2015 Suzuki Boulevard M109R

Road Test Review

Despite the rapid rise of new favorites—adventure bikes, crossovers, naked roadsters and more—cruisers remain popular. Variations also abound within the cruiser continuum, with baggers pulling in much attention lately. Within such variety, the Suzuki Boulevard M109R reigns as a power cruiser celebrity. Despite its age, it offers a great engine that endures, one that kicks tail, takes names and delights riders. Its in-your-face power and raring-to-go attitude make the M109R a well-rounded muscle cruiser that’s still a ton of fun years after it first debuted.

The first time the M109R graced the pages of Rider was upon Suzuki’s introduction of the bike in 2006. That initial road test showered generous praise on the then brand-new big 54-degree V-twin that displaces 109 cubic inches, or 1,783cc. Despite minimal changes over the ensuing nine years, the M109R’s carryover credentials remain impressive thanks to its sound, modern design.

Unlike virtually every other big-inch cruiser wherein long-stroke configurations and lazy engine speeds rule, the M109R incorporates a decidedly sport-oriented oversquare engine with a bore and stroke of 112.0 x 90.5mm. Using lightweight short-skirt slipper-type pistons, four valves per cylinder and dual-overhead camshafts driven by a compact two-stage drive setup (which features a reduction system that allows half-sized driven sprockets on the camshaft that shrink overall cylinder head dimensions), this exceptional Vee engine becomes distinctly rev-happy, sharing far more in common with sporting motorcycles than the vast majority of cruisers.

In real-world terms, its generous displacement churns out plenty of low-end grunt from the get-go, just like other big V-twin customs. But as revs build, the M109R engine takes on new life as even more power—a lot more—quickly kicks in. Grabbing a big handful of throttle from about 4,000 rpm up feels like the second stage firing off in a rocket launch as the engine zooms upward with irresistible force to its relatively lofty 7,500-rpm redline. Better yet, it’s a smooth, free and natural buildup—this engine doesn’t work up to speed grudgingly; rather it feels relieved, excited and thankful to be let off the leash. It’s a dual-personality motor; a typically torquey cruiser initially, it then morphs into a heckuva strong sport mount. All of which creates a really fun bonus.

Firing up the bike foretells what’s to come: A surprisingly rowdy, staccato blast barks out of the B.O.S.S. blacked-out pipes (more about styling to follow). No need to install aftermarket pipes or mufflers if you enjoy a bit of attitude in your exhaust sound, because you’re already good to go. Also, as those enormous 112mm pistons fire off—their 4.4-inch diameter rivals even those found in big-displacement automobiles and light trucks—it almost feels like a series of firecrackers exploding somewhere beneath your butt. A very tactile and audible experience that gets the blood flowing!

Snick the M109R into gear with the resulting clunk, ease out the clutch lever and it squirts off with little drama, just a little hesitation when cold. Once warm and underway, those oversized Vee sensations quickly fade into a pleasant background ambiance as engine vibes smooth out and even the exhaust note seems to quiet. Credit here must go to the engine’s staggered crankpins for perfect primary balance and a contra-rotating balance shaft, plus elastic engine mounts. In total, they effectively quell irritating vibes from this big engine that would otherwise seep through the frame and into the chassis. Fuel metering is spot-on and at freeway speeds in fifth gear the engine just loafs along; 60 mph shows a mere 2,750 rpm on the tach. No strain, just easy cruising, but if you need to pass just twist the grip or you can drop a gear to make the scenery blur quickly.

Catch the exit for your favorite back road, and the dual-mode motor shines again. You can simply cruise along at a leisurely pace, enjoying the strong and broad spread of power without rowing through the gearbox. Or you can get more active and work the motor at higher revs where it rapidly chases down the next apex. This is a true power cruiser, one that lets you command the clout. Relaxed or involved, it’s your call.

On those back-road forays, however, you must remember this is still a cruiser, not a sportbike. The long 67.3-inch wheelbase, stretched-out steering geometry with 31.2 degrees of rake and 4.9 inches of trail, plus a curb weight of 761 pounds serve as constant reminders that this is no cut-and-thrust canyon carver. You can get aggressive with this bike, but it dictates the terms. The wide handlebar lends plenty of leverage to reduce effort, but it’s moderately slow steering. So it’s better to get your braking done early and then hold a steady, preplanned arc through corners—a technique that helps mitigate driveshaft torque reaction, as well. This big Suzook runs out of ground clearance pretty quickly; you’ll drag your boot heels at first until you learn to place your feet just so on the pegs, but then the peg feelers grind, along with the lower pipe shield on the right side. You don’t really want to find out what hits next.

Up front, dual 310mm floating ventilated discs and radial-mount 4-piston calipers carry out braking duties extremely well—this is sportbike-quality stuff that works splendidly. The burly 46mm inverted fork is not adjustable, but it gives 5.1 inches of well-controlled travel. In back, the single-shock rear suspension allows 4.6 inches of travel that’s pretty competent but seems to struggle more with the bike’s mass. When you’re charging hard on twisty roads it’s the rear suspension that sets the limits, especially on broken road surfaces, where it fails to handle medium-to-large irregularities and sends a sharp jolt up the rider’s spine. So keep a sharp eye peeled to dodge such obstacles, or simply slow the pace.

During mild-mannered freeway use, the M109R suspension returns nice, comfortable performance with a ride just on the firm side of medium. That big 240-series rear tire looks imposing, but it doesn’t really affect handling much; on concrete freeways with a running seam between lanes, the back tire sometimes grabs and tries to overcome the front tire’s steering, but that’s a quirk, not a complaint. However, when encountering larger bumps, holes and frost heaves, especially sharp-edged ones, the rear end again hammers the rider with a sharp jolt. It’s all a function of the bike’s weight. On balance, we’ll take those tradeoffs for the good control during active riding over a pillowy ride that falls apart at speed.

The riding position fits six-footers well although the footpegs are set pretty far forward; shorter riders may struggle with this setup. Despite appearances, the handlebar sits fairly low and it’s very flat with a comfortable bend. The well-padded and comfy seat is broad and long enough to allow the rider to scoot around into different positions to change pressure points on longer rides.

Back to that issue of styling: B.O.S.S. stands for Blacked-Out Special Suzuki and indeed, virtually every chromed or polished bit on the regular M109R model is now black. That raises the price to $14,999, a $700 upcharge over the standard model. Whether it’s worth the extra cash depends entirely on your eyeballs; we like the look, perhaps in reaction to the commonality of shiny bikes in the class. It seems to give the M109R a more serious and aggressive look that better suits this power cruiser. And did we mention that we love this engine?