Pros: Quick, nimble, fun.
Cons: Torturous seat, somewhat buzzy engine, engine braking.
I bought a cruiser style motorcycle in 2003. The Honda Magna (see review: http://www.epinions.com/content_107808525956 ) in my garage isn't an ordinary crusier and it handles exceptionally well... for a cruiser. After a couple of years I started to long for something more sporty but I didn't want a full on "super sport" bike. Enter the SV650 naked, this bike is sporty enough but with a riding position that'll keep you out of the chiropractor's office!
About the SV650
Suzuki introduced the SV650 in 1999 as a carbureted, tubular framed "sport" bike. It's also listed as a "standard" bike. In 2003 Suzuki made some pretty significant changes to the SV650, most notably they changed it from carburetors to fuel injection and a redesign of the frame. The "S" model also got some significant body work changes as well. Other changes include an oil cooler and a digital speedometer. Every year the SV650 is offered in at least 2 colors... for 04 they are Blue and Yellow in the USA.
Ergonomics (5'10" 185lbs, 31" inseam)
First and foremost, the seat is horrible! I'm amazed that Suzuki would do something like this to their customers! After a half hour you'll find yourself shifting around and trying to find a position that doesn't hurt. For me it seems that scooting all the way back is less painful but only marginally so. I suppose Suzuki plans to make a little more money by selling their gel seat. I'd gladly pay a bit more for the bike if it had a seat I could stand for even 1 tank of gas. It's really that bad! Corbin and Sargent make aftermarket seats, and you can have the foam replaced in the stock seat (with automotive seat foam) to make it more comfy. I had mine replaced with more supportive foam and it made a huge difference.
Riding position: For me the riding position is slightly sporty. My knees bent and my feet are slightly behind my knees. The naked version definitely has more leg room than the sport and taller riders might find either of them cramped. With my posterior scooted all the way back on my seat, I have to reach for the bars and I'm slightly leaned forward. If I endure the pain in my hiney for long enough my hands will get a little numb, usually I'm off for a butt-break before that though. It's not nearly as comfortable as my Magna, but not nearly as UNcomfortable as a GSX-R. At a stop I can put both feet firmly on the ground. Fortunately the riding position can be customized with handlebar risers, peg extenders, and seats.
Controls and Instrumentation: All of the controls on the SV650 are in the same location as every other Japanese bike I've been on. Everything is easily located without removing your hands from the bars with the exception of the "SEL" and "ADJ" buttons on the instrument cluster. Suzuki included a "pass" button on the left handlebar that I thought was a quick version of the left signal indicator but in actuality it will flash the headlight from low to high. Another feature that I haven't encountered before is the inclusion of a hazard light switch on the right handlebar.
The instrumentation consist of an analog tachometer and digital speedometer, odometer, dual trip meter, clock, and temperature gauge. The tach is on top and the speedometer readout is large so you can see both of them with just a quick glance. The LCD display is easy to see even during bright sunlight and the light is ample at night.
My first thoughts upon throwing a leg over the SV650 were "Wow, this thing is light." and "Where's all this torque I kept hearing about?". The SV650 is noticeably more responsive to steering input than my Magna. The center of gravity is much higher than I had become accustomed to. Cornering ability is exceptional and even rapid changes in direction are a snap. The SV is very forgiving and allows for line changes mid corner without getting too upset. The engine does have enough power to forgive you if you find yourself one gear too high, but if you drop below 4000 rpm don't expect much acceleration.
Since the naked version has no fairing, you can expect a fair amount of wind and bug exposure. The wind really didn't bother me much at all until I hit about 60, then it gets tiring. At that speed the engine is turning close to 5000 rpm and the handlebars start to get buzzy. The 90 degree v-twin revs quickly and as long as you keep it above at least 4K rpm (preferrably 6K) you'll have plenty of power to blast through traffic or curves. One thing I noticed immediately is that the engine braking is very strong, even a slight change in throttle position can cause enough engine braking to be upsetting in some situations. I quickly learned to make small throttle adjustments.
Braking is better than my Magna, but not as much as I expected. The SV650 has dual disc in the front and a single disc in the rear. The front brakes seem to require too much squeezing and the rear locks up too easily. There may be some adjustments that I can make but my initial impression with the brakes is "below expectations".
Suspension: The suspension is one thing that the critics seem to denounce on the SV650. I don't think it's that bad. It doesn't offer a full range of adjustment like some of the super sport bikes, but I found it to be good enough for street use and it exceeded my expectations (after all I'd read). Unless you find yourself on the track or pushing the limits on the street I don't see why the stock suspension wouldn't be fine for a normal sized street rider.
Tires: My bike came with Dunlop D220 tires. I believe they are classed as "sport touring" tires. They have offered all the grip I've needed for the street but they don't seem to be wearing very well. The rear is ready for replacement at 4,000 miles. The front seems to be holding up well. If you are an aggressive rider a stickier tire is probably in order.
The SV650 packs quite a punch for not a lot of $$$. It doesn't hold it's value as well as some other bikes and it's hard to find a used one that hasn't been at least dropped. Insurance is $288 per year for me on the SV650 naked. For what I paid I think the SV650 is a great value, new ones cost a little more than I think they should, but I'm cheap.
The SV650 is a fun little bike. It's pefect for cutting up on some curvy roads or taking to the track. It's got nice linear power delivery that is predictable once you learn how to work the throttle. Late model, low mileage SV650's are readily available. I think a lot of people (including me) get the bike, have fun with it, and then get tired of it quickly. It's a great bike, but definitely not one I'll have for very long.
I sold my SV650 after 6 weeks and 1800 miles. It was fun but I just didn't "love" it. I think the Triumph Speed Triple had something to do with that.