SV650 Street/Cafe/Rat

My second build, and first big bike, what can go wrong?

So if you’ve read about my first bike, you’ll know how this all started, if not I’ll briefly summarise..

I was 2 years into my CBT (18 years old), working full time on an apprenticeship, racing round the streets on my 125 in my spare time, I loved my little cafe racer, and the attention it got.

I had a year to go until I was old enough to get my A2 licence, I had a couple of pennies saved up towards my test and bike..

I missed having something to tinker away with, and this time it would be in the garage, not the spare bedroom..

I got onto Ebay and had a browse at projects/spares/barn finds and anything else listed at under £500, it didn’t take long to decide that the SV650 was the bike for me, cheap, low, light, and as close as I’d get to a sports bike, great acceleration, and can be restricted to be A2 licence compliant.

Even better than realising what bike I wanted, I found that there were loads of parts for them everywhere, having a common bike is an advantage!

There were also loads of crash damaged ones- this should have been a warning sign!

I found a bike pretty local to me, about an hours drive away, so I quickly bought a cheap bike ramp.

It was a Blue 2002 SV650S, the guy had somehow managed to hit a lamppost, head on. My dad came with me and checked the bike over before I paid for it, happy enough with what I was getting, I handed over the around £300 I won it for, we loaded it onto the tipper, and headed home.

We got home, went to unload the van, and realised that I’d forgot to bring the ramp back with us.. That was the start of it all..

The first challenge was getting it off the tipper, I have the upper body strength of a Chihuahua, so it was my dads job, using a plank of wood combined with luck, balance, and maybe some skill, the bike made it into the garage, then into the garden.

I tried to make it feel loved

The bike needed a lot of love, and I didn’t actually have a plan yet.. this might have been a stupid idea, but I walked around and made a note of what needed replacing

  • Forks- they’re literally snapped
  • Front wheel- also snapped
  • Tank- dent is repairable
  • Levers- easy peasy
  • Headlight- was gonna change it anyway
  • Fairing- didn’t need it
  • Clocks- also something that’d be changed.
  • Exhaust- it was ugly anyway
  • LHS Switch Gear- cheap enough

So, although the list didn’t inspire hope, this was do-able so the Ebay scouring began and so did the strip down.

The parts were easy, picking each item up very cheaply.
The forks were £97.49
The wheel was £45.95
LHS Switch Gear £12.99
The Front Exhaust Pipe £19.99
Levers at £14.99
The headlight at £49.99
Then a KOSO Speedo for £109.99

I decided I’d repair the tank, as the dent wasn’t all that bad, and I couldn’t find a replacement cheap enough.

Building it from the ground up

I hated the silver frame, wheels and swing arm. Being a bit of a rebel, the decision was all black, there would be no other option or compromise so it all came apart, every nut, bolt, bearing, and seat ready for powder coating.

Satin Black was the colour of choice, after discussing it with the company doing it, they recommended not to go for Matt Black (as initially planned) as it will more easily show dirt and oily finger prints, and knowing my lack of cleaning, Satin Black it was.

The total cost for the powder coating came to £280, bringing my current running total to £931.39, it covered the list below, as well as some other little bits I’ve since forgotten

  • Swing Arm
  • Yokes
  • Stand
  • Bars
  • Shock Spring
  • Wheels
  • Footpegs/Brackets/Heel Plates

Essentially, everything that was once silver, was now instead Satin Black, it was time to reassemble, and see if I remembered where everything fitted.

It turns out I didn’t remember, it was apart, together, apart, and together over and over until everything was in the right place- at least I think it was..

Now for the actual design of the bike, I still didn’t have a solid plan, and a bare metal Norton styles Cafe Racer would be way out of budget, so the appearance evolved as I went along.

The tank was repaired and repainted by a family friend, the forks and subframe by myself, now I actually had to make a decision as to what the bike would look like..

I spent what felt like forever looking for inspiration, before deciding that the subframe would have to be re-shaped and a fiber glass cafe racer seat, much like on my CG125 would be the way to go. It was familiar and that way I had some vague sense of familiarity and I could act like I knew what I was doing- but does anyone ever know what they’re doing?

The subframe needed a few alterations to get it to accommodate the seat, There were metal plates welded to the gaps where plastic panels would have previously been, it was cut, and narrowed and started to look like I planned it to.

Next was the crash protection, the state the bike was in when I got it, I knew that it needed something to protect the sticky-out bits when taking an impact, which was pretty likely to happen.

I fitted R&G crash frame sliders, and used these as a basis to mount the indicators, drilling a small hole into each, then wiring in the LED blinkers I had found on ebay for £14.99

I’m sure that the next thing was the exhaust, I wanted a GP styled can, but the majority were astronomically priced compared with what I could afford.

A little bit of searching lead me to a Danmoto GP Slip on can, it looked the part, and I knew it was the right one straight away, £146 later and some Carbon look exhaust wrap, it was on the bike and looked great

It looked mostly like a bike at this point, so it was about time I got to ride it! (private land of course) After my brief spin on it, the next change was Bar end mirrors, picked up off of Ebay for £29.99

Then came the addition of a chain guard, a bit of scrap aluminium bent and cut to the right shapes, did the job as it should, and didn’t look unappealing.

It was functional

The next part was the hardest, finishing off the back end of the bike.. On my CG125, I integrated the tail light into the hump of the Cafe Racer seat, however, with this one being more tapered to a point, it wasn’t really an option.

The solution came in the shape of another metal plate welded onto the subframe, this was a semi-circle welded onto the back of the subframe- painted black, of course! Sealing off the underneath of the seat from the elements, and giving me a place to mount the indicators, tail light, and number plate.

The indicators were very straight forward, they were the same as used in the R&G Crash bars, and were wired straight into the loom of the original ones

The same goes for the tail light, another Ebay bargain at £7.99, it was a small sort of prism shaped LED light, with an integrated number plate and brake light, solving all of the lighting for the back end of the bike, similar to the indicators, it was wired straight into the original loom very easily.

The number plate, being a bit of an idiot, I went for a slightly smaller than legal plate, with some form of rude slogan on the bottom and of course thought I was hilarious.


After all of the above, it was road ready. I was still a few months away from being old enough for my test, but I had my big bike, and I couldn’t wait.

Unfortunately 2 days after passing my MOD 1 test, I was hit off my little CG125, and the bike had to take a back seat until my surgery was done, my cast was off, and I could re-book my MOD 2

MOD 2 eventually all over and done with, it was time for the bikes MOT, the first one it had in a while, being 2 years and 2 weeks to the bay of it’s previous one.

It felt like the most nervous wait of my life, had I build something that was actually road worthy? It got me to the MOT station okay, so I thought..

It absolutely flew it, not a single advisory or comment to be made!

At a little over £1,000 all in, I was pretty pleased with myself, a fully functioning bike, that although was very common, no one else had one like mine.

I dropped it, I ran out of fuel on it, I lost a mirror while on the motorway, the bike went through all sorts, I even threw it down the road at beyond legal speeds, and it only let me down now and then..

I crashed it hard, smashing up my knee in the process, so chopped it up all over again, the bike constantly was evolving to new things, and I loved it

The exhaust was ruined, the mirror smashed, but they were minor inconveniences, I had a new idea to carry out, shortening the seat and subframe on this now Franken-Bike even further, I wanted a louder exhaust and to take the bike to further extremes

The number plate positioned at an even more illegal angle, I added braided lines, and a rear wheel hugger, with winter fast approaching I didn’t fancy slinging mud up my back any more.

Spot the number plate..

The well known regulator/rectifier fault became a prevalent issue, no matter how fast I could replace them, it would go again, over and over I then found some damage on the loom, that seemed to be the cause of the problem, but it would need an entire wiring loom, as what was there wasn’t salvageable.

Having ridden it for just over a year, I decided it was time to part ways, that, and the fact my Hornet was now finished, and ready to ride.

I popped it up for sale on Gumtree with what I thought was a reasonable price of £1,700 given the age and current condition, as well as being a low mileage bike that was a complete one off.

It was snapped up within 3 days of listing it for sale, at £1,500 it was off to London to be someone else’s first big bike, his friend even rode it home in the rain for him, from South Wales to London- rather him than me.

It was a tough moment letting it go, being the first bike I’ve owned that I’ve sold, but I had a bigger and better bike, it was onwards and upwards from here.

A few month later on I saw it pop up again for sale on Facebook, he didn’t pass his test, the MOT ran out, and he lost interest. It was up for £1,200 as a non runner and to this day still doesn’t have an MOT and is declared Sorn somewhere..

I think if I came across it again, I’d likely buy it back and hoard it with my 125, it was a great bike and a great learning experience, with regards to building and riding it.

Feel free to let me know what you think in the comment box below..

Where am I located?

Cardiff, Wales, UK