2005 Suzuki SV-650N – Naked Adulation

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2005 Suzuki SV-650“Be a little careful on it, it’s fresh out of the crate.”  Indeed looking at the odometer the SV650N was showing a mere 0.3km on the “dial”. That mileage made the SV650 as it was delivered to us, a newborn naked bike.  Now, despite us carrying the reputation of being Moto-Journalists, we’re giving the engine a bit of a run in here, so the term for the day is “responsible behaviour”.  The SV650, however, was determined to make that a bit of a challenge.

For the record, we blame the engine.  The small twin issues a nice burble at idle and in front of the new OneWheelDrive.Net office, marketing man  and I debated the engine note issuing from the stock pipe. “I think”, he suggests, “Suzuki’s done something with the pipe this year.”

“I don’t know, maybe, I just don’t remember it sounding this good.”

Giving the throttle a bit of a blip, the burble spins up rapidly to a high cadenced throaty throb; smiles turn to grins, which, at the thought of an uncorked aftermarket pipe, become face splitting.

Out on the road that mere 650 v-twin seduces you.  Where in-line fours are all “sound and fury signifying nothing”, the SV’s plant is busy developing torque ‘ and as a bonus it spins up to the 10,500 RPM redline quickly and easily.  It’s not the languid power of a bigger twin, nor is it the manic rev of a 600 four  ‘ it’s a smooth, progressive liberation of shove with a good dose of twin character.  Better, that outlay of twist-and-go torque comes with almost complete disregard to where the engine is in the RPM range.  The engine’s not going to hassle you into naughtiness, just lure you into it.  The only negative to the plant is the vibe felt throbbing through bars, pegs, seat, and blurring mirrors.

We almost completely failed to take note of that vibe though, and as we said it’s that punchy 650 twin’s fault. In a quick, race-you-to-that-Volvo sprint, the SV650’s front wheel quite surprisingly lofted to a solid table height for Snapper Kevin – catching him a bit off guard.  The problem of course with having your photographer ride is there’s no photographic record of the look on his face, only bench racing re-counts.  So much for the meeting the challenge of responsible riding.  Honest Suzuki, it wasn’t intentional – give this naked bike the berries in second, and it will do a ‘hooligan’ lift of the front end quite nicely thank you.

Back in the revels of traffic, we found the throttle a bit touchy on and off, this may not calm the nerves of absolute beginners who seem to be flocking to the SV650N the world over.  That little glitch in the power delivery can be forgiven though, because after our licensing tests, only motorcycle magazine editors and testers spend extended time rolling around parking lots at near idle.  Instead, your average SV650 rider will likely be found playing it up and down through the ratios of the superbly slick six-speed gearbox.  In the process of doing so, you’ll discover that this little naked really has some spirit.  Responsible running of the SV650 through it’s rev range to break it in will bring you to reasonable top speed approaching the 170 kph mark; I’m on the big boned side weighing in at 200 pounds sans gear – for lighter folks results may vary.

Straight-line runs tend not to interest us very much, and thankfully the SV650’s handling matches the engine’s demeanor.  It’s quick, nimble, and precise, making the SV as good as any entry-level bike out there – and a number of the mid-range bikes too.  In-city maneuverability had me confidently whipping the SV650 through traffic before the tires were fully scrubbed ‘ agile and questionably legal traffic filtering fun.   The SV650N seduced me again.  All this handling joy is, in large part, thanks to a short chassis, the small Dunlop Sportmax 120/60ZR17 in front, and narrow 160/60ZR17 rear.  When it comes down to real riding, the little bike is a gas; quick to turn in, light and flick-able strafing runs of the twisties are as irresistible as a free shooter. The upright sitting position and ergos give one good leverage against the bars, making the naked SV650 exceptionally easy to ride.

Things are less settled in the high-speed sweepers, however, and the SV650N comes off a little twitchy when really pushed.  You also have to watch your throttle a bit, the free revving little 650 is as quick to spin down as it is to spin up, so you can blow off speed almost instantly in the corners.  It’s not necessarily a detriment ‘ more a quirk.

Over previous SVs, the fine folks at Suzuki have even sorted the suspension out a bit.  It’s still on the soft side, providing adequate damping to keep the tires on the road, and giving a comfortable sense of control in normal use.  But don’t take our word for it, OWD contributor Alberto Garcia is an avid SV fan and he’s done the duty of comparing the new SV to the older model in an upcoming counter-point.  The forks now see a preload adjustment and little else, while the back shock provides rebound and wrench preload adjustment.

As a perk the wrench for that suspension adjustment, and the rest of the SV650N’s toolkit, doesn’t eat any under-seat storage space, it has it’s own easily accessible cubby-hole on the bike’s left side below the seat.  One wouldn’t be calling the storage capacious by any means, but with a little jiggling the cell-phone, wallet, and some very light raingear can be fit in.  Especially if one sees fit to move a fuse/relay block (which was mysteriously mounted right in the middle of the usable space) off to the side.

Braking is well matched to the slightly soft front suspension and won’t be overpowering it or the tires anytime soon.  They bring the SV650’s 169kg mass down from speed calmly and without much fuss.  There’s no feeling of spectacular haul down to zero that you get on pricier offerings, but while the twin 290 mm floating rotors in front, and the single 240 mm rotor out the rear are strictly middle-of-the-road stuff, they do the business well enough.  Little fear of locking the rear, so there’s a perk.

If you’re concerned about silly things like ‘weather protection’ and ‘wind exposure’, move on to the SV’s faired siblings ‘ because going naked really translates to indecent exposure.  Wind protection? There is none.  The amount of buffeting this bike produces is akin to having a sadistic monkey humping the back of your helmet while jumping down on your shoulders.  For a while it’s all new, exciting and possibly kinky, but after a half hour at highway speeds you really wish it would go away.  There may be ‘naturalists’ out there who can hack the elements of the freeways on the SV650N, but they have thicker and more wind worn skin that I.

On our first long ride, we’re 70 kms out of town having our first coffee break and there is something overwhelmingly, critically, and painfully wrong.  It’s not that I haven’t been enjoying myself, because largely I have, but there’s this thing’  it’s eating at me’ gnawing at the joy’  Suzuki, how could you, who’ve gotten so much undeniably right with this bike, give it this ‘seat’?

It’s an abomination; after 70 kms in the saddle I’d concluded that the seat was designed with the same amount of ergonomic care and thought as a wicker thong.  It’s horrible, all hard edges and flat surfaces, which, although this design philosophy works with the aesthetic of the SV, operates in complete and total contradiction to the rounds and curves most humans present back there.  I’ve looked in the mirror and know ‘ there are no hard edges there.  There never have been and never will.  So please Suzuki, next design update ‘ take pity on us.

So despite the seat being one of the biggest misreads of human anatomy on record, does ‘going naked’ make you grin?  On Suzuki’s SV650 Naked the answer is an undeniable ‘Yes’, at times like an idiot.  This bike is amazing around town ‘ it flits through traffic with rat-bike glee.  Out on the backroads and twisties, its all handling and engine shine, simply making the SV 650 N one of the easiest and fun bikes to ride.  Hitting the freeways, however, exposes the shortfalls of life in the nude.

MSRP:              $8,499.00 CDN
Suzuki Canada: http://suzuki.ca

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