When you’re trying to determine what makes a winning team, look closely at the starting lineup. The power hitters may get all the glory, but sometimes you need “character” players to balance out the stars. That pretty much describes the Suzuki M90 role in Suzuki’s Boulevard squad.
Picture if you will the Boulevard M109R appearing before a congressional hearing in the US on steroid use. It would be impossible for the 109R to deny that performance enhancing supplements were not a daily part of its regime. Take a look at the stats, coming out of nowhere, demolishing longballs faster than a starving man at a hot dog eating contest. You just don’t get that much power from eating Wheaties alone. The new Suzuki M90 could deny daily usage but would admit to a Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule. It would be a semantic difference at best but it is in semantics that the M109R and the M90 differ. It is difficult to think of the M90 as the “smaller size” of the M-series bikes from Suzuki—the king of the hill M109R, the M90 and the M50. The 50 is incongruous in this lineup as it shares neither the styling nor the aggressive posture of its larger stablemates. Yet displacement-wise it fills out the smaller end of the lineup, though even with the M designation a little sand may occasionally be kicked in its direction. An M50R with the style of its brethren, something to hope for perhaps but that’s another story.
The big boys are the hot rod cruisers in the Suzuki lineup and the most uniquely styled cruisers from the company. The M109R arrived swinging and is over the top in power, if we could admit there is such a thing. The argument can be made that the bike has more power than you could possibly need, depending upon your riding style. Realizing that too much muscle can occasionally be a hindrance, the M90 makes a very good alternate coming in from the bullpen. While it doesn’t have the arm-yanking, socket-dislocating acceleration of its larger brother, it doesn’t have the mass either. That being said, it is still far from being a slouch in the performance department.
THE STYLING REALLY IS ALL M-CLASS with the lines, seat, tail section and headlight all having the same look as the 109. The most dramatic change in the styling is the move from a 240-series tire on the 109 to the 200 on the Suzuki M90. There are subtle differences between the two bikes, such as the lack of a radiator shroud on the 90, but to the casual observer the two bikes are indistinguishable. Which will go a long way toward mitigating any “displacement envy” should a buyer want to slip into the smaller displacement class.
With so much chrome already, both the 109R and the 90 call out for a set of polished aftermarket rims to replace the matte finish on the stock units. A little extra heat on that fastball to continue the baseball metaphor.
The all-new motor is a 1462cc, liquid cooled Twin featuring dual plugs, four valves per cylinder and a 9.5:1 compression ratio. An interesting aspect of the dual plug system is that the sparks fire together at low rpm but are staggered at high rpm which, from a green perspective, increases the combustion efficiency and reduces emissions. Who says you can’t be both tough and environmentally sensitive?
The motor has abundant power under generous revving, but will lug significantly at the lower end. The shuddering at low revs telegraphs into the bars until you bring your revs or speed up, where everything smoothes out dramatically. A shorter first gear would probably help here. While up shifts snap encouragingly, downshifts are accompanied by substantial engine braking which can be moderated with a blip on the throttle if that is not what you want to feel. The five-speed transmission is geared tall, consequently the bike doesn’t need to be shifted into fifth until well above highway speeds. We often found ourselves surprised to find another gear waiting while out on the highway. For a bike so dependent on managing the rpms, it is surprising that it does not come with a tachometer.
The rear tire is a 200-series which really helps in the handling department. Because the bike is so long and low the centre of gravity works to mitigate its 723 pounds (327 kg). It does feel like a large bike but the heft is unobtrusive when ridden energetically.
The brakes are a package of twin 290mm floating discs with dual pistons up front and a single 275 out back. With link-type rear suspension and an inverted 43mm fork, the ride is compliant.
The Suzuki M90 is one of those cruisers that just seem to fit right. While styled with flair, the styling does not compromise the ergonomics. At 120 kmh the bike felt as smooth and solid on the freeway as a faired motorcycle we had ridden earlier in the week. Seated low in the saddle and with forward controls, the position is very comfortable. Touring on the M90, while not its designation, would be possible as we found the 18-litre tank provides a range of 250 kms in mixed city/highway riding, which could be stretched somewhat in straight highway riding.
Suzuki offers both saddlebag brackets and a choice of either a short or tall windshield as accessories if touring is going to be a part of the bike’s duties. The unit Canadian Biker rode had the passenger seat attached. While it doesn’t do much, or anything, for the fluid lines of the bike, it was ample in size and proved to be quite comfortable for passengers. However, given the long, low stance of the bike the passenger pegs are set quite high which may explain why the passenger seat also sits high above the rear fender. The optional seat cowl is definitely the way to go when riding solo as the bike was visually designed for this particular element.
As illustrated, it is impossible to discuss the Suzuki M90 without talking about the Boulevard M109R too, because one bike is so much within the realm of the other. Much more so than, say, Suzuki’s own GSX-R600 and GSX-R1000 which in terms of power, are very different from one another. With the cruisers the line is much fuzzier.
When did 1500cc become a mid-sized bike? Like many things in the early 2000s and late 1990s the formula for success was always Bigger is Better whether the subject was SUVs or servings at Denny’s. But The M90 is the M109R on a diet, condensing what was good about the big bike into something that is ultimately much better for some buyers.
And for $13,499 ($3,000 less than the Boulevard M109R), you get a lighter, shorter bike with styling that is is virtually indistinguishable from its larger counterpart, and a motor that still pulls like a freight train. From here, the Suzuki M90 sounds like a home run.
bu John Molony, Canadian Biker #255