The mid to late 1990s was a good time to be a newbie biker… as well as the likes of the 600cc inline four cheap naked bikes – such as the Bandit, Fazer and Hornet – Suzuki treated us to the SV650 V-twin range…
With more than a nod to the middleweight naked sports twins such as the Ducati Monster, Suzuki created the long-lived Suzuki SV650 and SV650S. Launched in 1999 many saw it as a V-twin Bandit. Like the Bandit, it came in both half-faired and un-faired versions. The S-model came with clip-ons, half fairing and sportier ergonomics, while for naked fans the N had more comfort and a single, round headlight.
Again, like the Bandit, both suspension and build-quality was built down to a price. The frame was a tubular trellis frame (told you they were looking at Ducati) and the frame housed a neat and lusty 65bhp 90-degree V-twin motor pumping out around 70 rear wheel BHP.
The SVs can be all things to all men (and women) this means they are often a first ‘big’ bike, they are commuter machines, sports bikes for people who can’t afford a bigger machine, courier bikes and in ‘MiniTwins’ guise they are pukka race machines too.
In general we’ve heard these machines are pretty bulletproof and some have more than 100,000 miles on the clocks.
The original version was replaced in 2003 with the K3 version: in came a more angular look and 10 more horses. The frame also went from tubular to an angular lattice, the swingarm was changed as well as fuel-injection and a digital speedo. Later changes included a black frame (2005-on), ABS option and a twin-spark motor (2007) and a fully-faired Sport model (2008).
In 2009 Suzuki’s new SFV Gladius replaced the naked SV, but today the SV can still be bought new for £5699 while the funky café racer-inspired SV650X is priced at £6199.
With tens of thousands of SVs produced since 1999 we think you can find one perfect for your needs and pocket. But what goes wrong?
WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR
OVERALL FINISH: Neglected/older machines suffer, paint and plastics can flake or crack from neglect. Later models are more robust.
BRAKES: Not brilliant when new: braided hoses and softer pad compounds help.
ENGINE: No major issues. Clutch covers can leak as can breathers under the tank. A few 2000-model SV650s were recalled for the fitment of an oil guide plate to prevent premature crankshaft wear. Early models do have loud camchains, which can lead to sticking tensioners or knackered chains. Listen out for a loud rattle when you close the throttle….
IGNITION: Many SV owners have to do the ‘Suzuki key wobble’ to get the thing to work. And, ignition itself is retarded in the first three gears so some owners snip the odd wire or two to reverse this.
GEARING: On the original models, the naked SV650N had a 15 tooth front sprocket and a 45 tooth rear for acceleration, while the SV650S had a 15 tooth front and a 44 tooth rear for higher top speed. Some S owners go down a tooth on the front or up one or two at the back to claw back that missing acceleration.
REG/RECTIFIERS: Generally an issue on the pre-2003 models, dimmer lights is a giveaway but easily sortable.
EXHAUSTS: Original systems rot. Misfiring often means pre-2003 bikes haven’t been suitably jetted for the can – ask for any proof of this or dyno work. Post-K3 models will need some electronic jetting via a Power Commander.
RACING IMPROVES THE BREED: Many SVs have been seen on track and the improvements can help road bikes: www.jhsracing.co.uk are the experts.
REAR SUSPENSION: Built to a budget back in the day so replacements from and Hagon and Nitron will be around £250-£350…
ACCESSORIES: Often covered in useless tat – try and get the original bits in with any deal.
Price new: £5149 (S) £4849 (N) (2001) £4995 (2015 SV650S)
Price now: £500-£5000. But you can find a good one for just over a grand.
Handy websites: www.sv650.org