Smart Money Tips: Buying a Used 2003–2008 Suzuki SV650

The plucky twin remains one of the best and most desirable used bikes around.

2003 Suzuki SV650, 2008 Kawasaki Versys, 2006 Suzuki GS500F, 2006 Yamaha FZ6
2003 Suzuki SV650, 2008 Kawasaki Versys, 2006 Suzuki GS500F, 2006 Yamaha FZ6©Motorcyclist
2003 Suzuki SV650
2003 Suzuki SV650©Motorcyclist

If you're thinking about walking into the Motorcyclist offices and bad-mouthing the Suzuki SV650, you'd better be ready to fight your way back to the parking lot. The feisty middleweight is such a staff favorite that, despite having full-time access to a shop full of newer and flashier testbikes they can ride for free, several editors have spent their own money to put one in their garage. This love of the SV650 isn't just restricted to the editorial staff. The plucky twin remains one of the best and most desirable used bikes around.

The beating heart of the second-generation SV is a 645cc, DOHC, eight-valve V-twin that’s remarkably flexible for a medium-displacement engine, not to mention sounding terrific. The single-crankpin, 90-degree-cylinder layout delivers power—68ish horses at 9,000 rpm—smoothly from idle to redline in a package that’s not much wider than a one-lung powerplant. Mated with a smooth gearbox and a progressive clutch, the SV’s mill coddles new riders and delights veterans.

In 2003 the SV’s round-tube frame was replaced by a rectangular-section aluminum unit. Other changes included more angular bodywork, a digital speedo, and fuel injection. The half-faired S model got the same changes, and both it and the naked version got optional ABS in 2007, when dual-plug heads became standard. In 2008 the fully faired SV650SF was introduced and the S model disappeared.

The second-gen SVs were light (a claimed 368 pounds wet for the SV and 372 for the SV-S), nimble, and more of a hoot than their modest specs would indicate. Still, someone at Suzuki figured they could do better—and they were wrong. In 2009 Suzuki replaced the SV with the disappointing SFV650 Gladius, a misfire that in every significant way (weight, performance, looks, and price) was worse than the SV. Like your Uncle Carl who lives out in your backyard in a rusting Airstream with a one-eyed pit bull named Slash, the less said about the Gladius the better.

Good thing, then, that used SV650s are plentiful, relatively inexpensive, and for the most part very reliable. Engine problems are few, though at idle some make troubling noises that seem to presage catastrophe but often go away when the engine warms up. A consistent ticking that doesn’t go away is usually a sticky cam-chain tensioner. Valve-adjustment intervals are routinely ignored with no ill effects (not that we would recommend it). Because of the SV650’s broad appeal, the aftermarket brims with goodies for racing, sport riding, and even touring. Some SVs found their way to the track where they got needed suspension upgrades and other go-fast parts, while others hit the pavement in some other fashion their rookie riders didn’t anticipate, making scuffed or bent levers, rashed engine cases, and dented tanks common on used ones.

The SV's long production run and the bike's huge fan base ensure a good supply of parts from dealers. Two of the best internet resources for SV knowledge are svrider.com and sv650.org. Spend the clicks to join both, and you'll never be far from the answers to your tuning, repair, and maintenance questions.

CHEERS
A scalpel in a world of hatchets, the SV offers surprising performance in a compact, affordable package.
JEERS
Saggy suspension, short on amenities, and, ummm…?
WATCH FOR
Cheap exhausts, seized brake calipers, soggy electrics, racing tech-inspection stickers, and safety wire.
VERDICT
Inexpensive, capable, suitable for all skill levels. As much motorcycle as most riders need to have fun.
VALUE
2003 / $2,165
2004 / $2,395
2005 / $2,640
2006 / $2,900
2007 / $3,185
2008 / $3,480

Also Smart...

2008 Kawasaki Versys
2008 Kawasaki Versys©Motorcyclist

2007–2009 Kawasaki Versys
The Versys (from "versatile system") plugged the 650 Ninja's engine, tuned for more torque, into an upright chassis with long-travel suspension to create a do-it-all platform that performs well in a variety of roles but excels in none of them. Only buzziness at highway speeds spoils the fun.

2006 Suzuki GS500F
2006 Suzuki GS500F©Motorcyclist

2004–2009 Suzuki GS500F
This sporty-looking twin lacked the power to run with the competition but made friends among beginners and commuters looking for a solid and reliable ride. Even with new 500cc twins from Honda currently making a splash, used GS500Fs are still hard to beat for the money. Just don't expect excitement by the bucketload to be part of the deal.

2006 Yamaha FZ6
2006 Yamaha FZ6©Motorcyclist

2006–2009 Yamaha FZ6
Early FZ6 models were marred by abrupt throttle response, but that was quickly sorted. Despite a weldless, bolt-together aluminum frame and nearly 100 hp available with a healthy dose of midrange, it comes across as a little less sporty than it could be, with one foot planted firmly in standard territory.