Bondo tries out Suzuki’s latest makeover to their ‘M’ line of crusiers – the M50. Have Suzuki made a cruiser that even Bondo can enjoy?
When did it all go so horribly wrong? Used to be that 500cc was a big motorcycle, “real men” rode 650cc twins and anyone aboard a 750 Norton or Royal Enfield was so tough, they could slam a revolving door.
Now — and we’re talking the cruiser market here — a 750 cc is entry level, 1,300 cc is “mid-sized” and some 1,800 cc behemoths are so big, they have their own gravitational field and require tugboats to get into a parking space.
The North American mantra might be “bigger is better,” but I’ve always thought the 1,300 cc variations were about the upper limit if you wanted a nice motorcycle to ride. They’re significantly lighter than the bigger behemoths, easier to handle and don’t give away much in the power department to boot.
But I’ll go one step further – who even needs a 1300? If Suzuki’s revamped 805 cc M50 isn’t the best cruiser I’ve ever ridden, it’s in the top two. And at $9,499, it’s a bargoon to boot.
The M50 (50 cubic inches, 805 cc to you and me) closely resembles one of their M109s (1,783 cc) that was put in the dryer on high heat – it’s slightly smaller physically, but tips the scales at 269 kg (593 lbs) ready to go.
That’s a full 78 kilos (152 lbs) less than the M109, and that missing avoirdupois is immediately noticeable as soon as you lever the bike off the sidestand.
It’s powered by a 45-degree, V-twin motor with liquid cooling (with faux fins and rad located between the frames front down-tubes), SOHC, four valves per cylinder and Suzuki’s Dual Throttle Valve fuel injection – which is very linear and progressive with none of the abruptness I noticed on the first-year M109.
It’s a willing, free revving engine and gathers speed quickly and effortlessly with lots of torque available low in the rev range. I imagine the bigger bike would outrun it eventually but in day-to-day use, you’ll rarely want for more.
Another benefit of a smaller engine is less visits to the gas pump. The M50 returns fairly impressive consumption figures in the 5.0 to 5.6L/100 km range, which is 50 to 55 miles per Imperial gallon. The 15.5 liter fuel tank means an acceptable cruising range of almost 300 km before having to top up.
The five-speed tranny is pure Suzuki – light shifting action with a short, crisp throw. The ratios seem well matched to the motor with fifth being a bit of an overdrive for effortless cruising on the freeway.
Up to 110 km/h, the M50 was happy but at 120 and up, it seemed a bit busy and strained and the wind starts beating you up. Final drive is by clean, efficient shaft.
But cruisers are all about looks and the M50 delivers with excellent fit and finish, and styling that’s the same clean, refreshing swoopiness found on the M109.
Thankfully, Suzuki has moved on from the big tired, fat fendered look. I really like the nacelle over the headlight – it’s different from everyone else and even provides a bit of wind deflection on the highway.
The pillion seat, when mounted, stands out like a rat on a cheesecake so order the optional rear cowl to really clean up the M50’s profile. And tell your better half get their own bike.
The striking orange sunburst paintwork is complimented by first-rate chrome and man, there’s lots of it. Main engine cases, air cleaner cover, twin staggered pipes, plus assorted bits and pieces scattered around the motorcycle.
The main instrument cluster is integrated within the headlight cowl and sits above the triple clamps, which is where it should be. You get a speedometer, fuel gauge, clock and twin tripmeters while the fuel tank is home for the bank of warning lights for turn signal indicators, neutral, fuel injection and high beam.
SPRUNG LIKE A HORSE
The M50 is a very easy motorcycle to ride – the well-padded seat is a reasonable 700 mm (27.6 inches) from terra firma, the bars have a reasonable pullback and thankfully, the pegs aren’t too far forward. Clutch and throttle are both silky smooth for ease of operation.
The single 300 mm front disc squeezed by a two piston caliper does a pretty good job of slowing Suzuki plus two hundred and “some” pounds of rider. Feel at the lever is above average with reasonable feedback.
The rear drum is typically mushy and vague feeling. One front disc not only means less unsprung weight for better handling, it’s less rotational mass, which is a factor in how well the M50 steers.
Riding along on the M50, you’re accompanied by a pleasant sound from the twin staggered pipes – not too throaty and definitely not loud. It just hovers there on the edge of your awareness, reminding you that you’re aboard a piece of machinery, not astride a refrigerator.
It ain’t no roadracer but the M50 is one sweet handling cruiser. The 130/90-16 front and 170/80-15 rear are well matched to the chassis. A gargantuan donut on the rear may look cool at the local eatery, but all that rubber just makes the bike reluctant to steer.
Around town, the M50 feels exceedingly nimble and banks into corners with ease. On winding roads, turn-in is surprisingly good and the eager motor delivers surprising bursts of torque for strong exits. Yes, the peg feelers will scrape when really hanging it out but most cruiser riders will never get that far – I only touched ‘em down once or twice myself.
Finally, a cruiser with reasonable suspension! The beefy 41 mm inverted for is slightly oversprung and underdamped while the single rear shock rates above most other cruisers I’ve ridden, never mind the ones in this price range.
Yes, a long stretch of choppy pavement with a side order of severe bumps will usually end with, “he then turned the gun on himself,” but I was pleasantly surprised at how much better it is than most other mid-displacement cruisers.
The mirrors give a clean, vibration-free view of what’s behind and all controls (including the switchgear) are butter-smooth and exude the feeling of quality.
From the cockpit, the cables and wiring from the controls to the headlight are exposed but are tied together nicely with clips and unobtrusive cable ties.
IN THE TOP TWO
Cruiser riders who won’t be carrying a passenger would be well advised to investigate the M50. It punches above its weight class with a great engine, superior handling and is reasonably comfortable. Plus, the stunning looks will stand out from the crowd of Harley wannabes.
Nobody needs more than the M50. It’s not only the best middleweight/small cruiser I’ve ridden; it’s one of the best of any displacement. It’s simply the best balanced.
|Bike||Suzuki M50 Boulevard|
|Engine type||Four-stroke sohc V-twin, liquid-cooled|
|Power (crank)*||56 hp @ 6,000 rpm|
|Torque*||50.8 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm|
|Tank Capacity||15.5 litres|
|Carburetion||Electronic Fuel Injection|
|Final drive||Five speed, shaft drive|
|Brakes, front||Single 300 mm disc with dual-piston caliper|
|Brakes, rear||180 mm drum|
|Seat height||700 mm (27.6″)|
|Wheelbase||1,655 mm (65.2″)|
|Wet weight*||269 kg (593 lb)|
|Warranty||12 months, unlimited kilometers|