Despite the goofy upper, the...
Despite the goofy upper, the bike is a great ride.
1999-2002 Suzuki SV650
Suzuki may be a company known and beloved for its fast, good-looking, inline four-cylinder sportbikes, but during the 1990s it was considered a highly adventurous motorcycle designer as well. First came the TL1000 supersport V-twins-a pair of streetbikes that polarized the industry for their innovative technology that worked better on paper than on roads or racetracks. Suzuki dumped the TL1000 line after a few years of production, but it wasn't going to be dissuaded that easily.
In 1999, Suzuki busted out big-time with the SV650-a mid-sized all-rounder featuring a miniature version of the TL's eight-valve, water-cooled motor. Unlike the TL lineup that used controversial rotary dampers, the SV utilized a traditional spring-over-damper rear suspension made for a sportbike that offered fine, neutral steering. Testers also found the SV's smaller dimensions made it easier to ride, whether being pushed through a series of corners or blatting along a congested freeway pulling commuter duty. Being a torquey V-twin, the SV could also wheelie well enough to please the showoffs in all of us. Soon, Suzuki had an unlikely sales hit on its hands.
For us used sportbike connoisseurs, this means used SV650s, whether in the unfaired "standard" mode or the half-faired "S" version, are common in want ads and used-bike showrooms. Suzukis are known for their longevity, and the SV holds up well mechanically-even if the factory paint tends to fade a bit under old Sol's direct gaze.
Because the SV does everything so well, many have been raced. This may be one mule-tough, durable machine, but we'd advise against buying an ex-racer as they can suffer from all sorts of funky ailments, from bent frames to worn-out brakes and uncooperative gearboxes. These motorcycles can be easily identified by safety wire attached to various nuts and bolts and chipped wheel paint from frequent tire changes. Also be cautious of an SV that comes with "spares" or "extras," as these tend to be race plastics and commonly broken parts such as clip-ons and rearsets.
These bikes get a lot of use...
These bikes get a lot of use so watch for abuse.
The SV's aluminum trellis-style chassis responds well to suspension upgrades. If you plan to take your SV on track days (it's an excellent bike for novice track riders) or you harbor plans to try to keep up with friends aboard, say, GSX-Rs, we strongly suggest investing in a set of stiffer fork springs and perhaps a new, aftermarket rear shock. The SV650 was updated in 2003 with a beefier frame and new angular bodywork (making it immediately differentiated from the older "bubble" version), and it was also switched over to fuel injection.
Like all twins, the SV is more fun to ride when it's making a few extra decibels, so aftermarket exhaust cans are a must. There are plenty of options out there and most are relatively cheap (don't forget about eBay). After matching a pipe with an air filter you'll be surprised at the difference a few horsepower will make.
Forks can be swapped with a set from pre-1996 GSX-Rs, but we've seen all sorts of different front ends on them. A bit of forum surfing will certainly open the floodgates for upgrades. On high-mileage models the six-speed gearbox can develop problems upshifting, but this is mostly due to bent shifter forks and isn't too much of a fright. Just be sure to bring it to the seller's attention (it might have been his first bike and he doesn't know the difference) and save a couple hundred bucks.
Sure, the SV isn't going to impress anyone at dyno night and its Plain Jane design won't make anyone's pants tight, but for the money the SV is plenty of sportbike.
SSB Suggested Mods
Installing an aftermarket full fairing kit might seem sensible, but they ultimately look ridiculous on the SV, so don't go there. Instead, opt simply for a bellypan and a seat cowl to "race" up its looks.
Sticky street tires will do wonders for the SV's capable chassis and should be high on the must-have list. Many used models have budget sport-touring rubber on them that should be replaced immediately.
Average Used Price: $2995-$4500
Weight: 390 pounds
Torque: 49 pound-feet
Quarter mile: 12.2 sec. @ 109 mph
Like The Sv? Try These...
Kawasaki Ninja 650
The middleweight V-twin class has been a rousing sales success for Suzuki (try saying that five time fast), and it wasn't until seven years after its intro that Kawi posed a threat with its Ninja 650 (we're excluding the EX500 of course). If a thumping twin that won't empty your bank account or give you sticker shock at the insurance agent's office is your cup of tea, consider this tasty alternative.
Average Used Price:$3500-$4500
Weight: 393 pounds
Torque: 48.5 pound-feet
Quarter mile: 12.6 sec. @ 105 mph
The SV650 had a major makeover in 2003. Not only were the frame and bodywork heavily revised, but electronic fuel injection was also included in the update.
Fans of the bike's performance but not appearance were given the option of a naked SV650 with a slightly less aggressive riding position.