Our bikes: Suzuki SV650
It’s not often I get to write about Ms M Senior’s machinery, mostly because she has three bikes to my 19. The divisions between ‘hers’, ‘mine’ and ‘ours’ are fading, however. Apparently it’s now ‘ours’ if it works and ‘mine’ if it doesn’t. Hmm. Still, we’ve had plenty to deal with in the last month.
Ms M’s lovely Suzuki SV650 is one of those ghost bikes. It’s out there in the traffic five to six days a week throughout the year and nobody notices it – just another commuter in the mix. And that’s the trap.
The fact it’s a workhorse rather than one of the glamour cycles in the shed means it gets overlooked. To the point where, on a recent club ride, Phil the mechanic pointed at the wafer-thin front discs and their well-passed use-by scouring. Oh dear. How did we miss that? Because they were working okay and the gradual slide in performance is easy to miss, particularly if the machine is a working dog.
There was another issue: the radiator, which had been repaired what seemed like a month or two ago (actually two years), was leaking again. Damn. We shopped around for radiators and even bought a Chinese item online. Bad move. The fit was highly questionable (brackets were wrong) and the quality was poor.
FREE TRADE AGREEMENT
There were fewer decks in the core and the overall depth of metal felt tissue-thin. Having interviewed an expert radiator builder not so long ago, I should’ve known better. Either buy an improved item from an expert, or stick with original equipment.
When it comes to running a cooling system on a very expensive bit of kit – namely a highly developed, injected V-twin motorcycle engine – fitting anything worse than original spec is a false economy. So we sent back the crap version and ordered the proper one which, at about double the price, still qualifies as a bargain.
We’re talking about $600 in parts and an afternoon in the shed.
One thing I liked was how easy it was to fit the proper gear. Put some drain pans under the bike, pop the coolant hoses, carefully remove the fan and then the radiator. Put the new one in, top up the fluid and run it for a few minutes. That will sort out the levels, and top it up again.
The SV runs a typical 50:50 glycol-water mix for alloy engines, so there were no real mysteries to completing the job. Basic spanners and patience were enough. Things were a little different when it came to the discs.
While just as critical to the bike’s health, the aftermarket engineering for replacements seems to be better established than it is for radiators. A friend tried Chinese-made discs on his Hornet a few years ago, and again on a Honda VTR1000 with success.
His tastes leaned towards garish wave discs but, in this case, we went for the closest replica we could find for the original, round items, made by Tarazon. They were about 60 per cent of the cost of the Suzuki items. My biggest fear was there’d be another drama with fit, but it wasn’t so.
There was a bit of faffing about to get the front of the bike off the deck, and in this case I used a cruiser lift Our front pads were fine, so all we had to worry about was the discs. Once the wheel was out, I spread the front pads with a set of circlip pliers, to make it easier to get the fatter discs in. With the wheel up on a table, the discs went straight on and I carefully torqued them down evenly, tagging each bolt with a marker pen as they were tightened down, to ensure they all got the same treatment.
The last thing you want is to stuff up and forget one of them.
Each bolt scored a dab of Loctite as it went in. Slip the wheel back in, and then it came to the all-important moment when you pump the brake lever to ensure the pads are home again.
Do that before a test ride, otherwise you’re in for a nasty surprise as you desperately grab for temporarily non-functioning brakes.
I can’t overstate the importance of mounting up for a gentle test ride around the block after you’ve done this job. It’s a whole lot easier to sort out any dramas on a weekend spin around the block than get a nasty surprise in traffic when you’re battling your way to work.
The Chinese discs and the overall job are fine. The front brake lever is back to feeling ‘fat’ and operating as it should.
We also took the opportunity to change the oil and filter, which was just another 30 minutes. In this case, I’m a fan of paying for the genuine filter and good quality oil. The tools needed included a small-diameter oil wrench and a two-dollar cat litter tray to catch the liquid.
In a perfect world, I’d just dump the bike at a Suzuki dealership and make it their job. But there is a lot of satisfaction in solving your own problems while getting to know your bike that much better.
In this case, the 80,000km-old Suzuki has a couple of key areas running as good as new for minimal cost. Ms M Snr is pleased, so I guess that makes the SV ‘hers’ again. Keep an eye out for her – she’s the girl on the blue SV, who’s near-invisible as she rides to work.