2009 Suzuki Boulevard M90

Text: Chris Myers • Photography: Brian Nelson

In the cruiser world, bikes often fall into one of two categories. Either they are staid and mature icons of comfort and style, or they're raucous, straight-line bruisers creating drawn curtains and the frantic summoning of children. Is it asking too much for a taste of both?

To introduce their latest power cruiser to the moto-media, Team Suzuki chose the roads in and around gorgeous Monterey, California. The intoxicating confluence of historic, seaside charm, open country lanes, and the stunning scenery along the legendary Pacific Coast Highway is a cruiser aficionado's dream come true. And being one who's constantly grappling with the testosterone-induced horsepower demands of a rowdy, inner punk kid and the more sedate trappings of a 40-something reality, I found the aggressive yet long, low, and relaxed look of the brand-new M90 appealing. The low, 28.2-inch seat, glossy paint, drag-style bars and feet-forward pegs certainly hint at show. But triple disc brakes, upside-down forks and the racy headlight cowl also scream go. This could prove to be an interesting amalgamation indeed.

Engine and Transmission

From the moment the liquid-cooled 1,462cc V-twin rumbles to life, you know that this is not your typical cruiser. Although the specs nearly mirror the more traditionally styled C90, Suzuki insists that this is a completely new engine. Once underway, it quickly becomes apparent that the tank top and sneakers crowd is not this machine's target audience. The 54-degree V is fed via a state of the art, race-proven SDTV (Suzuki Dual Throttle Valve) fuel injection system. The juice is sprayed through 42mm throttle bodies that each carry twin butterfly valves. The primary valve is controlled by the throttle position, while the secondary is operated by the engine management computer's readings on rpm and gear position. This is said to maintain ideal intake velocity, producing better throttle response and combustion efficiency. But suffice it to say, Suzuki's ample on-track testing of this system has paid dividends - it works extremely well.

As Monterey's traffic and tight streets give way to more open stretches of tarmac in the western hills and then along the PCH, the M90 is much more in its element. And though most civil and manageable in traffic, the engine's inherent, feral rumble tugging against the trappings of stoplights feels like the restless energy of a tiger pacing its cage. With peak torque occurring between 2,600 and 2,700 rpm, grabbing handfuls of throttle soon becomes a not so guilty pleasure that rewards with straightened elbows, barking tires, and goofy grins.

Speaking of that rumble, the designers on hand assured us that the visceral quality of the M90 was given plenty of attention. The decibels emanating from the custom looking, dual slash-cut pipes are not at all offensive, yet the thumping, gut feel so important to this genre is pronounced. Numerous efforts to quell engine noises, including neat touches like a rubber-damped, two-piece cylinder head cover, combine to accent the throaty exhaust note even more. As for the revered T-word so important in the V-world, we were informed that the M90's modern mill gives it "class-leading torque." And despite the fact that our hosts weren't doling out actual power specs, a seat of the pants comparison to Harley-Davidson's Night Rod and Victory's Hammer indicated they probably aren't exaggerating that claim.

The gearbox is a wide ratio five-speed unit capable of handling everything from traffic crawls to highway sprints with ease. Catapulting into the state troopers' "person of interest" category can be accomplished long before top gear too. Shifts are smooth both up and down, and that race-tested technology extends to the tranny. A back-torque limiting clutch that smoothes hard downshifts and puts increased pressure on the clutch plates during acceleration is yet another feature one doesn't expect on a cruiser. This is one impressive powertrain indeed.

Chassis and Brakes

Because the power plant packs quite the wallop, the M90 sports a more aggressive chassis to match the added output. Even at a glance, the upside-down 43mm KYB forks and twin discs on the front wheel are hard to miss. These features normally appear far more at home on a sport or naked bike. The beefy front legs and brakes work in concert with a stout double-cradle steel frame and a single KYB link-type shock in the rear to keep the bike very stable and planted, especially when the curves ratchet up. Despite its 200 series rear tire out back, the M exhibits a surprising lightness and easy nature through the twists. Frankly, if it weren't for the limited ground clearance that often led to furrowed asphalt, I'd be tempted to describe the handling as "sporty." On the other hand, this thumbs-up rating from a more demanding rider may put off some of the cruiser faithful. The suspension stiffness necessary for such solid handling is capable of delivering some harsh jolts when potholes and frost heaves are thrown into the mix. Truth be told, the firm ride is a small price to pay for having that little bit extra in the bag when the arcs swing by more aggressively.

Impressive as the handling and power combo may be, it wouldn't be worth much if the brakes weren't up to their task. In this case, the triple-disc setup Suzuki employed sports dual-piston calipers all the way around, and it does a decent job of reeling in the M. Overall, the brakes felt solid and didn't require Herculean grabs and stomps. They aren't GSXR binders by any stretch, but they are far more adept than the units found on most other 700-plus-pound, feet-forward models.

Accoutrements and Arrangements

As with all cruisers, the meat of the matter comes back to image. To see and be seen is the driving force behind this class of bikes, and the dynamic, sporty persona of the M90 packs a hefty hook. Most of the cruisers out there rely on the tried and true retro theme, but this Suzi pushes the envelope of modernity. The designers explained that a clean look featuring sleek and flowing lines was of paramount importance, and it is an effective formulation. Our group had no trouble turning heads in downtown Monterey. While the use of chrome is liberal, it seems more of an accent to form than a gratuitous display of bling.

The color-matched headlight nacelle sends the eye rearward over a long, 4.7-gallon, teardrop fuel tank and across a tapered rear fender. For those wishing to complete a more swooping impression, the pillion seat can be replaced with an optional cowl that smartly rounds out that rear fender. Lower profile sportbike-type tires go even further to eliminate the chunkiness so prevalent on many cruisers. The wide seat is firm, long enough for a good bit of back and forth movement, and surprisingly comfortable. Add that to the generous fuel capacity, and explorations of the long roads is the foregone conclusion. Factory-optional saddlebags are available but come in a bit on the small side. The upside is, they look good and add a dash of sport-touring flavor to the M90. Though wind protection can politely be described as Spartan, keeping a hold of the bars doesn't reach calisthenics status until well beyond posted limits. To that end, there will be two different height windscreens available from the accessory catalog.

The folks at Suzuki realized there was a distinct gap in their power cruiser lineup. Riders were finding the transition between "beginner" oriented bikes like the 805cc M50 to the hulking bruiser of the 1,783cc M109 far more of a leap than a step. With a bias toward value and no compromises on style or substance, the M90 fills that void perfectly. Far more tempting than intimidating, the middle M checks in boulevard ready and poised to pounce. And with an enticing MSRP of $ 9,999, bringing a little extra growl to the strip has become much easier.