SV for its low seat and narrow waistline. Taller riders shouldn’t feel too cramped though, and even if they do, Suzuki dealers can supply a taller, more padded seat to increase comfort and seat height. For my five-nine frame it feels about right and the whole layout makes for a low centre of gravity that really seems to help flicking through the many hairpins between Betancuria and Pajara. Getting carried away on this bike comes all too easily.

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Gladius 2

The bike is still pretty basic in the chassis department though, and as you’d expect from a bike at this price point, it’s clearly been built to a budget. Although none of the components are likely to win too many man points at the local bike meet, on the road everything comes together very well indeed. The revised SV front forks are still only adjustable for preload, but feel well set-up and plush thanks to a new low-friction bush design and altered valving.

The end result is a fork that copes well enough with bumpy town roads without being too soft for spirited cornering - and that’s a pretty neat trick. Ground clearance could be better – the extra-long hero-blobs (fitted to protect the scooter-style silencer) tend to deck out a little prematurely. The brakes aren’t the greatest either and need a firm, four-fingered squeeze to get the bike hauled up from speed.

These are small criticisms though, and overall the balance of the bike is very good. Much of the credit for my exuberance and confidence through the bends has to go to Dunlop – the Qualifiers fitted as standard are specifically designed to suit naked sports machines and work absolutely brilliantly in both wet and dry conditions.

While we’re on the subject of balance, despite angry protestations from the more than slightly irritable German organisers, the SFV650 Gladius ist eine super-machine wheelie. Oh hell ja. The balance point is broad, making it a great bike to learn to stunt on, helped by a power delivery from the 645cc V-twin motor that is even stronger off the bottom and smoother than before thanks to numerous clever engine and fuel injection upgrades nicked – almost inevitably – straight from the GSX-R range.

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Gladius overall

Although Ducati have been at it for a while, the Gladius is the first Suzuki to use two spark plugs per cylinder to boost power at high revs, while a new camshaft profile does the same for top-end torque. The midrange is improved too with some changes to the fuel injection and airbox funnels combining with a slightly heavier crank to smooth things out and keep the vibes down.

If there was ever any doubt that Suzuki had made big strides forward with the motor in terms of out-and-out power, then seeing 141mph on the clock quickly dispels it, making it way quicker than the bike it replaces – Minitwin racers take note.

Like the SV650, the Gladius is a bike that’s been built to suit a wide range of riders, although personally I can’t help thinking that the two-tone version looks as though it’s been aimed squarely at the female market. I’m assured by Suzuki that this isn’t the case and, having ridden the bike on a variety of roads would have to agree that it’s definitely something of a wolf in sheep’s clothing, but I’m still a little disappointed that the striking (and much manlier) all-black bike parked in the lobby of the Teutonic Robinsons resort won’t be coming to the UK, at least not initially. Feel free to pester Suzuki on my behalf.

Overall it’s a great effort from Suzuki and a worthy successor to the SV. It’s moved the small V-twin game on, does everything you could want it to, and I can’t think of too many ways I’d rather spend £4,500. Definitely, absolutely, not just for girls.

Specifications

Price: £4500 (£4849 with ABS)
Engine: 645cc, liquid cooled, 16-valve, V-twin
Power: 66.6bhp @ 9,000 rpm
Torque: 47 lb.ft @ 7,600 rpm
Front suspension: Coil spring, oil damped
Rear suspension: Link, preload adjustable
Front brake: 290 mm discs, twin piston claipers
Rear brake: 240 mm disc, single caliper
Dry weight: 202kg
Seat height: 785mm
Fuel capacity: 14.5 litres
Top speed: 141mph
Colours: Blue/White, Red/White/

Visordown rating: 5/5

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