Suzuki Boulevard M109R LTD. vs. Victory Hammer S - Alternative Muscle

Heavy Hitters for those who don't care how it's done in Milwaukee

By Tim Carrithers, Photography by Adam Campbell

The M109R's five-speed tranny is refreshingly cooperative, and that's a good thing. The short-stroke twin is no slouch in the torque department, making 93 lb.-ft. with just 2500 rpm on the LCD bar-graph tach. Below 3000 rpm, a handful of throttle sets off more chugging and shuddering than forward motion in the first three gears. It trolls along obediently turning 3250 rpm into 70 mph, but is happiest between 4000 and the 7500-rpm redline.

Meanwhile, in its overdrive top cog, the Victory ticks over 2400 times every minute at 70 mph with no discernable vibration to spoil the mood. Harsh, short-travel suspension makes the Hammer painfully worthy of its name over rough pavement, so go around or find out the hard way. Otherwise, if its cockpit dimensions are a good match for yours, just sit back and watch the world go by until the low-fuel light or early symptoms of monkey butt signal the next pit stop. Dispatching convoys of slower traffic requires a quick trip to fifth gear, or fourth if you're in a hurry. All that lazy, long-stroke power takes a bit of getting used to, but it always gets the job done. Bereft of wind protection beyond the clothes on your back, those broad bars induce the dreaded Human Spinnaker Effect beyond 75 mph or so--earlier in a headwind. The 109's more balanced ergonomics make tucking in a bit easier, and that plastic headlight nacelle actually deflects some oncoming atmosphere. The Boulevard's 5.2-gallon fuel tank gives it more range--200 miles or so if you're determined--though reeling in big freeway miles is something to be survived rather than savored on either bike.

Better to Google up a meandering stretch of obscure two-lane to a four-star burger joint with five-star fries that could use the business. The Hammer arcs in to the first lazy set of bends with less effort and more accuracy. Victory-badged four-piston front calipers are good, but the M109R's radial-mount Tokicos are a whole lot better, hauling 900-plus pounds of bike and rider down with an easy, two-finger squeeze. The Boulevard's 240mm Dunlop D221 rear tire's flatter profile makes persuading all that heft into tighter bends a bit more difficult, and there's enough shaft reaction to jack the rear suspension around unless you're smooth with the throttle. Otherwise, a little extra cornering clearance and more responsive engine/transmission package make it more fun.

Halfway through the first triple-bacon cheeseburger, you'll bet lunch that the Boulevard will hammer the Hammer at the drag strip, too. Not so fast: The 109's best--11.91 seconds at 112.90 mph--does beat the Victory, but only by .12 of a second and 3.5 mph. Launching that extra weight without the rear tire going up in smoke is tricky business. But cue up all that bottom-end torque behind a more linear clutch and the Hammer comes out of the hole hard enough to squeeze out a lead through the first two gears. That sticky gearbox and an awkwardly placed shifter don't help its cause. By 4700 rpm the slower-revving 106/6 is done--just as the 109 hits a sweet spot that lasts all the way to 7000. By third gear, it's over. Man may not live by torque alone, but with 101 lb.-ft. of it, you can come pretty close.

The '07 Hammer S was a solid piece of work, but its 100-inch twin didn't have enough muscle to back up the muscle-cruiser look. The 106-inch version has enough to run with the big hogs. Hydraulic lifters leave you with little to do but change the oil and filter every 4000 miles. Paint and chrome are first-rate. Reliable? Absolutely. Effective? Sure. Exciting? Not really. Despite all that torque, most of the time power delivery is just plain flat for a 1731cc engine. It always feels like there's a lot more muscle in there waiting for the right intake/exhaust therapist to let it out. A little suspension therapy wouldn't hurt either.

If you can live with the space-cowboy styling and a phalanx of plastic modesty panels covering the unsightly bits, the Boulevard serves a more convincing kick in the pants every time you open the throttle. There's also a list of little things--a clock and a fuel gauge, for starters--that make life a little easier. With this one, you get reliability, practicality and the aforementioned 7000-rpm kick in the pants. When all that goes for $14,099--$4400 less than an '09 Hammer S--you get one more thing: a winner.

Off The Record
Brian Catterson

The form-over-function mindset of cruiser riders continues to baffle me. Sure, the Hammer S looks great in its blue/white racing-stripe livery, but a 250mm-wide rear tire and 3.9 inches of travel do not a pleasant riding experience make. This wouldn't bother me half as much if the original 1998 Victory V92C hadn't worked so well, with suspension and handling far above the cruiser norm. The M109R looks even racier, yet suffers from the same shortcomings. The long, low look might turn heads on the, ahem, boulevard, but it doesn't work anywhere else. If I'm gonna ride a motorized barstool, I'll get mine from www.flyingbarstools.com.
Age: Forte-something Height: 6'1" Weight: 210 lbs. Inseam: 34 in.

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