MCN Fleet: V-Strom 650XT vs SV650

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Riding for me is a balancing act. First and foremost, my bike is my number one means of transport, I’m a long distance commuter and often ride to the race meetings I cover for MCN.  

However, the whole reason I started riding was for the fun of it; those evening 40-50-mile blasts with a few mates to a local bike meet. So in ideal scenarios I look for a bike that can be practical for the long distance rides while still enjoyable on some of the cracking roads we’ve got here in Lincolnshire.

After four months and almost 6000 miles with the V-Strom 650 XT, it’s performing quite well in both departments. It chews up the miles effortlessly while being punchy enough to enjoy on the more twisty, for-fun outings.

A couple of weeks ago, the V-Strom needed to go to Suzuki for a bit of work and I jumped at the chance to borrow an SV650 while I waited.

I was really intrigued to see how the SV performed compared to the Strom given they’re both powered by the same 645cc V-Twin motor. The V-Strom puts out a slightly reduced 71bhp to the SV’s 76bhp and weighs almost 20kg more. Obviously, the SV is designed more for that ‘fun factor’ while the V-Strom caters more for practicality – the two opposite ends of my scale.

Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t on my side for the first half of my day but I wasn’t going to let that stop me.

The first thing I noticed was the sound, it’s much louder and the growl of the V-Twin much raspier. It sounds aggressive. The V-Strom doesn’t sound bad, but the note of SV rings so much better in your ears as you twist the throttle.


The SV is a little more lively on first touch of the throttle, as I found out when the back end got a bit twitchy as I got on the gas in second gear on a very slippery dual carriageway on the way out of Milton Keynes!

It was hooning it down by now, so I took the quick way down the M1 to my lunch meeting. I won’t lie; it wasn’t a pleasant experience and I definitely missed the protection of the V-Strom…

Fortunately, by the time my meeting had finished it’d stopped raining so I took a more adventurous route back and it was an absolute blast.

The SV is so light and nimble, it peels into corners and has plenty of beans to shoot out, especially for someone like me who has only held my full licence for three years.

I felt just at the right level, I wasn’t intimidated by the bike so could ride relatively hard without pushing outside my comfort zone. Having spent a few years on more touring-oriented bikes, I forgot just how much wind blast you get on a naked!

By the time I pulled back in to Suzuki, I didn’t want to give it back! I thought I’d get on the V-Strom and find it heavy, sluggish and boring.

In fact, as I set off on my 100-mile trip home, I realised that wasn’t the case at all. The upright seating position and wide bars make for such a comfortable ride as you’re not crouched over the tank as on the sportier SV, this pretty much negates the difference in weight. And the power difference? It’s barely noticeable.

I guess sometimes you don’t quite realise how good a bike you are riding until you get on something a little different.  

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Oli Rushby

By Oli Rushby

Former sports reporter covering British Superbikes, World Superbikes and road racing