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Ultimate used motorbike buyer's guide: Suzuki SV650

By Trevor Franklin -

First rides & tests

 03 March 2010 11:11

Has there been a better bike than the Suzuki SV650 to make the jump from learner-legal machinery to the world of horsepower and big-bike riding qualities? It’s a debateable question, but when you consider 20,700 SV650s have been bought over the ten years it’s been on sale in the UK (1999 up until December 2009), we can safely say the middleweight V-twin is extremely popular.   

Not surprisingly many SV650 make it on to the second-hand market, but they don’t hang around. Check out MCN Bikemart or Bikes For Sale for second-hand examples.

WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR

  • The engine is renowned for emitting a ticking noise at low rpm and is attributed to noisy camchains. The automatic camchain tensioners allow a fair bit of chain slack until they take it up. If the noise gets really loud and can be heard as a constant rattlesnake-like rattle when closing the throttle from high revs, the tensioners are either stuck or the chains are stretched beyond their service limit. The '03 ratchet mechanism is better.
  • The regulator/rectifier is a Suzuki bugbear on the early ’99-02 SV650 – there’s no rhyme or reason why some fail and most don’t. It’s easy to spot when on the way out: the lights are dimmer than normal at tickover, which then leads to the bike stalling and refusing to start with all the symptoms of a flat battery. The only answer is a new unit and be quick with it – it can lead to early demise of the generator and battery.
  • The left bar switchgear is prone to failing due to corrosion from water ingress. Occasional doses of spray-on grease will keep corrosion at bay. And while you’re at it, spray as many electrical connectors underneath the headlight (’99-03 models) as you possibly can – prevention is better than cure.
  • Huge interest in the Mini-twins race series has led to many SV650 making it onto the track. These aren’t easy to spot at sale time because stock plastics are replaced for racing and then refitted. Tell-tale signs are heavy scrapes, serious amounts of tyre lever marks on the wheel rims, race-spec brake pads and heavily worn discs for the mileage. Also look for small (3mm) holes drilled in the oil filler cap, rad and reservoir cap, sump plug etc for lockwire to pass through and prevent these parts from coming undone and dump fluids.

MAJOR UPDATES & RECALLS

1999 - The year the SV650 arrived and ran largely unchanged bar colours, which changed every year or so
2000 - A recall was instigated for some SV650Y and SY models (frame numbers JS1AV111200101536-102366 on SV650SY models, JS1AV133200100776-100997 on SV650Y models) to fit an oil guide plate to stop air being drawn into the oil pump inlet and causing premature crankshaft wear.
2003 (K3 model) - The SV650 underwent a major revamp (as noted in frame number change AV to BY). These changes were for the good and consisted mainly of: Modified camshaft profile, Oil cooler, Fuel injection, Catalyser fitted, New speedo design, New brake lights and tail design, All new bodywork, New angular frame style (approx 3kg lighter than K2 model).
2007 - To meet new Euro 3 emissions standards, the engine received vital changes. Cylinder heads were altered to run dual sparkplug and ISC and H02 sensor added to EFI system. The naked model SV650 dropped from UK sales line up.

OUT OF TUNE

As owners get to grip with their SV650, the urge to extract more power increases. Be wary of bikes that have loud replacement exhaust cans because they are an MoT fail and a magnet for inquisitive police.

On older carburetted models with aftermarket race-type silencers, check for clean running to ensure the carbs have been rejetted to suit the silencer. Do this by gradually opening the throttle in 1000rpm increments while at standstill. If the bike misfires, stutters or generally feels sick it mostly signifies a fuel problem.

On fuel injected models, most race-type silencers are often tuned to the fuelling/ECU by way of a Dynojet Power Commander, a device that sits in-line of the bike’s wiring harness. The problem is, a lot of owners simply fit them and assume they work when in fact they need really setting up on a dyno, or hooked up to a PC for a suitable map to be downloaded and installed from Dynojet.

Some owners go down the more air and fuel route for power increases, which can lead to the bike’s airbox being savaged by a hand-drill. This inevitably means risk of foreign debris entering the airbox. 

MCN READERS SAY…

In MCN’s Bike Reviews section you will find MCN’s verdict of Suzuki’s SV650, along with owner reviews. Here’s a selection of owner comments…

Tooshay: “I'm 6' 2" and have no problems with the bike. So yes, it’s good for a six footer and fantastic as a first bike.”
13 October 2008

Scampisy: “Owned my SV650S for 4yrs now and have used it mainly abroad (26,000) from Portugal to Romania, one trip was 4000 in 10 days, not had one problem & will never sell it.”
13 January 2010

Smit6000: “I have only been a qualified rider since November, but since then I have racked up nearly 2500 miles on my 1999 SV. It is a great bike to really learn to ride on.”
12 March 2009

SV650 LINKS

www.jhsracing.co.uk – service and aftermarket specialist for SV650, and highly regarded tuning experts for Mini-twin racing SV650
www.sv650.org – site dedicated to all things SV650 and Suzuki Gladius
www.svrider.com an American site complete with forums, gallery, tips etc
www.westernaspect.com/sv650s.htm – owner’s view of life with the middleweight Suzuki along with various press road tests
www.suzukiownersclub.co.uk – forums, model info, ride outs etc

WHEN BUYING A BIKE…

1) Check out the bike’s history with MCN Bike Check before purchasing. Bike Check is simple process of five minutes internet action and a charge of £19.99 to gain valuable info about your prospective purchase ie exact make and model info as recorded by the manufacturer, whether the bike has been written off, been reported as stolen, or carries outstanding finance or possible mileage anomaly.

2) Never reveal personal or banking details to a seller or buyer over the phone, or transfer monies unless the bike is in eyesight or in your possession.

3) Study bike-owner forums for problems with your chosen machine and check your chosen doesn’t carry such problems.

4) If this is your first bike purchase, when going to view a bike try to take a knowledgeable friend with you who is technically adept, or someone who will notice worn pads, discs, tyres while you are in your nervous excited state.

5) Check all paperwork: is the log book on hand and does it carry the DVLA bar-code markings – even log books get copied? Do the chassis and engine numbers correspond with the numbers on the log book? Is there a current MoT certificate (required with machines over three years old)? Is there a service book and is it up to date complete with service receipts? Is there current road tax – if not, has it been SORN; you may be liable for back tax.

6) If the bike has been heavily accessorised (mini indicators, race silencer etc), ask if the original parts are available – not all accessories are compliance approved (‘E’ marked) and can be construed as a MoT fail.

7) Make sure everything works…