2008 Suzuki M109R2 - First Ride

Fresh Metal Or Same As It Ever Was?

Feed the throttle, drop the clutch, kachunk.

A puff of tire smoke, a lurch, and just like that the tach reads 5000 rpm.

Three cogs later the speedometer needle is resting on a number that can't be considered reasonable or prudent. Oh yeah. Now you remember why they call it a power cruiser.

Frankly we'd forgotten how much fun the M109R is, so when Suzuki called us with the news that the much-delayed M109R2 had finally landed on these shores, we practically wet ourselves in anticipation of riding the 120hp beast.

We last straddled the beefiest Boulevard in the Big Toys megacruiser shootout comparison nearly two years ago, where it was stacked against Kawasaki's Vulcan 2000, the 1800cc Star Roadliner and Honda's VTX 1800. Big-bore company to be sure, and indeed, the smaller-displacement M109R was out of its element. Not so much because of any power concerns (it still packs the biggest pistons in the land); it's just that, well, it's not really cut out for touring duty. And Suzuki said as much at the bike's world launch in Texas back in 2006.

What it is cut out for is power cruising. So while Suzuki is calling the M109R2 a new model, it's really just a variant of the M109R. And although we're calling this a First Ride, really it's more of a second date. Sure, it's a date with dynos and mean streets, but then that's really where the M109R lives anyway.

Upon its arrival it took only that balls-out blast on the R2 to drive the point home. The thing rips. This latest Boulevard shares the same 1783cc, fuel-injected powerplant as the standard model, and it had lost not one whit of punch in this version. The R2's styling and flowing bodywork likewise mimic the standard R. The only traditional cues on it-the wide solo seat and a classically shaped fuel tank-remain, though both are heavily influenced by surrounding swoops of plastic.

The flowing lines, integrated side covers and radiator cowl still look striking from afar, but a closer inspection reveals the sportbike ethos-acres of plastic stuffed into empty spaces. The cast aluminum wheels still get fat radial Dunlops: a 130/70R18 in front and a superphat 240/40R18 in back.

The R2 is being called "a variation of the original," but the only tweak here is the headlight and an upgrade to metal engine covers (from plastic). The aerodynamic configuration features a less bulky nacelle than the M109R's-the R2 takes that nacelle and slices it at an angle, much like you would a piece of bologna. The result seems sportier, but really we're just happy the Boulevard-iers didn't screw with the original's dyno-chart-busting performance.

If it's the M109R2, does that mean it's twice as fast? Not quite, though all the powerful promises of the first version are still lurking where it counts-in the engine. The R2's fuel-injected mill is just as rev-happy, and yes, the biggest pistons of any gasoline-burning motor (112mm) can still be found here. It all translates to 108.4 hp and 101.3 lb-ft of torque on our dynamometer. In fact the M109's power characteristics reminded us of Triumph's Rocket III (the original, not the neutered Touring version) so much that we dug into our archives for a closer look.

On The Wheel: Doing The Dyno

Then we went to our Superflow CycleDyn dynamometer to compare the numbers. Our suspicions proved pretty accurate-the Suzuki's 108.9 hp (measured at the rear wheel) peaks at 6500 rpm while the Rocket's more prodigious 132.4hp reading comes on at a similarly peaky 6250 rpm. From there, though, the Rocket's power plummets like a stone, while the Suzuki's simply levels off, giving plenty of usable power all the way to the 7500-rpm redline. The remarkably linear horsepower "curve" comes at pretty darn near a 45-degree angle.

And the shape of the Rocket's torque curve, which impressed us at the time with its duration (nearly a third of the rev range) can't compete with the Suzuki's more consistent line. Its torque range is more usable, hitting its 102-lb-ft peak just as immediately but leveling off more slowly, dropping down significantly only at 6000 rpm. The torque keeps coming to the redline where the bike is still pulling hard.

Pavement Pounding
But the proof is in the running, as they say. Turn the ignition lock below the seat, hit the starter and the motor comes alive. The rich whomp emanating from the stainless steel exhaust is a welcome change from the neutered pings we've heard on some big cruisers lately.

Like the standard M109R, the R2 comes with both a passenger saddle and seat cowling, and you can swap in either one by way of a few Allen bolts. The reach to the bars set me at a forward cant, with slightly forward footpegs that suited my 30-inch inseam fine-knees were bent but not locked. What saves it is that surprisingly comfy seat. It's not thickly padded, but it's broad and dished just right. I had no trouble reaching the ground, but riders with inseams shorter than 30 inches may have issues.

On the road the R2's strong throttle response and ubiquitous torque allow for blasts of acceleration in every gear. The thrill ain't gone: It hits hard immediately and builds all the way to the redline. The five-speed gearbox and hydraulic clutch handle the considerable horsepower easily. Lever pull is somewhat heavy, but engagement is smooth and predictable, though it can be a hunt for neutral once the clutch heats up. With this shaft drive, however, you still get drivetrain lash from the back. And then there's the power delivery.

The problems begin with imperfect fueling: When you get on and off the throttle, low-speed harshness rears its head. To make a smooth transition you have to roll on slowly or brace for an initial jerk, and things can get sloppy if you jam the throttle while in a corner. As for handling, the Suzuki is less of a wrestling match than other wide-tired cruisers, though you still feel some resistance from the R2's specially designed Dunlops. Despite all that, this bike is more responsive than its tonnage would have you believe-and it has the stability of a tank.

The suspension does what it can to keep the M109R compliant, but it's pretty firm, and the hidden preload-adjustable shock isn't easily adjusted (and no adjustment tool is included).

The dual disc brakes up front are quite powerful, though with a wooden feel at the lever. Thankfully the lever is position-adjustable via a thumbwheel; not so with the clutch unit, which is a shame because pull was on the stiff side. And the single 275mm rear brake was, alas, fairly ineffectual.

On a smooth road the rider should be pretty happy. Vibration is soothing at freeway speeds in top gear-the R2 is only turning 3200 rpm at 70 mph-and the seat stays comfy. And because my body was angled into the wind, drag was diminished.

When you're checking info, the LCD tachometer set atop the handlebar will easily catch your eye. Below that an easy-to-read analog speedometer rides on the front of the fuel tank. With this much weight and grunt you'd expect fuel economy to be a joke, but the M109R2's low-to-mid-30-mpg averages were better than expected. Then again, this isn't a bike you buy to save a few bucks at the pump.

However you look at it, the M109R2 is a winner. It goes like hell, turns smoothly and is dead stable. On anything less than perfect pavement the ride can be jarring, but you can't fault its brakes or motor, and the price is reasonable. Problem is, it's not a refinement of the original: We feel the finish remains lacking for a flagship bike, and it's a gaffe we expected Suzuki to address with the R2.

So are the M109Rs the strongest of the big twins? They're certainly contenders for the throne, but we'll need a proper comparison with other powermongers to tell the true tale. Meanwhile, Suzuki's giving 'em to us fast and furious-we'll ride the new C109 in the next issue.

So what if Art Center graduates call it derivative, plus various other things we can't print in a family magazine? Where else are you going to get enough steam to give Mr. VTX a good look at your phat tail section and the cool headlight for $12,699? Suzuki's 1783cc dry-sump twin is fast, boys and girls. Not just fast for a cruiser, but straight-up, flat-out fast. It's something short of a GSX-R1000 in the twisty bits, but the 240mm rear Dunlop is less intrusive on cornering than others I could name. There's more driveline lash and less cornering clearance than I expected, and all that torque tends to push the chassis around unless you're strategically smooth with the throttle. But the ergos are surprisingly humane for tall types, and the mufflers express themselves without compelling the accountant's live-in mother-in-law to call the cops when you roll in late on bowling night. Think of it as a 109-inch pu-pu platter for those of us who like to go fast.Tim Carrithers, 6'3", 210 lb, 35-in. inseam

'08 Suzuki M109R2

MSRP: $12,699
Standard Colors: Black, Gray
Warranty: 12 Months, Unlimited Mileage

Engine And Drivetrain

Engine Type: Liquid-Cooled, 54-Deg. V-Twin
Displacement, Bore X Stroke: 1783cc, 112.0 X 90.5mm
Valvetrain: Dohc, 2 Intake, 2 Exhaust Valves/Cyl.
Compression: 10.5:1
Redline: 7500 Rpm
Fuel System: Efi, 56mm Throttle Bodies
Lubrication: Semi-Dry Sump
Recommended Fuel: 90 Octane
Transmission: Wet Clutch, 5 Speeds
Final Drive: Shaft

Chassis

Overall Length: 96.5 In.
Wheelbase: 67.5 In.
Handlebar Width: 33.5 In. (1.25 In Dia.)
Seat Height: 27.8 In.
Wet Weight: 769 Lb.
Gvwr: 1250 Lb.
Rake/Trail: 31.25 Deg./4.4 In.
Wheels: Cast Alloy, 18 X 3.5 In. Front, 18 X 8.5 In. Rear
Tires: 130/70r-18 Dunlop D221 Tubeless Radial, Front; 240/40r-18 Dunlop D221 Tubeless Radial, Rear
Front Suspension: Inverted Telescopic 46mm Fork, 5.1 In. Travel
Rear Suspension: Link-Type Damper, 4.6 In. Travel; Adjustable Spring Preload, 4.6 In. Travel
Front Brake: Dual 310mm Discs, 4-Piston Calipers
Rear Brake: 275mm Disc, 2-Piston Caliper
Fuel Capacity: 5.2 Gal. (4.9 For Ca)

Electrical

Battery: 12v/19-Amp-Hour
Lighting: 12v 60/55 Headlight
Instruments: Lcd Tachometer, Analog Speedometer With Lcd Clock, Fuel Gauge, Odometer, Tripmeters, Led Indicator Lights

Performance

Measured Horsepower: 108.4
Measured Torque: 101.3 Lb-Ft
Fuel Mileage: 29.7-35.1; 32.9 Avg.
Average Range: 183 Miles
Quarter-Mile Acceleration: 12.20 SEC., 110.4 MPH

Riding Position
OK, so you've bookmarked the websites and dog-eared the magazine tests and still can't decide which sporty power cruiser to sign up for. Victory's phat rear-tire and frenched taillight is pretty sweet, but so is that reflector-optics headlight on Harley's V-Rod. And you're not about to get smoked by that overstuffed accountant two houses down with the new Honda VTX1800. Head back to the Suzuki store and have a look at the M109R2.

M109R2 Care And Feeding
If you're gonna plunk down hard cash for the M109R, it's best to get the straight dope on maintenance, too. After checking the owner's manual for service schedules we called local shops to see what the time and parts costs would be through 15,000 miles. Figuring the average service rate at about $90 per hour, we came up with a ballpark figure of maintenance fees. The manual lists a pretty standard schedule for the M109R.

SERVICE PARTS LABOR HOURS COMMENTS
{{{600}}} Engine oil, oil filter, rear-drive oil 1.5 (49 states) 2.1 (CA) California bikes take more time because they need the throttle bodies synched.
{{{4000}}} Engine oil 1.8 (all) Suzuki calls for an engine oil change only. We'd recommend replacing the filter as well.
7500 Spark plugs, engine oil 2.8 (49 states) 2.9 (CA) As above.
11,000 Air filter, engine oil and oil filter 2.0 (all)
14,500 Spark plugs and engine oil 3.7 (all) This service includes a valve adjustment.

Whole Numbers = 1 hour; decimals = 6 minutes
Total: 11 hrs., 48 min. (approx. 12 hrs.)Estimated Labor Cost: $1080 (approx.)

Some things to consider: In most cases the flat-rate price for a service is for an inspection only. For instance, steering-head bearings are inspected at 7500 miles. If they need to be adjusted, the dealer may charge extra. Always make sure you understand what the shop is going to do and what you're going to be charged for. Last, these are suggested flat-rate times. Dealerships are free to charge anything they like.

Gear:
Helmet: Icon Mainframe
Jackets: Kushitani
Gloves: Rev It Monster
Boots: Harley Interstate
The R2 still delivers heaps of lash from the shaft drive;
that's one stylish radiator shroud, but the tank seam has to go;
helmet lock is standard.
The headlight nacelle is still love-it-or-hate-it;
but we do love the trick LCD tach atop the handlebar.
The M109R2 has one of the best taillights in the business,
and the brakes aren't too shabby, either.