Struggling to compete with Harley-Davidson in the cruiser category, foreign-based manufacturers have turned their attention to performance cruisers, using efficient, modern engines that perform significantly better than the touring hogs in Harley's juiced-up CVO family. Suzuki arrived on the scene in 2004 with the introduction of the M95, and the result was a punchy, high-character machine, with a powerplant that lived up to Kawasaki’s “Engine-Above-All” motto.
Barely two years later, the Suzuki Boulevard M109R, a burly cruiser with striking looks and power to spare, replaced the M95, but customers complained about the high price point. Because of this, in 2007, Suzuki responded with the first M90, the spiritual heir to the 2004-2006 M95, and a model that bridges the gap between the 805cc M50, and the beastly 1,783cc M109R. The new M90 borrows some sexy lines from the popular M109R, but adds a slightly different fork head, a smaller fuel tank, and not-so-flashy cladding around the radiator. The overall package is attractive and ergonomic, except perhaps for the excessively wide passenger seat.
The robust 5-speed transmission of the 2009 Suzuki Boulevard requires little effort from your left foot. And the lower ratios are chosen for easy use in-town, while also taking advantage of the engine's torque with nice wide ratio spacings. This is even more true with the longer step between fourth and fifth, providing better mileage, less noise and vibrations, enhanced comfort, and less pollution at highway speeds. On top of that, both the engine and transmission utilize six rubber mounts for minimum vibrations.
The Suzuki M90 balances cruiser style with the kind of performance features a Supermotard fan will appreciate. The steel-tube frame cuts 10mm off Suzuki's C90's 66.9-inch wheelbase, but keeps the driveshaft that's almost universal among the Suzuki Boulevard cruiser lineup. The nonadjustable 43mm fork is a cartridge unit that offers 5.1 inches of travel, and the concealed rear shock (adjustable for preload), works through a linkage to offer 4.3 inches of rear-wheel swing. New cast wheels have a sporty, aggressive look, and the fat 200mm rear tire gives the M90 the widest grip in its class. Braking is handled by dual 290mm brake discs in front, with two-piston sliding-pin calipers, and the rear brake is a 275mm disc with a fixed two-piston caliper.
The bike is easy to ride at low speeds, as a cruiser should be. The clutch lever has a light pull, even though the nonadjustable lever may be too big for smaller hands, and the five-speed transmission is smooth, but with a solid, steady feel. Additionally, the wide bars make the bike easy to maneuver at parking-lot speeds, although the fuel injection is a tad abrupt at low rpm, especially when the motor is cold. If you want, the M90 will play gently with you.
Gas-guzzling, snarling, railing-through-turns, and charging away from lights: if you're starting to think this is a bike that can make you a very bad boy or girl, then you are right. The Suzuki Boulevard M90 isn't a cheapened M109R. Instead, it's a competent, fun-loving power cruiser that's superbly crafted, and a blast to ride.