Author: Bikes of the 90's Expert Posted: 17 Aug 2015
Suzuki SV650/S (1999-on): Buying Guide
The late 1990s wasn’t just a time for big-bore bikes to go V-twin-tastic.
With an envious eye on middleweight sports twins and naked mini-bruisers a-la Ducati Monster, a number of manufacturers had a crack at building a middleweight marvel with more than a hint of character.
Arguably Suzuki has been best at this thanks to the long-lived Suzuki SV650 and SV650S. Launched in 1999 the S-model is still being sold new while its naked genes live on in the Gladius.
At launch many saw it as a V-twin Bandit, coming (as the Bandit did) in un-faired and half-faired versions. A tubular trellis frame aped Ducati and housed a punchy 65bhp 90-degree V-twin. Suspension (like the Bandit) was a little on the cheap side of things, but the result was a machine which punched way above its weight and was all things to all people. SVs are often a first ‘big’ bike, they are commuters, weekend thrashers, courier machines and (thanks to the MiniTwins race series) track bikes too…
What gives the machine its appeal is the fact that you’ve got two versions for ultimate flexibility: for sports bikes fans you have the S with clip-ons, half fairing and sportier ergonomics, for naked fans you have the N with a bit more comfort and urban appeal. Add in big sales from the outset and a long life and you can find a used model to fit your needs easily. Overall the bikes are pretty bulletproof (we’ve heard of bikes over 100,000 miles with engine sweet but cosmetics not so) so find a well-looked after one and you are laughing.
The original models lasted until 2003, when the K3 version arrived. Out went the feminine swoops of the original fairing for a more angular unit and in came around 10 more BHP. The frame too 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 the half-faired version is still being sold for around five grand in the UK, albeit without ABS. With around 22,000 sold in the UK since 1999 and with bikes out there from £500-£5000 it is little wonder that this bike is a little wonder.
WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR
REG/RECTIFIERS: Dodgy starting can be this, but it’s easily sortable. Generally an issue on the pre-2003 models, dimmer lights is a giveaway.
BRAKES: These weren’t great from new – braided hoses and softer compound pads work well.
ENGINE: No big issues at all. Series one machines suffer from loud camchains, which if they get worse can be sticking tensioners or knackered chains. Listen out for a loud rattle when you close the throttle. Clutch covers can leak as can breathers under the tank. Some 2000-model SV650s (both naked and faired) were recalled for the fitment of an oil guide plate to prevent premature crankshaft wear.
IGNITION: Ignition is retarded in the first three gears so some owners snip the odd wire or two to reverse this. Not sure we would approve. Ahem…
GEARING: The naked SV650N has a 15 tooth front sprocket and a 45 tooth rear for acceleration, while the SV650S has 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.
EXHAUSTS: Original systems rot – they’re not the most hardy pipes. If buying try and steer clear from loud end cans unless you’re best mates with your MoT man. 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 or similar. Ask if any of this has been fitted.
FINISH QUALITY: It is a budget bike so expect neglected or older machines to suffer. Finish isn’t quite as bad as earlier commuter/budget Suzukis like the Bandit or the awful GS500E, but paint and plastics can suffer from neglect. Later models do seem more robust.
FRONT SUSPENSION: Softer than French cheese – often the most uprated part of the SV. Progressive springs and thicker oil are popular mods. Speak to MiniTwins racers for the best suspension modifications, which brings us to…
EX RACE BIKES: While not quite up there with RD350s or CBR600s, many SVs hit the track in the popular MiniTwins series. Don’t necessarily shy away from these – but don’t be hoodwinked into thinking it’s a well-loved commuter. Giveaways are fresh plastics alongside frame and engine scuffs, low-miles, lockwired everything and marked wheel rims from tyre changes. BUT you will get sorted suspension, a rorty exhaust and better brakes. www.jhsracing.co.uk are the experts in SV track preparation and much of this translates to a better road bike. Call them.
REAR SUSPENSION: Built to a budget and will be knackered by now on older bikes. Ohlins is popular with the race series riders, Hagon and Nitron on the other hand do good budget road shocks.
ACCESSORIES: Such a popular bike has a wide-range of after-market goodies: some good, some bad. If buying used try and get the original bits in the deal – especially exhausts. While mini-indicators, undertrays and the like make a common bike more unique, more useful items include bigger screens (better comfort) and fender-extenders (saves road crap from hitting that cylinder and exhaust header.) Try the excellent www.sv650.org for info on what works and what doesn’t.
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.
For: An ‘everyman’ (and woman) bike. Great first bike, great only bike!
Have you owned an SV650 or do you have one in your garage right now? Tell us about it. or !