2013 Suzuki Boulevard C90T B.O.S.S. Motorcycle Test
Filling up the new Suzuki Boulevard C90T B.O.S.S. at the Valero gas station in godforsaken Lake Los Angeles, a gentleman one row over looks across and says, “Ohhhh, that’s a nice bike.”
I nod with the obligatory and humble, “Thanks.” He waits a beat and asks, “What is it?” I tell him that it’s a Suzuki Boulevard B.O.S.S. and a confused look falls over his face. “A Suzuki?” he replies, almost as if he thinks I’m pulling his leg. I reassure him that it is, indeed, a 2013 Suzuki, and the admirer is satisfied.
That, in a nutshell, is an ongoing problem that Suzuki has had with its Boulevard line. While the flagship M109R may strike a chord with many, not everyone immediately attaches it to Suzuki. Some brand building is in order for the Boulevard line, and with the new Suzuki Motor of America in place, the B.O.S.S. is stepping up and doing his part.
There is no question that the new B.O.S.S.— which stands for Blacked Out Suzuki Special — is an attention grabber. Parked in front of the nearby Los Chiles Mexican Restaurant, which was my destination for lunch, a group of ladies gave the matte-and-shiny black B.O.S.S. the once over twice before coming in to eat. This is a recurring theme for the B.O.S.S., and it is an appealing one. The women seemed disappointed when they saw me inside, however, though there is not much Suzuki can do about that.
Riding the B.O.S.S. is an interesting experience in itself. Just as Suzuki is a non-traditional choice in the cruiser world, Suzuki made some unexpected decisions when designing the newest C90T.
The liquid-cooled SOHC, 4vpc, 54-degree V-twin puts out power in a way that is quite unorthodox for a cruiser. Although it is slightly undersquare, the C90T is a revver. There is torque down low, with the peak of nearly 97 ft/lbs coming at 2600 rpm, yet the motor does not give you that sense when you’re in the soft, cupped saddle.
Despite the Suzuki Dual Throttle Valve body, which we have always liked in the past, the C90T runs a bit rough if you twist the throttle at lower rpm.
Instead, the 1462cc motor is smoother at the power peak of nearly 78 horses when turning 4800 rpm. There is a long overrev avail- able until the soft rev limiter kicks in (there is no tachometer), though the power does slowly tail off at higher engine speed.
Gearing is equally unusual, with Suzuki running high ratios through the five-speed transmission and shaft drive. Can you believe 80 mph in 2nd gear? I couldn’t either. As often as I rode the B.O.S.S., I still found myself accelerating onto the highway and forgetting to shift up past 3rd, even at 65 mph; the Suzuki motor runs so smooth at high-rpm, you don’t feel the need to keep upshifting.
Fortunately, there is a gear indicator on the half-retro/half-modern tank- mounted dash. I’d note that I was in 3rd and shift the excellent transmission up a gear. Unless you are on a truly wide-open road, you may not want to access 5th, which is a true overdrive and not very usable until you’re pushing past the speed limit. Given room, the C90T will easily top 100 mph, and the chassis is a willing participant thanks to solid straight-line stability.
In the mountains and canyons, the handling of the B.O.S.S. is exception- ally good in fast sweepers. Just lean your body in a bit and the chassis and tires do the rest. Bridgestone Exedras are a known quantity and the 200 rear and 130 front match the C90T’s intentions well.
The B.O.S.S. shines as you swoop through the turns at a good clip. The windshield is nice and wide, keep- ing the wind off your body, and it is also short, so you can enjoy the view unobstructed.
Braking at speed is just adequate. Pushing around 800 pounds (claimed curb) plus the rider, a single front disc feels a bit meager. The rear brake is decent, though it requires a lot of pres- sure to get working.
When the road conditions get a bit tighter, however, the B.O.S.S.’s poise disappears. Suzuki has a bad habit of putting spaghetti-thin bars on their big cruisers, and the C90T is no exception. To make matters worse, the bars are rubber-mounted, resulting in uncomfortably squishy handling on roads where you have to muscle the front end into corners.
I was never able to come to terms with the B.O.S.S. in the tight stuff. The front end wanders and occasionally feels like it is going to break loose. Try as I might, I couldn’t get the confidence to touch down the floorboards, though part of that is due to plentiful cornering clearance.
In town, on freeways and boulevards, the spongy front-end is acceptable, as it acts as secondary suspension. Of course, due to its weight, you won’t be throwing the B.O.S.S. around much in urban settings. Plus, the bars are wide, which further restricts snaking through four-wheeled competition.
For flat-out touring across the desert or plains, the B.O.S.S. is fantastic. The ergonomics are just right and the bags are voluminous (even if the top opening is restricted to facilitate waterproofing).
As mentioned, the windshield cuts down on fatigue and gives you a clear view for sightseeing. The seat is comfortable for hundreds of miles a day, and the floorboards are designed in such a way that you can move your feet back and drop your heels for knee and ankle comfort on long non-stop stints.
Suzuki has to play catch-up in the cruiser market. The American and Euro brands have staked out their territory, and the three other Japanese marques have continued to establish recognizable identities.
Trading on GSX-R technology is a good thing for Suzuki, and the Boulevard C90T B.O.S.S. is something of a class hot-rod. Add its bad-boy styling and we can see that Suzuki Motor of America is on the right track, even if they need a little time to get all aspects of their cruisers up to speed.
- Helmet: Bell Rogue
- Eyewear: Wiley X Jake
- Jacket: Pokerun 3-in-1 Mesh
- Gloves: River Road Taos
- Jeans: Icon Strongarm 2
- Boots: Tour Master Vintage 2.0 Road
This story is featured in the July/August 2013 issue of Ultimate MotorCycling magazine — available on newsstands and good bookstores everywhere. The issue is also available free to readers on Apple Newsstand (for iOS devices) and Google Play (Android). To subscribe to the print edition, please visit our Subscriber Services page.