2011 Suzuki Boulevard M109R Limited Edition Review - Motorcycle.com
What kind of bike would you bring to a superhero rally? The recent Comic Con International drew teeming masses of wannabe do-gooders, villains, brain-munching zombies, merciless monsters and other dark denizens of sci-fi, horror and graphic novel to this celebration of all things out of this world. The Suzuki M109R Limited Edition fit right in like a warm gun at a knife fight.
Suzuki blew up the emerging power cruiser market when it launched its half-cruiser, half-sportbike beastie in 2006. A massive, 109 cubic-inch (1783cc) engine was implanted as the bike’s cruel heart. Hot-rod styling cues, such as the fashionably fat 240mm rear tire, low-slung seat and top gun riding position were added for proper menacing attitude. The 127 crankshaft hp (about 106 horses at the wheel), fire-snorting, liquid-cooled V-Twin was ready to wreak havoc on the American avenue.
The project was an unholy amalgam of the race-honed GSX-R superbike and the undead remains of the popular but musty Intruder. The M109R ("M" for mighty; “R” for racing) was dubbed the new king of the cruisers by some jaw-dropped pundits when it first scorched the asphalt. Critics derided its chunky style and chubby 764-pound curb weight, but the M109R added a new dimension to the sport-cruiser category.
San Diego’s sci-fi convention features the film and print world’s most fanatic followers. Herds of costumed characters and caped crusaders spilled out of the convention center and into the town’s Gaslamp Quarter, parading, primping, growling, posing and becoming the superhero or mad monster they adore most.
Sci-fi premieres were everywhere, but as I rode the M109R down possibly crime-ridden boulevards and darkened alleys, ready to rescue damsels in short dresses, I knew in my heart Captain America had nothing on me. The M109R shot about town like a rolling secret weapon on a mission, ready to shift into a thunderous menace. For a few summery days in this lovely seaside city, I felt like the king of the zombies, or at least a superhero’s apprentice.
The Suzuki provided a mind-blowing rush beyond whatever Comic Con’s best nerd-brains could imagine. Rolling amid the trikes built to look like starships, the cars hung with time-machine-like bodywork, and the walking comic book characters dressed to kill, the M109R stood out as a real-deal rocket ship, albeit bound to an earthly street, a minor inconvenience to a leathered crusader.
The M109R shoots off the line like a speeding bullet, smoothly accelerating through its powerband with resolute aplomb. The drivetrain’s only drawback is the fixed limit of its five-speed gearbox. The engine is so full of pep it begs to be galloped out to at least a sixth gear.
New this year for the M109R series is this Limited Edition cosmetic package that commands a $400 sticker bump to $14,500. It’s distinguished by its Glass Sparkle Black/Candy Max Orange paint and black (rather than silver) wheels. The package is finished off with a white/gray fade-pattern speedo backdrop on the tank-mounted gauge panel, a textured seat with Suzuki Boulevard logo and a clear lens for the LED taillights.
The original M109R design was so well thought out, we wouldn’t want Suzuki to change much aside from adding an overdrive transmission gear or perhaps the option of some nicely integrated hard bags, easily detachable and big enough to hold enough stuff to get you down the road for a weekend or more. Some riders may like a windshield or even—egad—a fairing, but that would just not be the superhero way. Besides, we like the wind and bugs and other such road splatter smashing us in the mouth at 75 per. It’s just part of the pure cruiser experience, which is what the M109R represents — avenue-assassin looks with super biker powers.
The boulevard blaster is a surprisingly comfortable ride, handling long-haul duties as well as it rips up asphalt with all the might its rated 118 ft-lb of torque (about 100 ft-lb at the wheel) will muster. A quick twist of the wrist can send your eyeballs bouncing to the back of your head and the bike rearing up on its haunches like a spooked racehorse. Just how we like it, even if our army of corporate attorneys likes to send us memos about power is nothing without control and other such pesky blabber that makes our heads hurt. Fortunately, Suzuki has taken care of this for us, creating a monster machine with polite manners.
The bike’s architecture didn’t stop with simply shoehorning a big-ass motor into a cruiser chassis. Handling is superbly delivered via a high-tensile steel frame built to absorb huge twists of torque. Inverted for greater stability and strength, the front fork boasts hefty 46mm tubes, providing a healthy 5.1 inches of front wheel travel.
A cast aluminum swingarm, progressive shock linkage and a preload-adjustable shock provide a firm but comfortable ride and 4.7 inches of rear-wheel travel. The four-piston, 310mm dual disc front brakes and twin-piston, 275mm rear disc competently reels in the black beauty. Spiral spoke cast aluminum wheels, 3.50 x 18-inch front and 8.50 x 18-inch rear and wrapped in Dunlop, round out the suspension. Simply put, the bike handles a lot better than looks possible.
Another surprise is how cozy the M109R’s seat is. Set wide but low at 27.8 inches, the plush saddle will leave you with happy butt even after hours of droning down the superslab. The passenger seat, covered by a plastic cowling when not in use for that cool bad-boy, lone-rider look, is also deceptively engineered by being more comfortable than it appears.
From the side it doesn’t look like your pillion is going to like you, but look at the Suzuki’s seat from the rear and it suddenly appears to have twice the butt placement area, a small but significant detail consistent with the bike’s unordinary design, and one that will keep couples together at the end of a long ride. A 5.2-gallon tank, fuel economy around 35 mpg, and more creature comforts than one would expect from a hardcore cruiser, and the Suzuki M109R almost asks to be flogged all damn day.
As with all motorcycles, there are intangibles to consider when measuring Suzuki’s flagship cruiser. From the throaty dual exhaust that reminds us true biking is not dead to spot-on ergonomics, the M109R drips superhero sex appeal. The cockpit puts the rider in the most badass profile possible, legs forward and spread at a most cocky angle.
The M109R is an empowering machine, motorcycling fun at its core, and the kind of ride that can turn the average, mild-mannered rider into a street hero.
More by J. Joshua Placa