It is always interesting to see what bike in the Ultimate MotorCycling garage will come up in rotation when it’s time to move on to another review. The latest is the Suzuki SFV650, a mid-size motorcycle that looks perfect for commuting. The bike had been a companion mount on a couple of test rides I had been on, but we’d never swapped mounts. There wasn’t anything eye-catching about the matt-black upright SFV650 (the 2014 has a red trellis frame replacing the black of the previous year), other than its naked bike appeal.
The first thing I noticed when I threw a leg over the bike was its very accessible size—the Suzuki SFV650 has a seat height just under 31 inches. For most riders, this will be low enough to provide plenty of confidence for slow speed riding and parking lot maneuvers, and many will be flat-footed at stops.
Adding to the security of the lower seat height is the relatively light weight of the SFV650. The well-balanced bike feels lighter than its claimed curb weight of 446 pounds thanks to the 90-degree V-twin’s low center of gravity. Upright ergonomics keep the bike comfortable and provide good visibility; the compact design has me sitting close to the 3.8-gallon tank, but allows a secure knee-hugging riding position.
While the bike handles easily, it has a muscular substantial feel, with plenty of low to mid-range torque from the 645cc liquid-cooled DOHC engine. This strong pull in the lower cogs makes negotiating shifting traffic lanes easier; there is always plenty of power if you need a squirt of acceleration, or easy roll-off deceleration from engine braking.
No need to work the gearbox either way—a little clutch action goes a long way. Clutch action is smooth, but the pull at the lever is manly. The Japanese transmission, as expected, is seamless, and hard as it is to find a false neutral, it is spot-on-easy to shift into neutral at a stop.
The only thing keeping the slim, trellis-framed Suzuki SFV650 from slipping through the narrowest traffic channels is its shorter stature, which means its mirrors ride only slightly above most car mirrors. So, unless you are very, very good, those tight margins mean you need a little extra room. Of course, the good news is the SFV650 can duck under most SUV and 4×4 mirrors with ease.
At freeway speeds, the Suzuki SFV650 remains solid and tight. It accelerates so effortlessly, you’ll find yourself over the posted limit just as the buffeting from the windblast reminds that you’re on a naked bike. You may not have even shifted into 6th gear at this point; so wide is the torque spread.
Brakes on the SFV650 are perfectly dialed—the harder you squeeze, the more action you’ll get from the calipers. It’s a convincing display of control, completely reassuring for aggressive riding. The rear brake has good feel and is appropriately effective.
Suspension on the SFV650 is decidedly not plush, but neither is it harsh. You’ll feel all the abused asphalt, concrete and freeway transitions, but the bike remains stable; it is a no-frills ride, with only rear spring preload adjustment.
The mirrors are razor sharp at all rpm, something much-appreciated as a commuter. The Spartan instrument panel presents the important commuter facts: time and speed (the latter in a large LCD digital display), along with an always welcome gear indicator and an analog tach which I only looked at once to check the redline; there is a very soft wall at 10,500 rpm. There is no gas gauge, but a reserve trip meter starts counting when the low fuel light comes on.
When the word came down from HQ that the bike had to go back, I made a beeline for the mountains for a quick spin. As much as I enjoyed the bike’s commuting prowess, I figured the twin’s low to mid-range torque would be a blast in the hills, and I was not disappointed.
The SFV650 is easy to handle and quick footed through the twisties. A rapid downshift or touch of the front lever before diving into corners, then accelerating out, the bike is smooth, holds its line, and encourages more of the same. Scraping the peg feelers isn’t difficult, and no cause for concern—all props to the Dunlop rubber.
With the athletic ability to push hard on the freeway, both at speed and through traffic, combined with smooth, predictable handling, the SFV650 is a fun, energetic commuter. That it is also an easy and capable canyon chaser makes the unassuming-looking Suzuki SFV650 a terrific package.
Action photography by Don Williams
Helmet: Arai Vector-2 Loop
Communications: Sena SMH10R
Jacket: Joe Rocket Ladies Trixie
Gloves: Icon Women’s Pursuit Stealth
Pants: Ugly Bros Aegis-K
Boots: Tour Master Solution 2.0 WP
Suzuki SFV650 Specifications
Engine…645cc, 4-stroke, 2-cylinder, liquid-cooled, DOHC, 90-degree V-Twin
Bore x Stroke…3.19 in x 2.46 in
Fuel System…Fuel Injection
Transmission…6-speed, constant mesh
Suspension Front…Telescopic, coil spring, oil damped
Suspension Rear…Link type, coil spring, oil damped, spring preload 7-step adjustable
Brakes Front…4-piston calipers, 290 mm disc, twin
Brakes Rear…2-piston caliper, 240mm disc
Tires Front…120/70 ZR17 Dunlop
Tires Rear…160/60 ZR17 Dunlop
Fuel Tank Capacity…3.8 gallons
Overall Length…2130 mm (83.9 in.)
Overall Width…760 mm (29.9 in.)
Wheelbase…1445mm (56.9 in.)
Ground Clearance…135mm (5.3 in.)
Seat Height…785 mm (30.9 in.)
Curb Weight…202kg (446 lbs)
Warranty…12 month unlimited mileage limited warranty.