The diminu­tive twin that’s big on char­ac­ter. Here’s how to put hairs on its chest...

Performance Bikes (UK) - - CONTENTS - Words Jon Urry | Pho­tog­ra­phy Bauer Ar­chive

How to put hairs on an SV650S’s chest.

BE­LIEVE IT OR not, Suzuki have pro­duced more than 420,000 SV650s since this in­cred­i­ble lit­tle V-twin was first launched way back in 1999. Yes, that’s cor­rect, not far shy of half a mil­lion are hap­pily blat­ting around the roads of planet Earth. What’s the se­cret to its suc­cess? Sim­ple: the SV650 may be small in ca­pac­ity and stature, but its heart is about as big as they get and in truth its sales suc­cess is only a small part of this bike’s amaz­ing story. This bud­get mid­dleweight has found a niche in the most un­likely of places...

In 2003, the Bem­see MiniTwin Cham­pi­onship kicked off, with the aim of pro­vid­ing cheap and com­pet­i­tive rac­ing that would at­tract both begin­ner and ex­pe­ri­ence rac­ers alike. This fab­u­lous se­ries pit­ted hordes of rac­ers head-to-head on SV650s and it didn’t take long for the grids to swell in size to such an ex­tent that some clubs even ran two or three sep­a­rate MiniTwin races. Six­teen years later, the class is still very much alive and kick­ing, and just about ev­ery race club in the UK runs their own sim­i­lar cham­pi­onship.

With such a pop­u­lar mo­tor­cy­cle there are hun­dreds of paths to choose from when it comes to per­for­mance mod­i­fi­ca­tions and en­hance­ments. How­ever, PB spoke to the na­tion’s ex­perts to set the record straight, so if you have one of Suzuki’s fab­u­lous V-twins in your garage and fancy giv­ing it a bit of spice, here’s the low­down on what works and what doesn’t...

EN­GINE - James Hol­land “If you have a stan­dard road bike the first thing you want to do is add a full ex­haust sys­tem as it makes a huge dif­fer­ence and will give you about 4bhp and a chunk more midrange. Cut­ting the stock sys­tem for a can isn’t worth the ef­fort. The only full sys­tem you can still buy is the M4, which is stain­less steel with a pol­ished alu­minium can and costs £700. We do a ti­ta­nium ver­sion if you have a big wal­let... There’s no need to remap the bike and for road use; the OE Suzuki air fil­ter is more than good enough, too.

“The next stage de­pends on the age of your SV. The twin-spark mo­tor can have its ECU remapped, but the ear­lier bike can’t. On the SV there is an off­set be­tween the front and rear cylin­der, which makes tun­ing them hard. Lots of peo­ple don’t un­der­stand how to deal with this (which is con­trolled by the sec­ondary but­ter­flies) and a Power Com­man­der doesn’t ex­ploit its full po­ten­tial. You need the right ex­pe­ri­ence to prop­erly remap one, which is nec­es­sary for fur­ther tun­ing.

“Bell­mouth kits aren’t worth the ef­fort, and bor­ing the throt­tle bod­ies is point­less. For power you need to go big-bore, a cam swap, or both! You need to up­date the oil pump drive gear in 2003-on bikes (it’s plas­tic, we do a light alu­minium one) and also add a mod­i­fied sprag clutch gear for re­li­a­bil­ity be­fore tun­ing.

“A 2mm over-bore gives you 80bhp, a fat torque curve and re­li­a­bil­ity for about £800 ride-in/ ride-out, and is beau­ti­ful on the road. Add a set of cams and you get even more power and torque. They also work on a stock mo­tor and cost £450 for the cams plus fit­ment (£150 or so plus dyno set-up time)

CHAS­SIS - Richard Adams

“We see a lot of SV650s for both rac­ing and road. As a stan­dard road bike the sus­pen­sion is very cheap, but as you don’t have too much power to deal with, that’s not a mas­sive is­sue.

“The shock’s spring rate isn’t bad, a touch soft.

‘A 2mm over-bore gives you 80bhp, a fat torque curve and re­li­a­bil­ity, for about £800 ride-in/ride-out’

How­ever its damp­ing is very poor and that’s where the prob­lems start. Ini­tially it’s very sticky in its stroke, which makes it harsh, but once you get through this it’s like a pogo stick. There’s not a cure for it: so you are best in­vest­ing in a qual­ity af­ter­mar­ket unit.

“The forks are an old, cheap, damper rod sys­tem. There is only a lit­tle com­pres­sion damp­ing to try to con­trol the spring. The springs are too soft and the sys­tem lacks re­bound damp­ing, caus­ing the forks to dive and then pop back up again. Some peo­ple add thicker fork oil as a cheap fix, but this only serves to make them harsher.

“We do a spring kit with dif­fer­ent oil for the forks, but this is al­ways a com­pro­mise and while it is bet­ter and only £120, it’s not a true fix. If you want to truly im­prove the bike, our £660 car­tridge kit is ex­cel­lent and has high/low-speed com­pres­sion damp­ing with

sep­a­rate com­pres­sion/re­bound damp­ing. Fit this and the forks be­come far more pro­gres­sive and lin­ear in their ac­tion.

“One tip I would give for sporty rid­ing is to raise the rear of the SV, which makes a big dif­fer­ence. Some try this through us­ing a longer GSX-R shock, or fit­ting new tie bars, but if you buy a qual­ity af­ter­mar­ket unit it should have an ad­justable ride height and is a bet­ter long-term route.”

James Hol­land also added: “While you can stick in a GSX-R front end, there are is­sues. The GSX-R mod­els have shorter forks than the SV, so you need to add fork ex­ten­der caps if you use GSX-R yokes, and the var­i­ous GSX-R mod­els have dif­fer­ent off­sets. And you also lose the SV’s speedo drive from the front wheel. Hon­estly, for the road, you are bet­ter off adding a fork car­tridge kit to the stock forks. And the same goes for the shock – peo­ple do fit shocks from other bikes, but by the time you revalve it to make it work, you may as well have bought a qual­ity af­ter­mar­ket shock.”

BOLT-ONS – Giles Har­wood

“Older bikes re­ally ben­e­fit from an up­grade to their brakes and we sell lots of Brembo SC pads (£89 for four), which are a sin­tered pad straight out of Brembo’s race depart­ment that many rac­ers, as well as road rid­ers, use to give the two-pis­ton slid­ing calipers a bit more bite. Add a set of braided brake lines (three lines for the SV, HEL Per­for­mance lines cost £78 with brake fluid in­cluded) and for un­der £200 you will have far bet­ter brakes. You can also add Pazzo CNC-ma­chined ad­justable levers for £169 in a range of colours and even spec them up to in­clude fold­ing or stubby levers for £30 ex­tra, which smartens up the ba­sic-look­ing con­trols.

“Crash pro­tec­tion is al­ways a good seller for the SV, which hints at its pop­u­lar use as a com­muter/begin­ner bike, at £76 for a set of frame pro­tec­tors. Dou­ble bub­ble screens are a pop­u­lar ad­di­tion for just £58. Fi­nally, and this is a great mod, you can get a plug-and-play GiPro dig­i­tal gear in­di­ca­tor for £105. Noth­ing is ex­ces­sive in price for the SV and it is a rel­a­tively cheap bike to cus­tomise and im­prove through some easy bolt-ons.”

NEXT MONTH: 2009 Kawasaki ZX-6R – the mini green meanie...

1 AN­GLES OR CURVES? The SV650 was orig­i­nally launched in 1999 with a curvy, mini-TL1000Sstyle frame and body­work, and a car­bu­reted mo­tor. 2003’s sec­ond­gen model had an an­gu­lar frame and body­work, plus fuel in­jec­tion. 2 DE­TAIL UP­DATES The ‘an­gu­lar’ SV was up­dated in ’04 (en­gine in­ter­nals, new crankcases, fork in­ter­nals). Black frame paint su­per­seded sil­ver in 2005. ABS was of­fered as an op­tion for 2007, and the mo­tor went twin-spark

Good old-fash­ioned round-pro­file ex­haust. After­maket op­tions are many

Stan­dard shock is best re­placed by an af­ter­mar­ket unit with a qual­ity ac­tion

3 EX­HAUST STUDS Al­ways check the front ex­haust studs if you are look­ing at fit­ting an af­ter­mar­ket pipe. They are in di­rect line of fire from road grime and of­ten seize solid. Drilling them out and re-tap­ping is a groin-ache. 5 MISFIRE Wa­ter gets trapped in the front cylin­der spark plug hole, at­tack­ing the plug and cap, even­tu­ally caus­ing a misfire. There is a drain on the cylin­der to al­low wa­ter to es­cape; sim­ply push a wire up it to keep it clear. 4 GEAR­ING You can re­place the S model’s smaller 44-tooth sprocket with the naked N’s larger 45-tooth one to add a bit of spirit to its ac­cel­er­a­tion. The speedo’s read­ing is un­af­fected as it is taken from the front wheel.

Spring kit is a bud­get ap­proach, but will pay some div­i­dends

There are few bet­ter sports-style mid­dleweights to cut your teeth on

Twin slid­ing pis­ton brakes can be im­proved with new pads and braided lines

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