2005 Suzuki M50 Boulevard
Suzuki's "new" middleweight cruiser
Vrooooom Brappppaaaaaah... That's the sound of a big 45°, offset crank pin V-twin being revved, the noise echoing off the walls of the urban canyon that is the native habitat of the cruiser rider. The bike he rides is black, has lots of chrome-but not too much, and has the hulking, burly style that we now call a "power cruiser".
We're used to shelling out big semolians for power cruisers these days. Yamaha's V-Max is $11,099. Harley's V-Rod is $17,695. Kawasaki will shake you down for $10,999 before they let you leave the showroom on a Mean Streak.
Of course, these bikes are worth the money- they have good looks and more importantly, more power than you could possibly want. How do I know that? With a laid-back riding position and no windscreen, you're struggling just to stay on a cruiser at any speed over 70 mph. When the speedometer winds out on a cruiser, my 145 pounds just doesn't seem like enough weight to hold me down to this planet, I feel like that kitten in the "Hang in there, baby" poster your guidance counselor had hanging in her office.
Since I'm both small and thrifty, I wondered if any manufacturer was going to build a power cruiser for a smaller, more budget conscious rider like me. So I wasn't completely bummed out when herr magazinenfuhrer Alexander told me to take the horribly rickety and doubtless OSHA-violating MO Van through an hour of rush-hour traffic to retrieve the -new for 2005- Suzuki M50 Boulevard Black.
While waiting in Suzuki's opulent lobby for my ride, I noticed what seemed like a bewildering array of brochures for different Suzuki cruiser models. Suzuki offers six different standard models, but staggers the consumer with 13 different cruisers, from the miniscule S40 to mighty M95. Why do they name their cruisers with seemingly random numbers and letters?
On closer examination, the system is clearer. "C" denotes classic style (valanced fenders, smaller front wheel), "M" is more of a power cruiser thing, with muscle-bike fenders and cleaner lines than the C models.. "S" denotes a more traditional Japanese cruiser style, harking back to the late '80s. The number is engine size in cubic inches, as the Japanese have been labeling them for decades. The S40 is the baby of the family and was called a Savage 650 before it was converted. The C50 and M50 are 819 cubic centimeters, followed by the 1,360cc S83, then the 1,470cc C90. At the top of the line, you'll find the silverback: the M95, with a 1,552cc engine. See? It's simple once you figure it out.
819cc isn't a lot compared to some of the mega-cruisers landing (crashing?) on the scene these days, but it wasn't really that long ago that 819cc was a lot of bike, even for a cruiser. That's the impression the M50 made on me at first sight- it's a lot of bike, especially when Suzuki's press guy is watching to see if you can gracefully roll the thing up into your van.
"So that's the MO van, eh?" said Suzuki's press liaison, with a tone one usually uses for describing dead vermin. "I don't think it's going to fit."
I saw what he meant- the MO van has a horizontal divider set up to carry sportbikes, and even a "middleweight" cruiser was just a few inches too long to get the rear doors shut. After some rearranging of the van's interior, I was on my way back to MO, hoping I had enough remaining brain cells for another hour of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Sportbike Pilot and I unloaded the M50 back at the ranch, and although heavier than most of the sportbikes and standards we're used to, at a *claimed* dry weight of 540 pounds we noted it wasn't really that bad. It also has enough ground clearance to use a standard loading ramp without scraping the pipes or frame.
With the bike safely unloaded, we can walk around it and admire the styling. The M50 drips with style, from the slick and first-in-class inverted front forks to the Softtail style rear end. It is low and lean, with plenty of chrome and nice rich black paint. The engine has a lot of black treatment and is surrounded by covers which look like powder coat but prove to be painted plastic covers on closer inspection. The wheels also get the black treatment. Plenty of work has been done on the styling of this bike, and it shows. Suzuki (aside from the S models) has truly come a long way since the Madura, and thank God for that.
The styling flows nicely until we get to the bob-tail rear end, which seems to be a little big for the bike and looks a little disproportionate when compared to the cool black-painted rear wheel. It looks a lot like the tail section of the M95, but on the M50 it doesn't quite work, especially since the top muffler sticks out so far past the wheel. On the whole, looking at the rear end reminds me of a very small person with freakishly large genitalia, although Maximum MOron Sean really dug the rear end's styling. Then again, he also likes midget porn.
With that thought planted firmly in my subconscious, it was now time to suit up and head to Santa Monica for an initial riding impression. First, we have to play the motorcycle tester's favorite game, "where's the ignition?". On some cruisers, this can provide a few minutes of diversion, but the M50 has it sensibly located out in the open on the right side of the steering head (God forbid they put it someplace garishly practical, like on the upper triple clamp -Sean).
The engine fires up instantly, with just a hint of engineered-in balkiness. There's no choke with Suzuki's new AFIS: Auto Fast Idle System. Suzuki likes acronyms. What you also notice right away is the sound- it's got an authentic potato-potato v-twin rumble, and it sounds quite nice. The bike is ready to ride instantly, so I reach for the chrome bars and hoist the bike upright.
The bike's centre of gravity feels very low, and of course it has a short seat height, so I'm not intimidated. I wave my left foot around, feeling for the footpeg and gearshift, and find them in a very-forward position, as today's cruiser riders demand. I snap it into gear, and release the smooth clutch while twisting the fat throttle.
Rolling into traffic, I notice the nice switchgear, encased in aluminum-look control pods. There is a Euro-style passing light (to coax S40s out of the way, I guess) and even a hazard flasher in case you notice a rapidly-closing M95 in your mirrors.
Don't get M95 envy though, as the M50 has some very nice thrust off the line. The five-speed gearbox works smoothly, and the new-fangled Suzuki Dual Throttle Valve System (SDTV, just like a GSX-R -Sean)-equipped fuel injection means I can leave it in second, or third to troll around town. As you roll into the throttle, acceleration presses you down into the small, well shaped saddle and you struggle to keep a grip on the high bars. Strapping the M50 onto MO's Dynojet revealed two things: one, the liquid cooled, four-valve per cylinder motor pumps out 44.09 hp and 42.83 foot-pounds of torque [See Chart.]. Two, you shouldn't feed the Executive Editor cheese curls when they are dyno-testing.
It may have a little price and be light for a cruiser, but it feels big on power and has a commanding presence.
This bike has such a smooth, responsive motor that it's fun to dart in and out of traffic by just rolling on and off the throttle. The wide bars, low center of gravity and relative light weight (for a cruiser!) gives you way more confidence than you'd expect from a near-600 pound bike in this environment. Urban traffic is what this bike is designed for and it is indeed lot of fun around town.
Riding onto the freeway is fun as well- the pegs are far forward, but they are pretty high as well, so cornering clearance is impressive (for a cruiser!). So you can lean it over farther than most large cruisers, allowing you to negotiate long, sweeping onramps confidently, without raising a shower of sparks like a floorboard equipped heavyweight might. Once you're around the onramp, the smooth clutch, gearbox and burly little motor get you up to illegal speeds in no time.