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2003 Suzuki SV650 – one year review

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  • 2003 Suzuki SV650 – one year review

    2003 Suzuki SV650 – one year review

    Highlights: Light weight, torquey motor, responsive chassis

    Lowlights: poor seat, slightly buzzy motor at high rpm.

    A year has gone by since I got my 2003 SV650. Since then I’ve ridden it for commuting to work, spirited canyon carving, and a couple of longish trips over mountain passes, in sunshine and rain, summer and winter. To recap, this is the first year of the latest angular looking frame, with the fuel injected 650cc motor. Readers from the original BB site will remember I upgraded from a Ninja 500 to the SV650. Anyone proficient in the basic handling of a motorcycle will take to the Suzuki immediately. The naked model has an upright set of handlebars versus the clip-ons of the S model. The other difference is a slightly lower rear set and one tooth difference in the drive sprocket for better low end response.

    The FI motor of the latest generation SV starts on the first crank each time, no matter how cold it gets. I plug the battery tender to it in winter and that helps a lot. Once the idle stabilizes, the motor has a distinctive rumble typical of V-twins (not the potato-potato of a Harley) but the low authoritative "barr-umph" when you rev it. The digital gauges may turn off some purists (especially in light of the classic bullet instruments of the previous generation), but they are clear and legible. The twin rows of LED taillights on the latest bike are one of the best looking on the market.

    In slow speed maneuvers the SV is easy to counterbalance and turn. The high wide bars and a dry weight of 368Lbs makes the SV excel at low speeds. On the road, the same characteristics enable a rider to cut and thrust through traffic with confidence. At high speeds the chassis is compliant and stable. Suzuki has given the SV a sporting rake and wheelbase that lets you lean into a corner and keep it sticking to the road. Transitions in linked s-curves is where this bike shines, it almost begs to be flicked from one side to the other. Even though some may classify the SV as a standard motorcycle it certainly has sporting DNA.

    On longer rides however, the motor buzzes a little around 6000rpm. Above that it seems to smooth out somewhat, though cross country jaunts may get a bit tiring. For a 140Lb rider, my SV has all the power it needs (73Hp, 47FtLbs), and if passing in top gear doesn’t work, a quick downshift to 5th and you can squirt around that slower car. At a 31" inseam, even the naked SV’s lower rear set felt a bit cramped after 100 miles in the saddle. Speaking of saddle, prior to the 2004 models, Suzuki has cursed the SV with a poor saddle that is too wide in the front, leading to tender tushies if one rides non stop for the length of one tank of gas (around 140 miles). Thankfully Suzuki has seen the light and the 2004+ models have a new sub frame and saddle, slightly narrower and lower.

    The SV does double duty, as a capable commuter during the day, and twisty hooligan bike on weekends. It can be turned into a comfortable touring bike with addition of a windscreen and luggage, but long trips are better on a specific sport touring or full dress tourer. Stripped down the SV also makes a fun track bike, no match for the supersports in a straight line, but more than adequate for racing in lower classes.

    Like most bikes, extended wheelies on the SV will result in oil starvation, and hard track riding will reveal the softness of the front shock. Fortunately the aftermarket support for the SV is good, and most performance upgrades bolt right on. The most popular mod is also a cheap one, replace the fork oil with 20wt. That takes out a lot of the fork dive. Other common mods include upgrading the rear shock with one off a GSXR, and of course, replacing that seat.

    Over the course of one year, I’ve had no unexpected problems with the SV. The 500 and 1000 mile break in milestones came and went without drama. Tires and brakes are showing even wear, top notch reliability and performance.

    In a market flooded with heavy metal cruisers and plastic race replicas, naked bikes occupy a unique niche. They offer real world ergonomics and great handling in a lightweight fun package. Disregarding older used bikes, the low end of the standard market is taken by the Buell Blast and the Suzuki GS500E, while at the high end resides the Kawasaki Z-1000, the Aprilia Tuono, the Ducati Monster 1000 and others. In the middle that leaves the smaller Ducati Monsters, the Triumph Bonneville, and the SV650 to name a few. To some it makes an ideal first bike, to others it may be their second or third … or just for what it is, a fun practical bike that will bring a perma-grin to your face every time you ride.

    http://www.sportrider.com/bikes/2003..._suzuki_sv650/
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