I just bought a Suzuki s40 two weeks ago and I absolutely love it. Although this is my first bike, I looked at a couple others very carefully before buying the s40. My reasons were:
belt drive vs. the Honda Shadow chain drive; a rider friend of mine says a chain drive can spit grease all over you after you oil the chain. The Yamaha VStar has a shaft drive, but it costs more.
the s40 is really all I need; 650cc is plenty for town and country and highway. The throttle is very responsive and the single cylinder engine is torquey at the low end. I don´t plan on making real long trips with it (over 150 miles), so it is plenty comfortable for the distances I will ride it.
the s40 was considerably cheaper (I was only considering brand new) than the comparison bikes -- a Honda Shadow and a Yamaha VStar 650. I almost bought the Yamaha -- it is one beautiful bike -- but it was nearly $2000 more, for the same size engine (although the Yamaha is a V twin). Plus Yamaha accessories are EXPENSIVE; Suzuki s40 accessories are not. Also, the Honda Shadow VLX is a 583cc bike that costs $1000 more. Economically, the s40 is impossible to beat.
I am 5-11, 186 lbs and the bike fits me perfectly. It´s light weight (352 lbs) makes it easy to back up and stand up. I never feel like I might lose control of this bike because of its weight. Many experienced riders have told me that having a bike that fits you physically and with your confidence is one of the most important considerations. The handlebar controls (turn signals especially) fit my hands better and have a nice solid snap-click to them.
I really like the styling of the s40 -- a subjective consideration, I know. Rather than looking like a touring bike (like the Yahama does), the s40 has a little chopper look to it that I think is neat. I have added saddlebags and plan to add the backrest also.
The single cylinder engine does vibrate, more than a v twin. But it is not at all as if the vibration will shake you off the bike. You an feel it, but it is by no means excessive. Besides, some people like a bike that has some "rumble" to it.
Yes, it does backfire, but it is a quiet backfire (like a hard "poof"). I am not a mechanic, but I simply suspect that it is just what single-cylinder engines are prone to do (cut off the engine and the compression stroke will usually be the last one it tries to make; my riding mower does the same thing, much louder). Others have said it is possible to adjust the engine, I suppose making it breathe more and thus eliminating backfire. To be fair, mine only backfires when I shut it down in cold weather; otherwise no problem.
In all, I would recommend this bike to anyone, including beginners like myself. The fact that seasoned riders are riding and recommending this bike is significant also.
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