The Suzuki SV650/A has been the standard against which the majority of modern members of the 600 to 650cc segment can be measured, and in support of that theory, I’d like to take you back to 1999 for the introduction of the first Suzuki SV650. This trip down memory lane reveals a motorcycle with a 6545cc, liquid-cooled, eight-valve, DOHC, 90-degree V-twin in a narrow chassis that rode on a 41mm traditional Kayaba preload adjustable front fork and a non-adjustable Kayaba rear shock. It had two-piston Tokico calipers and 290mm floating rotors at the front, and a single-piston caliper squeezing a 240mm rotor at the rear.
This is all going to sound very familiar when you reference the included specifications for the 2017 Suzuki SV650/A, because those are the same specifications as the current model, with exception that the Kayaba suspension company is now called KYB and the rear suspension now being adjustable for preload, while the front forks is no longer. The 2017 Suzuki SV650/A does produce a few more horsepower, what with its dual-spark engine, revised internals, freer-flowing exhaust and electronic fuel injection.
To be fair, though, most of those changes were made to the platform over the intervening 17 model years, not exclusively for this 2017 iteration. In actuality, the outgoing Gladius is the predecessor to this new motorcycle, as it’s the one that got the majority of upgrades when it split off from the SV-DL family tree – upgrades that Suzuki SV fans had long been hoping for, but which instead went to the Gladius line.
At the time of the original Suzuki SV650’s launch, the main competition were smaller parallel twins, possessing less sporting intent, with one notable exception: the Ducati Monster, a motorcycle that was very obviously an inspiration for the appearance of both the original and current Suzuki SV650/A
Given that the Suzuki’s design concept remains almost completely unaltered from its original state some two decades ago, I think we can qualify it as a near constant in the segment, and can therefore say, with some confidence, that it is a good barometer. Now, that’s not saying there aren’t motorcycles capable of hurdling the Suzuki’s mark; we’ve already mentioned the Ducati Monster, which gets higher aesthetic scores and certainly feels sportier, but it has seem more reformatting, both in form and function – I think somewhere along the line Monster got confused with Scrambler, but I digress.
Then there’s the Yamaha MT-07, a motorcycle that recently came out of nowhere and continues to occupy the sharp end of its class in terms of value, fun and performance. The question now is, does the returning Suzuki SV650 live up to its heritage, and is it still the same standard onto which we can scribe the heights of its competitors? I would answer simply, yes!
The controls are, as ever, light and easy to use. The handlebar, neither too narrow nor too broad, the levers always at hand, the foot pegs right where they should be, and the shifter lever and brake pedal placed where few could object. The new LCD gauge pod is a welcome addition, and helps to dress up an otherwise sparse view from a cockpit that’s a pleasure to spend time in, thanks in part to a comfortable and not too firm seat. The lack of wind protection means sustained highway speeds will help to develop upper body strength, the extent to which is completely dependent on your preferred pace.
The bonus with most naked bikes is a fairly smooth airflow that’s not likely to induce buffeting of the chest or helmet.
Going into my test of this 2017 Suzuki SV650, I had a lot of preconceived notions based on years of riding the Suzuki SV, DL and Gladius, and, given the similar specs of the new motorcycle, they were, unsurprisingly, well founded. Handling is a hallmark fo the platform, and this Suzuki SV650, at 197 kilograms ready to ride, doesn’t disappoint, showing off its 8 kilograms weight loss over the Gladius and its improved suspension tuning compared with previous generations. Despite the front fork’s lack of adjustment and the rear’s basic preload selection, it felt firm at a same road-going pace, yet plush enough to tackle the often patchy and pitted surfaces in the outskirts of our big metropolis.
The narrow feel of the ‘all-new trellis frame’ is made possible by that compact V-twin engine and an effort to reduce the width of the motorcycle’s waistline where the seat and fuel tank meet. I’d guess that even a person with an inseam of 29 inches – or slightly less – could still manage to get both feet fairly flat on the ground at a stop. More importantly, the compact nature of the motorcycle makes it less intimidating to newer riders and allows advanced pilots to absolutely manhandle the Suzuki SV650 when riding hard. It’s no coincidence the SV650 has competed on just about ever road course in the world since its inception, and remains a favorite choice of track day enthusiasts.
So what is the big attraction to this rather unassuming motorcycle? In my case, it’s the V-twin engine that doles out 75 horsepower and 64Nm of torque with almost perfect fueling and throttle response, thanks in no small part to the Suzuki Dual Throttle Valve. While peak output of both figures occurs at over 8,000rpm, it’s the pull at lower rpm that makes you think you’re opening the throttle on a much larger motorcycle. Improvements to the engine for 2017 include more than 60 new components that boost efficiency and power – and of course there are those pesky modern exhaust emissions standards to comply with.
It all adds up to an incredibly fun and flexible powerplant, not to mention it sounds decent in stock trim. But put a good aftermarket exhaust system on and owners will be treated to the rumble of rolling thunder at the behest of their right hand – and an even more willing response at the rear wheel. Speaking of response at the rear wheel, Suzuki has now equipped the 2017 Suzuki SV650 with a close-ration six-speed gearbox that allows the rider to squeeze every one of those 64Nm torque for all they’re worth. Suzuki has also included its Low RPM Assist, which we had previously sampled on the Suzuki GSX-S1000F.
It elevates the rpm when the clutch is being released to assist with pulling away from a stop. To be honest, neither the GSX-S family not the Suzuki SV650 needs any help getting off the line, but it does help prevent those embarrassing moments of inattention at a stoplight where your halfheartedness is on display for all to see.