2008 Suzuki Boulevard C109R - A Long Time Comin'

It seems like we have been waiting for this bike a big part of forever. When Suzuki introduced its first mega-cruiser, the M109R, back in 2005, it was obviously an image leader, but still not the Boulevard line's headline attraction. Sure, Americans get excited about musclebikes like the M109R, but they buy classic cruisers in much larger numbers. Suzuki showed the prototype of the classically styled companion to the M109R back in 2006 and confirmed that the C109R would be an '08 model last summer. We finally got to throw a leg over one in March at Suzuki's press ride.

The C model inherits most of the technology and considerable power of the M109 engine. It even retains the R suffix, presumably so it can brag about the potent GSX-R sportbike technology incorporated in the 1783cc, DOHC V-twin. However, the C109R's mill is tempered with milder intake timing than the M, smaller 52mm throttle bodies (versus 56mm in the M) and 20 percent more crankshaft inertia. There is always a battle between airbox capacity (needed for power) and fuel capacity. To get both, Suzuki created an intake tract with three plenums-one atop the engine and two triangular airboxes on the sides-for 11 liters of airbox capacity. In the process it gave up a quart of the M109R's fuel capacity for 5.0 gallons. It also lost a little peak horsepower to the M, ending with 114 at 5800 rpm. The trade results in pumped-up power at the lower end of the rpm scale.

A 1.8-inch-longer wheelbase, a triangular hardtail-style swingarm with different shock geometry, fuller classic-style metal (rather than the M's plastic) fenders, more traditional bodywork, covered 49mm fork tubes, a traditional multireflector headlight, its own LED taillight, long mufflers, rider floorboards, a roomy stepped saddle, a higher and wider (35.5 inches) handlebar, a fresh tank-top instrument panel, cast wheels with 10 thin spokes and its own tires transform the musclebike to a traditional American-style cruiser. The rear tire is still a 240-width like the M109R, but the C's tire has a slightly taller profile on 16- instead of 18-inch wheels. The changes add about 80 pounds.

The C delivers its power a bit more genteelly than the M, with stronger throttle response down low and slightly less rush above 4500 rpm. However, Suzuki claims it still has more horsepower than any other classic-style twin, and I can believe it. With greater top-end rpm than other monster twins and strong response down low, the C109R has an exceptionally wide powerband, largely because it continues to rev well beyond the rpm where most big V-twins go blah. Throttle response is smooth yet crisp throughout. Fuel mileage ranges from about 29 to 36 mpg. The fuel warning light generally comes on at around 130 miles from the last fill-up.

The burly drivetrain makes positive but somewhat noisy shifts, and neutral is easy to get with the heel-toe shifter. A moderate pull and predictable engagement even when hot make for good clutch control. My only real drivetrain complaints center on the shaft final drive. Suzuki was once revered for its smooth shaft drives but not on the 109s, where there is considerable jacking with power changes and a shock absorber in the driveline that makes open-close throttle changes pretty lurchy.

I'm not a fan of the M109's steering, either. It turns reluctantly, especially under braking. So I was pleased to discover that the C version steers much more willingly, even on the brakes, making it more assured and enjoyable on winding roads. I'm not sure if that is because of the 2-inch-wider handlebar or differences in steering geometry or tires. (The rear-tire profile looks the same on both 109s.) Despite its floorboards, the C even seems to offer a few degrees more lean angle. It wallows mildly if you hit a bump in a fast corner but is otherwise stable and confidence-inspiring. Though heavier than the M109R, the C109R feels lighter and easier to handle. Full-lock turns at low speeds require less muscle than most other megacruisers.

Several factors conspire to make the C109R significantly more comfortable than the M. Topping the list is a more humane riding position with considerable flexibility offered by the spacious saddle and 12-inch-long floorboards. This gives room to squirm and shift your weight on long rides. Softer initial travel in the 46mm preload-adjustable rear shock makes small, sharp bumps less jarring than on the M, though larger lumps still come through forcefully. Although both saddles are about 15 inches wide, the C's is slightly crowned, leaving my butt less comfortable than in the flatter M saddle after five hours or so. Passengers enjoy more space and padding on the C model, too, with passenger floorboards and backrest among Suzuki's accessories already available for the bike. Three-point rubber mounts effectively subdue any vibration escaping the engine.

Unlike the M109R, the C features combined braking. The front-brake lever operates two of the three pistons in each of the dual front-brake calipers, with the brake pedal activating the third as well as the rear-brake caliper. However, the pedal-operated system requires considerable effort to get real effect. Fortunately the front brake delivers good power with moderate effort, and the handlebar lever includes cam-style adjusters.

Except for turn signals that don't self-cancel I didn't find any details to irk me. Details and finish are what they should be for a bike of this stature and the $13,799 price. The exhaust note is strong and solid.

Suzuki sold more bikes larger than 1300cc last year than any other Japanese brand. However, I rank the C109R as the brand's best big cruiser ever, competitive with Yamaha's excellent Star 'liners, my reigning favorites among megatwins. It was a long time coming, but the C109R was worth the wait.

'08 Suzuki Boulevard C109R
msrp: $13,799
Standard colors: Black, maroon
Standard warranty: 12 months

Engine & Drivetrain
Type: Liquid-cooled, 54-deg. V-twinDisplacement, bore x stroke: 1783cc, 112.0 x 90.5mm
Valvetrain: DOHC; 2 intake, 2 exhaust valves per cylinder
Compression: 10.5:1
Fuel System: EFI, 52mm throttle bodies
Lubrication: Semidry sump
Recommended fuel grade: 90 octane
Transmission: Wet clutch, 5 speeds
Final drive: Shaft

Chassis
Claimed dry weight: 787 lb.
GVWR: 1310 lb.
Seat height: 28.0 in.
Wheelbase: 69.1 in.
Overall length: 101.8 in.
Handlebar: 35.5 in. wide, 1.0-in. diameter
Rake/trail: 31.8 deg./5.2 in.
Wheels: Cast, 16 x 3.5 front, 16 x 8.0 rear
FRONT tire: 150/80R-16 tubeless radial
Rear tire: 240/55R-16 tubeless radial
Front brake: Two 3-piston calipers, 11.4-in. discs
Rear brake: 2-piston caliper, 10.8-in. disc
Front suspension: 49mm fork tubes, 5.1 in. travel
Rear suspension: Single damper, 4.6 in. travel, preload adjustable
Fuel capacity: 5.0 gal.

Electrical & Instrumentation
Battery: 12V
lighting: 7.1-in. 60/55-watt multireflector headlight, position lights, LED taillight
Instruments: Analog speedometer; LCD odometer, dual tripmeters, clock, fuel gauge, oil pressure; warning lights for neutral, high beam, left/right turn signals, low fuel, FI failure, temperature

Performance
Fuel mileage: 29-36 mpg, 32.1 mpg avg.
Average range: 161 miles

Two sets of drive chains kept the 109 engine from getting too tall and making the bike top-heavy. The C has different airboxes from the M. Intake is a downdraft type in the V.
Unlike the M109's centered fuel filler, the C's is offset to the right of the tank, simplifying top-offs on the sidestand. The instruments are fewer and more traditional than the M model's.
The 10-spoke wheels suggest wire-spoke style without the hazards of inner tubes. One of each of the three pistons in the front-brake calipers is actuated by the brake pedal.
The triangular aluminum swingarm offers classic hardtail lines with a better ride than the M109R. The rear tire is a 240/55 rather than the 240/40-18 of the M109s.
To emphasize the stagger of the pipes Suzuki made them unequal in length. They include Suzuki Exhaust Tuning (SET) valves. The airboxes are new on the C model.
Gear:
Jacket: Vanson Ventilator
Helmet: Shoei TZ-R
Boots: Tour Master Solution WP
Gloves: Icon Merc Shorty