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Suzuki Gladius 650 – Superb Build Quality, Great Price

In 2009 Suzuki made the decision to replace the long-running and popular SV650 with the Gladius 650 aka the SFV650.

The name itself is another intriguing decision from the large Japanese manufacturer. Keeping with their preferred theme of swords to name some of the motorcycles, a gladius was a sword claimed to have been used by the gladiators of ancient Rome; it was shorter and lighter than those used by soldiers in battle.

Referencing the immensely popular Katana (A Katana is a Japanese longsword that the Samurai favoured) and which is today regarded as one of Suzuki’s best models. The Suzuki Gladius 650 is a radically different machine from the Katana’s renowned power and is clearly targeted at a different market.

The company may have thought that paying homage to their earlier model would boost sales a little more than it really did or just wished to continue the idea in some way.

The Gladius 650, which the manufacturer themselves describe as “style meets technology,” is the result of their efforts to ensure that the SV650’s replacement was specifically targeted at the European market.

They actually sent their designers to Europe for several months to study its fashion, architecture, and motorcycle culture.

Suzuki Gladius 650 Review

Suzuki Gladius 650

The company didn’t really need to do anything to improve the Suzuki SV650 from its initial state because it was already a great bike. However, they decided to give it a shot and applied all the SV650’s qualities to the Gladius while also making some interesting style changes.

It is a great entry level bike but one that will keep even the most seasoned riders happy at the same time whilst also being a fantastic low-cost option with superb build quality.

Many people don’t like the new modernised and sophisticated look but whatever side you stand on, take a time to look past the cosmetics because the true transformation is occurring beneath the skin.

A 645 cc fuel-injected, DOHC 90-degree V-twin engine, based on the reliable SV650 engine renowned for its low end grunt and subtle growl powers the Suzuki Gladius.

The engineers have made tweaks to the cam profiles, valve lift, staggered intake and exhaust tract lengths, and given a 10% increase in crankshaft inertia along with a larger exhaust system.

As a result of these adjustments, the Gladius 650 now produces more low-to-mid range torque, has a broad and smooth power delivery and improved fuel economy. All of this without compromising peak power. Lovely.

Dual throttle valves are used in the throttle-body injectors for a smoother response, and the airbox funnels’ lengths are staggered for increased middle torque. Two iridium-tipped spark plugs per cylinder provide more thorough burning, and the injectors now have 10 holes for more thorough atomization in order to ensure easier starting and a steadier idle.

Suzuki’s Composite Electrochemical Material (SCEM), which optimizes heat transfer, durability, and ring seal while reducing friction, replaces conventional pressed-in iron liners.

The liquid-to-liquid oil cooler is lighter and thinner, and the new, more efficient radiator is more compact.

The gearing is the same as for the SV650, however the final reduction ratios are somewhat different.

Its process of gear shifting is the easiest and smoothest I’ve ever experienced on any bike, ever. The next gear feels like it’s already there with hardly any effort on your part other than a slight toe twitch.

I’m certain you could shift by flicking the gear pedal with a finger, I may have to try that one day but really wish Suzuki would share the secret across the manufacturers so I could have it on all my bikes.

Using the Gladius 650 on the road, its 645 cc V-twin engine is extremely quiet and smooth. Very little vibration is even felt anywhere on the bike, despite it revving to a 10,500 rpm redline. From 3,500 rpm to redline, there is a consistent pull and more than enough power throughout the rev range.

Showa made the link-type rear shock and the front forks, both of which offer only spring preload adjustments; it really feels like a subpar attempt from the brand who have been well known for their high-end suspension systems over the years. Any hard edge of the road, pothole, or bump hits the rider hard and causes the suspension—especially the rear—to bounce and wobble unhappily.

You really must question why the company would go to all the work of creating such a good bike but then choose not to complete it by delivering a better suspension system.

The braking system of the Suzuki Gladius 650 is composed of Tokico two-piston front callipers that bite on 290mm dual floating brake discs and a single-piston rear calliper that likewise does on a smaller 240mm disc.

The brakes do their job, but they lack force and feel. If you ever decide to push things a little further and throw the anchors on firmly, you’ll undoubtedly stop, but you’ll also experience a terrible fork dive and wish the Gladius had ABS, which it doesn’t.

The chassis on the Gladius works well considering that the bike is meant to be affordable and unintimidating. With rake and trail figures of 25 degrees and 106 mm respectively, combined with a tidy wheelbase of 1445 mm and the bike’s low centre of gravity, the Gladius proves it can have fun in the corners when it wants to, just like its predecessor.

When you gently tip it over, the steering is immediate, light, and stable and all that weight just vanishes. But if you push it too far, the suspension will politely remind you that it doesn’t like to think of itself as a sports bike and will take matters into its own hands if you ignore it. Adjusting the spring preload on both the front forks and rear shock will help at little here, but be warned.

One of the key design elements of the Gladius is its 795 mm low seat height, which, after being lowered from the original SV650’s 800 mm, is a welcome addition for novice and shorter riders. However, the thinness of the seat is a trade-off for the low seat height.

A result of this being it is fairly firm, which means that after around an hour, your buttocks won’t enjoy it very much. It also makes the footpeg-to-seat gap seem tight for those with longer legs.

Not all is lost, though, as Suzuki has given this some consideration and offers the £120 option of a 20 mm higher accessory seat.

The flat seat is narrow at the front and also tipped slightly forward encouraging the rider to tilt their hips and lean forward in a slightly superbike-ish riding position. The rear edges of the seat are bolstered to support the rider’s hips as well which once you’re used to the position feels quite comfortable when riding.

However, this is all superfluous details, being comfortable in the saddle with a soft seat is all good and well yet, having feet as flat as possible on a motorcycle cannot be underestimated to feeling comfortable and in control, especially for novice riders, and this is what the Gladius is for.

Above the headlamp, the dash’s straightforward yet functional design houses an analogue tachometer, an LCD digital speedometer, LCD dual tripmeters, and an odometer. Along with them, an LCD digital clock and an LCD digital gear indicator.

Importantly, a low fuel light, backed up by an LCD digital reserve trip meter is also included. No thrills or shiny screens here, just everything you actually need to see.

Lighting on the front of the Gladius is an organically circular shaped multi-reflector headlamp including high and low beams and a position light. Indicators with chrome lenses sit on either side of the main headlight. Under the back seat, surrounded by slim seat rails and flanked by clear lens turn indicators, is a small, combined tail and brake light.

It’s curving trellis frame, twinned with the round headlight has given the Gladius the nickname of the “Japanese Monster” as it shares similar looks to those of the original Ducati Monster.

The flowing, contoured bodywork continued this design matching nicely with the organic flow of the foot-peg mounting brackets.

Its sleek 17-inch cast aluminium alloy wheels feature a five spoke design equipped with Dunlop sport radial tires; 120/70ZR17 on the front and a 160/60ZR17 on the rear.

Several colour options were launched with the Gladius 650 to attract a range of buyers, all utilising those side tank covers to stylistic effect: White and pink, white and blue, and outlandish black and lime-yellow or a more subtle black and grey with a red frame or all black.

On release several accessories were offered for the Gladius, included the taller seat, touring windscreen to provide some wind protection on longer journeys and a rear luggage rack for storage.

All this helped the Gladius go from a bike for commuting towards being a bike for long-distance cruising, if desired of course.

Suzuki also offered the Gladius in a 33-bhp version that was designed specifically for riders who were just starting out. This model also included ergonomics that made it comfortable for female riders, making it one of the few motorbikes at the time—and, sadly, still today—to take this into account.

Suzuki Gladius 650 Spec’s

  • Engine size          645 cc

  • Engine type        Four stroke, 4-value, DOHC, Liquid cooled 90-degree V-twin

  • Gearbox              6-speed manual

  • Max power         71 bhp / 53 Kw @ 9,000 rpm

  • Max torque        63 Nm / 46.5 lb ft @ 7,600 rpm

  • Fuel capacity      14.5 litres / 3.8 US Gal

  • Seat height         785 mm / 30.9 inches

  • Wet weight        202 kg / 446 lbs

  • Top speed           135 mph / 217 kph


Suzuki Gladius 650 Variants

2009 Suzuki SFV650 Gladius

The first Suzuki Gladius was introduced to take the place of the well-liked SV650. The Gladius was a brand-new naked middleweight model with Suzuki’s renowned 650cc V-Twin engine that offered distinctive styling in a user-friendly bike.

The Gladius is the ideal motorcycle for both novice and expert riders, thanks to its fuel-injected twin plug head engine, superb appearance, and neutral, light handling.

It was launched with a price tag of £4,700 ($6,899 in America) which was amazing considering everything you got for that. A reliable, quality bike at a bargain price.

2009 Suzuki SFV400 Gladius

The Suzuki SFV400 Gladius was released just for the Japanese domestic market. It is essentially identical with the larger capacity SFV650, with the exception of engine size.

The engine was a 399 cc 90-degree V-twin liquid-cooled engine, producing 55 bhp and 41 Nm of torque This engine configuration is sometimes referred to as L-shaped because of the distinctive forward cylinder blockage. The intake system is identical to the larger capacity version featuring smaller 39 mm throttle valves with the SDTV system (Dual Throttle Valve).

Like the Suzuki SFV650 Gladius, the domestic Japanese Suzuki SFV400 Gladius was produced until mid-2017.

2013 Suzuki SFV650

The name of the Suzuki SFV650 Gladius was modified for the 2013 model year, with the word “Gladius” being dropped and the bike’s model number being used instead. Other than ensuring the engine complied with environmental regulations and adding ABS brakes (optional in America), the bike didn’t undergo any significant changes.

Suzuki had restricted the colour options, leaving just all-black or a dark blue and white option. The new SFV650 was released with a price tag of £4,999 ($7,999 in America).

2013 Suzuki SFV650AZ – Special Edition

The 2013 revised SFV650 was introduced together with a Special Edition available only in the UK.

The SFV650 was essentially identical to the ordinary model, but it was given an eye-catching livery that was modelled after the Suzuki RG500 Grand Prix racer from the 1970s. It boldly displays a red, yellow, and black colour scheme that is complemented by a white pinstripe.

The SFV650AZ Gladius Special Edition features magnificent classic racing aesthetics whilst having an entirely modern persona thanks to its gloss black trellis frame and belly protector.

The Suzuki SFV650 was replaced by the return of an updated SV650 in 2017.

Buying a used Suzuki Gladius 650

The Gladius is a great option if you’re searching for an affordable first big bike. You’ll have plenty of options because there are now many on the market and there probably will be more in the future as people upgrade from their first big bike.

For less than £3,000 you’ll get a decent bike that will keep going for years to come. Several available of the original model between £2,500 – 3,000 with around 20,000 miles on. This may sound a lot but for the SV engine it really isn’t.

If you’re looking to purchase something slightly newer and lower milage then you would be looking to drop around the £4,000 mark.

Something like this one is a fantastic deal; a 2013 model in excellent condition with around 7,000 miles and a whole heap of extras. A real bargain.

If you managed to find one of the Suzuki SFV650AZ Special Editions on sale, don’t think twice before getting it. These machines are extremely rare.

Summary: Is the Gladius a good bike?

Gladius 650

The Suzuki Gladius never really took off like the original SV650 did and the newer SV that replaced it. Maybe it was the name change or the stylist tweaks, but it was a real shame as the quality of bike for the price was staggering.

These days we get “budget” bikes from the big manufacturers that show the cost cutting in their finish, the Gladius was never one of these and for some undefinable reason it never worked out.

The only issue I can really find with the Gladius is that its suspension is not up to the quality of the of the rest of the bike but for everyday riding it all works fine.

It’s a very easy bike to live with; gentle to ride yet has power when needed, the gears shift seamlessly, the seat is low along with the weight, its fuel efficient and won’t break down, ever.

I had the use of an earlier model Gladius for about a year and enjoyed it immensely when I rode it, mostly for fun and the occasional trip in work. Most bikes fit into a more niche market type, the Gladius doesn’t, it isn’t a sports bike, an adventure bike or anything specific but a simple bike that works, gets you places and does it gently with a minimum of fuss.

Good for commuting, weekend fun or long-distance cruising; a jack of all trades, a master of none.

I always recommend the Gladius and the SV650 to most people looking at getting on a big bike for the first time or even returning to biking. They’re a friendly, confidence inspiring, durable, low cost and quality bike. Really, what more could you need?

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