Boulevard To The High Country
by Neale Bayly
As the early morning sun bursts through the valley, the fir trees a vibrant green against a cloudless blue sky, some of the mountains still lay cold and dark in shadow, contrasting sharply to the sun bathed slopes. Remnants of last night’s frost linger on the ground, rooftops steam, and each crisp breath of air brings a positive energy for the day ahead. I am attending the Suzuki Cycle Fest at Copper Mountain, Colorado, and waiting for me, a shiny new Suzuki C50 Boulevard is full of gas and ready to ride. All I have to do is decide where to take it.
Lady luck steps in, as seems to happen so often during motorcycle adventures, and a chance coffee stop sees me in the company of world famous motorcycle adventurer Dr. Gregory Frazier. Having never met the iconic travel writer before, it is a motorcycle career highlight as he gives me some advice on where to ride for the day as Aspen is only a few hours ride over IndependencePass. That’s if I get my finger out and get riding. So, with an invite to a steak dinner in Denver later that evening, I climb on board Suzuki’s new 800cc cruiser and roll up highway 24. A route that will take me through the historic town of Leadville before US 82 leads me into Aspen.
New for ’05, the Boulevard is not really that new as it’s basically a re-badge of last year’s popular Volusia. I have to confess this was a model that slipped by me completely and a little research was needed to bring me up to speed here. I am extremely familiar with Suzuki’s Intruder line, and sold the snot out the 700/750/800 range while working in the retail end of the motorcycle industry. Fast, attractive and reliable, used Intruders never sat on the floor long.
For ’01 the Intruder got a serious face-lift to become the Volusia, with some mechanical changes to boot. Where the Intruder’s headers exited on either side of the bike, style dictated the Volusia’s both exit from the right-hand-side of the bike. To facilitate this, the rear cylinder head was reversed, and a single carburetor employed in place of the Intruder’s dual set up.
Suzuki also introduced the Marauder in ’97 but that has also gone the way of the Volusia with the introduction of the Boulevard line. As a move that has seen much rhetoric, both positive and negative, Suzuki has now brought all their cruisers under one banner with a new system to classify all the different models. It all gets a little lengthy, so lets just deal with the C for cruiser, 50 for fifty cubic inches that explains the bike on test here.
What is new for this year is the fuel injection, and starting my ride somewhere around 10,000 feet above sea level, any problems it may have aren’t going to take long to surface. Hitting the starter button, the bike bursts immediately to life, quickly settling into a smooth idle. Pulling away is a breeze, and within minutes the C50 is pulling strongly up a steep mountain pass as we leave CopperMountain behind: Strongly for a bike that only displaces 805cc, without taking into account any power loss the altitude is most certainly causing.
The air is fresh through the vents in my jacket and in the distance, up above the tree line, muscular shouldered mountain peaks dominate the view. Standing proudly against their sharp blue backdrop, they are more perfectly isolated than a subject in a studio photograph. Sunbursts reflect off the chrome as the road flicks left and right, climbing, twisting and falling, the Boulevard making the perfect viewing platform for the constantly changing panorama unfolding before me.
Responsible for the smooth flow of power, Suzuki has borrowed from their GSXR sport bike range for the fuel injection system. Utilizing a Dual Throttle Valve System (SDTV) optimum air velocity is maintained throughout the engine’s range with one valve for low rpm and one for high. A powerful 32-bit Electronic Control Module (ECM) takes readings from a gearbox position sensor, as well as the water and air intake temperatures. This allows for precise fuel delivery any time, any place, anywhere. And, crossing Independence Pass at 12,093 ft it is certainly earning its money as it is performing flawlessly.
It doesn’t give me any problems as we descend through a tight, technical section some miles before Aspen either. The throttle response remains smooth as I come back off a trailing throttle and there is no popping and farting with the throttle closed. The brakes also do a pretty good job with the steep descents, just don’t ask too much of them. With just single disc up front and a drum rear they ain’t the most powerful set up on the market. The front has a fairly healthy looking 300mm rotor; it is just let down some by the two-piston caliper. There is still enough brake to have the forks flexing if you get on it too hard, but simply put, I prefer dual disc systems.
Parking up for lunch gives me a chance to reflect on the bikes looks, which there is no denying are very pleasing. High luster paint, complimented by plenty of gleaming chrome, make the C50 very easy on they eyes. My test mule is wearing a windshield, back rest and saddle bags, which make it look even more the part, and physically the bike looks a good bit larger than a mid sized cruiser. A move that was no doubt deliberate by Suzuki.
The front end is typical cruiser, the beefy front forks looking like something from the Motor Company’s line up. These aren’t adjustable and are set up on the soft side. Adding a passenger, or luggage, to the mix will have you hunting down some pre-load spacers to help the stock springs. The forks are suitably complimented by the large multi-reflector chrome headlight, which can also be used to when applying Chap Stick in the thin air if needed. I can’t comment on its nighttime abilities, but am sure it will be just fine.
Moving down, the 16-inch spoke front wheel gets a 130/90 series tire and an attractive skirted fender. Sitting behind them, the radiator sits unobtrusively in front of the frame’s down tubes. The 45-degree V-twin uses blacked out cylinders with faux cooling fins for the air-cooled look and are nicely set off by chrome engine cases. Chrome header pipes run to their own individual slash cut chrome mufflers and have a nice note for a stock system. More chrome accents are to be found on the rear frame rails and backrest.
The rear wheel is a 15 incher, wearing a fat 170/80 series IRC tire on its spoke rim, and a single pre-load adjustable shock keeps the ride smooth. Taking the engine’s power to the rear wheel is a five-speed gearbox and a low maintenance shaft drive. No surprises with the floorboards and the heel/toe shifter, or any complaints with the way it operates either. Up at the handlebars, a light clutch nicely compliments the slick shifting gear change. The lever is not adjustable, but the front brake lever is, and it only requires the lightest pull to get the pads grabbing the front rotor.
Sitting on the bike, the seat is a low 27.6 inches from the floor and this is going to make the bike a very attractive proposition for shorter riders (that’s not too politically correct, but what can I say?) The 4.1-gallon gas tank is also not too wide, which makes the riding position a whole lot more comfortable, and along with the broad, firm seat, long distances should be a breeze. The tank also holds a chrome instrument panel with a large, round speedometer, which is nice and easy to read on the move.
Lunch over; it’s time to point the Suzuki C50 Boulevard toward Copper Mountain. I don’t have much time so need to make a little haste and stay in the saddle. No worries, I have a full tank of gas, a comfortable perch and a willing engine. Add in some of the most breathtaking scenery America has to offer, and it looks as if I am in for a great afternoon. And, if you are looking for a great, mid-sized cruiser but don’t want to spend a King’s ransom? Cruise on down to your Suzuki dealer and check out the new C50 Boulevard, because at $7,799 it could quite possibly be one of the best deals on two wheels this year.