Suzuki unsheathes the Gladius
I’ll never forget sitting on the decaying bench seats in Turn 3 at the “Fastest Road in the West” (Willow Springs) years ago one Sunday afternoon to soak in some high-desert sun and good grass-roots club racing. An unfamiliar looking and sounding bike was piloted with adroitness through what’s called the Omega.
Leaning against the chain-link fence to get as close a look as possible on the next go ‘round, I sheepishly asked a fellow race-watcher what bike was making that distinctly-Twin exhaust note. “That’s the new V-Twin from Suzuki,” said the motorcycle racing fan. My jaw fell open in mild astonishment. I’d only recently heard of the new bike, and was quite certain I hadn’t seen any in dealers yet, and here some die-hard enthusiast was already racing the thing.
And so began American riders’ love affair with the Suzuki SV650.
The 645cc liquid-cooled, carbureted 90-degree V-Twin devoid of bodywork took almost no time to reach cult status with its sporty handling and user-friendly low-end and mid-range grunt. Its un-faired design caused the eye to immediately focus on the unique mill hanging from the aluminum, oval-tube trellis-style frame. Not many bike makers in those days embraced the naked streetfighter style for the American market.
Nevertheless, the SV’s ease-of-use made it a hit with Average Joe Rider for commuting and weekend play, while its overall performance caused a groundswell in club racing across the country, all for the 1999 MSRP of $5,699. The bike really was all that and a bag of chips.
The first major update to the SV – and the partially-faired SV650S model introduced in 2000 – arrived in ’03 and included fuel-injection, a new beefy square-tube truss frame and marginal increases in power and torque. In 2007 ABS became on option on either model, and in 2008 the S model went full-fairing as the SV650SF. For 2009 Suzuki perceived performance characteristics between the SV and SF models to be too close, so an all-new model emerged to adapt to changing market demands.
We know everyone loved the good ol’ SV, but Suzuki has come up with a solution to fill the gap left by the standard SV’s departure: the 2009 Gladius.
The new Zook and its name draw inspiration from the Latin word for sword, in particular, a relatively short, more manageable version of longer swords. The obvious allusion is that Suzuki’s Gladius is a new and improved, sleeker, friendlier version of the SV. Equally obvious is the strong design element, one that went virtually unchanged from concept to showroom.
With its rounded edges, flowing lines and friendly ergos, the Gladius is also an attempt by Suzuki to capitalize on the growing U.S. female rider segment.
To dispel any idea the Gladius is “a girl’s bike,” Suzuki’s Glenn Hansen points out that through a host of updates the new SV-derived V-Twin made gains in torque and power over the old SV. A safe guess is the Gladius increased torque at least 10% over the claimed 47-ish ft-lbs from the SV. Judging by a Suzuki-provided dyno graph superimposed over a graph from the previous SV, the gain appears across most of the rev range.
Horsepower gains looked considerably less, though some increase was evident. It’s worth noting that none of the changes in the Gladius’ mill are found in the current SV650SF.
In a 2006 Motorcycle.com comparison an SV650S churned out 71.1 hp and 45.2 ft-lbs. These are already respectable figures, so any gain in the Gladius is great!
The SV engine reborn
Here’s some of the updates that improve overall engine performance and allow the Gladius’ V-Twin to make more claimed torque across most of the rev range along with a small but notable increase in horsepower.
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