Motorcycle road test: Suzuki Gladius, by Wes Smith
Contender... ready! Gladius... ready! It’s time to do battle with the roads!
Although, if you are looking for a fight, then you’re probably looking in the wrong place, because everything about this bike screams simplicity – but in a good way – and ease-of-use.
That simplicity stretches right down to the price – £5,465 for a 650cc machine is cheap by anyone’s standards. But does the quality of the bike suffer for it? In a word – no. This is a fabulous machine, and will put a smile on your face from the moment you hop on it.
For starters, it looks great. It comes in a range of colours, from black to Suzuki’s traditional blue and white, through to the little red number I rode. The red, combined with the trellis framing of the chassis, could at first glance be mistaken for its pricier rival the Ducati Monster. I was laughed at by a fellow biker when I mentioned that, but I stand by it!
Hopping on, with a seat height of 785mm, it felt marginally higher than some other bikes I’ve sat on, yet with its fuel tank and upright position it still gave a feeling of sitting inside it rather than on it.
Starting it up brought the first of many grins. The Gladius is powered by a V-twin engine and the deep, gurgling sound it made as it idled over really made me smile – there is something about that sound that just makes you feel like you’re on a bike!
But pulling away for the first time I was taught my first lesson in the differences between the inline fours I had learned, passed my test on and ridden since, and a V-twin – and by ‘eck lad, they’re torquey aren’t they?!
It took me a little while to get used to the smooth action required to open the throttle, and to be honest with you, even after more than two weeks with it there was the odd moment where the power of the engine still caught me a little off guard. Not to the extent where I was popping wheelies away from traffic lights or anything like that, but enough to make me realise that the throttle response was actually pretty damned good!
That torque means that it is in the low to mid rev range that this bike excels. As a commuter, it’s a real traffic-buster and can zip through those queues with ease, leaving everything else in its wake with short, sharp bursts of power.
And take it out onto those winding B-roads and you have a real recipe for fun – it absolutely loves them.
In the couple of weeks I had the bike I really wanted to test what it, and I, could do. I covered close to 2,000 miles, which included some of the best biking roads I could find in Yorkshire and Cumbria.
But as much fun as the bike is, getting to those places initially proved a bit of a drag. With no fairing the Gladius has absolutely no protection from the elements, and prolonged periods of doing 80mph on the motorway does begin to take its toll, not just on the head, neck and upper body, but also on the backside – anything more than an hour at a time saw me beginning to shift even my heavily padded rear around in a desperate bid to get more comfortable, before being forced to pull up for a rest.
But once there, I was faced with some of the best roads a biker could wish for in this country. And as my confidence in the Gladius and its capabilities grew, I found myself pushing it more and more, and leaning it further and further, to the point where I finally discovered what the hero blobs are actually for!
Bad points on the Gladius are few and far between. In fact, the only thing I really have any cause for criticism for is the brakes – I found them to be very spongy, particularly the front. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that the bike had only 400 on miles on the clock when I first collected it and they hadn’t bedded in properly, but even all those miles later I still wasn’t convinced by them. Don’t get me wrong, the brakes stopped the bike adequately, I just like a much more solid feel to my anchors.
But overall, what you’re getting here is an awful lot of bike for a relatively small amount of cash. The Gladius is a machine that you can throw to the lions and it will come out on top time and time again.
More information about getting on two wheels is available from the motorcycle industry’s campaign aimed at recruiting more new riders. For details visit www.geton.co.uk
> Model: Suzuki SFV650 Gladius
> Engine size: 645cc
> Engine spec: Six-speed, four-stroke, liquid-cooled DOHC, 90-degree V-twin
> Power: 75bhp
> Fuel capacity: 14.5 litres
> Range: 130 miles
> Seat height: 785mm
> Price: From £5,465