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2009 Suzuki Gladius First Ride

Thursday, April 23, 2009
The guy in front of me’s wearing white. Thank goodness. But he’s still disappearing into the Fuerteventura fog like something from a bad B movie. I lift a sodden leather-clad hand to pointlessly wipe a continuously misting visor. But it’s on the inside, the outside, the inside, outside. . .? I back off the throttle as a silver grey car looms out of nowhere and lurches instinctively away from me, its headlights totally ineffective in piercing the thickening mist which has descended like God’s heavy blanket.

2009 Suzuki Gladius
Fuerteventura is part of the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa. It was supposedly named after the conquering Jean de Bethencourt's exclaimed, "Que forte adventure." Following her ride on the 2009 Suzuki Gladius 650 Janie agrees with the explorer - What a grand adventure!
Normally, the rocky, barren landscape of this Spanish Island looks like you’d stumble upon Arnold Schwarzenegger scratching about in the orange dust, eyes bulging and veins popping like that very odd scene from Total Recall. But right now there’s just nothing. Nothing but a few meters of soggy greyness. Oh how I love my job.

Google the word ‘Gladius’ and you’re inundated with facts and figures about an early Roman stabbing sword which was short, precise and easy to handle. Hence the rather apt naming of Suzuki’s new and compact entry-level roadster. So, with this historical title in mind, I was keen to discover just how much fighting spirit the SV650’s replacement really has. Would it bow out in the midst of battle, unable to stand the heat, or would it prove to be match for the competition, which appears to be stronger now than ever before?

Despite the weather in Fuerteventura looking decidedly grim, and with the never-ending fog being thicker than pea soup and being just as uninviting, I was determined to explore the bike’s full potential. Cocking a leg over the low 31 inch seat height for the first time, the compact middleweight felt instantly comfortable. There’s no question that Suzuki are actively targeting beginners and the unintimidating stance of the bike should definitely appeal to novices.

2009 Suzuki Gladius
The Suzuki Gladius makes for an affordable and stylish purchase for the entry-level crowd.
Curvaceous styling and colourful detailing of Candy Ruby Magenta, (otherwise known as pink) will undoubtedly attract the ladies and further widen the target audience. The instrument cluster sits on the jewel shaped headlight like a Jewish skullcap and it features a generous display of information including a useful gear indicator, a trip meter and fuel warning light that flashes orange in good time to find a petrol station and stays constant when you’re about to run on nothing but fumes.

But there’s a lot more to the Suzuki Gladius than clever marketing and fancy styling. It’s actually pretty good. Especially at just £4,500 with a £99 insurance deal if you pass your test with Suzuki, and the option of a free 33bhp restriction kit. (Editor’s Note: The Suzuki Gladius is available for a $6,899 MSRP in the US)  They couldn’t have made it easier for you than if they’d turned up in a taxi, with a skinny latte and a breakfast croissant, frog marched you to your nearest test center and stuck the keys in your sweaty palm.

That said, any first purchase must survive the heady honeymoon period. A new love can be short lived, and the Gladius needs to be capable of continually thrilling, or at the very least, satisfy your biking buzz long after those initial tentative outings have been replaced with confidence in a full set of leathers. This bike needs to nurture confidence and encourage new skills if it’s to be a successful motorcycle mate. And after riding the tidy little Twin through the rain, mist and eventually on dry roads, I’ve no doubt Suzuki are onto a winner and that a new biker could find their perfect match in the Gladius.

2009 Suzuki Gladius
The Suzuki Gladius 650 offers plenty of low-to-midrange torque to make everyday riding more of a hoot.
The 90 degree V-Twin engine is based on the popular (and now redundant) SV650, but it’s been refined to offer more low-to-midrange torque without sacrificing top-end power, plus it’s also now 10 percent more efficient. As the sun began to finally peek through the parting clouds, the bike’s playful nature started to emerge in unison with the drying asphalt. Wind the throttle back and the Gladius surges with a steady, reliable pull that bears all the hallmarks of a traditional twin-cylinder powerhouse. The initial bite is instant, but not overly snatchy and the light clutch means it’s easy to maintain a smooth and slow speed pace.

As the revs build, so does the pleasant drone of the engine. The vibrations are far from intrusive, but they are more apparent, especially on the footpegs, as you pass the 8,000 rpm mark. But even as the needle delves into the red some 3000 rpm later, it’s not vibey enough to really complain about and the mirrors do their level best to maintain a clear image of the world you’ve just left behind.

With the bike wearing nothing but its stylish birthday suit, you’re totally unprotected from the elements, but lay flat enough on the 3.8-gallon tank and the Speedo’s triple figures could exceed 125mph (and more if you’ve been laying off the pies!) And while the bike’s not exactly marketed as a drag racer, or a wheelie monster, it can hold its own against the competition in both of these departments, which merely increases its appeal. A boring budget bike? Not in this instance, no.

2009 Suzuki Gladius
All the technological wizardry on the Suzuki Gladius allow riders to focus on their form with added confidence.
Keeping the throttle pinned is always rewarding and addictive, and it’s no different with the Gladius. But shut off too rapidly and a V-Twin bike can often take a nose dive faster than a dodgy boxer with a back pocket full of cash and naff all pride in his heart. And locking the rear by mistake’s not unheard of in the most extreme of circumstances. So with potential and inexperienced riders in mind, Suzuki’s electronic Dash Pot System ensures the engine braking is as gentle and progressive as possible. It’s activated when there’s a sudden transition from an open to closed throttle, smoothly reducing the revs, the stress on the engine and the rider’s nerves.

It works well enough, and while it’s an obvious advantage for the very innocent or cack-handed rider, it was also pretty handy trickery for yours truly on the mountainous wet twisties. A back end slide’s not quite what you want, not with a sheer drop disappearing into the chilly fog laying just a few feet away. And when the white-leather-wearing rider in front of me did an impromptu fifty-pence piece action on a normally rounded but blinded-by-fog corner, I merely shut the throttle to scrub speed gently, rather than use my two frozen fingers which were hovering eagerly over the front brake lever.

The ride wasn’t necessarily that pleasant at first, but nevertheless, it was the perfect environment for the Gladius to show its friendly nature. Tiptoeing through the damp, the bike felt heavy enough to have some presence, but light enough to correct mistakes and execute feet-up u-turns. Add a bit of grip to the mix and it’s wasn’t long before the agile handling was grinding away at the (very long) ‘hero-blobs’ hanging beneath the footpegs, (far better than filing a hole in the sporty low muffler though) and for newcomers, bragging rights and swollen chests will soon accompany the breaking in of virgin knee sliders, whether that is the designer’s intention or not.

2009 Suzuki Gladius
Two styles of the same no-nonsense, two-wheeled armament.
You can test a budget bike’s patience harder than a toddler does a tired parent, and there’s always a limit to everyone’s good will. But, as with most of the more recently introduced bikes in this category, they can all handle a fair amount of abuse... I mean spirited riding. The chassis and its trellis frame, and the preload-adjustable suspension (with forks donated from the SV650) copes well enough with most things you’re likely to throw at it.

The brakes are adequate too, although the front’s stopping power is on the softer side of good, and the riding position’s natural and comfy, but despite my African rear’s ‘padding’ I did begin to develop a numb-bum after a day in the saddle. That’s par for the course though and to be expected on most bikes of this ilk.

Suzuki’s two wheeled Gladius may have a Latin title, and it may be named after some obscure Roman sword, but it could easily slash a middleweight mark in the motorcycle market and shield you from the credit crunch at the same time. Sounds like the ideal weapon of choice.
2009 Suzuki Gladius Photo Gallery
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2009 Suzuki Gladius Specs
2009 Suzuki Gladius
Engine - 645cc, 90 degree V-Twin
Power - 72hp @ 8,400rpm
Torque - 47.23 lb-ft @ 6,400 rpm
Compression Ratio - 11.5:1
Transmission - six speed
Seat Height - 31 inches 
Starter - electric
Front Tire (Full Spec) - 120/70 ZR17M/C 58W
Rear Tire (Full Spec) - 160/60 ZR17M/C 69W
Front Brake - dual hydraulic disc (front)
Rear Brake - hydraulic disc (rear)
Wheelbase - 55.9 inches (1445 mm)
Fuel capacity - 3.8 gallons (14.5 liters)
Dry Weight - 446 lbs
MSRP - $6,899

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pacman52   March 5, 2013 04:48 PM
I thought I would comment on this little Gladius! First of all, I must say that I have 35 years experience riding street bikes (mostly sport bikes). I presently own a 2012 R1, 2012 FZ1 and a 2010 Gladius (the black one). My wife has 2011 FZ6R and a red 2010 Gladius. Guess what? we both love riding these Gladius... so much fun! I agree with the comments on this test like the brakes are just OK and the suspensions are a little weak for my 200 lbs. Besides that, nothing wrong with the Gladius. It's good on fuel, easy to do maintenance on and lots of fun riding it!
Roy -Your loss...  October 13, 2010 12:54 AM
Once I finish doing all the not-so-standard upgrades,(i.e.,cat-eliminator, power commander, BMC air filter, suspension mods...) I'll have a Ducati 696 eater and still be $1000 richer for it. The Gladius ROCKS!!!
Brian -Gladius Owner  June 14, 2010 01:15 PM
I Bought a 09 all Black one,Yoshi Pipe,got rid of the side covers, put a set of super bike bars on it,I ride a ZRX1200 and this Bike is so fun to ride,I had the Seat refoamed the stock one is crap,nothing but compliments on how it looks,its all personal opinion,I dont knock others peoples bikes,whats the use of it
Dave -Possibility  April 7, 2010 04:40 AM
I'm a year-round biker,use my bike for commuting to work and fun.I don't feel the need to pose or show off,my bike is my only transport-I've never wanted or felt the need to own a car. Gladius works for me,light and responsive,just the way I like em.Must admit I prefer the recently dropped naked SV,faired version is still available new in Britain to look at but the Gladius is definitely growing on me.Sure it looks a little weird but I'm old enough to remember the shock and horror that greet the Katanas when Suzuki first showed those to the public,now considered desirable classics and with a few details tidied up Suzuki could sell the same thing today. I'm looking at a Gladius this afternoon,had a very good deal offered on an XJ6 Yamaha,one of those competitors Jane was talking about but for some reason it didn't quite grab me.Biggest problem I've got is that my aging 600 Hornet (CB599 in America)is so good and despite being 6 years old the newer machines I've tried don't seem as sharp.
Anoop -Bike  March 17, 2010 09:50 AM
Super..., I Like it.
Mirisi -Gladius Price vs. ER6 Price  December 3, 2009 01:34 AM
Last July Suzuki Philippines started bringing in the Gladius and other Suzuki models. They are selling it here for something like US $10,200 + all in.
Last November Kawasaki started bringing in the ER6. . sells it for US$6,800+ all in. Naturally Kawasaki got the long lines. I placed an order for the ER6 yesterday (December 2, 2009) and they told me to expect delivery in June next year.

The comments above explain it all. Suzuki is peopled by troubled souls.

David -Gladius  June 28, 2009 02:30 AM
I have the new suzuki gladius excellent bike to ride heaps of power i get lots of great comments.
D -Yamaka  June 7, 2009 05:19 PM
I think she meant Yamaka when she said "Jewish skullcap" hahaha Looking at the photos of the bike it's easy to see. I like her writing and she's easy on the eyes. Good work matching a former Gladiator for this bike's review. :D
andyc -gladius  June 7, 2009 01:44 PM
this suzuki is a poor version of the very under rated cagiva raptor that to is a 650v twin. The smart money says buy a used raptor 1000 wiyh a full power tl000 motor you get usd forks and brembos etc.
newb -Gladys  June 1, 2009 02:08 AM
Probably a great bike, but the SV was much better looking in my opinion. All well, I guess we critics just have to save a little longer for the Street Tripple R.
Jeff Harris -glad thoughts  May 22, 2009 05:16 PM
To those in this little forum who are bashing this bike without actually riding one, like, shut up. Yes, it's looks are "unique": ie, love it or hate it, but it is a very fun and capable sport ride. And most importantly, easy to ride. There's no doubt Suzuki is going after new and/or shorter riders with this thing and very definately have aimed it straight at female riders. My girlfriend bought the pink one and yes, I feel a bit "queer" when I take it for a spin. Aside from that though, this thing is easy to ride hard. It's real power comes on at 2500rpm or so and doesnt soften till past 8 grand. I'm pretty sure you'd get a faster quarter mile if you shift before 9 grand. It handles very well; whipping it side to side feels like child's play compared to my litre-bike. Better suspension would be nice though, and I agree with the story writer, the front brakes are not good enough.. Definately not one or 2 finger stoppers for anything more than cruising around. Panic stopping requires a serious grab and I will be putting some SS lines and better pads on for my g-friend for sure. I ride a 2nd Gen Yamaha Fz1 and yeah, it's way more sophisticated and powerful and feels more solid and has better brakes and suspension. However, the Glad costed us $7500 plus taxes and whatnot(canada), and mine was $12,500 3 years ago. After doing a lot of research and test riding and bank account accountin' there's little doubt in my mind that this bike is a very good deal. If you can deal with it's styling, you'll be getting a really nice little bike with fun easy handling and a wide powerbanded motor. And it's pretty comfy too but I haven't sat in it's thinly padded seat long enough to say whether or not it's toooooo thin. It's low centre of gravity makes it feel lighter than it is, by the way. Which makes it seem even easier to ride. K, the end.
Got One -Excellent Choice  May 7, 2009 05:29 PM
I agree the marketing is a bit metro-sexual but if you get a chance to see this bike in person it will likely change your opinion. As someone said, the pictures don't really do it justice, and if you avoid the "frilly" colors they do have one in black that looks incredibly sleek. I bought one 3 weeks ago and couldn't be happier with my choice. An easy-going bike with lots of power in all ranges, forgiving, and easily - EASILY, ride-able.
Victor -Gladius  May 5, 2009 01:35 PM
A welcome addition to the article would have been a comment on whether a moderate windscreen is available from Suzuki, and how it looks on the bike. I'm a big fan of standards, but the reality that even Janie notes in her write-up is that there is no wind protection on them. The odd-ball headlamp isn't going to make the selection of an after-market windscreen a likely scenario. Well written piece overall, and the Gladius has an appeal that would cause me to seriously consider it to replace my Honda Nighthawk 750 when the time comes.
Rusty -Shootout!  May 3, 2009 10:07 PM
I think it's time for a midsize naked bike shootout. I'd like to see the Gladius vs. Monster 696 vs. ER-6n vs. Mana 850. These four bikes have similar HP and torque ratings and are suitable as a beginners bike, as a daily commuter, or as a weekend grin machine. Some would probably call for the Street Triple to be in there, but it's a lot more powerful than the others and I wouldn't recommend it to a newbie. For those that are offended by the bright colors of the Gladius, know that the "Candy Ruby Magenta" is not available in the US but an all black model is. If you had seen that one first would you still be calling it a "girls bike"?
Hardcore666 -No it does not need to be a 1000!  May 1, 2009 11:22 AM
Jewish skullcap? What the heck is that?
'99 SV650 -Needs to fall on its name...  April 29, 2009 07:40 PM
Uglier than a freshly-stepped in pile of dog poo, the Gladius is a sad replacement for the stylistically-challenged post-'02 SV650. Lambasted for their 80's-esque origami "edge" styling, the '03+ SV650s' sales languished despite the technology upgrades offered of stiffer frame & fuel injection. In an effort to completely kill of their successful all-rounder, Suzuki settled on even worse styling for the Gladius, finally making owners of the '03-'08 SV650s feel good about their bike's looks, and owners of '99-'02 SVs eternally grateful that their bikes still look sweeter than super chocolate frosted suger bombs next to Suzuki's later offerings. I'm just turning over 50k miles on my '99 SV [for the 1st 6 years of ownership, it was saved from daily commuter status by my now-defunct GL1200 rat bike; that's the only reason the mileage is so low] and it still looks WORLDS better than anything Suzuki has offered from '03 onwards. I don't know which exec is responsible for making certain that all their offerings were beaten heavily w/ the ugly stick from that year forwards, but they were probably hired sometime in '02 & should have gotten the sack shortly afterwards. If I was a stockholder I'd be screaming for blood at the annual meeting, but I'm lucky enough to have gotten in on the 1st gen SVs when they were first available Stateside. I've never looked back... :D
ride4life99 -gladdius  April 29, 2009 04:14 PM
it doesnt sound like a bad bike. good for first time riders, but they need to make a 1000cc or bigger for the people that like a real good time
Slowestrider -Great article  April 28, 2009 08:32 PM
Wow,I really enjoy reading this write up very much! No BS, no ego, down the point...a keeper for sure. :)
Monkeyboy650 -Gladius  April 28, 2009 03:40 PM
Lose the lame plastic frame covers & show off the trellis frame ! Talk about a blatant Ducati rip-off ! Oh, the shame of it all ! I think I'll keep my 2001 SV-650.
Richard -Suzuki's Gladius  April 28, 2009 10:49 AM
Gladius? Suzuki should have named this estrogen soaked version of the Ducati Monster the "Gladys." When I sold my GS500, I skipped the Gladys and bought a Triumph. A little more cash bought a lot more satisfaction.
cloud9 -only true competition.  April 26, 2009 03:11 AM
Realistically only the Yamaha and Kawasaki can compete with this (considering price range). The street triple is $8,699 2 grand more than this and the ducati is practically 3 grand more. The sv has always been a budget man's ducati. I just hope aftermarket support is as strong for this model as the outgoing sv. That's where the true appeal is. We need a new street fighter comparison. Much has changed in a couple of years.
Zaphod -Ducati wannabe  April 26, 2009 01:42 AM
Suzuki stylists at the moment have sniffing too much hairspray and have a distorted view of reality. Styling is so "try-hard" it's not funny.
Foogle -Gladius  April 25, 2009 05:30 PM
All that glistens is not gold. What will the silver-painted plastic frame shrouds look like after 6 months? I suspect the grey plastic will show through really nicely. Ditto the exhaust .. pretty chrome shroud over black painted steel .... hmmm that will look lovely and rusty after a winter of use. Suzuki build to a price and it shows after a while. They rust, and rust some more. Great motor pity about the quality.
jim -el cheapo delux  April 25, 2009 01:52 PM
the duc will cost a lot more to begin with and the maintenance on the duc is steep. a street triple for the extra power maybe but the gladius, which i haven't seen in person, is not as visually pleasant as the old sv. not that looks matter that much leaned over. good writing. thanks for the successfully different viewpoint, may your employers continue cutting those checks.
NBS -Attractive, but not a my first choice  April 25, 2009 11:17 AM
I'm a huge SV650 fan and especially the engine, but the Gladius just seems so blah. Admittedly it looks MUCH NICER in person that photos, but there are better 650s for beginners or even for those of who love smaller twins -- Street Triple, ER6N, Versys, V-Strom, 650R, etc. That said, seating is comfy, so for those on a budget who want a good little v-twin I suppose it'll suffice.
jimbo -Prefer '08 SV650?  April 24, 2009 02:59 PM
This is a case of a new bike model replacing & simultaneously increasing the value of a previous similar model ('08 Suzuki SV650). Visit your Suzuki dealer before the '08s are gone.
Chris -Best Budget Bike  April 24, 2009 12:51 PM
I used to own an SV650 and absolutely loved it, so I can imagine how good this version is with the mechanical improvements and more efficient engine. MCN did a budget bike comparison test and they picked the Gladius over the offerings from Yamaha, Kawasaki, and Ducati. By the way, does anyone know how to get test rides from dealerships, none of the ones I've been to allow them?
Baggerchris -Suzuki Gladius  April 24, 2009 09:01 AM
My only problem with Susuki as a whole is that around my area in No. Ca., the dealers will NOT let you take a test ride, whereas the Beemer folks practically MAKE you take one. I will probably buy a Beemer instead of a Suzuki because of this one negative. (F650GS Vs Weestrom)
Ada Ada -Gladius  April 24, 2009 07:12 AM
I couldn't get past the attractive photo of Janie and her insoucient use of the phrase "Cocking a leg over". I'm sorry. I just can't think about the motorcycle right now.
Superlight -Gladius  April 24, 2009 06:24 AM
Ben, the Monster costs a bit more and is worth every penny over this "girlie" machine, especially after a few years time (resale). The engine is nice, but that bodywork is horrible, as with most Japanese designs.
Mike -Re: Needs editing  April 24, 2009 04:31 AM
I enjoyed reading this article. A refreshing change of writing style.
Jay -Better in person  April 23, 2009 11:21 PM
I thought this bike sucked when I saw/read about it on the intertron a few months ago, but seeing it in person- it is a much more attractive bike. I love my VFR to death, but wouldn't have a problem owning the non-pink version
Marc -Gladius  April 23, 2009 11:00 PM
Hmm well so far in every comparison it outperforms the kwaka 650 varients and yamaha and tops them all. I rode it this week straight after the Ducati 696 and it had none of the holes that the Ducati has in its powerband.I guess the styling is a personal thing, but man that old sv uprated v twin, is a beauty. I think it will be a huge success. Good on ya Suzuki!
Brian -Ok...but not best.  April 23, 2009 10:29 PM
Although a great deal ($ wise), there are better choices out there. #1- Triumph Street Triple. #2- Ducati 696. #3- Kawasaki ER6N. #4- Kawasaki Ninja 650R. Any of these machines would embarasss this pastel colored "barbie machine" (as it has turned into). Start up Streetfighter no more...this is a straight up Barbie (girls) bike (as marketed by Suzuki). Hear that sucking sound?? That's the sound of Suzuki loosing HUGE $ money on this decision! Ha ha!
jimbolaya -needs editing  April 23, 2009 10:05 PM
I found the sentence & paragraph structure, well, um, kinda unreadable, sorry. Way too wordy & beating round the bush, so to speak.
Poppawheelie -Gladius/ Janie  April 23, 2009 08:41 PM
Good writing, I mean riding, I mean writing.
Ben -Re: Monster 696 Comparison  April 23, 2009 06:53 PM
In this comparison, "a little more cash" means $2100. Enough said.
Superlight -Gladius  April 23, 2009 04:52 PM
I saw this at the bike show this winter season - the styling is a bit strange, to be sure. Janie keeps referring to its competition; just which bikes are in that competitive set? For just a little more cash outlay, the 696 Monster blows this Suzuki wannabe in the weeds.