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Evolution is both a wonderful and terrible thing. Without it, of course, we would still be paddling in the primordial soup and, more importantly, we would have neither the need nor the ability to appreciate motorcycles. Which would be a tragedy. However, evolution in motorbike terms is great in that we have moved on from solid frames and leather belt drives through very bendy frames and chain drives to our current just-flexible-enough frames and a variety of drives. But sometimes a manufacturer will come up with an idea that may be considered revolutionary rather than evolutionary, and they will apply it to one of their bikes in the hope that it will give them an advantage over their rivals.

One of these revolutions was the rotary rear damper fitted to Suzuki's first vee twin litrebikes, and it was... a disaster.


Great in theory, it simply didn't work in practice and led to the first of the line, the TL1000S, being branded a deathtrap, sanitised beyond recognition and finally killed off, while the TL1000R became so incredibly conservative, even before launch, that what should have been an SBK contender was in reality nothing more than a styling exercise on a fairly fast tourer.

The SV1000S is what both of those bikes should have been, through evolutionary changes rather than revolutionary ones.

Specs at a glance

DOHC v- twin 2 cylinder
Capacity 996cc
Bore/Stroke 98x66 mm
Compression Ratio 11.3:1
Power 107bhp at 8,750 rpm
Torque 70ft.lbf at 7,250 rpm

Frame: Vacuum cast aluminium beam perimeter
Swingarm: Twin sided, aluminium alloy
Tyres:
(F) 120/70 ZR 17
(R) 180/55 ZR 17
Suspension: 46mm cartridge forks, adjustable preload, compression and rebound damping
Rear monoshock with adjustable preload, compression and rebound damping

Front Brakes: Twin 310mm discs, 4 piston calipers
Rear Brakes: Single 220mm disc, single piston caliper

Length 2130mm
Width 730mm
Seat Height 810mm
Wheelbase 1435mm
Weight (Dry) 189kg
Fuel Capacity 17 litres

Price: £6399


 

Suzuki SV1000S: Gentle Giant

Oct 2003 - Road test and pics by Steve Gregory

It looks for all the world like some giant insectoid transformer. Suzuki's latest big vee-twin, the SV1000S is a three way cross between the delightfully balanced SV650, the more brutal TL1000 and an origami preying mantis. The first time I saw one squatting menacingly in the corner of a garage, I half expected it to unfurl cleverly hidden insect wings and take off with a deafening, thumping drone. The styling is paper-cut sharp with the "sporty half fairing" on the SV1000S although a naked, un-faired version will also be available.

We liked the SV650 and often wondered what this nimble, easy-to-ride bike might be like with more power to play with. Well, our question is answered with the SV1000S. While the bike is all new, it is tempting to think of it as an SV650 with a thumping great 996cc, fuel injected v-twin squeezed into its super user friendly chassis.

Straddling the wide, low seat, the minimalist dashboard is the first thing that grabs your attention. One dirty great big analogue rev counter perched directly above a generously sized LCD panel, the majority of which is taken up with nice big digital MPH. There's a clock section and a couple of trip meters but no unnecessary clutter; the rest of the controls are typical Suzuki fare except, thanks to Big Brother, no "unnecessary" switch for the lights. Instead, what was previously the light switch is now a hazard-warning flasher, never a bad thing to have although hardline "right to choose" advocates might find it more useful for converting their lights back to manual...

Pull in the slightly heavy clutch lever, thumb the starter button and the SV lump whirrs into action. There is no "choke" on this fuel injection system - it has a fast idle and it whirrs. The whirring continues unabated as you crank the throttle, largely thanks to draconian noise level reductions. You need a stethoscope to detect the exhaust note although things improve on the move, once the induction roar joins in with a chorus.

It is a sports bike and the riding position is distinctly wrist heavy but you are not quite so hunched over the tank or tail up as much as more radical machinery. Blipping the throttle produces more whirring and gently easing out the clutch, the SV lunges forwards for its first foray, a five mile round trip through the Big Smog on greasy wet roads.

The SV1000 is fitted with a "back torque limiting clutch system" which we might refer to as a slipper clutch, but which I never quite get the hang of. It is designed to decrease pressure on the clutch plates during deceleration to help downshifts and also to increase pressure during acceleration allowing for lighter springs. In practice it felt a bit weird, as if there was a giant rubber band down there somewhere; while there is never a problem getting off the line, the SV launches itself with a sort of rubbery pounce. It later transpired that our test bike had led a hard life and the clutch was a little tired from about a million ham fisted wheelies. When we had a chance to try riding a fresher, less abused, machine the transmission was smooth, jerk free and as user friendly as the rest of the bike.

The SV is not specifically a town bike by any means but it does a pretty good job at carving through traffic. It is a narrow bike with a relatively low seat height, just short of 32", so reaching the ground is easy for the vertically challenged. Suzuki have also made great efforts to keep weight to a minimum too and the SV1000 is a lightweight in its class at 189Kg dry. All of which help to inspire confidence even in dense traffic. On a big vee like this you are always going to be in the right gear and the power delivery is grippy with a ruler straight power curve. Twist and go. It is only when you really give it some (once away from traffic!), at around seven or eight thousand rpm, that the SV growls into life and starts to really fly. Even in the meat of the powerband though, the power is predictable and easily controlled. In fact the SV is a delightfully easy bike to ride, hardly like a 1000cc bike at all.

The SV does give away its speed though. The combination of riding position, engine note and firm suspension meant I always thought I was going faster than I really was. 70 to 80 MPH on this bike feels fast, 120 MPH feels really fast. It is not a comfort issue, the SV is an armchair ride and it is not that the SV is slow (it's not!) it is just one of those machines that doesn't disguise it's speed to the rider.

The suspension is fully adjustable at both ends for preload, compression and rebound damping. We found no reason to start twiddling with it for our test despite the decidedly firm standard settings because straight out of the box they were a good compromise between stability and comfort. Although you are aware of the firmness, the bike soaked up the potholed streets of London without any fuss and was surprisingly comfortable for a sportsbike. Commuter speeds are not what the SV is about though and we took the SV for an outing along some of our favourite Westcountry roads.

Once out on the open road the SV1000S really starts to shine, especially on fast, smooth backroads. What was a whirring mechanical whine at 6,000 RPM is now a growling, howling roar at 11,000. The gearshift is now positive and slick, suspension taut and balanced. Handling is neutral and predictable, the engine unburstable. Brakes too are confidence inspiring; the 4 pot calipers biting onto the twin 310mm disks are neither too grabby nor too soft and they will haul the bike down from any speed with utter control. In fact the SV has no surprises in store for the rider at all. It goes fast, corners well, handles the bumps and stops with aplomb.

Even at unprintable speeds, the SV just does the job of getting you round corners, ironing out bumps and hauling you back down to happy licence land. Except for the fear of getting caught out at loony speeds, either by the law of the land or the laws of physics, the SV is just as uninspiring at the extreme as it is at touring speeds. But that is not necessarily a criticism. Look at the flipside. An exciting, unpredictable machine that is only good for hypersonic speeds... The SV is certainly a very competent machine, predictable yes, but an excellent bike for someone who wants to move up to a Thou' or newbie sportsbiker.

I never had any problems with the SV1000S, at any speed either on bumpy twisty roads or smooth straights but it did seem to want to shake its head. Just a sort of mild lightness at the front under heavy acceleration at pretty much any speed. Suzuki have sensibly decided to fit a steering damper as standard and the feeling never developed into anything untoward.

Motorway riding was however a real joy. The huge "sporty half fairing" does an excellent job and with my slight 5'7" frame I didn't need to duck down behind the screen at all at any speed! I did a double check and sure enough, the screen diverts airflow way over the rider even sitting upright. The bike will happily lollop along at a relaxed 5-6,000 RPM equating to 90-100 MPH. There is no hint of any serious vibration and the only thing to spoil its potential as a long haul Gran-Tourismo is the fuel range and firm angular seat pad. I found myself shifting around to avoid numb bum which started to set in after a couple of hundred miles.

The SV1000S is a very competent motorcycle for sure and it will do virtually everything you ask of it from commuting, touring to flat out sports riding but it is not the most exciting machine to ride. A few quid spent on aftermarket end cans would help to jazz the bike up and perhaps develop a little character. On the plus side it is a VERY easy bike to ride, ideal for anyone wishing to move up to a bigger sports bike without wanting ballistic performance. Oh, and the SV is great value at a mere £6399. The styling might swing it for potential buyers, the great looks, virtuosity and low price are its real strong points.

Second opinion - Simon Bradley

The SV1000S is an excellent looking bike, even in silver which I normally hate. All the proportions, the creases, the few curves, everything looks right, and the impression is reinforced when you get on. Although hardly a lightweight, Suzuki have kept the weight down to a class leading 189kg and the bike is beautifully balanced, which means moving around at low speeds is a doddle and makes faster bend swinging a relaxing and enjoyable experience. The instrumentation looks rather sparse at first but becomes far more informative when the key is turned and the LCD panel leaps into life. As well as a large, clear digital speedo there are two trip meters and a clock to keep the pilot informed as to what is going on. Oh, and of course there is that big, clear, analogue tacho with a red line all the way round at 11,000 rpm giving a clear hint of what is to come.

Starting the engine is something of an anticlimax because it is so quiet. This is one bike that, at least as standard, will never offend the neighbours or attract unwelcome attention from the federales. Tickover, artificially augmented by the clever new ECU if the engine is cold, is steady and vibration free. Blip the throttle and the response is instant in exactly the way that most big vee twins aren't. Sure, there is some noticeable flywheel effect, but nothing like as marked as you would expect for an engine of this size and layout. Hook your heel onto possibly the world's longest sidestand lever and take the weight of the bike yourself. Notice that there actually isn't very much of it to take and pull away. The clutch is light and slightly devoid of feel, but the gearbox is typical Suzuki fare and engages with a delicate touch.

Acceleration is pretty much what you might expect for a 1000cc bike - effortless - and in fairness, at lower speeds that actually sums just about all aspects of the SV1000S up very well. It is, quite simply, an extremely easy bike to just get on and ride. Urban behaviour is refined and smooth, with excellent brakes, clear mirrors and a comfortable riding position all adding to the feeling of well being. This is a bike that anyone could commute into town on from the off and never have any complaints.

But 1000cc is a bit wasted in a 30mph speed limit, and once out of the urban sprawl and able to stretch its legs, the SV really came into its own. Acceleration and high speed cruising remain effortless, and although the SV doesn't conceal its speed in the way of a big tourer, it never feels stressed and seemed to cover ground far more quickly than its apparent actual speed would suggest. More spirited riding reveals a power delivery that seems to sit squarely between the traditional vee twin torque monsters of old and the traditional Suzuki four cylinder screamers in that yes, there is lots of torque but the engine is still happy to rev and gets better the faster it spins.

Enthusiastic testing on a favourite road showed the handling to be pretty neutral. Although there seemed to be a slight weave lurking in the background, it only materialised into something tangible the once, and that was over a set of ripples that normally have me backing right off anyway. The standard fit steering damper feels a little over-protective, but became unobtrusive enough when the pace was upped enough to need it.

One place where the SV scores is the headlights. They are sensational, and allied to a protective screen make it a pleasure to maintain good progress after the sun has gone down as well as during the day.

All in all, I was extremely impressed with the SV. Out of the box it offers a less experienced rider a relatively safe route to litre-bike ownership while still being both fun and usable enough for more experienced pilotes to find plenty in its favour as well. If modification is your thing, there is little that sounds better than a pair of decent pipes on a big vee-twin, there are some handling tweaks available and you could fit braided hoses to upgrade the already good brakes even further before going out and taking scalps on trackdays and fast roads across the land. And it does all this for a ridulously low price as well.

Marvellous.

SB

 

 

 


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