Great Eights: Suzuki Boulevard C50T and M50 Motorcycle Tests | Motorcycle Cruiser

Great Eights: Suzuki Boulevard C50T and M50 Motorcycle Tests

Those ubiquitous 800cc V-twin cruiser motorcycles are the best-selling class in motorcycling, and Suzuki does them better than anyone. With the launch of its Boulevard family and the introductions of the new C50T and M50, Suzuki has raised the bar—twic

The riding positions fit all our testers, too, and the C50's floorboards give additional flexibility. The C50's bar is a bit wider, but the windshield eliminates wind pressure. There's more wind pressure on the M50 despite its lower, narrower bar. Both bars offered a natural, comfortable riding position for all our testers.

Suzuki invented 800cc cruiser V-twins in the early 1990s when it bumped its Intruder 750 to 805cc. And Suzuki has maintained a staunch commitment to this V-twin displacement category. While other manufacturers have dropped in and out of the class that has recently become the fastest-selling niche in motorcycling or simply left tired models to stagnate, Suzuki has consistently expanded and updated its 800cc offerings. In 1997, it added the Marauder 800, and a few years later the Volusia joined the lineup.

For '05, Suzuki has relaunched its cruisers under the Boulevard banner. Its existing 800s were given facelifts as well as new designations, with the displacement in cubic inches and a letter specifying style. The slim, chopperish Intruder-style 800s thus become the S50. The classically styled Volusia morphs into the C50, and the all-new M50 replaces the Marauder. There is also a new fourth model, the C50T, which adds touring accoutrements to the C50. The labels are a bit lame; the motorcycles are anything but.

The Volusia has been our favorite 800 the last two times we compared 800s, so we were curious about how the two new models, the M50 and C50T&#151both of which are based on it&#151work. Although the two motorcycles look quite different from each other, they share many components, including a single-shock frame and drivetrain. They also have the same 4.1-gallon fuel tank, same-size wheels and tires and staggered exhaust systems with dual slash-cut mufflers.

There are minor differences in the engine. The newer M50 has slightly different rocker-arm shafts, which necessitate different breather covers, which in turn require small cylinder-head changes. It also uses split crankshaft bearings that slightly change the crankcase, which is painted black. The two bikes have different airboxes, and the M50 has a smaller radiator that nonetheless cools a bit better because of additional finning on the core. The airboxes are a cosmetic touch we are surprised more manufacturers haven't used to distinguish different models using the same engine.

Unlike larger cruisers, the 800 class is fairly price-sensitive, so manufacturers tend to be a bit stingy about including features and technology. That makes it somewhat surprising that Suzuki included fuel injection on all its 800 twins except the S50. Similar to the system used in GSX-R sportbikes, the EFI employs the Suzuki Dual Throttle Valve system (the SDTV acronym makes it sound like a home-entertainment system, though) to maintain intake velocity for crisp throttle response and a 32-bit ECM for precise control of ignition timing and fuel injection. The change to EFI from the Volusia's carburetion sacrifices 0.4 gallons of fuel capacity and doubtlessly contributes to the C50's $200 additional MSRP compared to the Volusia.

However, the transition from Marauder 800 to M50 involved much more than adding sophisticated induction technology. The displacement and basic design of the liquid-cooled 45-degree SOHC eight-valve 805cc V-twin engine are the same, but the chassis is completely different from the Marauder's. It also replaces the Marauder's messy chain final drive with a quiet, reliable, low-maintenance shaft like the rest of Suzuki's 50s. The M50 is completely restyled. Its wheels and tires are the same sizes as the C50's, but it gets black-painted cast wheels instead of the wire-spokes on the C50 and C50T. The bobtail-style rear fender makes it look longer and fuller. The front end is all its own, with an inverted 41mm fork straddling an abbreviated fender and a brake disc that's a different style but the same size as the C50's. Atop the fork, a big speedo crowns a low-rise bar on pullback risers. The warning lights nestle in a chrome housing on the tank.

Our other test subject, the C50T, expands on the basic C50 with a height-adjustable cruiser-style windshield, full-sized leather-textured saddlebags with box-type lids, a large pivoting passenger backrest and studs on the spacious saddle, backrest pad and saddlebags. Also new this year are rider floorboards with heel-toe shifting, unique in the class. It has a white-faced tank-top speedo and gets whitewall tires.Some might think loading up an 800cc twin with touring gear will produce a doggy, cramped parody of a traveling bike, but that definitely isn't the case here. The 805cc Suzuki makes plenty of power and is roomier than some bigger bikes. You have to rev it a bit more than larger V-twins, but even with a passenger and luggage, the C50T has lots of motivation out on the highway. You'll want to downshift once or twice to get by that truck laboring up a hill quickly, but if you are willing to use some rpm, the C50T has enough power to perform out on wide-open fast-moving interstates. It still has performance in reserve at 80 mph with a passenger. With almost 30 fewer pounds to propel and the same engine under the tank, the M50 is a bit quicker to accelerate, making it zippier around town. The engines are torquey by 800-class standards, so you don't have to shift frequently unless you are in a hurry.

Fuel injection enables both bikes to start readily (there are no choke levers, just an automatic fast idle for cold starts). Throttle response is crisp at all speeds with no flat spots. We also got respectable mileage, topping 50 mpg on the open road. With the EFI, there is no reserve system, just warning lights that signal when you are working on your last gallon or so. There were no complaints about the rest of the drivetrain, which offers a smooth clutch with a light pull, sure shifts and little lash or shaft jacking.

The engine is also respectably smooth. Suzuki offsets its 800s' crankpins by 45 degrees, which in conjunction with the 45-degree V-angle gives it vibration characteristics similar to a 90-degree V-twin, the smoothest V-twin configuration. This doesn't provide the classic cadence of a 45-degree V-twin, but it makes for a vibe-free engine without the use of power-sucking counterbalancers. However, at highway speeds there was some vibration in the C50T's handlebar, which we believe was caused by windshield buffeting. It wasn't intense enough to fatigue us, but our M50 had no comparable buzz.

When you get out on the highway headed for the next horizon, the C50T coddles you. With a wheelbase longer than any 800's except the Triumph Bonneville America (the same 65.2 inches) and any 1100 or 1200 cruiser's and many big twins', the C50s and M50 have plenty of room for a rider and passenger. The saddles, especially the C50/C50T's wider, flatter seat, provide room to squirm and adjust your position, but we found that wasn't necessary for a couple of hours on the M50 and even longer on the C50T because the saddles were so comfortably shaped and padded. Bigger riders wished for slightly firmer padding on the C50T but still gave its shape high marks.

The windshield is a good-looking, traditional design that provides excellent wind protection except at the bottom, where some wind tumbles under it. Your legs aren't well-protected. The top of the windshield is low enough that our 5-foot-8 rider could comfortably see the road over the top of it, something we feel is critical. Although it substantially reduces wind noise, making the bike quieter overall than C50 without the shield, the windshield does reflect a bit of engine noise, though the changes to the M50's valve train are supposed to make it slightly quieter anyway.

Because the 805cc Boulevard motorcycles are so roomy and have such good power, the C50s and the M50 are the best 800s for carrying passengers and are perhaps the only 800s that make a reasonable ride for carrying a full-sized adult passenger over long distances. The backrest made the T popular with passengers, who liked the pad's width and the way it swiveled to fit the angle of their backs as the sat on the bike. They also commented positively on the saddle's roominess. However, passengers with large feet said the bags got in the way, making it hard to keep their feet on the pegs. (We have heard that you can swap the pegs to make more room.)

Although the C50T's leather saddlebags aren't weatherproof because their tops don't seal tightly enough to keep out weather, they are roomy and easy to access and pack. The bags' lids fasten with snaps front and rear and one twist lock on the outer side. Unfortunately, when the saddlebags were stuffed full, the twist lock was almost impossible to latch against the pressure. Riders who fill their saddlebags will wish for the flexibility of the traditional straps of leather bags. Besides the studs on the tops and sides, the bags are finished with handsome chrome "Boulevard" badges.

Loading up the C50 with the touring gear of the C50T had a slight negative effect on low-speed handling. Adding weight at the both ends of the bike made crawling-speed handling somewhat ponderous. Adapting to it takes a bit of adjustment, and the Boulevard C50T doesn't handle as nicely at very low speeds as the M50 or the standard C50, which is quite handy. The Boulevard M50's narrower handlebar also makes that motorcycle easier to manage in tight places, and it is steady and precise when cornering at brisker speeds, while the C50T occasionally wallows when pressed in fast corners.

The M50's suspension is slightly tauter than the C50's, making it feel a bit more solid when riding over bumpy surfaces. Carrying even a light passengerr seemed to overwork the C50T's rear suspension more than the M50's but the effect was about average for an 800-class cruiser. However, both these Boulevard 50s handle quite well when tossed into corners, and the C50T is certainly more fun, responsive and manageable on twisty roads than a bigger bike with similar touring equipment. The Boulevard M50 is particularly effective in corners and around town. The M model's suspension is a good combination of compliance and damping control while leaned over hard, and both these Boulevards offer respectable cornering clearance by cruiser standards.

When loaded with a passenger and gear, the C50T felt a bit underbraked. The single-disc front brake doesn't have enough power to fully handle the weight, especially when braking downhill. Although the bike is an 800, it is almost as heavy and powerful as a much bigger bike, and it warrants a front dual-disc brake. We had no complaints about the M50's front brake even though it is the same-size (but different style) single 300mm disc, nor the drum rear brakes on either machine.

A few components show compromises for cost reduction. The fenders, side covers and airboxes are plastic, not metal (which saves weight as well as money and some some other functional advantages). The fuel tanks have visible lower seams, but the styling is otherwise well done, with details such as wire routing executed thoughtfully. There are also some nice detail features, like a clock in the LCD odometer/tripmeter display, four-way flashers and an LED taillight on the M50. Our only problem with the bikes was three screws that vibrated out of the C50T's windshield, presumably because they were not fastened properly during final assembly (usually done at the dealer). We also wished the C50T had less vulnerable tubeless tires like the M50's. Tubeless tires are especially valuable on a touring motorcycle. But overall, the C50s and M50 are the class of the class. They are bigger than other 800s and look it, and their finish quality sets the standard for the 800 class.

Most importantly (at least to us), they are the best 800s to ride. Suzuki's first new Boulevard 800s give the company clear category dominance. That excellence does not come free, however. While other manufacturer's 750 and 800cc V-twins run from $6100 to $6300, the Boulevard's extra features and overall size make them about $500 more, and the C50T's touring gear adds an additional $1000. That seems more than fair to us. These are the only bikes in the class with fuel injection, and few of their competitors boast shaft drive.

The Volusia-turned-C50 remains the best of the classically styled 800s, and the T variation exploits its power and comfort to create a satisfying and affordable middleweight traveler. For those seeking an attainable performance-style twin, the Boulevard M50 is a much better motorcycle than the Marauder it replaces and is actually a better all-around bike than any of its competitors from other brands. (However, the chopper-style Boulevard S50 is actually quicker.) Overall, the Boulevard C50 and M50 are bikes that feel, perform and look like bigger motorcycles and might even change the minds of some who don't think an 800 can be big and powerful enough for serious riding.

Other manufacturers who want a piece of the popular 800 class had better take notice. The standards for performance, quality, comfort, useful features and all-around excellence have been raised. You now have to catch up to not just one but three Suzukis. Of course, you could say yours is an 800, while the Boulevards are just 50s.

**SPECIFICATIONS

2005 Suzuki Boulevard C50T**

Suggested base price: $7799 (2005), $7949 (2006)
Colors: Black
Standard warranty: 12 months, unlimited miles
Recommended service intervals: 7500 miles

ENGINE & DRIVETRAIN
Type: Liquid-cooled 45-degree tandem V-twin
Valve arrangement: SOHC, 2 intake, 2 exhaust valves
Displacement, bore x stroke: 805cc, 83 x 74.4mm
Compression ratio: 9.4:1
Carburetion: EFI
Transmission: Wet clutch, 5 speeds
Final drive: Shaft

CHASSIS
Front tire: 130/90-16; tube-type whitewall
Rear tire: 170/80-15; tube-type whitewall
Front brake: Two-piston caliper, 12.8 in. disc.
Rear brake: Drum
Front suspension: 41mm stanchions, 5.5 in. travel
Rear suspension: Single damper, 4.1 in. travel, adjustable for preload
Fuel capacity: 4.1 gal.
Wet weight: 640 lb.
GVWR: 1040 lb.
Seat height: 27.6 in.
Wheelbase: 65.2 in.
Rake/trail: 33 deg./5.6 in.

ELECTRICAL & INSTRUMENTATION
Forward lighting: 55/65-watt, 7.2 in round
Taillight: Single bulb

PERFORMANCE
Fuel mileage: 33 to 53 mpg, 44.2 mpg average
Quarter-mile acceleration: 15.61 sec., 82.5 mph

2005 Suzuki Boulevard M50

Suggested base price: $6749 (2005), $6899 (2006)
Colors: Blue, red
Standard warranty: 12 months, unlimited miles
Recommended service intervals: 7500 miles

ENGINE & DRIVETRAIN
Type: Liquid-cooled 45-degree tandem V-twin
Valve arrangement: SOHC, 2 intake, 2 exhaust valves
Displacement, bore x stroke: 805cc, 83 x 74.4mm
Compression ratio: 9.4:1
Carburetion: EFI
Transmission: Wet clutch, 5 speeds
Final drive: Shaft

CHASSIS
Front tire: 130/90-16; tubeless
Rear tire: 170/80-15; tubeless
Front brake: Two-piston caliper, 12.8 in. disc.
Rear brake: Drum
Front suspension: 41mm inverted stanchions, 5.5 in. travel
Rear suspension: Single damper, 4.1 in. travel, adjustable for preload
Fuel capacity: 4.1 gal.
Wet weight: 617 lb.
GVWR: 1035 lb.
Seat height: 27.6 in.
Wheelbase: 65.2 in.
Rake/trail: 33 deg./5.6 in.

ELECTRICAL & INSTRUMENTATION
Forward lighting: 5.5-in-wide oval; position lights
Taillight: LED

PERFORMANCE
Fuel mileage: 38 to 49 mpg, 42.9 mpg average
Quarter-mile acceleration: 15.49 sec.; 83.2 mph

RIDING POSITIONS

Andrew Cherney: Suzuki's whole Boulevard rebadging exercise last year really put me off, but with these two new models, Suzuki is effectively telling me, "Shut up.We know what we're doing." I'm sure digging the new, improved, formerly-Volusia-now-the-C50's floorboards, leather bags and glitchless EFI, no question. What I'm not so keen on is the bit o' buzz from the handlebar at high speeds and less-than impressive braking power from the single front disc under load—gimme two, please. Still, it's a nice all-around package, with stellar fit and finish.

But of the two bikes, I lean a bit more toward the updated Marauder—sorry, M50&#151for its snappy, blacked-out styling (it is about time), eager throttle and upright ergos. Yet I feel somebody must have dozed off during the design sketches of that rear fender&#151it seems to have been jammed in there as an afterthought. In any case, these two new Boulevardiers are certainly a step in the right direction for an outfit that's been ignoring the cruiser front for too long. So I'll shut up&#151for now.

Art Friedman: Shopping for an 800? No need to go anywhere but your Suzuki dealer, which offers more choices and better bikes in this category than any other brand. You might pay less for another marque, but you will also get significantly less motorcycle.

The C50T in particular closes a glaring gap, providing an effective middleweight traveling bike that is as spacious and comfortable as many bigger baggers and pumps out more than enough power for serious touring. I think it should have cast wheels and tubeless tires, at least as an option, however.

If you don't need to brag about how big your unit is, I think the C50T makes a really rational choice for riders who want to go places. I also rate it as well as the C50 and M50 among the very best buys in cruiserdom.

_Additional motorcycle road tests and comparison tests are available at the Road Tests section of MotorcycleCruiser.com. For a complete listing of the motorcycle tests available, see the _Motorcycle Cruiser Road Test Finder.

Photography by Kevin Wing and Adam Campbell

By adding bags and a windshield to the base-model C50, Suzuki has created the first middleweight bagger in the Boulevard C50T.

The all-new Boulevard M50 replaces the old Marauder. It's better a better motorcycle is almost every way.

A black finish and teardrop airbox distinguish the M50's engine, which has a smaller, more efficient radiator. Cost considerations mandate visible lower tank seams. The newer M50 has a few minor engine refinements.

The M50's speedometer isn't as readable as the item on the C50, but the M50's is closer to the rider. Both instrument arrays include the same features, though the warning lights on the M50 are harder to see at a glance.

With the same front brake disc and caliper as the bagger, this M50 offers more assured stops than the heavier C50T. This newer-tech inverted-style fork is a better fit with the musclebike character of the M50.

Each of the new Boulevard 50s gets its own distinct airbox style, and all but the S50 now inhale via fuel injection. The 805cc engine packs sufficient punch to propel the C50T at interstate speeds with a passenger and some power in reserve.

Like the plain C50 upon which it's based, the C50T has a classically styled speedometer atop the fuel tank that you must look away from the road to consult. It includes an LCD clock and two tripmeters operated by big buttons below it.

s single, two-piston-caliper front brake is not quite adequate for a fully loaded C50T at high speeds or when braking downhill. We also wish that the whitewalls had more dependable tubeless tires rather than using inner tubes.

Both the C50 and M50 are roomier than other 800s and have better than average power for V-twins of this displacement class. They are also the only fuel-injected bikes in this range.

The Boulevard C50T's windshield provides good torso protection but transfers some buffet-based vibration to the handlebar, making it feel buzzier than the M50.

We would prefer traditional straps to the snaps and twist-type fasteners of the T's saddlebags, which are difficult to lock when full and sometimes release en route.

Suzuki Boulevard C50T
High Points

  • Only 800 with touring gear

  • Great comfort for a middleweight

  • Strong power
    Low Points

  • Brakes could be stronger

  • Tube-type tires
    First Changes

  • Seal wheels for tubeless use

  • Try different brake pads

Suzuki Boulevard M50
High Points

  • Strong, responsive, smooth engine

  • Clean streetwise style

  • Good comfort
    Low Points

  • Not real musclebike power

  • No tachometer

  • Slightly pricey
    First Changes

  • Add that tach

Latest


Bikes


Videos