For three years Suzuki has carried a big hole in its cruiser tourer line-up after quietly dropping the venerable but aging Boulevard 1500 in 2009. The 800cc C50 is too small, the 1800cc M109 too big, so is this brand-new, 1462cc Suzuki Boulevard C90T B.O.S.S. just right?
Photos: Anne Watson
The C90T owes it heritage to the Suzuki Intruder that was launched in 1998. Later to be renamed the Boulevard, this 1462cc air-cooled cruiser was a popular Suzuki stalwart around the world selling more than 73,000 units. Then in 2009, due to tougher U.S. emission controls, it was dropped leaving Suzuki with no serious volume contender in the cruiser tourer sector apart from the 800cc C50 or the massive, over-sized 1,800cc M109.
That was a big missed sales opportunity for the company to carry for three years, so the 2013 Boulevard C90T underlines that Suzuki is back and ready to play rough again with the big boys in the cruiser tourer market.
For the moment the C90T B.O.S.S (‘Blacked Out Special Suzuki’) is the only Boulevard cruiser tourer available. There are other Boulevard cruiser models in the current Suzuki line-up but they don’t have the touring package of the C90T.
And as the B.O.S.S. name suggest it’s entirely black from its cast aluminum seven-spoke wheels, front forks to the slash-cut twin pipes – and as this is the B.O.S.S version it’s offered in ‘Sparkling Black’ paint only.
In a month, the B.O.S.S will be joined by two other C90T variants. So if all-black is not your style there will be a choice – albeit a limited one - of either red/black or white/gray and a lot more chrome.
What you get with this B.O.S.S version though is a good-looking, in a chunky sort of way, blacked out cruiser for $13,999 (which includes Suzuki’s 12-month unlimited mileage warranty). The pair of other C90Ts that follow will cost several hundred dollars less, look the same, minus the black paint, and will be technically and specification-wise identical to the B.O.S.S.
Although Suzuki claims this is a ‘new’ ‘bike that is not entirely true. The C90T shares the same steel tube frame and swing arm with Suzuki’s current muscle cruiser the Boulevard M90. It also uses the M90’s 1462cc, liquid-cooled, fuel-injected, SOHC four-valve per cylinder, 54-degree V-twin engine and the M90’s five-speed constant mesh transmission that delivers the power to the 16-inch rear wheel via shaft drive.
It is though a smart move by Suzuki to use proven existing components and then go to town on the C90T’s design to make it something that truly reflects the image of a big cruiser.
And the B.O.S.S is a big ‘bike. Not massive by some standards but it weighs in at a portly 800lbs, which is some 88lbs heavier than its closest rivals Honda’s Interstate or the V Star 1300 Tourer each tipping the scales at around 712lbs.
But all of those extra pounds the B.O.S.S carries are hardly discernible thanks in part to its 90 cubic inch, long stroke engine that’s been re-tuned specifically for the C90T.
Suzuki has also gone back and raided other parts bins and taken the three air box set up from its M109R and its own in-house designed Dual Throttle Valve – from the GSX-R – which all help the C90T to achieve a respectable 77.8bhp at 4,800rpm and a torque figure of 96.6lb/ft at 2,600rpm.
Whilst none of this means the B.O.S.S. is going to be ripping the tarmac off the streets, it does develop a broad, low down power band that is more than competent for a bike of this type and provides precisely the kind of smooth effortless ride you should expect from any good cruiser.
The C90T is the first Boulevard model ever to come with factory-designed ABS plastic hard bags as standard. They’re good looking too. Covered in the same material as the bike’s seat, lockable and compliment the C90T’s classic lines without any real compromise to load space. Suzuki says you can get 10lbs of luggage in each. But there is a hitch to them, which we’ll get to later.
The Suzuki designers also turned their attention to the C90T’s windshield and came up with a design for the B.O.S.S that works surprisingly well; no refraction, minimal buffeting and good rider protection and for once it actually looks integral to the overall appearance of the bike.
By Suzuki’s own admission, it was trying to create something not too radical and not too conservative with the C90T. We think Suzuki maybe being a little too modest here. The C90T is a handsome bike in the classic cruiser tradition and it has some real road presence.
The point of a cruiser sometimes is not to have any destination in mind. Just get on the bike and head wherever the road takes you. The C90T is an ideal bike to do just that.
You get well laid-out floorboards and a 28.3-inch high seating position that will allow most riders to plant both feet on the ground when stopped. The C90T’s seat is wider and flatter than the M90’s, which actually means you can move around while on the move, unlike Honda’s Interstate, to find the best riding position and also stay comfortable on long journeys.
The handlebars are four inches closer to the rider than on the M90 and even though it’s a big, heavy bike moving the B.O.S.S. around at low speeds is a doddle. We would have liked the bars to be more substantial and thicker to fit in with the overall chunky look of the B.O.S.S. But that’s just nit picking.
Out on city roads the B.O.S.S. is a quiet and leisurely ride. Suzuki’s clutch assist system (SCAS) reduces the force needed to pull in the clutch lever and it assists downshifts by reducing pressure on the clutch plates under deceleration. For upshifts and hard acceleration it increases pressure on the plates and it works well making gear changes smooth and straight forward.
The B.O.S.S. takes almost every road surface in its stride. Uneven surfaces can make it get a bit flustered momentarily and at other times it offers too soft a ride, due in part to the fat 200mm rear Bridgestone tire on the rear and the 130mm front.
However, neither the 45mm telescopic front forks, with their 5.1 inches of travel, or the rear link-type suspension are pre-load adjustable. Both are pre-set at the Suzuki factory before the ‘bike is shipped. This means if you’re on the light side, weight wise, you may find the ride a little choppy over really rough surfaces but if you’re a heavier rider you may not notice any deterioration at all in the ride quality.
Deceptively nimble, the C90T is not a difficult ‘bike to ride around town although it has broad flanks - a big 39 inches wide with those hard bags on the back – but you can still lane split here in California if you plan well ahead and pick your moment to squeeze past the traffic. As an urban cruiser it’s an enjoyable ride and you soon forget the C90T’s size and grow to appreciate its laid back approach.
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