Fifty / 50
From the forks back, the Suzuki C50T and M50 cruisers seem much the same. Engine, transmission, other running gear; there’s really very little separating the rebadged bikes, aside from attitude, purpose and style—which means these two Boulevards are pointed in a similar direction, while working opposite sides of the street. The C50T takes a middleweight approach to touring (hence the “T”) while the M50 assumes a sport cruiser stance.
We first introduced the bikes in our November 2004 issue (See, “Cruise Lines.”) at which time we explained they are part of a “new” family of motorcycles Suzuki christened, Boulevard. While the prospect of a new family taking root and beginning to grow is universally charming, the actual details have created some confusion. Suzuki’s “C,” “M,” and “S” Boulevard models replace the Intruder, Marauder and Savage lines. They’re not necessarily new bikes; they’ve just been upgraded in varying degrees and assigned alphanumeric designations incorporating their respective engine sizes, spoken in standard measurements. So, the Suzuki M50 and the C50T take to the roads with 50 cu. in. engines.
It must be assumed the revised nomenclature is for the benefit of the American market where the majority of buyers have yet to be immersed in the metric system at the public school level. Unfortunately, for the rest of us, American needs have to be taken very seriously because the US represents the most significant cruiser market in the world. Unfortunate for Suzuki’s cruiser motorcycles too, because they lose the advantage of owning readily identifiable names. Most of us knew intuitively what was meant by an 800cc Intruder Volusia, but, really, what the heck is a C50, much less a C50T? Even long-time Suzuki dealers have been hard-pressed to master the code. Numbers and letters are colder, more robotic and off-putting than the chummy familiarity of actual names, but there they are regardless. And the creation of a stand-alone line seems very much in keeping with a minor new trend—Yamaha now refers to its cruisers as Star Motorcycles (as opposed to Yamaha Star models), Polaris has its Victory line. Without doubt, it all makes perfect sense and is completely correct in some great unknowable way.
AS YOU’VE ALREADY GATHERED, THE 2005 Suzuki C50T IS THE FORMER INTRUDER VOLUSIA 800 IN TOURING TRIM. BUT, JUST TO MAKE THINGS crystal clear, the M50 is the former Marauder 800. As previously noted, both the C50T and the M50 share virtually identical powerplants—an 805cc 45-degree V-Twin that produces somewhere between 40 and 45 hp. A modest figure perhaps, but nearly appropriate for the bikes’ assigned duties. Moreover, they benefit by the inclusion of a fuel injection system that replaces last year’s Mikuni carburetors and features an automatic high-idle circuit for brisk, predictable start-ups.
Both are fitted with shaft final drive, a carry-over for the C50T but something new for the M50 which, in its Marauder 800 format, output power through an o-ring chain. A cable-activated clutch separates the engine from the five-speed transmission, a generally smooth-acting box with satisfactory ratios but occasionally prone to sticking between first and second if the lever has been subjected to a lazy prod. A failure on the operator’s part to be sure, yet indicative of the transmission’s easy efficiency that lulls the rider into passive gear changes.
There’s basically no point of separation between the machines as you discuss chassis structure. Both are designed as softail-style bikes with a 65.2” (1655mm) wheelbase, 5.5” (140mm) of ground clearance and nearly identical dry weight figures—M50 (540 lbs/245 kg), C50T (531 lbs/241kg). This final measurement seems as though it must be in error—why else would the presumably sportier M50 carry slightly more weight than the dedicated touring model? The answer may lie in the M50’s brawnier inverted forks, which address the bike’s sport facility. Other suspension components include a link-type single shock with seven adjustments—in the C50T’s case, another Volusia remnant, but last year’s Marauder came equipped with traditional twin rear-set shocks. The suspension upgrade is another nod to the M50’s performance mandate.
These Boulevards get by with brake systems that are not entirely satisfactory. They work to stop the bikes, true, but not with any great authority. The single front disc and rear drum combination becomes effective only by maintaining a very strict regimen of metered front and rear application. Rely specifically on the front brake and you’ll encounter a mushy feel at the lever with a noticeable yank to the side; too much rear pedal application will net distinct brake fade. A second front disc would certainly help—as it did when Triumph fitted the America platform with a twin front disc setup to produce the Speedmaster—but naturally the weight of the front end would increase incrementally, as would the final cost. And very tempting price tags are without doubt significant parts of the Boulevards’ allure (MSRP $10,599 C50T, $8,899 M50).
These parallel lines diverge where points of style and purpose begin. In the case of the Suzuki C50T, style accurately reflects purpose. Suzuki claims this model as the only dedicated touring cruiser in the middleweight category—there’s no argument, really. It comes standard with a height-adjustable windshield, a pivoting passenger backrest pad, rider floorboards, leather saddlebags and a chrome package that includes studded seats. Our National Sales Manager John Molony calls the treatment, “Silverado Lite.” Whitewall IRC Grand High Speed tires (130/90-16 front, 170/80-15 rear) mounted to wire wheels; mildly valanced fenders, broad handlebars and a 3.8-gal (17-litre) fuel tank complete the touring trim. Mind you, as a concession, we must be willing to look the other way while the mid-capacity tank sneaks in the back door as true touring kit. Especially, when you discover riding the C50T requires a firm grip on the throttle because the windshield actually seems over size for the job. Consequently, the very likeable motor is continually called upon to produce still more power to overcome the quite tangible snow-plowing effects of the screen as the bike approaches highway speed. The handsome white-faced speedo predicts a top speed of 180 kmh, but this is entirely optimistic as the little engine that could is noticeably winded well below that mark.
And at around the 130 kmh mark, the otherwise stoically planted cruiser-cum-tourer has begun to quaver at the front end. To reach that point on the speedometer though, the rider will likely have made a succession of short shifts to escape engine vibration—not intolerable by any means, but enough to steal the rider’s focus away from what is, for the most part, a quite pleasant experience.
And honestly it must be said, the C50T, taken overall, is a completely satisfying motorcycle that would benefit from better brakes and a wee bit more power. The controls offer ease of operation, throttle response is very good in all situations and the handling of this roadworthy machine is nothing short of marvelous. The rider sits in a deep, broad saddle with feet firmly planted on the floorboards. (By all accounts the passenger is equally at ease. (See, sidebar.) The broad handlebars are easily accessed and they provide a near perfect degree of leverage for slow speed turnarounds and higher speed cornering activities. The Suzuki C50T is neither heavy or light, it’s a middleweight. Yet an appropriate combination of suspension, rubber and rider comfort produce the effect of being on a much lighter bike that does not lose those qualities when laden with a passenger and gear. In short, it provides hassle-free operation while allowing the rider the opportunity to enjoy the road. This, of course, is the role of the touring bike.
IN MANY WAYS, WHAT THE Suzuki C50T IS TO TOURING CRUISERS, THE M50 IS TO THE PERFORMANCE CRUISER GENRE. To begin with, it’s a middleweight. Therein lies the charm. Neither bike suffers from the bloated self-esteem of too many cubic centimetres or the ponderous mass of too many kilograms. Still, after back-to-back riding sessions, it’s hard to believe the Boulevards have so many shared components. The M50 just seems like an entirely different bike. Obviously, this is the intent.
As with so many things, the subtlely begins with style. The headlight takes a more pronounced bullet shape, the fenders covering the blacked-out cast alloy wheels are business-like (with a bobtail at the rear), the slightly smaller fuel tank (3.4 gal/15.5 L) recedes to a taper and the speedometer mounts to wide, flat handlebars that insinuate aggressive behaviour. The rider sits on a slightly narrower perch, leans toward the bars and plants his feet forward on pegs. But, it’s at the moment of launch that the family resemblance to the C50T begins to fade. Though reason tells you it’s the same motor, a twist of throttle suggests otherwise. While the C50T’s V-Twin is a pliable companion, in the M50, it’s possible to experience moments of exhilaration. Perhaps the Suzuki C50T bike’s big windshield is more of an impediment to speed than the factory reckoned.
In any event, the rider position is again very well matched to the motorcycle’s job description; as with the touring bike, the handling is feather-light and responsive. But a spirited romp will rapidly expose the M50’s true nature—while it is a completely fun ride, the motor will run out of steam before the rider is really ready to quit the lark. Again, the speedometer’s top reading (200 kmh) is out of the question.
Also intriguing were the suspension differences. Where the C50T was plush and competent, not given over to wallow or nervousness, the M50 suffers from very stiff response at the rear. Crossing road imperfections brings on stiff jolts at the back, enough to unsettle both the bike and the rider. On the other hand, the front end can be pushed around a bit with no signs of growing unsettled.
Still, if the consumer is looking for big horsepower figures with top of the line suspension pieces, there are other choices. A modestly-priced middleweight is a modestly-priced middleweight, after all. What the Suzuki C50T and the M50 have in common is that they represent choice with some compromise. Riders who want the convenience of a touring bike without committing to a more demanding heavyweight will find many aspects of the C50T to cheer about: here’s a motorcycle with excellent comfort, decent storage and very good handling. It’s a handsome machine to boot. The M50 follows in those footsteps of choice with compromise. It’s a dash of spice, but only up to a carefully prescribed point.
Between them and the rest of the Boulevard family, Suzuki now owns a pretty nice corner on Cruiser Street.
by John Campbell Canadian Biker Issue #214