Suzuki SV650 Long-Term: Farewell to a Friend
Story: Harry Fisher
Pics: Meghan McCabe
Long-term test bikes come and go; some are remembered fondly and returned with regret, some are useful but leave no lasting impression and some are downright unpleasant and we’re glad to see the back of them.
Thankfully, that last category is the most sparsely populated; bikes are just so good these days. Having said that, some bikes are head and shoulders above the rest and not always because they are the most expensive or most accomplished or fastest: sometimes the most unassuming bikes punch way above their weight.
There was a moment on the show a couple of years ago when we nominated our favourite bikes from the year. I can’t remember what Mat or Don chose but my choice is easily remembered; it was the 650cc, v-twin-engined Suzukis – the V-Strom and the SV650.
Here were bikes which, on paper, looked very humdrum but, in the real world, offered everything you could possibly want from a motorcycle at absolutely the right price and what is more they did it with charm and personality.
Fast forward a couple of years and an SV650 came into our orbit as the latest long-term test bike. It is often instructive to re-visit a favoured bike after a break to see if you felt you were right the first time around.
In the case of the SV; I was! In fact, it was even better than I remembered and improved as the weeks and the miles racked up. Here is a bike that is brilliantly sorted in that it might not have the best components but what is there works together really well as it has all been fine-tuned over time. Every element – engine, chassis, suspension and brakes – is so good that you just don’t notice it as it goes about its job.
That might sound a little underwhelming and it would be if the bike wasn’t so entertaining to ride; it’s got a huge personality – it’s a happy bike and has qualities that take time to be noticed, simply because it doesn’t shout about them.
I’ve always been a fan of Suzuki build-quality and the SV gave me no reason to believe that it would be any different; that V-twin engine should last forever but is still a punchy performer that would not embarrass you at the track should you take it on a track day date.
By the same token it is the perfect town bike; small, nimble but with great acceleration and good comfort. Maybe the pillion seat is a little on the narrow side and neither are there any obvious places to strap bungee cords if you wanted to carry anything but these are minor inconveniences.
Best of all is the price; Suzuki has it listed at R99,500 on its website and no doubt you could find it cheaper if you shop around. That’s a lot of bike for not very much money.
The SV650 is a bike that can be many things to many riders, which I suppose you could say about lots of bikes on the market, but can they offer such practicality and fun, not to mention engine size, at the price?