The Savage/S40 is a good bike, in theory, as evidenced by being a fairly popular bike with some 30+ years of production. However, the one I briefly had, went belly up after just a couple weeks. It was only eight years old (2009 model, and this was late 2017) with fewer than 10,000 miles on the clock, so it wasn’t exactly an ancient abused relic. Granted, this early death is an n=1 anecdote, so I’ll give Suzuki’s engineering a bit of a pass in regards to the engine reliability, since it’s essentially the same engine they use in their bombproof DR650 dual sport, but unfortunately, there isn’t a whole lot else to love about the bike, either.
What is likable, though? It has a surprisingly plush ride thanks to good suspension, and the big 650cc single is expectedly torquey. It’s also incredibly light, with a wet weight around 380 lbs. Light weight combined with a low 28″ seat height yields a bike that won’t be intimidating for new riders, smaller riders, or anyone looking for a low, lightweight motorcycle that puts few demands on the rider. It’s easy to ride, gets great gas mileage (my experience was in the 55-60 mpg range), and rounds out what has the potential to be a solid commuter.
It just turned out to be the wrong bike for me. At 6’ tall and generally weigh around 250 lbs., I think a lot of the problem was that it was just too small. The footpegs weren’t positioned well, and were an odd chunky square shape that was difficult to get my feet on. Despite adjusting them constantly, I could never get the position of the shifter or brake levers dialed in. I found the handlebars to be positioned too closely, and had to turn the handlebar risers around to put some more space between my body and the bars, and even that wasn’t enough. Despite it’s light weight and short wheelbase of 58″ (a mere 1/10 of an inch longer than my athletically-endowed Z900RS), it’s not as flickable and maneuverable as you’d expect. The weird handlebar and footpeg position make it challenging to ride in a spirited manner.
Ultimately, I think the S40 comes across as a price-point stop-gap motorcycle. It’s a hodgepodge Frankenstein’s monster of a motorcycle that doesn’t quite come together as a cohesive whole. I think if you’re looking for a basic inexpensive motorcycle with air-cooled retro charm, you can do much better to get your hands on a Royal Enfield or virtually any other vintage air-cooled Japanese bike.
With some mods, it could make for a cool urban brawler bobber or café racer, but in its stock form, it’s pretty lackluster.