$3000 Streetbike Surgery - Suzuki SV650

Building the R-model Suzuki should have

By Ari Henning, Photography by Joe Neric

Suzuki has sold untold thousands of SV650s since the model's inception in 1999, and for good reason. Its sub-$6000 price tag, tractable V-twin motor, light handling and neutral ergonomics attracted newbies like moths to a flame. The bike's sporting attributes have also made it a popular choice amongst more experienced riders. Over the years, the SV has been many things to many people. In stock form the bike is stone-reliable and entertaining transportation. But it can be modified to suit other purposes, from club-level roadracer to show-stopping streetfighter; even supermoto and chopper versions have been attempted by the legions of passionate and industrious owners.

Although riders had been begging for one for years, hopes of an up-spec SV650R were dashed when Suzuki introduced the $6899 Gladius in 2009, simultaneously cutting the unfaired SV650N from the lineup and leaving the $7499 fully faired SV650S as the sole bearer of the name. After road-testing the Gladius (MC, August 2009), we lamented Suzuki's decision to give the SV a makeover without attending to its suspension and brakes-its only real weaknesses. We suggested that for the price of a new Gladius, one could buy and upgrade a used SV and end up with a more capable and refined machine. But could that actually be done, and would the result really be better? We made it our goal to find out.

Our subject was a stock 2005 SV650N in excellent condition with a Kelley Blue Book value of $3340, leaving nearly an equal amount to work with. While Suzuki made the Gladius softer and gentler, our first objective was to make our SV firmer. The suspension thread of every SV owners forum is a hundred pages deep with suggestions on ways to fix the bike's budget suspenders. While the rigid aluminum frame is up to sporting tasks, the flaccid damper-rod fork and under-damped shock are bad enough that even novice riders take note. While drop-in springs and cartridge kits (such as Race Tech's Gold Valve Emulators) are one way to deal with the fork's brake dive, every SV rider's Holy Grail is a GSX-R front end. Not only is the Gixxer fork inverted and fully adjustable, it comes with some seriously powerful braking components, killing the proverbial two birds with one gold-anodized stone. Purchasing the bits piece by piece from a dealership would have obliterated our budget, so we scoured Craigslist where we found a mostly complete GSX-R750 front end for a mere $600. Numerous models can serve as donors, and if you get the right parts it's a direct swap. While the transplant may seem daunting, it's a straightforward procedure that has been documented extensively on www.svrider.com. Do your research before committing to the project.

We tapped into the GSX-R lineup to fix the SV's back end as well. eBay is rife with cast-off shocks from racebike builds, and we picked up an unused one from a GSX-R1000 for $45. The Gixxer shock has a stiffer spring, is fully adjustable and bolted right up, though the SV's battery box had to be trimmed to make room for the piggyback reservoir. Purchased on eBay at the same time as the shock, an $18 set of suspension links (nicknamed "dogbones") compensate for the shorter GSX-R damper to restore the SV's rear ride height.

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