Athletic Attitude

Nouveau environmentalism and the rising price of gas may finally bring an end to the chronic elephantiasis of the SUV, but the trend of motorcycle gigantism continues to escalate. The “size matters” movement may be most pronounced in the power cruiser market. This is, after all, the arena in which Honda’s VTX1800—its top gun übercruiser—boasts the largest pistons of any Honda car or motorcycle. Suzuki’s empirically obsessed engineers, not to be left behind in matters of ginormity, have upped the ante by claiming that the pistons in their new Boulevard M109R are the largest of any production car or motorcycle on earth.

If power cruiser merit were measured (with typical masculine simplicity) by piston diameter alone, the new Suzuki would have the battle for two-wheeled supremacy in the bag. However, velocity prone cruising enthusiasts demand more than the torquey thump of a V-twin. There is a certain je ne sais quoi to the successful power cruiser formula, and the winning combination usually involves the alchemy, if you will, of two seemingly contradictory elements: laid back style and take-no-prisoners speed.

Helmet: AGV TiTech
Eyewear: Lucky Brand
Jacket: Vanson Leathers Mark 2 Cobra
Jeans: Earl Jeans
Boots: Diesel Hest. (Click image to enlarge)

If the Boulevard M109R were a painting, it would be rendered with thick, loud strokes. Thick, because the bike is an expansive series of lazy curves, and loud, because this motorcycle’s soundscape is as demonstrative of its personality as is its bodywork. The V-twin’s gurgle is deep, snarling, and almost Harley-like at lower rpm, creating an aural signifier of the bike’s appetite for speed. The sound is the product of exhaustive research at Japan’s Sekkei University, and is consistent with the bike’s unapologetic scale and road presence.

Styling, in contrast to the syncopated exhaust note, flows smoothly. If the engine screams “knife-toting thug”, the M109R’s visual message is closer to “loping boulevardier”. Apart from a nacelle that shrouds the headlight in a postmodern, Honda Rune-like swoop, the bike exhibits classic cruiser visual vocabulary. The nacelle sets a bold tone at the head of the bike, suggesting weight and substance, and its sense of flushness is carried through in the rounded edges of the radiator shroud. In contrast to those touches, the parts aft of the rider’s knees are Cruiser 101: prominently displayed V-twin, long, swooping stacked chrome exhaust pipes, and steroidal proportions that disdain the spirit of efficiency traditionally associated with Japanese design.

And while the M109R’s bulk makes it spatially on par with Joe Sixpack varieties of American cruisers, the powerplant’s tuning is inspired by its track-ready stablemate, the GSX-R1000. Borrowing Gixxer components, including fuel injection hardware and high-strength connecting rods, the 1783cc engine boasts tree stump pulling torque, as well as an impressive will to reach the higher edges of the powerband. Engine flexibility is perhaps the bike’s most entertaining feature, and its 118 ft lbs of torque provides tremendous pull from low engine speeds, peaking at a relatively lazy 3,200 rpm. Maximum horsepower arrives at 6,200 rpm, reaching the final destination of 7,500 rpm with free-spinning eagerness, a decidedly different sensation than the Honda’s low-strung engine. The 5-speed transmission works well with the robust Suzuki twin, offering a relatively long first gear ratio that rewards the rider with a proportionately shorter second gear. First gear is fast and fun, but kicking into second after wringing out first is positively addictive, providing a whoosh of acceleration that is one of the brightest highlights of the M109R’s repertoire. That oomph is laid down via specifically constructed Dunlop rubber that features wide 240mm tread. The tire’s curvature was designed to provide predictable handling and a sufficient contact patch, without making the bike feel excessively wide or unwieldy.

Riding the M109R does feel solid and stable, and the bike’s relatively low center of gravity aids maneuverability, especially considering its dry weight of 694 pounds. Though the big Boulevard is not nearly as satisfying around a bend as it is in a straightaway, inverted forks assist in the battle against flabby canyon performance, and a lightweight, cast aluminum swingarm along with a preload-adjustable shock fight the good performance fight. In spite of its attempts at athleticism through taut suspension tuning, the footpegs easily scrape. The ride is biased toward smoothness, providing road feedback that is supple, not busy or jarring. As smooth as it is, the M109R never feels disconnected from the road; rather, it simply takes a bit of thoughtfulness when contemplating carving a line through twisty sections, as with any bike of cruiser geometry.

In keeping with the performance cruiser attitude, front brakes are radially mounted four-piston calipers (as on the GSX-R), and the rear brakes incor-porate a two-piston system. The brakes are not linked, and rely on the rider to bias them as necessary for efficiency. Brake feel is responsive for a bike of its heft, and the Boulevard comes to a stop almost as authoritatively as it accelerates off the line.
Managing the M109R involves relaxed ergonomics, with forward-stretched footpegs and a large, comfortable saddle that should appeal to long distance riders. The handlebars require a bit of an arm stretch, though the expansive dimensions of the bike suggest that the stretch is nominal compared to the bike’s overall length of more than eight feet. The view from behind the handlebars is uncomplicated, with a digital tachometer positioned above the bars, and an analog speedometer and digital fuel gauge rest below on the gas tank. Revs are easy to read at a glance, though speedometer checks require an extra moment due to the gauge’s relatively low position.

The streamlined arch of the rear fender is topped with a detachable cover and passenger seat, should the rider trade solitude for company. Whether or not one chooses a companion for interstate hopping, the riding experience at highway speeds is pleasantly shielded from turbulent airflow, thanks to the bike’s low seating position coupled with the aero-dynamic aid of the headlight housing. (Click image to enlarge)

As tempting as it is to push the M109R into triple digit speeds, the bike’s low speed duties are performed with equal commitment. And therein lies the attractive duality of the Suzuki Boulevard M109R: it is a bike whose scale and proportion provide magnetic curb appeal, while its engine offers the power and flexibility to tap reserves of speed when desired—effectively satisfying both aspects of the power cruiser paradigm. Low, loud, and fast, this Suzuki belongs on its namesake urban thoroughfare as much as it does the open highway. Oozing cool attitude alongside restrained athleticism, the personality of the M109R can be chosen with a simple twist of the throttle.


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