Photos: The SB Image
Despite riding like a complete and utter puss all day, I had a
revelatory moment at Beaverun on Saturday. I discovered that I didn’t
need a Honda CBR600RR or a KTM RC8 or an Aprilia RSV4 or an MV Agusta F4
to be really happy on the track, all I needed was a humble 70bhp, used
motorcycle. Here’s why less is more. >
This SV650 doesn’t have a lot of things. It doesn’t have much power, it doesn’t even have much torque. The Elka rear shock has no damping – it must have disappeared some time between when the for sale ad was written and the new owner picked it up — and the rear tires have no life left in them. More importantly, it has no lights, no license plate, no complication and, most importantly no ego.
It also has no huge price tag. At $3,800 we didn’t have to worry about riding it with no rear damping and a rear tire that only wanted to slide when you asked it to stick. At one of the most badly managed, aggressive and dangerous trackdays we’ve ever attended (NESBA), we didn’t have to worry about riding it like we did with the $18,500 MV that spend the day looking pretty in the parking lot.
Here’s what this 2009 Suzuki SV650 does have:
Elka rear triple clicker
Vortex rear sets
Galfer braided brake lines
That’s enough to transform a tame, boring, worthy street bike into a complete and utter hoot on the track.
First of all, you can use all of it all the time, even if you ride as bad as I was on Saturday. Full throttle, off the rev limiter in every gear. Flat out in fifth down Beaverun’s short straight.
Then there’s the suspension. Where every streetbike, no matter how sporty, will always be a little soft on a track, a track-only bike like this can afford to be stiff, stiff, stiff. The difference is amazing, at least when the rear shock cooperates. This SV goes where you point it, then stays there.
That handling is accessible though, unlike higher-performance race bikes there’s no vagueness just because you’re riding it slow. Pick your speed, the SV will be there waiting to do what you tell it.
Anyone could ride this bike too. It fits everyone. I’m 6’2″ with a 34″ inseam and I had plenty of room to move around, but shorties wouldn’t have a problem swinging a leg over either. You could have fun on it on your first trackday, or you could come back to it after year on an R1 and discover you still have lots to learn about riding now that the power is absent.
The power is absent too. The wide-open environment of a racetrack has a way of making all but the fastest bikes feel slow, so imagine swapping down from 170-odd to 70-ish. It’s a big difference, but not necessarily a bad one. That guy that just passed you on the GSX-R? That’s not your fault. Gears, you need to use them.
All the stress, all the restraint all the what-ifs of riding other people’s expensive liter bikes, like I’ve been doing all summer, disappeared. It was just me, the bike and some corners to figure out. Amazing.
Thanks for letting me ride your bike Michael.