Pros: Light, low, lean, and loads of fun to ride.
Cons: Terrible stock seat, small gas tank.
I'm 40+ years old and, until now have never needed or wanted a motorcycle. BUT, suddenly this summer, something snapped and I started really wanting to ride a motorcycle. My husband refers to my new 2003 Suzuki Savage as "the most expensive vet bill ever" because I was on the way to have my cat fixed when I spotted the Suzuki dealership. I had never been there before, and really didn't know it was there. After dropping off the cat, I stopped in to see what was what.
And that's where I lost my heart...to a 2003 Suzuki Savage sitting there on the showroom floor. The new 2005 models were out, but they are only available in black or white. Big deal. This little baby was sitting there, the most lovely shade of ... hmmm... teal? green? turquoise? Who knows. But she's pretty.
This model was slightly used (412 miles on the odometer) but looked showroom new and came with saddle bags and a windshield for $4200. I am a bit "hefty" but I'm short, coming in just under 5'4". Many bikes are just too tall for me to comfortably rest my feet on the ground. The Savage LS650 is perfect. The seat height is only 26.5 inches, making it just right for someone under 5'10. The Savage tends to be a favorite starter bike among women for that very reason.
The Technical Mumbo-Jumbo
The 652cc engine is not the hottest, fastest thing out there. This bike is a single cylinder (often called a Thumper or one-lunger), four stroke, single overhead cam, engine offering only about 31HP output. It has a 5-speed transmission, is air cooled and belt driven, uses an electric starter, and is therefore nearly maintenance free. It is a perfect day-to-day bike.
The instrumentation is extremely limited on this bike. You get a spedometer, an odometer, and...wait, that's all you get. Yep, that's it. The bike has a single headlight with amber running/turn signal lights on either side of the main headlight. The rear boasts a single tail light with amber running/turn signal lights on either side as well.
You can go to http://community.webshots.com/album/183952742uHvnve to view pictures of my bike. I rode this year in the Toys for Tots Toy Run, which I highly recommend to any rider. There were nearly 12,000 bikes there for the event and I was proud to stand with my Savage in the crowd.
As I said, until now, I've never had nor wanted a motorcycle, but once the bug bit, I was smitten. I bought the little showroom jewel, but made arrangements to leave her at the dealership until I learned to ride. The rider course was being offered 5 days later at the dealership so I waited. At the conclusion of the rider course (which is mandatory in some states and should be required everywhere), I was ready to take my baby out for the first time.
Like I mentioned, this bike is not a powerhouse, but the ride was smooth and fast enough for me. The majority of my riding is spent on state highways, backroads and rural streets. This is really NOT an interstate machine. The Savage is capable of speeds adequate for short interstate hops, but I wouldn't recommend it for extensive interstate riding.
From August 28, 2004 till last week (October 29, 2004), I put a little over 1200 miles on the Savage. I've discovered that the tank (which holds 2.8 US gallons) will go about 115 miles before you have to kick in the reserves. The reserve valve accesses the final .5 gallons in the tank. Stopping after 115 miles is really wise anyway, because by then, my butt hurts. The stock seat, while adequate for 40-50 mile rides, is absolutely not designed for the long haul.
The payload on the Savage is approximately 385 lbs so it is an acceptable bike for carrying two adults. I've carried my teenage son around with me on a couple of rides. The bike handles very well with a passenger, but again, the pillion seat is not really designed for comfort.
For the most part, I would highly recommend this bike for someone who doesn't need a lot of power for long road trips. I find the ride to be most comfortable between 45-55 miles per hour. The pegs are high enough to allow plenty of lean for good cornering under normal circumstances. Again, this is not a race bike. It is a cruiser. And a small one at that.
Will I be looking for a bigger bike? Maybe. The 650 is a great bike to start on for many people, and depending on your needs or wants, may be quite adequate for a long time. Since my husband does not ride, the long weekend trips down the "superslab" are not an option for me anyway.
Given that, I see myself confined to the rural country roads of Maine (of which there are PLENTY) for joy-riding. And, with that limitation in mind, and for daily commuting to work or to town for quick errands, this is all the bike I will ever need. The small town that I live in is strategically located exactly halfway between two cities. I have a 15 mile commute down twisty, country roads just to get to either of them. For me, this bike is perfect. City driving on the Savage has been uneventful. The machine has plenty of torque to make it quick off the line at intersections and easy to maneuver through rush hour and traffic circles.
One final note, if you are over 5'10" or if you are under 5'10" but over 280lbs, this is probably not the best choice for you. The seat is small and low, making it just right for a certain, limited segment of the population. Before buying any motorcycle, be sure to sit on a lot of them. Sit on them, stand them up off the kick-stand, maybe even walk it around the show room to get a feel for the fit.
The Savage is a particularly lightweight bike, weighing in at just over 350lbs, making it only 50lbs heavier than the little Honda Rebel 250 line. This can be good and bad. For me, with limited stature and even more limited experience, I like the fact that this bike is light. It is easy for me to handle at low speeds (or no speed) and...yes, I'm sad to say...easy to pick up when I dropped it. As a new rider, be prepared for the fact that you just might have to pick that monster up. Know that you can.
For me, the Savage is perfect and I love it. If you want to read the chronicals of my riding/learning experience, you can go to http://cruisinmaine.blogspot.com/ and read my riding blog. I literally stepped out, learned to ride, got my permit then my license, and put 1200 miles on my bike all in about 60 days. Whew! What a thrill!