Perhaps the bike that jump-started the middleweight category, the Suzuki SV650 has a near cult-like following for three simple reasons: it's cheap ($6899), has a proven engine, and is just plain fun to ride. The only problem is that sales of naked versions were starting to decline. In response Suzuki decided to give it a facelift in the form of the Gladius. What does that mean to you? It means that if you can't afford the Ducati, this is your chance to experience a V-twin naked bike without the strain on your wallet.
Powered by the same 645cc, liquid-cooled, four-valve, DOHC V-twin as the SV650, there's no doubt as to its pedigree. Power delivery is seamless, though some testers felt the bottom-end punch didn't quite match previous SV650s we've ridden. Likewise, the Gladius also had some issues putting the power to the ground as the shift linkage felt anything but positive. Regardless, when it comes to forward motivation the Gladius received high marks from all testers.
Surprisingly capable suspension...
Surprisingly capable suspension on the Suzuki handles the curves well. The sacrifice is ride quality during normal riding. Oh, and don't forget about that hard seat.
Seating position is neutral...
Seating position is neutral and comfortable with a natural handlebar layout. Mirrors are actually functional, as is the gauge cluster with its simple display.
At 31 inches, seat height is about on par with the rest of the group, though its single banana seat is reminiscent of old-school bicycles, even down to the dimensions. "The Suzuki had a really narrow seat that was uncomfortable after just a short period of time," notes O'Connor after the swelling from his tight helmet calmed down. Otherwise the reach to the bars feels natural, unlike the wide feeling from the Ducati and narrowness of the Kawasaki. A traditional analog tachometer dominates as the digital speedometer is just within eye range. Unlike the Kawasaki and Yamaha, a simple fuel light warns the rider when it's time to find a gas station. Once again, binders on the Suzuki are sourced from the local lumber yard in the form of twin 290mm discs. Two-piston pin-slide calipers hug each rotor. Though they aren't as scary as the Kawasaki, braking still feels soft. Adding more pressure to the lever will eventually bring the action to a halt before a change of shorts is required.
Surprisingly the Gladius' suspension leans toward the firmer side, which isn't something that could be said about SV650s of yore. This makes canyon runs at a novice pace enjoyable as the bike doesn't wallow to and fro. In the real world however, this translates into a slightly harsh ride when crossing road imperfections.
Within the past decade very few motorcycles have built a following quite like the SV650, both with novices and advanced riders alike. Fortunately the Gladius is picking up where its predecessor left off. Just like the Kawasaki, brake and suspension upgrades would be the first order of business when skills (and budget) progress, but when it comes to ideal motorcycles to build your craft the Gladius will put a smile on your face every time