By Guido Ebert
We at MMM typically work with retailers in Minnesota to obtain test bikes we feature on these pages. As you see from the photos, things worked out a bit differently for this Suzuki review.
Instead of setting us up with a 2013 Boulevard C90T B.O.S.S. to explore Minnesota’s Arrowhead region, Suzuki opted for a 200-mile intro in Nevada’s high desert, rumbling out of Las Vegas, negotiating through the Valley of Fire State Park, skirting the shores of Lake Mead and crossing Hoover Dam before returning to the glittering lights of Sin City.
One of 12 cruiser models offered by Suzuki for the 2013 model year, the Boulevard C90T B.O.S.S. (MSRP: $13,999) is a blacked-out 1462cc “mid-size” touring cruiser that is essentially a factory modified version of the newly designed basic
model C90T ($13,899).
The previous generation C90T was based on the old VL1500 Intruder and powered by an air/oil-cooled 1462cc V-twin that Suzuki says was discontinued in 2009 due to emission control.
Sticking to its shared platform cost-savings plan, Suzuki used its M90 muscle cruiser as the basis for this new iteration of the C90 platform (which encompasses the C90, C90T and C90T B.O.S.S.). That is, the bikes share the same triangular steel-tube frame, swingarm, engine components and final drive.
Other than those key components, though, the B.O.S.S. manages to reflect a new interpretation of the “C” line of Boulevard cruisers.
Value is in the eye of the beholder, yet the 2013 Boulevard C90T B.O.S.S. does look more upmarket than its price tag reflects. Swathed in black with only a few key chrome accents, a large optically correct touring windshield, wide bars, a multi-function instrument panel atop generous fuel tank, floorboards, integrated saddlebags and 7-spoke color-matched cast aluminum wheels, the motorcycle’s general appearance makes it difficult for me to criticize. Your feelings may of course vary, especially if you dig a bit of color in your bikes.
Suzuki says the C90T B.O.S.S. product concept involved targeting cruiser customers with a bike that offered the “right size, right equipment and right styling.”
That is, it had to be a model that: 1) filled a hole in the Boulevard line between 800cc and 1800cc yet fit a wide range of rider size, 2) offered integrated saddlebags and other features for long-range convenience and comfort, and 3) presented a classic style that was neither too radical nor too conservative.
We’ve already established that the C90T B.O.S.S. appears to hit its mark in the styling department. Now lets take a look at how the bike’s equipment translates into ride quality.
The fuel-injected 1462cc long-stroke liquid-cooled SOHC 54-degree V-twin is mated to a 5-speed constant mesh transmission that delivers power through to the 16-inch rear wheel via a trustworthy shaft drive.
That power comes on low, with 96.6 lb-ft of torque on tap at 2,600 rpm ushering the bike away from a standstill with purpose and a respectable 77.8 hp at 4,800 rpm keeping the party going well over any legal U.S. speed limit.
In fact, because the bike is geared very tall, with second gear easily running up to 50 mph, fifth gear – acting as a sort of overdrive – didn’t even prove necessary until accelerating to between 70 or 75 mph. Otherwise, fourth gear allowed the engine to lope along without protest while harboring plenty of passing power in reserve.
Gear changes are aided by the Suzuki Clutch Assist System (SCAS), which produces smooth downshifts by reducing pressure on the clutch plates under deceleration and makes upshifts more quickly and precise due to an increase of pressure on the clutch plates when accelerating.
The SCAS works in concert with the shaft drive, functioning as a sort of slipper clutch to more precisely match downshifts with road speed. Crack the throttle and bike stands up and tracks straight down the road.
It is no secret a motorcycle’s sound is important to many cruiser customers. The C90T’s exhaust (differing from that on the M90) produces a strong rumbling sound low in the powerband that peters out to a pleasant low-decibel drone at highway speeds. The system on the B.O.S.S. is finished in matte black and ends below the right saddlebag in a slash-cut style.
The suspension is compliant without being too soft or too harsh. The front of the bike is held by a 45mm telescopic fork with 5.1 inches of travel and the rear is relaxed by a oil-damped coil-over shock that – despite being completely non-adjustable, even for preload – allows the 800-lb. bike to sit high enough for most riders to confidently swoop through corners without fear of scraping the pavement.
The 17-inch front and 16-inch rear wheels working with the bike’s 65.9-inch wheelbase and low center of gravity aid in balancing performance, delivering relatively good turn-in and tractable straight-line response from the 130/80 front and 200/60 series rear Bridgestone tires.
One of the first things you notice upon inspecting the C90T is the single disc front brake, which initially looks to not be enough hardware to scrub speed from this rather sizeable package. But, working the front brake lever and big rear brake pedal as your instructor taught you, the 330mm front disc with dual piston caliper and 275mm rear disc with twin-pot caliper bring the bike down from speed in a controllable manner without quickening your heart rate.
Comfort & Amenities
While the styling of the C90T B.O.S.S. may serve as an initial attractant for consumers, once you swing a leg over and put down some miles you’ll find the bike’s full-size windscreen, flat seat, wide rear-swept handlebars, controls and floorboards combine to maximize comfort for riders of a variety of sizes.
Suzuki says engineers tested dozens of shapes and mounting angles before finalizing windscreen design, and in practice it appears their efforts paid off. The big windscreen is positioned and designed to provide ample protection at freeway speeds, with buffeting minimized by allowing just the right amount of air to pass above the headlight and into the space between the screen and operator that normally induces turbulence between the screen and operator. If there’s one complaint to be had, it is that the shield isn’t removable – an option many cruiser riders like to have available.
Positioned at a relatively low 28.3 inches, the C90T’s well-cushioned operator’s seat is shaped wide and flat, allowing riders to sit in a comfortable upright position with the ability to easily reach the 34-inch-wide and swept back handlebars, floorboards, heel-toe shifter and large brake pedal.
As for amenities, the C90T B.O.S.S. features a 4.8-gallon fuel tank that is quite wide but retains a rather shallow shape that allows for a multi-function instrument pod to be positioned on top. The gauge cluster delivers a level of instrumentation not often found on classically styled cruisers. Highlighted by a large analog speedometer, the package is further complimented by a digital gear position indicator, clock, odometer and twin trip meters, as well as a digital fuel gauge and indicator lights for low fuel, high/low beams, turn signals and more. While neat looking, I had a hard time reading the speedo once sundown left us in the dark desert 25 miles from Vegas. Adjusting the backlight to full glow didn’t improve the situation.
The bike’s 39-inch overall width comes from its integrated saddlebags. In fact, the C90T B.O.S.S. is the first Boulevard to feature factory-built hard side cases as standard equipment. The bags, made of impact-resistant ABS plastic, are wrapped in covers custom-matched to the seat and are water-resistant and lockable. The left bag swallows 26 liters and the right bag, influenced by the single side dual exhaust, holds up to 24.5 liters. Each has a 10-lb. carrying capacity.
Each bag also is easily accessible from atop the bike, with the bags opening like a gaping clam once the ignition key is used in the locking mechanism at the top of the bag. Other thoughtful details: A scalloped shape to the front of the bags allow a passenger’s feet to be placed securely on their perches and a protection bar tucked under the left bag was added to reduce damage to the luggage in the event of a tip-over.
Priced only $100 above the standard C90T, the Suzuki Boulevard C90T B.O.S.S. comes off as deal. So, if you like your cruisers devoid of chrome, ride on down to your local Suzuki dealer and swing a leg over this “Blacked Out Special Suzuki.”