Buyer Guide: Suzuki SV650

The ultimate buyer’s guide to the SV650 written by the people who actually own the bike...

Click to view: Suzuki SV650 owners reviews, specs and image galleries.

Sometimes a bike can add up to much more than the sum of its parts to the extent it punches way above its weight. Suzuki’s SV650 is just such a machine. Most budget bikes involve a basic steel frame and a hand-me-down engine. Not the SV. It’s got bespoke aluminium and a specially designed V-twin which give it unique character and just enough poke. Its huge sales and massive following testify just what a sweet bike it is. The handling and brakes are excellent plus it’s practical and extremely cheap to run as well. Reliability’s good too, if not flawless.

The SV’s popular with ladies and beginners but it’s perfectly capable of satisfying more mature motorcycling palettes, too. It’s at home anywhere from track days to touring to commuting.

To be honest as beginners bikes go, it’s not the easiest to ride. The throttle response is very snatchy and the steering’s rapid. The unfaired ‘N’ version is easier to ride with its upright bars but a confident novice should have no problem with the faired ‘S’.

Almost 100 owners took the time to tell us about their bikes via our on-line questionnaire and almost every one was gushing with praise for the peppy middleweight. Thanks to all!

As well as going well, being reliable, practical, versatile and cheap to run it’s got that X-factor too. It’s a plucky, willing performer that delivers the goods with a side order of charm.

Suzuki SV650 Specifications

1999 SV650S

Engine 645cc, liquid cooled, DOHC, 8 valve, V-twin Power 69bhp @ 9,000rpm Top speed 130mph
Torque 45ftlb @ 7,400rpm Dry weight 169kg Seat height 805mm Fuel capacity 16 litres

1999 SV650N

Engine 645cc, liquid cooled, DOHC, 8 valve, V-twin Power 69bhp @ 9,000rpm Top speed 125mph
Torque 45ftlb @ 7,400rpm Dry weight 165kg Seat height 805mm Fuel capacity 16 litres

2003 SV650S

Engine 645cc, liquid cooled, DOHC, 8 valve, V-twin Power 69bhp @ 9,000rpm Top speed 132mph
Torque 45ftlb @ 7,400rpm Dry weight 169kg Seat height 800mm Fuel capacity 16 litres

2007 SV650N

Engine 645cc, liquid cooled, DOHC, 8 valve, V-twin Power 69bhp @ 9,000rpm Top speed 132mph
Torque 45ftlb @ 7,400rpm Dry weight 169kg Seat height 800mm Fuel capacity 16 litres

Faired or unfaired?
94% of the bikes in our survey were the faired ‘S’ model and just 6% were the naked ‘N’!

15% of owners don’t do any maintenance themselves. 47% do minor jobs like replacing brake pads. 38% do everything. The SV’s a pretty easy bike to work on and poor quality bolts cause more problems than anything else.

Like so many modern bikes the finish isn’t as good as people hope – in fact it appears the little SV is worse than many. Paint isn’t the best – the tank and plastic panels can look shabby fairly fast and the engine paint can come off. Fork legs lowers corrode and pretty much every fastener and bolt either corrodes or is easy to chew up when you try and loosen them. The rear brake torque arm and front exhaust down pipe suffer too. Even a well cared-for bike will probably have corrosion under the tank and the yokes. Apply WD40 with abandon.

What goes wrong
It’s a pretty reliable bike but there’s the odd problem. Camchain tensioners can fail, knackering the camchains themselves in extreme cases but it’s rare. You should hear that machine gun rattle at idle if there’s a problem. Regulator/rectifiers can fail and potentially strand the bike with no electrical power – it’s not expensive even if it means a new battery.

We’ve heard of the odd bike using too much oil and needing a rebuild. Smoke from the exhaust when the engine’s warm is a sign of trouble.Water can get into the front spark plug as well during heavy rain and make the bike run badly so a mudguard extension’s a good idea. There’s the odd case of failing coils (cheap) and gearboxes (expensive) but they’re not common. Some wires run near the left hand bolt that holds the seat on and these can wear through and cause the main fuse to go, stopping the bike. Highly annoying.

The drain for the fuel cap can get kinked under the hinged fuel tank. The result is water can end up in the petrol and has to be got rid of or the bike won’t run.

Criticised by some as being a little weak. Although the set-up’s basic it should haul the lightweight SV up sharpish if it’s all in good fettle. Genuine Suzuki pads are the most popular and fairly well liked. EBC are the most common aftermarket choice and thought to give better performance, although some owners say their HH sintered pads wear the discs out quickly.

Carbonne Lorraine A3+ get the thumbs up from the folks that use them while Ferrodo, Dunlopad and Galfer are less popular but still rated by those who have fitted them.

Owner Case Study: "I’ve got through four engines!"

Steve Maggs bought his 1999 SV650S four years ago. He uses the bike for commuting, touring, fun and everything in between and has taken the mileage from about 20,000 to 70,000.

He’s also managed to wreck the engine several times. The first time he got it re-built by a Suzuki dealer but then he did it again and figured fitting a used engine (sourced on eBay for £350) was a better option than trying to get it re-built again.

"I kept running the bike out of oil. I didn’t realise the warning light is for oil pressure, not oil level. Anyway, it didn’t come on even when the bike had as little as 75ml of oil – it’s meant to have about 3,500ml!
I actually got through two more used engines before I realised why they were breaking. I check the oil every week now. The bike does use a bit if you ride hard and I redline it in every gear and use the engine braking a lot too, which could be part of the problem!

"I still think it’s a brilliant bike. It is a budget machine but other than a few known problems it’s very reliable and it’s great fun. It can really teach you a lot about how to ride and although I’ve had lots of different bikes in the past I’m in no rush to get something bigger than my SV."

The front’s a common size but the 160 section rear’s a little skinnier than many modern bikes. This keeps steering rapid and the price of replacement rubber cheap. Sports touring tyres are the most popular choice for the SV. Metzeler MEZ6 and Pirelli Diablo Stradas are both well rated for all-round use and decent life. Michelin Pilot Road 2 are well liked as well.

Continental Road Attacks are highly regarded for both wet and dry riding but while some owners think they last well, others aren’t convinced. Bridgestone BT 020 and their successor, the 021, are liked with those who use them. Dunlops don’t seem popular, with few owners liking them and plenty saying they prefer other rubber. Many find the OE 120/60-17 front feels like it’s about to tuck in and prefer a 120/70.

It’s fairly basic. It’s reasonable when new but after 15,000 miles things are getting pretty bouncy. Many owners modify the forks with spacers or stiffer springs (linear for track use, progressive for comfort) and fresh, heavier oil. A professional outfit like MH Racing (01225 811583) can completely re-build he forks to your spec for about £200. The rear shock isn’t the same on the early and later models and neither are very good, nor are they rebuildable so you’ll need an aftermarket shock if you want to upgrade. These range from a basic Hagon at £255 to £650+ for a top spec Öhlins. Some owners fit other Suzuki suspension. Pre SRAD forks are the easiest to fit and ’93-’94 GSXR1100 are said to work well. GSX-R750K5 front end will go in without too much work. 1998-’99 GSX-R600 forks are highly rated but some work including a custom yoke will be needed. Various rear shocks can be persuaded to fit and some owners use different length linkages.

Running costs
The SV’s a cheap bike to run. After the very reasonable purchase price, insurance is good too being group 9 for the streetbike and 10 for the faired model. Fazer and Hornet 600s are group 12 which can mean twice the premium.

Fuel consumption’s pretty frugal. MPG is anywhere from 36-60 but an average is about 50 on a run. Tyre life is good with fronts averaging 8,800 miles (min 2,500, max 16,000) and rears 6,100 miles (min 2,500, max 10,000).

A minor service’s needed at 4,000 miles and typically costs about £120 at a dealer. A bigger one’s due every 7,500 miles and should cost more like £180. The 11,000 mile service is in between the two in terms of work involved. The real biggy is every 14,500 miles and will cost about £250-£300.

For practical sorts fender extenders, double bubble screens, alarms, Scottoilers, crash bungs and rear hugger mudguards are the way forward. Those after making their bike look a bit different typically start with a tail tidy to get rid of the rear number plate hanger but fairing lowers are also popular along with belly pans and seat humps. For those wanting to go faster suspension mods are the number one choice. Tuning’s generally limited to an exhaust, air filter and jetting / Power Commander but a handful go for hotter cams.

Owner Case Study: "We’ve done 75,000 miles on SV650S’s – mainly two-up"

Pete Sheppard and Lissa Wiltshire did almost 50,000 miles on their first SV650S and liked it so much they’ve bought another.

Lissa says: "The bike is purely for fun. The longest one day trip was 603 miles, but we do 2,500-3,000 miles around Europe in our 10 day touring holiday every year.

"Neither bike ever had a single problem – they get water in the front plug hole but a fender extender sorts that. The forks were pitted when we got the second bike, so I  stripped and polished them, just like I did on our first SV.

"We love the bike – it does absolutely everything. We’ve spent a stupid amount modifying it. This one’s got an Öhlins shock and forks uprated with gold valve emulators and stronger springs because we do most of our riding two-up.

"We’ve also fitted a radial GSX-R brake front master cylinder and will probably fit GSX-R calipers too. Also a Dynojet kit, BMC air filter, full titanium Akropovic exhaust, wavy front discs, Bagster custom seats and much more. I find the back seat fine – but I’m just 4’ 10”.

"Both our SVs are the early shape. The first one was an import and didn’t have the carb heaters so it suffered icing a little but using Silkolene Pro FST cured that."