Test Ride: Suzuki Boulevard M109R

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Words: Greg Vosper Photos: Richard Seck

“Bigger is better” is the common mantra in the world of cruisers in recent years, with monster engines as big as 2,000 cc in the V-twin category and even larger in triples (2,300 cc for Triumph’s outré Rocket III). But if you’re interested in actually riding the beasts rather than just making noise, feasting on the bling factor or showing off at Timmy’s, there have also been notable improvements in handling, brakes, and ergonomics during the same period.

Case in point – at 1,783 cc (or 109 cubic inches, hence the M109 moniker), Suzuki’s new Boulevard M109R certainly has a pretty big motor, even though it’s not the biggest V-twin out there.

Still, the 109 is still a bloody big motorcycle, and I have to wonder if Suzuki’s engineers have a “mega” function on their calculators to provide the super-sized equivalent of a MacDonald’s pig-out. It’s more than eight feet long from stem to stern and more than three feet wide across the bars. It also weighs in at 316 kg (695 lb) dry, so don’t drop it at the intersection, dude, or unless you’re super-sized yourself you’ll be looking for help.

Thankfully that 109 cubic inches of motor doesn’t disappoint. Grabbing a handful of throttle and lighting up a colossal 240-section rear tire off the line to wheelie across an intersection isn’t part of your typical 316 kg cruiser repertoire, but the 109 will do it – along with a decent exhaust bark to boot.

Pipes bark.

Suzuki claims 127 hp at the crank at 6,200 rpm and more than 90 ft-lb of torque from a lowly 2,500 rpm. And that power delivery is smooth, strong, and linear from idle all the way up to the 7,500 rpm red line (a rev limiter cuts in right about there, and the high beam light comes on to warm you … just as you do a face-plant into the bars – it hits that hard).

The only caveat here is a bit of a hiccup just off idle, unusual for a Suzuki EFI system. We’d like to think that a smoother transition from closed throttle will be dialed in pretty quickly as development proceeds, as it’s the only behavioural flaw in an excellent engine.

To keep things compact, it uses a semi-dry sump design as well as an unusual two-stage chain-driven camshaft to allow more compact cylinder heads, which are crowded with four valves and two spark plugs each. Short-skirt forged aluminum pistons (yeah baby! I love short skirts), a fuel injection system based on the GSX-R twin-butterfly throttle bodies and ECU, and low-friction chrome nitride piston rings are all straight out of the high-performance books.

The motor was well-liked.

Add in six rubber engine mounts, a balance shaft, and offset crank pins to help smooth out the power pulses, plus an exhaust valve to further spread the power and Suzuki’s Pulse-AIR system to reduce emissions, and you have a very sophisticated engine indeed.

LOOK THE PART

Another big way the 109 differs from many current big cruisers is its looks – not retro, not standard cruiser-ish, perhaps “cartoonish drag-bike techno” catches the idea. Very long, very low, with a little headlight fairing and a road racer-ish tail, it looks like nothing else out there. The howitzer-sized twin mufflers (the end of a 2-1-2 system) further accentuate the dramatic look from the right, while the left side is highlighted by the nearly-solid rear wheel.

It’s definitely unique.

However, although some will insist that it’s an ugly beast with its funky trapezoidal headlight and art deco shroud and abundant fake plastic chrome bits and pieces, the fact remains that people will stop and they will look. What Suzuki seems to have done with the 109 is to wildly accentuate and elaborate many of the things that catch a cruiser’s (or wannabe cruiser’s) eye.

On the highway, every car that pulls up beside you with any occupant even remotely interested in motorcycles slows to take a look. Kids in minivans have their faces plastered to the glass to ogle it. Mothers smile, girls faint, little boys pee their pants, babies cry, and dogs howl.

Okay, we don’t really know that anybody peed their pants. But people do stop and they do look and they are impressed. They also disappear in your rearview mirror as soon as you think about it. Mission accomplished. Whether you love cruisers or hate them, you cannot deny that the M109R commands attention.

HOT TO TROT

Front suspension and brakes are excellent. The same cannot be said about the rear though.

Despite its obvious physical heft and dimensions, once it’s off the stand it doesn’t really feel all that monstrous to ride, no doubt partly due to the spacious and comfortable riding position. With plenty of room to stretch out and a big torquey engine that can idle away from stop lights, the physical workload isn’t at all bad.

The forward foot position is relaxed and quite comfortable around town if your legs are long enough to reach (dwarfs may have a problem), while the flat, elegantly-tapered drag-style handlebar also helps to maintain the proportioned appearance of the bike and the comfort of the rider. The fairly low seat height of 701 mm (27.6 in) helps make the 109 quite easy to ride in stop and go conditions, with the above-noted exception of the on/off character of the throttle at very small throttle openings.

The clutch is not overly heavy for such a powerful engine and about the only ill effect of an abnormally long stint in traffic seemed to be copious amounts of heat wafting back at the rider from the powerful fan, and, only once, a cough and sputter from the engine followed by a stall. The engine did start immediately with the push of the starter button and we’re guessing that the engine was still a little tight due to its low mileage.

Fat is as fat does.

Pouring on the gas produces a nice bark from the exhaust and an almost effortless transition from legal to er, other speeds. There’s a slight tendency to understeer however, almost certainly due to the massive 240/40-18 Dunlop rear tire. Radial-mounted four-piston GSX-R brakes do a fine job of stopping the big machine from illegal – that is, we mean highway speeds.

A new rider should be warned to use care when downshifting, especially in wet weather, since the big engine exhibits considerable braking and it is quite easy to break traction despite the massive footprint of the tire.

WICKING IT UP

The riding position isn’t so great on the highway, although it’s no worse than most cruisers (we still believe that hanging your feet out in front is a position better reserved for late-night television in your favorite easy chair than for high-speed bug blocking).

Rides at highway speeds of more than a few hours will probably result in frequent rest stops and the realization that, yes Virginia, your feet really should help hold you on a motorcycle. In other words, bearing the brunt of a continuous 120 km/h wind blast will take its toll on your lower back.

Rear looks cool but lacks suspension travel.

Also, the usual ground clearance issues related to the very long and low build appear pretty quickly. At a relaxed pace you’re fine, but try to ride even moderately briskly on a curvy road and your heels are quickly into the tarmac, followed almost at once by grinding pegs and harder bits if you don’t take the hint.

The long wheelbase and better-than-cruiser-average Kayaba suspension are a big help here, as the bike is as stable as a train during such antics. It’s also unaffected by cross winds and passing trucks while still feeling fairly precise and planted in most smooth road conditions – just don’t try pushing it any farther than those early warnings.

Be careful on the rough bits as well, since that low stance leaves little room for suspension movement, so the springing is pretty stiff toward the end of its limited travel, especially at the rear. After a slightly rough and high speed stretch of pavement, Editor ‘Arris commented that he felt as if he had been punched by an angry English barman, so harsh he found the ride.

LCD bar for a tach is trés cool.

While trying to soften it up, we found that the rear suspension was set at the highest preload setting and no suitable wrench could be found in the tool kit. (By the way, there is lots of room for improvement in OEM Japanese tool kits.) Discovering this, his editorship returned the M109R back to me, although I must confess, the ride did not seem nearly as harsh as the expletives had suggested.

A hydraulic remote adjuster would be nice for those with aging backs. Not to worry though, since it’s highly probable that just about the same time that your back muscles are crying for help, you’ll be looking for a fuel stop anyway. The 109’s big-looking teardrop tank has a pretty decent capacity of 19.1 liters, but the engine is a thirsty devil if you use it as intended, and in such times you can expect the yellow fuel warning light in the 200 km area.

The fuel gauge is one of those strictly non-linear guys, too (i.e., it’s blissfully assuring you that there’s lots of fuel, then it suddenly madly plummets), so it’s not a bad idea to keep an eye on the distance traveled via the tripmeter.

Instrumentation is pretty complete for a cruiser, with a speedometer, LCD bar-style tachometer, fuel gauge, tripmeter, clock, and a row of Einstein lights. There’s also a four-way hazard light switch, and a quick-flash high-beam passing switch on the left handlebar to warn other motorists of the speed trap that you just blew through.

TTFT

The 109 is definitely right up there in the power stakes. While it probably won’t out-drag a Rocket III, about the only V-twins we can imagine staying with it are Yamaha’s Warrior or possibly H-D’s V-Rod – quick company indeed.

Combine this with excellent stopping and handling ability (all things considered), a definite do-it-my-own-way bling factor, and a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $17,999.00, the M109R seems to have hit the bulls-eye for the big modern demographic of the middle-aged family guy with a few extra bucks in his pocket and a desire to do the trendy thing and go cruisin’.

 


SPECIFICATIONS

Bike

Suzuki Boulevard M109R

MSL

$17,999.00

Displacement

1783 cc (108.8 ci)

Engine type

Liquid-cooled V-twin

Carburetion

Electronic fuel-injection

Final drive

Five speed, Shaft drive

Tires, front

Dunlop Sportmax D221 130/70R18

Tires, rear

Dunlop Sportmax D221 240/40R18

Brakes, front

Dual 310 mm rotors, Tokiko four-piston radial-mount calipers

Brakes, rear

275 mm rotor, Tokiko twin-piston caliper

Seat height

701 mm (27.6 in)

Wheelbase

1,714.5 mm (67.5 in)

Dry weight

315.9 kg (695 lb) (claimed)

Colours

Silver, black, violet blue

Warranty

One year, unlimited mileage

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