RideApart Review: Suzuki Boulevard M109R

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Category: Reviews

With its big beefy styling more akin to a nightclub bouncer in a tight T-shirt, the Suzuki Boulevard M109R is designed to bridge a niche between the cruiser and sport bike sector. But is there really a market out there for a machine that has in-your-face looks, the biggest pair of pistons used in any current production motorcycle or car engine, and enough torque to pull your house over?

Photos: Anne Watson

What’s New
The M109R is labeled by Suzuki as its muscle cruiser and was received with mixed reviews when it was launched in 2006. Some didn’t get it at all while others were surprised that Suzuki had added something so very different to its lineup.

The M109R is Suzuki’s bid to lure sport bike riders over into the world of cruisers by offering a high degree of engineering technology taken from its GSX-R, coupled to the brutal performance of a drag bike. And on paper it kind of all makes sense.

There are riders out there that want to move out of sport bikes but are not ready for a regular cruiser with bags and a windshield. They also want something with bragging rights, a decent turn of speed and something that’s, well…just a little bit bonkers. For them, perhaps, the Suzuki M109R might tick all of those boxes. And certainly from some of the M109R web sites we have seen there is a loyal following for this bike with many owners spending big bucks on customizing them and up-rating its already powerful engine.

At the heart of this big Suzuki is a liquid-cooled, 1,783 cc, eight-valve, short-stroke, v-twin engine that revs smoothly all the way up to 7500rpm. There are two cams, twin plugs and four valves per-cylinder along with staggered crank pins and balance shafts to help reduce vibration. And it needs it with a pair of massive 4.4-inch pistons, which would probably be more at home in a Detroit muscle car from the 1960s than fitted in a motorcycle engine.

Suzuki has also included its dual-throttle valve system with 56mm bodies, a compact dry-sump that reduces the engine’s height and improves the bike’s center of gravity. And it breathes through a three-piece air box via a pair of air cleaners mounted on each side of the engine.

With the M109R, Suzuki has taken a similar approach to that it used for its GSX-R sport bike so that each cylinder’s pair of spark plugs is controlled by separate maps that fire simultaneously when cruising but are then staggered when under hard acceleration.

All of this adds up to a bike with a huge 109ci engine that churns out about 106bhp @ 6,500rpm at the rear wheel and a torque figure of around 118lb-ft at 3,250rpm.

That big rubber-mounted lump is squeezed into a tensile steel, double cradle frame that is unique to the M109R and mated to a five-speed transmission, which delivers the power, via shaft drive, to an immense 240mm Dunlop D221 rear tire.

Suzuki says it is the largest tire it has ever used on a production motorcycle. At nearly 11-inches across we’re willing to believe them as the Dunlop rubber is bigger than some car tires.

A Kayaba rear shock is mounted horizontally just below the cast aluminum swingarm and its pivot adjustable for spring pre-load only with 4.7 inches of travel. Up front the 46mm inverted forks (similar to the layout used on Suzuki’s GSX-R) are not adjustable. With 5.1 inches of travel they are definitely on the firm side and even a little under sprung and over damped.

Everything on the Suzuki M109R is big. It’s a long bike at 95.5-inches, with a wheelbase of 67.2-inches; wide too at 34.4 inches and weighs in at a stout 764lbs.

The deep solo seating position at 27.8 inches tall is broad and flat and good enough that it will allow most riders to put both feet flat on the ground at a stop. However, the heatshields on the 2-1-2 exhaust can make your right leg bend slightly outwards and, for this rider, it was a little awkward. There’s room for a passenger too by taking off some rear bodywork and replacing with a seating pad. Not that we would recommend this as we think the M109R is really just a one person bike.

There are some really nice detail touches like the 10-inch brushed aluminum risers that bring the drag style chrome handlebars close to the rider. But you have to sit almost wedged up tight to the big 4.9 gallon gas tank if you have short arms and anyone with less than a 32-inch inside leg is going to struggle a bit to reach the forward controls. However, here are a ton of options out there to get your bike to fit you with a big aftermarket parts business for the M109R.

Like all Suzukis, overall fit and finish is good but there’s abundant use of plastic on the M109R, such as both fenders and most of the panels. The rear LED brake lights are enormous and take up a huge space on the back fender.

And the instrument panel that houses the speedo, gas gauge and clock looks more like a wrist watch face from the 1980s and is out of place on a 2013 motorcycle. When you first swing a leg over the M109R and head out on the road your eyes will be forever darting back and forth between the speedo and the digital tach that is mounted separately, along with the gear indicator, on top of the headlight shroud. You’ll have to decide to opt for either just watching your speed or the engine revs. You simply can’t follow both at the same time.

We got to test the Boulevard M109R Limited, which boasts sparkling red bodywork with flashes of white and a ton of engine chrome, plus you get the wheels and final gear casing finished in flat black. For a hundred dollars less you can choose the all black version of the M109R, which is a little less obvious and would be our choice.

The Ride
We’ve ridden some unusual bikes at RideApart and the Suzuki fits right into that category. For such a massive motorcycle that is all about brutish power and aggressive looks it is actually a surprisingly refined and easy bike to ride.

Our initial thought on seeing the M109R was it was going to be a difficult to maneuver at low speeds around parking lots. But it’s deceptively agile and will amble along easily enough although feedback through the bars is a little heavy. And despite its weight and girth it’s not difficult either to haul in and out of a garage or push around to park.

But it’s out on the road the M109R starts to make some sort of sense. Under hard acceleration and in a straight line the big v-twin will pull all the way up to 7500rpm. What’s more, when you do this, it will make you grin like an idiot.

With those big pistons thumping away underneath the wide gas tank the best description we can think of is that under hard acceleration the Suzuki sounds like someone running a stick down some iron fence railings. And the ride from light to light, providing the road ahead is dead straight, is a hoot. It’s sort of like riding a two-wheeled dragster. There’s not the sharp acceleration you’d expect from a sport bike but instead there’s a steady delivery of seamless power that pushes you back in the saddle. It feels like the Suzuki v-twin could go on pulling and pulling, forever and ever.

The downside to all this muscle performance comes when the road starts to get twisty and whilst aesthetically that big rear wheel and tire combination make the Suzuki look mean it doesn’t contribute much to high speed cornering. It’s not a disaster, providing the road surface is smooth and flat, but throw in a bump or two and it can momentarily unsettle the M109R.

For such a big bike you can make it lean over in the curves but with all that weight it’s hard work if you want to ride in a really aggressive way. We found the best approach to riding the Suzuki was to be slow into the corners and then power out hard. Like all riding smoothness is the key to being quick and safe.

We’re not suggesting the Suzuki doesn’t handle. It’s just a heavy motorcycle on fat tires with a lot of torque. If you’re looking for a nimble sport bike experience then don’t even glance at the M109R. It doesn’t even come close. If on the other hand you’re happy for a smooth, across-town ride that will make you smile a lot between the lights, the M109R has that capacity in bucket loads.

It stops well, too. A loose dog in the road and heavy traffic is never the best situation to find yourself in on a motorcycle, but we were impressed at how well those front four piston Tokico calipers and twin 310mm discs and single rear worked bringing the big Suzuki to a swift halt.

There was no snatching or locking up of that fat rear wheel and the dog, the Suzuki and this rider lived to fight another day. ABS would have made an even bigger difference and slowed the bike down even faster but that’s not available.

Freeway riding is a bit of a chore on the M109R and with a five-speed gearbox it really could do with a sixth gear as overdrive. It rides alright on the concrete slab and its suspension setup soaks up the bumps well, but it’s not designed as a long distance cruiser and with this bike your best bet is to get off the freeway and find the side roads to get to your destination.

With a 4.9-gallon gas tank you should be able to get upwards of 180 miles before refueling the M109R. Currently, Suzuki doesn’t issue any performance or mpg figures for its bikes so we’re estimating that on average we were hitting around 35mpg.

The Good
The Suzuki M109R is an odd bike, and that is perhaps some of its charm. You either like the way it looks and get the fact it’s basically a motorcycle with a massive engine that is good for cruising around town on, or you don’t. Nobody is ever going to be on the fence with this bike.

Performance wise there are faster and more agile bikes out there. But for simple straight-line power there are few motorcycles that come close to the experience of riding the M109R under full throttle in a straight line. It really is a lot of fun.

The Bad
The color. The limited edition red with white flashes is too shiny and sparkly for a motorcycle that lays claim to be a muscle bike. Stick to the less expensive and more discreet black version.

The split instrument setup is not to our liking, mixing analog with digital and mounted in two different locations. The riding position, although in the classic cruiser style with your legs stretched out, for us it took time to get used to, as this is a big, long and wide motorcycle.

Suzuki thinks the M109R will appeal to some riders wanting to get off their sport bikes but are not yet ready for the entire cruiser set-up. We’re not so sure.

For a heavy bike the Suzuki handles well, is comfortable and is an interesting ride. But there are a very small number of sport riders who are going to actively look out the M109R as their next fulltime bike. We kept thinking when riding it ‘who exactly is going to buy this bike?’

What Others Say
“The styling is aerodynamic and the wires, cables and hoses are all nicely tucked out of sight. The L.E.D. taillight is well integrated into the single-piece rear fender-seat unit. Brightwork abounds; the sparkle from the huge chrome headlight housing is probably visible to cosmonauts orbiting the Earth.”
“The high-performance big-twin cruiser segment is still emerging and evolving. It will be interesting to see how competitors respond to Suzuki’s potent entry in the class, but for now the Boulevard M109R is the sweetheart of the rodeo.” — The New York Times

“The Suzuki Boulevard M109R brings a sort of energetic liberation to the cruiser motorcycle genre. Certainly, the idea of a power cruiser is not a new one-for maximum style and straight-line acceleration, put a performance motor in a stretched out frame with relaxed ergonomics. Initially, that was done by hot-rodding existing cruiser motors, and dealing with the inherent issues with engines designed for comfort rather than speed.” — Ultimate Motorcycling

The Price
If a muscle bike really is your thing then you could go down the route of paying an exorbitant amount of money for a custom built motorcycle that will have even more power than the Suzuki. On paper at least. Plus the chances are you will lose a lot of your cash when you come to sell it and it will undoubtedly break.

At $14,799 the red and white Suzuki Boulevard M109R Limited Edition is a production version of a muscle bike and for that you get Suzuki build quality and a warranty. For $500 less you can opt the less obtrusive black version.

There’s not much out there that rivals the Suzuki. You could consider Harley Davidson’s V-Rod range starting at $15,149 for the V-Rod Muscle or the Night Rod Special at $15,449. But in terms of power, they lag behind the M109R with 83.3lb-ft and 87lb-ft respectively ,and the 76.28ci H-D motors look positively puny compared to the big 109ci of the Suzuki.

The Verdict
There is no sane or rational reason to the Suzuki M109R. Yes it has some interesting sport bike technology and is well built and has heaps of aggressive styling. But there’s no luggage carrying capacity and you are not going to find many people wanting to be a passenger on the back. So you’ll be riding alone. You also won’t want to do hundreds of miles with it on the freeway.

It’s probably the ideal second or third bike for someone that already has a sport bike or a touring bike and is attracted by the proposition of owning something as different as this big Suzuki. We can also see people who have Detroit muscle cars in their garage and are looking for something equivalent in a motorcycle. Big engine, enormous pistons and over the top looks. The M109R would fit right in.

Is the Boulevard M109R then a bad motorcycle? Absolutely not.

It is though a bike fitted with an engine that is completely bonkers. In a straight line this Suzuki will hurl you up the road in a way that probably only a roller coaster ride can replicate. It’s an extraordinary experience.

But what we think is even more extraordinary is that a mainstream manufacturer like Suzuki continues to offer today a bike like the Boulevard M109R and for that reason alone it deserves to sell every one it makes.

RideApart Rating: 8/10

Gear
Helmet: HJC RPHA Max ($414, recommended)
Jacket: Alpinestars Viper Air ($200, recommended)
Gloves: Racer USA Guide Glove ($109, highly recommended)

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