It\'s shorter for starters (20mm less than the V-Strom thou\') and doesn\'t seem to have that top-heaviness of the bigger bike. That\'s good for two reasons, firstly the short guys can\'t complain, and of course, it opens this style of bike to a wider audience - women included.
So what is this style of bike? Zook\' call it a "Sport Enduro Tourer". Most, I suspect, will lump it into the much vamped adventure tourer classification. Either way, it\'s an adventure with a surprising amount of sport thrown in. We were encouraged by the factory to stay on road, probably due to the other journalists waiting to ride the bikes in the following few days, and probably because we looked accident prone - a few of us pretended not to hear and went off-roading anyway, oh how we laughed.
Now this is no Paris-Dakar bike, but it was surprisingly capable on fast fire roads, in fact any sandy, dirty, gravel strewn or otherwise. Those roads were, in some cases, pretty chopped up and it was a great test for the new bike. Mirroring the bigger V the 650 also comes with a 19-inch hoop up front that allowed some good steering geometry without getting unstable under rougher conditions. With ample ground clearance and a fairly low C of G (compared to the bigger bike), much fun was had by all.
Suzuki is not exactly marketing this thing as a BMW-GS style off-roader but from what I could see and experience, it\'s very capable, especially on those off road type conditions or really anywhere that\'s reasonably smooth and won\'t compromise ground clearance. The bike really is solid in those conditions and I never saw anyone tipped over either, enough said.
Off-roading though is not exactly my bag and the bike was just as capable on the grey smoother stuff. A few of us were probably riding this thing a little harder than the norm and this 650 took whatever I could dish out. The front and rear suspenders are preload adjustable and the suspension, spring and geometry have been set up for a sporty nature. The brakes were extremely responsive too with excellent feel. The tires were Bridgestone Trail Wings and were pretty grippy and only howled in anger if you got too daft - or was that the Park Ranger? Either way the bike got around pretty decently.
The motor is the same hardy 90 degree V-Twin with its double overhead cam, 8-valve with a revised cam profile to take advantage of its intended usage. The changes center on providing a stronger low-to-mid torque shove. The Electronic fuel injection features Suzuki\'s Dual Throttle Valve System (SDTV) a system that maintains optimum air velocity in the intake tract for a smoothed out low-to-mid rpm throttle response too.
I found that in top gear roll-ons there seemed to be no advantage in dropping a gear, just rolling on in sixth would suffice. The torque always gave the motor a helping hand. However, I\'m not sure if I would prefer the stock motor configuration, due to its fun and punchy power delivery or not. Obviously this bike is pushing a little more weight than the smaller SV, but the increase in rear sprocket size that the V-Strom enjoys over that SV would have taken care of a fair amount of weight deficit and made it a livelier with a grin-inducing ride to boot.
The frame and running gear are a little porky because this bike shares some of its suspension parts from its bigger bro. That\'s hurt this bike a little because it\'s not as frenetic as the smaller SV. Sure that\'s a good thing for the polite motorcycle that the V-Strom is but it does take away some of the fun factor that I suspect netted sales for the SV/SVS. Power is reputed to be up a little from the SV/SVS, some 5%, but the weight negates this. There\'s more flywheel on this version of the 650, maybe that\'s the problem too, it not revving as quickly.
By the way, 2Dub\'s very own AlexF has thrashed the pee out of his junkyard dog 99\' SV with no ill effects. Now he can blow motors up easier than a Bradley fighting vehicle in Afghanistan, and his stayed together. Like the Taliban, he\'s a maintenance buffoon too, yet still no mechanical\'s… You gotta love that anvil like reliability.
So there\'s no argument about that motor, the ergonomics live up to the task too. With a nice comfortable bum shaped seat we managed over 220 miles on our outing that contained a fair about of monkey business with absolutely no monkey butt. The credit also goes to the excellent wind protection. That front fairing is very aerodynamically efficient and guides air up and around your upper body. The screen is three-way adjustable and I tried both the lower and upper positions - just like Goldilocks I found the middle position to be "just right". Also, if I leant into the fairing at speed I experienced absolutely zero noise (apart from the motor).
Bigger is better sometimes though, in this case a nice size tank pays homage to a 22 liter capacity (nearly 6 gallon) tank. Storage is sportbike typical but Suzuki has promised some natty trunk and hard bags for those long stages on your personal Paris-Dakar trip. A Suzuki labeled tank cover is coming too, as is a center stand and alternative windscreen sizes.
By the way, the top speed of the bike (late 120\'s) was obtained (apparently) either sitting up or laying down. It made no difference. Deflection from truck wash also declined to upset the bike either - Good job with that fairing. The instrumentation wedged within that bodywork is specifically doo-dad free. It\'s an easy to read set of old school analog-style tachometer and speedometer with some LCD trickery between, namely a clock, digital fuel bar and temperature gauge and the usual array of idiot lights.
At the rear of the bike we have a pretty substantial alloy luggage rack that offers plenty of tie down points and a decent set of pillion grab rails as well. The exhaust is tucked in nice and high and tight. There\'s also a remote preload adjuster nearby and it certainly sharpened up the steering when cranked to the upper end of its range. That adjustability will be especially handy for loaded or two-up sorties.
So what we have here is a very capable shake and bake version of the SV series. It\'s rider friendly and as a proper do-it-all bike, it\'s the ultimate urban commuter. The bigger V-Strom is very sought after in Suzuki\'s demo rides proving an interest in this genre. This bike is the right size and most certainly the right money at an amazing $2400 bucks cheaper than that 1000. That\'s a lot of money to put towards your gas bill and consequently the potential of a considerable amount of fun (s)mileage on this newbie.