2013 Suzuki Boulevard C90T

Road Test Review

Long and low, black as night and trimmed with just enough chrome to entertain the eye, Suzuki’s 2013 Boulevard C90T B.O.S.S. (Blacked Out Suzuki Special) cuts a figure worthy of favorable commentary, or so was my experience after spending a month with this machine. But a spiffy black suit isn’t enough for most riders, so the B.O.S.S. backs up its night-rider look with spirited performance, cruising comfort and convenient storage for in-town errands or out-of-state wandering. And, in spite of the classic look, there’s plenty of tech onboard to keep things hopping.

Beneath the Dark Lord livery, the B.O.S.S. shares a host of running gear with its M90 stable mate: tubular-steel frame, fuel-injected V-twin, 5-speed transmission and shaft final drive. The pistons carry chrome-nitride coated oil and upper compression rings through the electro-coated cylinders, all in the name of slaying friction, encouraging heat transfer and maximizing horsepower. Three independent airboxes feed the Suzuki Dual Throttle Valve (SDTV) borrowed from the GSX-R sportbike line. Managing the mixture is a 32-bit engine control unit that ensures the correct air/fuel ratio for every throttle setting.

Suzuki claims the B.O.S.S. squeezes out a skosh more power than the M90, with an earlier and higher torque peak–93.3 lb-ft at 2,800 rpm. The power curves run closer, with the C90T on top until its slightly lower peak of 81.8 horsepower at 4,800 rpm. On the road, the big vee makes a nice chudda-chudda-chudda at low rpm, but as the revs climb it launches into a satisfying rush of power where the vibes vanish in a jet stream of acceleration. Hyperbole aside, the B.O.S.S. does get out of its own way quickly when coaxed. On American freeways, you’ll only need the first three gears to cruise at the speed limit, with fourth and fifth being overdrives that bring the revs down to the lumpier range. The slash-cut dual exhausts emit a soothing rumble to keep you company. Shifting is cruiser-style–slow gear changes with a heel-toe lever and attendant clunks if you’re not spot-on with the timing. A long reach to the clutch lever complicates matters for smaller hands, even with Suzuki’s Clutch Action System (SCAS) reducing clutch effort.

On smooth tarmac, the B.O.S.S. glides through corners till the floorboard feelers scrape. Rough roads are another matter, highlighting the B.O.S.S.’s big weakness—suspension. The 45mm fork does a decent job up front, and though the rear soaks up small hits, it’s just plain bouncy over larger bumps. And with no adjustments at either end, there’s no choice but to sit and take it. Though slab riding is tolerable, the B.O.S.S. would be much more fun in the curves with a better shock—and wouldn’t bounce my butt off the seat over speed bumps. The single discs and two-pot calipers front and rear take plenty of pressure at the controls to stop the 800-pound bike quickly, though it can be done. Using both brakes together—and a good push on the rear pedal—gives the smoothest, quickest stops.

Take care not to kick the bags as you swing a leg over the B.O.S.S. and settle onto the saddle. Matching synthetic material covers the locking ABS panniers, which hold enough gear for a few days on the road—if you pack light. Wide 7⁄8-inch bars reach back to greet you, creating a relaxed atmosphere at the controls, while your feet stretch forward to the hinged floorboards. The spacious seat allows taller riders to move around, but at 68 inches tall, and with a wide tank between my knees, I was stuck in one position. Fortunately, it was a comfortable one, except for buffeting from wind coming around the massive windscreen. Mind you, the B.O.S.S. and I often traveled at SoCal freeway speeds, and the discomfort disappeared when traffic slowed to near-legal velocities. Elsewhere in the cockpit, the smallish mirrors provide a surprisingly clear view to the rear. The teardrop-shaped instrument nacelle atop the tank is mounted too low for me though, and (wearing a full-face helmet) required some head bobbing to read anything beyond the speedo and top row of indicator lights. Checking the LED fuel gauge, gear indicator and odometers all required taking my eyes off the road.

If black is your thing, there’s plenty to like about the B.O.S.S. The underwhelming suspension mars the handling for faster riding and the ergos aren’t perfect for me, but there are a lot of riders who will be the right height, weight and demeanor to enjoy many miles aboard this motorcycle. The hardtail style looks good from every angle, the shaft drive was unnoticeable, and the engine is a barrel of fun whether you rev it up or let it lug. And if black isn’t your thing, you can get a similar experience on its more colorful cousin, the Boulevard C90T.