2005 Suzuki M50 Boulevard
Suzuki's "new" middleweight cruiser
However, freeway droning is not why we buy cruisers, right? They are for trolling the boulevards, and the occasional jaunt on a twisty road. When it comes to a jaunt, you should be able to go about 110 miles before the reserve lamp comes on. My mileage averaged around 35 mpg with a combination of freeway riding, trolling city streets, and Cheetos (tm)-chewing dyno runs.
On my second day with the M50, I took it out on some local twisties to get a feel for the handling. The M50 Boulevard is a power cruiser, and that means some suspension credibility and handling prowess is needed along with extra power. The M50 does more than look the part, with beefy 41mm inverted forks up front- the first in this category. They do a good job of providing feedback and holding the bike on the desired line in sweeping turns.
I just wish the rear end of the machine was as good as the front. I used to have a 1970 Datsun 1600 roadster, which was mechanically a copy of a 1950's era MG-A. This meant it had sophisticated for 1960 coil springs on the front wheels, but a sacked-out leaf spring and live axle in the rear. It would track smoothly over bumps on the freeway with the front wheels, but then bounce you out of your seat as the front of the car dragged the rigid rear end over the obstacle.That's what a shaft-driven cruiser is like. To reduce the shaft-jacking effect and to keep the seat height super-low, (as the Great Consumer-Gods demand) the rear shock must have short travel and a stiff spring. So when you hit a bump, the bike basically bounces over it like a Flexible Flyer pulled by a hyperactive five-year old. Did I mention my ass is sore? And not because of the MO "initiation" party, either. If you plan to buy a shaft-drive cruiser, you should slow down for potholes, expansion joints, and speed bumps. You might also want to look in Grandpa's closet for a kidney belt.
A 170/80-15 IRC Grand High Speed tire provides adequate grip and feel. Most importantly, it gives us that fat rear tire look without making the bike heavy to steer. The front tire is also a Grand High Speed, in the classic 130/90-16 size. I think the touring tire size on the Power Cruiser front end is a little mismatched, but it looks nice enough and handling doesn't seem to be compromised by it. It should last a good long time, but I would want to replace it with something a little grippier, if such a thing exists in this size.
On smooth pavement, the M50 is great, really reminding me what is attractive about cruisers. The exhaust fills the air with a healthy blatting noise, the tiller-like bars toss the bike into bends easily enough, and you can enjoy surfing the smooth little wave of torque served up by the silky, well-carbureted engine.
Is the moto-nirvana promised by a low-maintenance shaft drive negated by the bobbing and jouncing delivered by the driveshaft shoving the bike into the air every time you get on the gas hard? I rode a shaft-drive BMW for many years, and you do get used to it. But it's noticeable. You just have to ride more smoothly and pick your lines through turns carefully: rolling off the throttle mid-corner will cause a little wobbling and bouncing as the back of the bike drops and takes the weight off the front end.
Another area you will have to be careful with is the brakes. Once again, I am exposed to our good friend the two-piston, sliding-pin caliper, (TPSPC) circa 1982. It requires the typical manly five-fingered squeeze on the front brake lever and has the customary wooden feel. The rear brake is handled by a drum- yes a drum! How quaint (That's "authentic" retro technology! -Sean)!
But it works well enough: on cruisers the weight is biased towards the back, which lets the rear tire really bite down on the blacktop. Though it may be a low-tech drum, the rear brake can lock the tire with a hefty shove on the pedal, rewarding the rider with a cool screeching sound and a little puff of white smoke. Combined with the M50's relatively low weight and intended audience, the brakes should prove to be adequate.
Motor, brakes, suspension, almost everything is nicely chosen for this bike. It works quite well as a package. The exhaust sounds great, it's not too heavy for fun on twisty roads but not too light for freeway cruising and general self-esteem. The exhaust sounds terrific, the motor feels plenty strong and the fuel injection is pretty much faultless.
Sure, the rear suspension and brakes aren't up to today's standards, then again few cruisers are. This is not a big-buck trailer queen or racer-boy fantasy bike. It's designed for the everyday rider to transport him or herself to work or school on. The majority of these will live hard, neglected lives by riders who will never even get close to the machine's performance limits. These customers simply want style and value, lots of it.
Value is the M50's best feature. For $6,749 you can buy a very high quality cruiser with a unique look and great sound at a price point below that of its competitors, some of which have not been redesigned for many years. The M50 will impress a seasoned rider and make a new or re-entry rider think they've died and gone to moto-heaven.
|** Specs Provided By Suzuki **|
|Engine:||50 cubic inch, four-stroke, liquid cooled, 45 degree V-twin, SOHC, 8-valves, TSCC||Key Features|
|Bore Stroke:||83.0 x 74.4mm|
|Fuel System:||Electronic Fuel Injection|
|Final Drive:||Shaft Drive|
|Overall Length:||2370mm (93.3 in.)|
|Overall Width:||860mm (33.9 in.)|
|Overall Height:||1130mm (44.5 in.)|
|Seat Height:||700mm (27.6 in.)|
|Ground Clearance:||140mm (5.5 in.)|
|Wheelbase:||1655mm (65.2 in.)|
|Claimed Dry Weight:||245kg (540 lbs.)|
|Suspension Front:||Inverted, telescopic, coil spring, oil damped|
|Suspension Rear:||Link-type, oil damped, 7-way adjustable spring preload|
|Brakes Front:||Single hydraulic disc|
|Brakes Rear:||Single drum|
|Fuel Tank Capacity:||15.5 liter (4.1 gal.)|