I love the 2003 Suzuki SV650S because of two reasons. Firstly, it's a fantastic budget option that comes free of the stresses other 300km/h capable motorcycles may have, having a cult following all of its own. Secondly, the Suzuki we really wanted to ride blew its rectifier and battery the day before the test. That was a 400cc machine, a class still relevant today, yet completely unsupported by the major manufacturers. The Suzuki SV650S is the next obvious choice.
It's also friendly for beginners and responsive when making improvements. That's the real beauty of the Suzuki SV650; it's a solid platform to work from. There are so many different levels of tuning you can do to these things, your head could crack under the strain of choice. We have seen a Suzuki SV650S making almost 100 horsepower. Then there's the chassis, likewise benefiting from some love and responding in earnest. A Suzuki SV650 is a motorcycle you can keep for years, constantly making it better and better. It's a modest tinkerer's dream, in fact, a motorcycle born for bolt-ons.
Fork, shock, swingarm and brakes are as budget as you like and completely unadjustable. On paper the engine doesn't offer a great deal of interest, as suits its purpose. But Suzuki still retain the knack of planting a seed of vibrant life into a collection of individual parts, feeling together as a unit. Specifications don't do the engine justice, being a peach that sounds larger than it actually is – and positively raucous with a good after-market exhaust system installed. It's got some punch, and will wheelie from second-gear all day long. The hopeful surge in the first three gears does drop off afterward, but it'll run on to a decent 210km/h.
On a sensible note, the Suzuki SV650S is pretty good on fuel economics, but the engine is a doddle to use through traffic and the dreary commute. It's also reliable, which is important if this is your first big bike.
The handling doesn't quite impress as much as the beating V-twin heart, but it's still capable of dancing. Trade-offs for road stability and poise will obviously affect how it reacts if you fancy a trackday with your friends, but it's good enough. The high and wide handlebars allow the SV650S to be tipped in fairly sharpish. Only initializing 'drop in' does if feel a bit uncomfortable, as the damping momentarily lets it down.. But it still likes to be hustled, especially on twisty roads where a good rider can revel in its revvy nature and neutral stance. There is one slight caveat to this, which is decent tires. The Suzuki SV650's ability is severely compromised by worn or bad tires, yet good tires allow it to shine like it shouldn't. This will never be a motorcycle you'd be embarrassed of, but one you'd always want to get the best from.