Shaping up for a "Battle of the Titans" in the heavyweight cruiser class, Suzuki entered the arena this year with their new M109R Boulevard. Going toe to toe with Kawasaki's Vulcan 2000 and Yamaha's 1854cc Roadliner, the pre-fight buzz has Suzuki claiming the most powerful V-twin cruiser in the class.
Choosing to carve their own styling path, ignoring the western theme of more traditional cruisers, and going in a different direction when compared to Yamaha's art deco style, Suzuki has given the new M109R visual muscle to back up its power claims. To find out if this was a bunch of media hype, or if this is the new tough guy on the block, we flew down to the wide-open hill country around Austin, Texas to put the bike through its paces.
Concept and Transformation
Considering its many years of racing success and reputation as a brand synonymous with high-performance motorcycles, it is no surprise that Suzuki's uniquely styled M109R comes endowed with many components that wouldn't seem out of place on a sport bike: inverted forks, radial brakes, race-derived fuel injection and very aggressive, low-profile tires wrapping around a pair of slick alloy rims. And, while this is a departure from more traditional cruisers, the biggest changes to the regular theme appear in the styling department. Long, low and solid looking, from the wraparound front fender to the super wide 240-section rear tire, the Suzuki M109R Boulevard is all about visual attitude.
Physically, the bike is big. Weighing in at a pre-fight weight of 694 pounds, this contender is definitely in the heavyweight division, and it's all pure muscle. Any non-essential flab has been chiseled from the 109R's profile, and the low, broad seat and wide bars immediately sit you in a position that broadcasts instant attitude. Twist the light throttle, let the engine's 127 horses loose, and you will quickly have the fat, rear tire spitting tarmac while the bike launches forward with the authority of a dragster. Settle in at a lazy 3200 rpm, and the biggest pair of pistons in the automotive world will have you cruising easily at a posted 70mph for one of the most relaxed rides in the business.
Engine and Transmission
To produce such a large amount of horsepower, the massive 12mm pistons have a healthy 10:1 compression ratio, and run inside a 90.5 mm bore for an over-square arrangement. These huge slugs are made from forged aluminum and feature top piston rings with L-shaped cross sections for better sealing. The oil ring also benefits from lessons learned at the racetrack and is chrome nitride plated. Peak power is produced at 6200 rpm and the 109R's maximum 118 ft. pounds of torque come at 3200 rpm. The rev limiter allows the bike to continue up to 7400 rpm, so there is some useful over rev when you are running up hard through the gears: A situation the bike readily promotes out on the open road.
In the cylinder head, double overhead camshafts open and close four valves per cylinder, and these are driven by a twin-cam chain system. A reduction gear runs at half crankshaft speed to allow for smaller camshaft sprockets, helping to make the 54-degree V-twin more compact and lighter. Below the pistons, chrome-moly steel connecting rods are shot-peened and manufactured in the same way as equivalent parts in Suzuki's GSX-R series.
Responsible for feeding fuel into these cavernous cylinders, the M109R gives us two single-barrel throttle bodies controlled by a powerful 32-bit ECM. Burned gases then exit into a 2-into-1-into-2 exhaust system that features a power valve Suzuki calls SET (Suzuki Exhaust Timing). A catalytic converter is included in the system for cleaner running, and the slash cut mufflers burble a nice deep throbbing sound under full acceleration, while passing all the relevant noise regulations. Fueling on the bike is perfect, with no glitches, or flat spots to be found anywhere from idle to redline.
Power makes its way to the rear wheel through a five-speed gearbox and shaft drive. There is a healthy mechanical thump as you select first gear, and shifting is smooth. The gear lever is a conventional unit, with no heel/toe system on the M109R, and my only request would have been closer placement of the foot pegs, as they are a bit of stretch for my six-foot frame.
Chassis and Brakes
Holding this monster power plant in place, Suzuki uses a high-tensile steel frame, which promotes rigidity without being too heavy. Rubber dampers holding the engine in place help isolate vibration from the rider, while a single shock takes care of suspension duties in the rear and keeps the ride smooth. The shock allows 120mm of wheel travel and is adjustable for spring preload. Up front, a KYB 46mm inverted fork gives 130mm of wheel travel, but has no provision for adjustment. In typical cruiser fashion, this is sprung on the soft side, and heavy braking makes for some serious dive. The plus side of this equation is an extremely plush ride until the going gets rough, and then the suspension is quickly overwhelmed.
As for putting the forks to the test: A pair of radial-mount 4-piston Tokico calipers work with 310mm discs - and, while they look like they would stop a runaway freight train, during our trials they didn't immediately live up to their promise. Having left the Roadliner launch totally impressed with that brake setup, I think I was expecting a similar result from the Suzuki, but unfortunately it wasn't to be. In fairness, the bikes were very low mileage and the brakes improved as the day went on; so new pads could have been responsible for the less than stellar early braking performance. They still stop the bike well, but I anticipated more bite from such a powerful setup. The rear wheel gets a 2-piston caliper and a 275mm disc, with good action through the lever that won't have you locking up the rear wheel without a good hard try.
In the handling department, this rear wheel is responsible for giving the M109R slower, more deliberate turning abilities at lower speeds. Not surprisingly, due to its wide 240 profile, it tends to want to roll into these lower speed turns. Once on the move it becomes a lot less noticeable though, and the high-speed stability and turning abilities of the M109R are first rate. Steering input is light, thanks to the nice wide bars, and all-day riding is going to be a breeze thanks to the comfort afforded by the nicely padded seat.
With such a powerful machine capable of extended high-speed riding, Suzuki turned to Dunlop to develop a special tire to deal with these needs. The V-rated D221s are good for speeds up to 149mph, and the rear uses Joint less Band (JLB) construction to aid this process. This 240/40R 18 certainly helps the bike steer as easily as it does and adds plenty to the bike's aggressive stance visually. The front tire is a 130/70R 18 and as with the rear tire, the sporting nature of the profile certainly helps the light steering.
Accessories and Arrangements
Cruiser riders certainly enjoy personalizing their motorcycles, and Suzuki already has a small lineup of parts available for the new M109R owner. A choice of two windshields, small or large, features billet aluminum mounts and brackets, and aggressive styling. You have the option of hard or soft saddlebags, although the hard bags provide more storage space than the synthetic-leather soft bags. A carbon-look tank bra, gel seat and bolt-on backrest complement the chrome engine guards, and a chrome swing arm cover adds another touch that gives the bike a more custom look.
Paving its own way in the heavyweight cruiser class with a totally unique looking motorcycle, Suzuki has definitely come to the fight with a well-trained competitor. Fast, powerful and able to handle the bends with ease, the M109R is also blessed with long-distance comfort and long-range endurance, thanks to its five-gallon gas tank. Competitively priced at $ 12,999, and coming to dealers in a choice of three colors with the usual Suzuki warranty, the new M109R is the new King of the Hill in the V-twin power stakes, and a well-qualified contender for heavyweight cruiser of the year.
Suzuki M109R Boulevard
+ Great styling, powerful engine, good brakes and good high-speed handling
- Big rear tire make affects low speed handling
Distributor American Suzuki Motor Comp.
Engine four-stroke v-twin, DOHC, four valves per cylinder
Bore x Stroke 112mm x 90.5mm
Fuel system fuel injection
Power 127 bhp @ 6,200 rpm
Cooling liquid cooled
Ignition digital transistorized
Frame high-tensile steel
Front suspension 46mm inverted fork with 130mm (5.12in) of travel
Rear suspension link type single shock with 120mm (4.72in) of travel and spring pre-load adjustment
Rake/trail 31.1°/ 4.88in (124mm)
Brakes front/reartwin 310mm discs front with four piston calipers / 275mm disc rear with two piston caliper
Tires front/rear130/70-R18 / 240/40-R18
Dry weight 319kg (703lbs)
Wheelbase 1709mm (67.3in)
Seat height 706mm (27.8in)
Fuel capacity 5.2 gallons
Fuel consumption n/a
Colors black, white, red
MSRP $ 12,399