‘It’s the best biking fun you can have on a small budget’
Great bikes aren’t always performance or tech marvels. The ones that affect most lives are not poster exotica or superbikes needing superhuman skill. Instead they can be unassuming but pleasing and versatile machines that are within reach of the many. And there’s no greater example of this in recent history the SV650.
Launched in 1999 the SV is, simply, one of the most successful and bestselling motorcycles so far this century. Still in production after 18 years, the cute V-twin has survived three incarnations; been offered in faired and unfaired forms; become the basis for a number of spin-offs, most notably Suzuki’s own middleweight adventure all-rounder, the DL650 V-strom, and served not just as a ‘first big bike’ but also as a favourite for biking returnees, as a commuter, introductory sportster and even TT racer.
Central to that appeal has been the SV’S versatility and value. As reader Rupert Tazewell from Somerset told MCN. “I've owned two over the years – a new SV650S back in 2000 as my first bike and last year I bought the naked one. I've had many bikes over the years but came back to the SV650 because I loved the engine and how light and flickable it was. I used it for my 70-mile round trip to work and it was perfect.”
Matt Lindley is another. “My SV650S is my first big bike,” he told MCN. “It kick-started my passion for motorcycles and taught me more about riding than I could have ever read or watched. It’s my absolute pride and joy and I couldn't have wished for a better big bike to begin on.”
Yet they’re certainly not the only ones. In fact, with over 410,000 examples of all versions of the 650 twin sold it’s one of the most successful Suzukis of all time.
That perky V-twin is the SV’S heart. Developed following Suzuki’s TL1000S, the liquid-cooled, DOHC, four-valve V-twin is a peach delivering that rare ‘double whammy’ of being novicefriendly flexible yet also free-revving fun and fast.
The aluminium trellis is equally adept in being both light, slim and manageable yet also impressively fine-handling. While the creation of two versions (lower-barred and faired S and easy-going and upright naked) ensured the SV appealed to virtually everyone. The fact that it was cheap, too, made it irresistible.
And all of that would have been success enough if the SV story ended there – but it didn’t. First, its appeal broadened to would-be racers when the SV’S track ability lead to the creation of an all-new class – Minitwins. Then, just as its original lustre was beginning to dull, the SV was reinvented – and not just once, but multiple times: first in 2004 with fuelinjection, die-cast frame and bodywork; then, in 2009, into the restyled, reengineered SFV650 Gladius (with the ‘old’ SV surviving alongside until 2012); before finally, in 2016, being reborn once more with reworked engine.
Throughout all of that, though, the SV’S appeal has remained unchanged. It’s always been an unitimidatingly light, slim and affordable middleweight (and as such a perfect first big bike), yet one which has also always punched above its weight in terms of fun and versatility. Plenty of owners agree.
“I owned a 2010 SV650 and I loved it,” reader Paul Gerber told MCN. “It was my first big bike and did everything I asked. I toured to Le Mans for the GP and took it on several track days.”
Gilles Vismans is another fan. “It’s the first bike I got after my licence,” he told MCN. “I’ve done 15,000 miles. I’ve done a trackday, went on a trip through the UK and another through Poland and Germany. It is the best fun you can have on a small budget.”
Mark Adlington adds: “That fantastic punchy V-twin puts a smile on my face every morning on my way to work and especially when I take a detour down the lanes on my way home.”
Graham Hardman is another: “I used to have a GSX-R600,” he told MCN. “Then I had kids so got rid of it. Now they are a bit older I bought an SV650. I love it because it’s understated. It's comfortable, easy to ride and can still increase your heart-rate.”
‘I couldn’t have wished for a better big bike to begin on’ MATT LINDLEY MCN READER AND SV650 OWNER
‘Just saving the front tyre, honest’