Update 3: The SV650X is a true budget do-it-all
Anyone who’s ever spent any time in a race paddock will know someone who’s competed on a Suzuki SV650. Born at the back end of the last millennium in 1999, they’ve littered the club racing scene for the best part of 20 years, and after just one session around Rockingham’s technical National Circuit, I can see why.
The £6199 SV650X is as basic as a current middleweight bike can possibly be, offering just shy of 75bhp, preload adjustment on the front and rear springs and conventional ABS at both ends.
However, for what appears to simply be a bargain-bucket but stylish commuter, the SV is actually an incredibly capable miniature sportsbike and when on a tight, nadgery circuit, or winding back road, it really shines.
'The perfect introduction to trackdays'
Armed with a fresh set of Dunlop Sportsmart TT tyres, the V-twin is easily exploited, offering enough power to be engaging along the straights while never really threatening to break traction on aggressive corner exits.
It’s a similarly good story in the bends too, with the grippy tyres working with the soft, road-orientated suspension and clip-on bars to create a confidence-inspiring package throughout.
The only time the suspension lets the bike down is when you’re getting on the throttle, with the soft rear squatting and causing the front- end to go light, which can translate into the occasional mild speed wobble or pushing wide on exits.
Granted, it’s hardly a 600cc supersport machine, but it behaves far better than its six-grand price-tag would suggest and would be the perfect introduction to trackday riding; just so long as it’s a tight and twisty circuit to play to its strengths.
I will be attending a track event at Silverstone in the coming weeks to see just how the bike fairs on a larger, more open track.
Away from the track, the bike is also a delight on your favourite, technichal back road. Equipped with my new grippy rubber and two additional clicks of pre-load on the rear shock, the handling is predictable and the soft suspension helps soak up any bumps and ruts.
The engine also offers the ideal amount of poke to be fully exploited, without having to worry about any points on your licence.
Update 2: The seat is a pain in the arse
In a bid to give the SV650X some added retro charm, Suzuki have fitted the bike with a thin rolled seat as standard, which sharpens up the rear and helps achieve a more aggressive stance than the standard SV.
Although a nice addition to the looks, it completely ruins the bike’s ability as a long-distance commuter, becoming unbearable after around 20 miles of motorway riding and directly contributing to impatient riding, as you desperately try to reach your destination sooner.
The rolled design also makes it very difficult to clean, with any splodges of dirt or bird poo (it’s happened twice) finding their way between each spongey crevice.
To combat the backside ache, I have replaced this bike’s retro fitment with the standard seat from the upright SV650. Retailing at £102.64, this option slots in with no adjustment and feels slightly thicker, offering additional comfort over a longer period.
That said, on rides where you’re unlikely to move around on the seat regularly, it will still leave you numb after around an hour in the saddle.
Update 1: Introducing the Suzuki SV650X
When I first clapped eyes on the Suzuki SV650X at its reveal at the Eicma show last year, I was hit with a mix of both intrigue and disappointment.
The X was Suzuki’s only real new release for 2018 and, clip-on bars and bikini fairing aside, was and still is the same basic SV650 the Japanese firm released back in 2016.
With the only other notable addition being preload adjustable forks, which now come as standard across the SV range, it appeared to just be a lazy attempt to tap into an already saturated part of the market.
How wrong I was...
Below is a breakdown of my first 1000 miles of riding on the bike and what I descovered along the way.
Styling aside, I have always had a soft spot for the standard SV650 and the inclusion of sporty clip-on bars on this model offer an added dimension to the already enjoyable riding experience.
With a fat tank and chunky seat, complete with sensible-yet-sporty foot pegs, the forward-focussed riding position is reminiscent of that of a late 90s 600cc supersport machine and reminds me of my own 2000-plate Suzuki GSX-R600, which I owned for three years as my first big bike.
It feels more involved and precise than its upright twin brother and the peppy 645cc V-Twin is the perfect tool for maximum fun at road legal speeds on your favourite technical A or B road.
I am a keen all-year commuter and have been using Suzuki’s SV650X on and off since early March. Although we were largely out of the winter misery by this point, I was keen to keep the bike protected from corrosion.
To help combat the sludge, I applied a thin coating of ACF-50 every two weeks and rinsed the bike down with the hose and dried it after every trip. It was then thoroughly cleaned every weekend, ready for another week-long battle with the elements.
Unfortunately, despite my best efforts, surface rust was still able to appear on the inner sections of the front discs and on some of the outer plates of the chain, which I lubricate weekly.
This is disappointing when you consider the vast majority of SVs will only ever live their lives as commuting machines. Granted, at £6199, it’s an affordable motorcycle, however you would expect a bike of this nature to be able to survive the last month of its first-ever winter relatively unscathed.
As with any new bike, there is a running-in period to adhere to. Although how to treat a motorcycle during this time divides opinion, I have never had to do it before and so was determined to stick to the guidelines in the SV650X’s owners’ manual.
Lasting for the initial 600 miles before the first service, the process included sticking to a maximum rev-limit of 5000rpm in every gear.
On country roads and through town, this is easily done and remains an enjoyable (if slightly sedate) riding experience, as most of the SV’s grunt is delivered from the bottom to the middle of the rev range.
Unfortunately, this limitation means a top speed of a speedo-indicated 68mph to 70mph - depending on how the bike feels on the day. On faster dual carriageways and motorways, this leaves you feeling quite exposed to the vehicles around you, as they buzz past at a considerably higher rate of knots.
Luckily, the manual also dictates that no constant throttle should be applied during the process, meaning these roads become largely out of the question, unless you’re happy to continuously twist your right wrist forward and back.
I don’t have this kind of patience and so the majority of my riding was restricted to back roads, which in turn added 15 minutes each way to my already hour-and-a-half-long daily commute, as I was forced to travel along the winding A15 from Lincoln to Peterborough, rather than directly down the A46 and A1.
When the SV was eventually taken for its first service after around a month, I began to explore the bike’s optional extras catalogue – opting for the instillation of a tank pad and paddock stand bobbins before it was returned to me.
Costing £22.50 and £25 respectively, these are imperative to the upkeep of the SV, which requires chain lubrication and adjustment around every 500 to 600 miles and the ability to use a paddock stand makes this job a lot easier.
Alongside this, the paint on the tank is also quite thin and had already scratched in several places before the application of the pad. While the paint is now protected from rubbing against the zip of my jacket, compared to some of the other tank pads in Suzuki’s range, this one appears quite bland and featureless.
Once run-in, the X’s sporting nature only improves. With full access to the bike’s 10,000rpm rev-range, it transforms from a plodding retro wannabe, to a road-going mini-twin racer.
Complete with impressively grippy OE Dunlop Roadsmart rubber, it is out-of-the-crate fun and the perfect tool for both new and experienced riders. Winding on the perky V-Twin motor is hugely addictive and, with just 75bhp on tap, is largely accessible at road-legal speeds.
It is only when you start to really push on that you begin to notice the softly sprung suspension, which lets the bike down in faster corners and allows the back end to wallow from side to side. However, with preload adjustment available at the front and rear, there is scope for future tweaking, should I decide it’s necessary!