2015 Suzuki Gladius 650: LAMS Review

Date 30.6.2015

Presented by
  • Motorcycle Trader

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Big-Bore LAMS Test

Learner riders now have great choice with the second generation of large-capacity LAMS bikes. Motorcycle Trader took seven contenders on a 1500km round trip with surprising results. Read the intro here.

Contender #4: Suzuki Gladius 650

Using what it’s learnt from the highly successful SV650, Suzuki had a serious engine re-think which reduced power to 35kW but located the V-twin’s torque much lower in the rev range. The result may be the lowest power per tonne in its class but it does make it one of the easiest bikes to ride.

ON THE ROAD

The Suzuki Gladius is the gentleman of the pack with predicatable performance and excellent road manners.

The Gladius seat height is lower at 785mm but that has largely been achieved by scalloping the seat. The padding feels too thin when you first sit on the bike but, to its credit, it doesn’t get any worse as the kilometres pile up. The riding position is near-perfect for six-footers which takes some pressure off the seat itself. Two of the riders in the group actually voted it the most comfortable.

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The Kawasaki and the Suzuki were similar in many respects – both were composed, clean and classy. Both are incredibly easy to ride and very suited to their intended market. They share the same suspension travel – 125mm at the front and 130mm at the rear – giving relatively plush rides.

Their 160/60 rear tyres allow them to change direction with very little steering effort and they’re equally relaxing to ride.

With the Gladius’ pre-load adjustable fork, it’s the better of the two in setting static sag to get the most from the suspension but the thin seat responsible for its 785mm seat height makes it less comfortable. The 805mm seat height of the ER-6nL is a more realistic statement of the size of these bikes, both of which suit taller riders.

With its extra 4kW, the Kawasaki is the livelier of the two.

The green machine’s engine produces maximum torque at 4000rpm, giving it a broad spread across the rev range. The Suzuki’s maximum torque is also produced early in the rev range but, annoyingly, the company is unable to say how early. An educated guess would be around 4000rpm or perhaps even a little lower.

Owners of either of these bikes will never have a sense they’re restricted in any way except at the very top end.

They’re proper motorcycles which, if you change the oil occasionally, you’ll be able to pass on to your children and grandchildren.

Both the Suzuki and Kawasaki are a pleasure to ride and no buyer will ever regret his or her decision.

Without ABS, the Suzuki should probably be cheaper than it is, making the ER-6nL appear to be better value.

What really matters about the performance of all of the test bikes is, at normal road speeds, they all have plenty in reserve for overtaking and it makes them safer in that they can do it quickly with composure.

STYLING

In the styling department, the Suzuki can’t escape being based on the SV650 which first appeared around the turn of the century. In its Gladius version, it has plastic coverings on frame tubes to make them appear as castings and plastic tank covers which flow towards the back of the bike in a pleasing wave. The result is modern colour and cheerful styling but it can’t help but appear slightly dated.

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Older members of the MT crew preferred the Kawasaki and the Suzuki to the moderns but What everyone was unanimous about, though, was, for new riders, the old-fashioned analogue dials were much easier to read than the ‘modern’ digital ones.

Although both the Suzuki and Kawasaki had combined digital/analogue instrumentation, they were both preferred.

Read more on the LAMS review contenders:

LAMS review intro
Ducati Monster 659
Triumph Street Triple 660
CFMoto 650NKS
Benelli BN600S
Kawasaki ER-6nL
Yamaha MT-07


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