About 3 months ago I bought a motorcycle. If you had asked me one year ago if I would be buying a motorcycle in 2009, I would have thought you crazy. Or at least dreaming. Not that I hadn’t dreamed about it, planned for it, constantly updating a wish list in my head. Several lists actually – ultimate dream list, dream weekend touring/escape list (what my last bike was for), dream cool-factor list, rat/cafe/bobber project-bike list, realistic based on real money-in-my-pocket list, etc. Like fantasy football or High Fidelity. For a while there, the Buell XB9SX “City-X” (or a stripped down Buell Ulysses or something in between) was on my list since it scored high on the most of my hot points. Then it was the Suzuki V-Strom. It is relatively obscure, but has a cult following, and a face only a mother could love, a V-twin, and comes in 2 sizes. All plusses. One could say it is the poor man’s alternative to the BMW F650-F800 series. Or the smart-walleted man’s.
My last bike/first love was a Suzuki and a V-twin, a 1993 VX-800, so I am a little biased. It was a cruiser-engined too-heavy shaft driven bike introduced as a budget alternative to the BMW R-standards in the European market. In the early days Edelweiss Tours (my dream vacation) offered the VX-800 as their “base” option, and on my visit to Europe in 1991 I saw a lot more VXs than I ever saw stateside. (note: now the V-Strom is on their list)
But when the chips were down last fall and I found myself needing a bike right now – we lost one vehicle that went with my wife’s job – I had to go one step even more pragmatic. Late model V-Stroms sell in the low-$5,000’s ($7,500 new…match that, BMW! or pretty much anybody…), and are generally ridden by mature riders who know what they like and are reluctant to let go of them. On the other hand, late model SV650s (plural, not the SV650S) turn over fairly often, being the favorites of fickle 20-somethings, budget racers, tuners & modders, beginners, girls, and short people. And, apparently, practical commuters clinging to their un-spent youth, who want something with a cool engine note and some passing torque and a cool trellis frame. And a reputation for fun in the twisties. Smaller, lighter, they share the same basic engine as the V-Strom, but with a +5HP edge in power, and more torque higher in the rev range. SV650s are all over craigslist and can be had in the mid-$3,000’s. That leaves a lot more cash lying around for extras. Or food and tuition.
My first minor mod was to replace the stock mirrors with Napolean bar-end mirrors. Once the cold weather set in, I switched back to the stock mirrors to make room for a set of V-Strom hand guards. Something must be done about the stock mirrors, though. There is really no excuse.
Mod #2 was a new exhaust can. The stock exhaust is probably the only really embarassing thing on this bike, from the factory. I was this close to buying a Delkevic Stubby (inexpensive, hooliganish) but found a barely used Yoshimura TRS locally for about the same price (which is half price off a new Yosh!).
Mod #3 was a JC Whitney medium trunk bolted to a surplus passenger seat purchased through a member on SVrider.com. (Note: the JC Whitney trunk is a cheap knockoff of a Givi E35 Monokey, allegedly with a Givi-compatible mounting plate. The lock on the JCW trunk does not stand up to daily use for very long, however.)
Mods #4 and 5 were a set of Symtec heated handgrips, and a set of Hyperlite LED flashing brake lights for birthday and Christmas respectively. In the process of installing these, I went ahead and wired up a distribution block and relay, courtesy of Bolty.net.
That is about it for turning it in to a ideal in-city commuter and all-arounder. I have also purchased a new helmet, riding pants, boots, a tank bag, and such odds and ends, as needed. My old jacket and gloves are still functional. Some gear reviews may be forthcoming. The bike itself has proven to be very easy to ride around the city – light, maneuverable, quick. No slouch on the highway, with all the oomph needed to beat Atlanta’s hair-raising traffic into submission. Added bonuses are the 40+ MPG(city, 50+ highway), and the HOV lane access.