First Ride: 2009 Suzuki Boulevard M90

Who said power-cruisers have to be big, heavy and handle poorly? The M90 proves the pundits wrong.

Photography By Brian J. Nelson

2009 Suzuki Boulevard M90 - First Ride

2009 Suzuki Boulevard M90 - First Ride

Newest wave in cruising is affordable, mid-size machinery. Thing is, with near-2-liter engines pretty much the norm in the world of V-Twins, 1462cc—sorry, 90 cubic inches—is now middle of the road.

Times being what they are, Suzuki's designers were tasked with giving the new-for-2009 Boulevard M90 class-leading technology at a sub-$10K price. As such, the bike slots nicely between the entry-level M50 and the bruiser M109R, while looking more like the latter than the former.

A new engine designed specifically for use in the M90 features single overhead cams, liquid-cooling, fuel-injection and a 54-degree vee angle. Think of it as a cruiser motor that got mixed up with a more rambunctious sportbike crowd, popped a couple of Gixxer pills and is now running around revved up on horsepower and torque. Technology sourced from the GSX-R line includes four-valve cylinder heads, a pair of 42mm Suzuki Dual Throttle Valve (SDTV) throttle bodies, low-friction plating on the cylinders and an inverted 43mm KYB fork.

Fired up on a cool morning in Monterey, California, scene of the bike's U.S. press launch, the M90 settled into a smooth, electronically controlled idle; no warm-up hijinks needed. Ample bottom-end provided good thrust leaving stops and invited short-shifting through the slick, five-speed gearbox. Power delivery was good, though really quick passes required a downshift.

Chassis highlights include cast alloy wheels shod with rubber intended to look cool and perform. Up front is a 120/70-18, while the rear is a 200/50-17 that Suzuki claims is the fattest in the bike's class. Grip was so good on the roads near Monterey that the M90 ran out of cornering clearance long before it ran out of rubber. Excellent steering response and stable mid-corner manners had us leaning into turns until the feeler nubs touched down and eventually returned to a molten state. Too bad, really, as this bike has more lean in its veins than it is allowed to flaunt.

Suspension is borderline overly plush: great for cruising but mushy when the pace heats up. Same can be said of the front brakes, a pair of 290mm discs squeezed by twin-piston calipers. While they were more than adequate at a moderate clip, when speeds increased to a quick performance- cruiser gait, so did the effort required to stop the bike. The cushy, 28-inch-high seat allowed relatively long stints between stops. A moderate reach to the handlebar and feet-forward footpegs made for a comfortable riding position up to about 85 mph, at which point the bikini fairing lost its effectiveness.

Available in black, red or blue, the $9999 M90 proves that supersized isn't always the best solution for a nice-handling, well-balanced motorcycle.