Safety technology is all well and good but it does cost. Are there some machines that can do without? Suzuki’s biggest cruiser, the M109R, debuted in 2007 without any electronic gadgets and yet it remains relevant.
What’s the attraction of cruisers if they don’t handle that well, aren’t fast, and are poor cousins to sports bikes on the electronics front? Perhaps the simplicity of it all. We took a look at Suzuki’s biggest cruiser, the M109R, as a typical old-school offering to get a handle on these aspects. The primary attraction of cruisers is that they look great, and make the most noise in the single tracker world. The look should be long and low, with raked out forks, a sizeable rear tyre and better still if the engine is air-cooled since radiators on bikes look pants. These days, most cruisers are liquid-cooled for reasons of power and efficiency and radiators tend to be hidden. They weren’t so much when the M109R was designed.
A cruiser should also be black to match the bad boy clamour, and lots of shiny chrome goes down well too. That mandates the wearing of Aviator-type sunglasses and dirty denim or well worn leather, naturally. Unfortunately the outlaw appearance makes cruisers appealing to human magpies, so if you’ve no lock-up or are nervy perhaps it’s best to pass on these. Most cruisers use a sizeable V-twin engine for that authentic bad-ass bass roar. Off the showroom floor, many sound anaemic but aftermarket mufflers make them more vocal.
Many motorists would say modified cruisers sound offensively loud but in the case of the Boulevard M109R it’s about right out of the box. Those slashed and stacked dual mufflers look good too. They give vent to sufficient rumble, just enough to turn heads. The engine defines the character of a bike, and only big V-twins will do for power cruisers. The M109R debuted in 2007 and has continued in production largely unchanged. A ride on it shows why. It was up to speed engine-wise back then, with a liquid cooled 1800cc V-twin that revved merrily to 7500rpm, the redline a bunch higher than that of other similarly sized V-twins.
Most cruisers use a sizeable V-twin engine for that authentic bad-ass bass roar. Off the showroom floor, many sound anaemic but aftermarket mufflers make them more vocal. Many motorists would say modified cruisers sound offensively loud but in the case of the Boulevard M109R it’s about right out of the box. Those slashed and stacked dual mufflers look good too. They give vent to sufficient rumble, just enough to turn heads. The engine defines the character of a bike, and only big V-twins will do for power cruisers. The M109R debuted in 2007 and has continued in production largely unchanged. A ride on it shows why. It was up to speed engine-wise back then, with a liquid cooled 1800cc V-twin that revved merrily to 7500rpm, the redline a bunch higher than that of other similarly sized V-twins.
Another plus over belt drive competitors is maintenance-free shaft drive. An overlooked advantage is that the transmission always snicks gently into first gear. No clunky chain engagement here. There are only five cogs in the gearbox but the engine is a grunter, hauling away without juddering from 1500rpm and getting its second wind around 3500rpm. It runs tall gearing, with 100km/h a lazy and laidback 2500rpm. That makes it thrifty too. After a 160km ride, the fuel gauge still hadn’t moved off full and 300km to a tank is easy. Tall ratios mean you’re generally in third gear around town, the big V-twin reciprocating at just above idle. It’s a gem around the suburbs, the transmission shifting lighter than with other big cruisers and the shorty mirrors only ever a model of clarity.
The low seat height makes balancing the bike at the lights a cinch. Despite impressions of width, it’ll happily lane split too. Weighing in at 350kg the M109R is no lightweight but it’s not that difficult to man-handle around the garage either. Our bike had just 10km on the odo at pick up so the brakes were green. After about 50km and a series of hard applications they seemed much improved, though are hardly state of the art. But you can apply huge pressure both ends without lock up, making for good stopping distances.
On that, safety electronics are conspicuous by their absence. The M109R has no ABS, traction control, engine modes, or digital speedo. Nor is there any aero protection or adjustability to the front suspension, and no trip computer either. There’s just an odo, tacho, analogue speedo, and gear indicator. All of which saves on cost. Some ex-sportsbike fans settle for cruisers because they simply want to slow down and smell the roses. In summer cruiser riders are more likely to smell the sickly stench of privet.
Others look to cruisers because they’ve been busted too often for speeding, and while it’s true the Boulevard feels right at home tooling along at the legal limit, the speedo ends at 240. However, the limited cornering clearance keeps cruisers at real speeds. The inability to maintain pace through bends perversely makes cruisers saner mounts. That said, the hang-up in bends has been the undoing of many a return-to-riding type. Some cruisers like this one touch down elegantly, with sacrificial metal tangs on the pegs. Despite the M109’s whopping rear tyre (240/40R18) there’s only minor reluctance to change direction, though steering you’d not describe as quick. The best cornering method is to take the shallowest line available which means clipping the apex accurately.
While the Suzook is quite comfy, that’s not always a given with a cruiser. Low riders generally have limited suspension travel, especially at the rear and some feel like hard-tails over sharp-edged bump. Be sure to check this out before signing up. That’s not the only comfort issue either. As part of the outlaw image, cruiser riders are occasionally subjected to unusual riding positions. The apehanger look springs to mind, good if you’re a stranger to deodorant, but not great for bike control. The M109R is set up more for taller riders, with a slight stretch to the drag bars and a bit of a reach to the forward-set pegs.
Many cruisers have no wind protection and can be tiring to ride at speed. Some seek out that enforced physical speed limitation, though riding on windy days can make you feel like so much pegged washing. High-end large displacement cruisers generally go for big money, at least $30k for American iron, but the M109R in black is currently on sale for $16,995. That’s a whole lot of cruiser for your money. Just be aware you’re on your own on the safety front. That said, there’s something rather relaxing about kicking back, cruising along and copping a whiff of the scenery.
|Model||Suzuki Boulevard M109R||Price||$16,995|
|Engine||1783cc, liquid-cooled, fuel injected, V2, 95kW/160Nm||Drivetrain||5-speed, shaft drive|
|0-100km/h||4.15sec||100-0km/h||no ABS m|