Real Rides: Kainoa’s SV650

Dailies, Hell For Leather, HFL -


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Photos: Arturo Olmos

A naked motorcycle is that has been stripped of its fairings, windshields and has an upright riding position. They are designed for comfort and great handling. The Suzuki SV650 is a fantastic naked bike and Kai bought a SV650 as his first motorcycle because “it was cheap, not a sport bike, and an okay beginner bike.”

Kai on his SV650.

The Rider
Kainoa is a native New Yorker who grew up in downtown Manhattan. “As a child, I’ve always loathed walking and learned how to skateboard and ride a bike very early on.” These experiences for Kai eventually lead him to racing bicycles for a junior cycling team. “I bought two mopeds in junior year of high school which I learned how to ride and fix.” “That year, I eventually started looking for a motorcycle, my parents wouldn’t let me buy one so I decided to do the mature teenage thin gand not tell them and do it anyway.” “After watching a “how to ride a motorcycle video” I met the owner in Brooklyn and bought the bike.” Kainoa rode off that day without a permit or a license and no insurance. His dad caught him a week later — his dad hid the motorcycle until Kai took the MSF course.

The SV650 without instruments.

The Bike
Suzuki introduced the SV650 in 1999, as budget priced naked bike as a chance to get into the naked bike market. It turned out to be a hit due to its sporty ride and great handling. The V-twin’s powerful mid-range torque, its light weight, rigid chassis, strong handling quickly became popular with new and experienced riders. Due to popular demand, a sportier version of SV650 was released for the US market in 200, the SV650S, and it has lower handlebars, higher foot pegs, bikini fairing and a windscreen.The first model of the SV650 started out with a 645 cc 64.2 horsepower that produced 42.3 foot pounds of torque and was later upgraded to 73.4 horsepower and 47.2 foot pounds of torque. It’s all-round naked bike that does well in every category.


The Mods
“As the bike was mostly stock when I bought it I wanted to make the bike more personal as well as perform better.” “I wanted to do track days and ride twists so the GSXR front end was a necessary upgrade. The previous owner had an Ohlins rear shock so once the front was put on the suspension was set.” Kai replaced the headlight with a KTM Duke headlight to ” replace those ugly bug eye lights.” “The old SV ignition didn’t fit so there is an electrical ignition taped to the side of the frame.” As the bike sits, it has no gauges or side mirrors nor turn signals so it can be raced.

Black and white.

Why He Rides an SV650
“The V-twin offers so much torque all over the power band unlike the several sport bikes I’ve ridden.” The GSXR front end paired with ohlins rear shcosk makes for a stiffer and responsive ride, even if I sacrifice comfort on NYC’s rough streets. “With the agressive vortex clip ons and suspension the bike is no where as comfortable the BMW GS I’ve ridden and even the CBR600.”

“In the future when I either crash or blow up the SV I would like to get a Street Triple R or Husqvarna 450SM.”

  • Johnmark Larson

    +1 SV650, I’ve had a gen1 for 6 years, 25k miles and about 40 track days, and I’ll be racing a gen2 this season. They do need a suspension upgrade but never stop being a hoot at all times.

  • infresig

    looks like a great city bike – love the KTM headlight

  • Damo Von Maciel

    Reliable, frugal and fast enough.

    The SV650 is arguable the best all around sport bike Japan has ever made.

    • Troy Rank


      • Damo Von Maciel

        The 2003 Honda 919 was actually my very first brand new bike. I loved it to death, but at the time the SV650 was still cheaper and a ton lighter, the 919 did stomp it in outright performance.

  • Brian Milburn

    This article summarizes up the reasons why I own 2 1st gen SV650′s, and have owned 4 total SV’s over my motorcycling career. They’re great frickin’ bikes.

  • Speedo007

    Looks like fun!

  • KevinB

    Nice SV! Definitely a Super Duke headlight though, as opposed to a Duke headlight.

  • TestSalad

    One of the all time classics.

  • yipY

    +1.The 1st gen SV with serious suspension mods is the best road sport twin short of a 1098.A great choice:enjoy it! And KEEP IT!

  • Dustin Coury

    1st Gen. SV650 was also my first entry into sport bikes. It was a dream bike that I could have grown into for a long time. Too bad someone hit and ran. Great bike with perfect mods, Kai!

  • Kr Tong

    I like the headlight and the front end swap but you gotta do something about that freaken wiring harness. Im guessing you took the fairings off because thats a lot going on.

  • Julian Rose

    I’m no racer, but I love twins & their off line power, so different to a four. Don’t know about the best sport bike though, Take a look at Ryan Farquhar & the Kawasaki Er6.

  • Filly-fuzz

    Is it just me or do these ‘readers rides” features read funny, as in weird English.

    I got a bit of a brain ache from reading it

    • Scott Sweeney

      No offense to the author, but most of his entries read awkwardly and don’t seem to be proof read before posting.

  • Jeremy Chittenden

    Awesome ride, these articals are great! this one speaks to me, I started out riding on a 99gsxr street fighter that everyone thought I would kill myself on. (I now have the dream speed triple, also the roads in nyc can’t be worse than louisiana.)

  • Robotribe

    These “real rider/real bike” pieces are great. Please keep them coming.

    • Daniel Silverman

      I try to crank them out weekly, keep sending in submissions and we’ll keep publishing them!

      • Kentaro Roy

        Do riders send you photos as well?

  • PhillyArch

    Damn, this reminds me of my pure stock 2002 SV650N. Should never have sold it to a dealer. I’ve been trying to track it down…

  • akaaccount

    I don’t want to hate on anybody’s bike, especially a fellow SV’er but everybody does the GSXR swap and most at least go to the trouble to install the ignition switch/lock and build a speedo sensor (including me.) Plus, turn signals are your friend. It’s not that big a deal. I do like the headlight though and it’s always great to see a guy with an SV getting attention.

    • Richard Marx

      Geez what a buzz kill. He did say he was racing it. I for one am glad he posted it. You know what happens when we wait till everything’s perfect.

      • akaaccount

        It’s a lazy effort and it’s being featured on a (very good) motorcycle news site. He’s pretty much the prototypical SV rider in the minds of the unfamiliar and he treats the bike as a joke.

        “In the future when I either crash or blow up the SV I would like to get a Street Triple R or Husqvarna 450SM.”

        Classy. Or maybe you could take care of it, then sell it to someone without destroying it bro?

  • Pedro Hegge

    Your grammar sucks……