Monday, 15 February 2016

Suzuki SV650

Easy, thought I. Some youth with a pussy-face goatee beard selling a 3200 mile, eight month old SV. A bit newer than I would've ideally gone for but he only wanted 3000 notes. Test ride on the back, a bit of vibes through the pillion pegs but stately enough handling and fair flew down the road. Test ride at the controls with the youth on the back, no vibes for the rider and a lovely gurgle when I slammed her through seven thousand revs in third. Hmmm, probably just broke half a dozen laws if not the land speed record. He would not budge on the price even with the promise of hard cash and a done deal right there and then. Typical of the youth of today. With a bit of muttering I handed over the dosh and headed home, across the chaos that Central London represents.

Modernity ruled its power delivery, fuel injectors taming most of a typical vee-twin's waywardness, just a hint of truculence left in the final drive which churned away at low revs in the taller half of the six speed gearbox. If you were used to a modern four cylinder machine it might warrant an initial concern but the kind of minor nastiness that fades into the background after a couple of weeks. Riding skills adjusting to suit the machine.

Though weighing well under 400lbs, the SV was a touch too long to really hustle with step-thru brevity in Central London, more inclined to aviate its front wheel and run over the tops of the cars than fiddle its way through minor gaps, especially when those spaces varied with the dynamics of a bored and frustrated car driver populace. Any inherent narrowness of the vee-twin layout somewhat inhibitted by the width of the bars and positioning of the sometimes marginal mirrors. Having said that, there was nothing about the machine that required much thought, sling a leg over it for the first time and go without any frightening retribution in store.

The disc brakes had plenty of feedback but the first emergency stop – some lovely old dame in a big black Jag on a power trip – required a fistful of digits and an adrenalin inspired grip to really burn the front wheel down to the rubber. Calipers shrieked and the tyre squealed, which at least woke up the old dear at the controls of the bounding auto. Hmmm, about an half inch difference between survival and annihilation.

Further experimentation with the brakes revealed a very mild tendency to sit up and beg in corners when leaving the retardation to the last possible moment, which at least showed the bike had a bit of Suzuki history embedded in its carcase – GS550 four anyone, circa 1980? As one infamous slob likes to impart, been there and done that.

Heavy riding, the SV was much happier with the power full on in the lower gears and the rider hanging off it in a most unmanly manner; snap and thrust on the brakes and throttle all par for the course with nary a twitch of complaint from the suspension even when the road surface represented the deep and dangerous art of council neglect.

Partly, such highway carnage encouraged by a lack of comfort from the saddle – any more than fifty miles had me squirming all over the place whilst the pillion perch was more likely to have the lady of your life cursing and swearing than demanding sex. Suzuki still have an awful lot to learn from Harley in the art of seduction and the design of a vee-twin motorcycle. Arguably, solving such lack of comfort is only a trip away to the nearest accessory store but I also had some problems with the ergonomics of the wide bars that didn't really suit the nature of the beast that would doubtless have benefitted from a set of BMW bars, circa 1965!

For the dosh, the chassis and engine represent the highly advanced art of Japanese production engineering – you can just see the Italians scratching their heads in alarm at just how so much damn good design could be packaged into such a cheap motorcycle. Here's the usual kicker, though, after a couple of months and about 3000 miles (of tireless and trouble-free running) I was convinced that the bike was a touch bland – even with the ability to put an easy 120mph on the clock (nice workout for the upper body, too!), the sheer fluidity of its power delivery left me almost asleep at the controls. Gone was the cantankerous nature of a typical vee-twin and Suzuki managed the amazing feat of making the bike seem more like a four than a vee in its characteristics; those who have done the rounds will recall that they did the same trick with their two-stroke triples back in the seventies, making them seem more like four-strokes than the ever so hot strokers dealt by the likes of Kawasaki.

Running costs were on the high side, which didn't endear the bike to me. OE tyres lasted about 4500 miles, fuel averaged no better than 45mpg with a downside as low as 35mpg and the chain was beginning to rattle and complain. Heavy oil consumption also a bit surprising though I never did get around to changing it! Nor did the mill receive any kind of maintenance.

I sold the bike for a couple of hundred notes more than I paid for it, cancelling out the consumable costs, so I should not be complaining. A great bike but one that really didn't make much of a connection with my soul, for some reason, unlike the nice TDM900 replacement which was an instant bedfellow in highway hooliganism.

Give the SV a decent seat and set of bars, it is one of those bikes that will do absolutely everything very, very well and for the price you can't really complain. But if you delved into old Brit twins, ran the odd Ducati and salivated at the controls of some the hyper Jap tackle it lacks a bit of an edge – not just in terms of power but character as well – that is difficult to explain unless you've been there and done that!

Rod W.

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