Do you ever wonder why folks tend to consider the music that was popular when they were teens and early adults as “their music?” Similarly, people tend to freeze their fashion sense at some early-adult stage in life. Fashion, like music, comes in cycles; so whatever we like, if we wait long enough, it comes back in style. The same could be said for what folks gravitate toward when deciding what looks stylish when picking what they drive or ride. Around the turn of the century, the cruiser style had evolved into fat tires, lots of chrome, wide bodies and pegs out front to give you that almost slouched, relaxed riding posture. Since then, cruiser style has cycled back to “old school” — they’ve lost some weight and slimmed down, creating a low and lean version of a sport look. If your vision of what a cruiser should be is stuck in the fat tires and wide body — think of it as “old new-school” — you might want to look at the Suzuki Boulevard M90.
Two things I hear over and over again when talking about the Boulevard M90 are that it is a beautiful bike, and everyone comments on the power. Style-wise, it’s a smaller-engine version of the M109R , but make no mistake; it’s a power cruiser in its own right.
I find the pulled-back handlebars comfortable — though some folks don’t like that close-in feeling — and the forward pegs allow you to lean a bit harder into the curves before you scrape. The lines on the Boulevard M90 are curved and shapely, giving it a relaxed look.
I’m not so happy about a couple of things, though. The stretched fuel tank holds not quite 4.8 gallons. I’d like to see it hold a little more but I won’t quibble over a quart, and the seat height is a bit taller than I’d like to see in a cruiser — a little over 28 inches. I know it isn’t considered “tall” for a cruiser; but being a shorty, I want a seat height in the 26-to-27-inch range. Is it a deal breaker? As long as I can comfortably reach the ground without balancing on my tippy toes, it isn’t. Riders taller than me — most people, that is — won’t give it a thought.
The Boulevard M90 comes with a well-cushioned, two-piece, two-up seat, but you can replace the pillion with a tail section cover for those times you want to go solo and you want everyone to know it.
Nothing creates a retro look quite like a faux rigid frame, and the factory used just such a frame to set the stage for the dated-yet-modern look of the M90. The triangular swingarm has a single monoshock tucked away out of sight to take the sting out of bumpy roads without compromising the dated look. Front suspension runs with stiff, inverted, 43 mm forks that provide 5.1 inches of travel — adequate for a cruiser, but nothing to write home about.
The bike weighs in at 723 pounds, and on the road, the brakes seem barely adequate for the job.
Fat tires contribute to the classic look, and they keep the mass of the bike near the ground, at least visually. The 120 mm front tire and 200 mm rear harken back to earlier cruiser styles, while the rims show a more contemporary style.
On paper, the dual, 290 mm front discs and 275 mm rear disc, with two-pot calipers all around, would seem to be enough to control the M90. This is, unfortunately, not the case. The bike weighs in at 723 pounds, and on the road, the brakes seem barely adequate. A vigorous application of both front and rear brakes does the job, but the front alone feels less than confidence inspiring. Keep this in mind, especially if you like to ride with a passenger.
Suzuki used its powerful 1,462 cc powerplant to drive this beast. The V-twin configuration fits within the cruiser standard, at least to Americans, and the polished cooling fins almost make you forget to look for the radiator on this liquid-cooled ride. Putting out almost 97 pound-feet of torque that comes on very early, the engine feels strong and handles the weight of the bike with no problem.
…the engine feels strong and handles the weight of the bike with no problem.
The engine breathes through a pair of 42 mm throttle bodies with the Suzuki Dual Throttle Valve (SDTV) technology that places a secondary throttle valve set under computer control for seamless throttle response across the board. An Idle Speed Control (ISC) also plays a role in throttle management by stabilizing the idle and aiding in cold starts, while keeping emissions low. The dual-plug heads play a role in keeping emissions down and performance up, by ensuring complete and even combustion of each air-fuel charge.
Power gets to the rear wheel via a low-maintenance shaft-drive system through a five-speed transmission. The tranny has large flywheels to dampen the power pulses a bit, and the spring-loaded, primary drive gear protects the engine from hard shocks feeding back through the drive system, such as during aggressive downshifts. Suzuki’s Clutch Assist System (SCAS) gives the clutch a lighter pull, and lets you control the power with precision and little effort.
MSRP on the 2017 Boulevard M90 is $11,199 — same as it’s been the last couple of years — and comes with a 12-month unlimited mileage limited warranty. The color for 2015 was Pearl Glacier White, though for 2016 and 2017, we can choose Candy Daring Red or Glass Sparkle Black.
When looking for a competitor for the M90, I think first of a Softail because of the triangular swingarm that mimics a rigid frame. I like to keep engine size as close as I can to better keep apples-to-apples, though, which is why I also dismissed the Indian Scout even though looks-wise, it’s a bike that has that same cruiser appeal. I settled, finally, on the California 1400 Custom from Moto Guzzi, both for looks and for a similarly-sized engine.
If not for the bullet fairing on the Boulevard and the obvious difference in engine arrangements, these two bikes could almost be brothers-from-another-mother. Both cut a low, wide and solid figure, with fat front ends, moderate rise at the tank and scooped saddles, but the Boulevard carries itself a bit lower with a 28.2-inch seat and 5.7 inches of ground clearance versus the 29.1-inch seat and 6.4 inches of clearance. A trip over the scales confirms that these bikes not only look solid and heavy, they are in fact a bit weighty. Moto Guzzi claims a 701-pound curb weight on the California while Suzuki reports 723 pounds for the Boulevard, even though the 5.4-gallon tank on the Cali is tad bigger than the 4.7-gallon Boulevard tank.
In spite of its greater mass, the Boulevard carries less in the way of brakeage. A pair of 290 mm discs up front with a 275 mm disc in back and all-around twin-pot calipers see to the slowing duties, while the Cali uses four-pot calipers and dual, 320 mm discs on the front wheel and a 282 mm disc and twin-pot caliper in back. Plus, the Cali comes with ABS as standard equipment, while Suzuki doesn’t offer it at all on the M90.
Engine size is comparable. Suzuki powered the Boulevard with its water cooled, 1,462 cc, 54-degree V-twin, just a skosh bigger than the air- and oil-cooled, 1,380 cc, 90-degree V-twin in the California 1400 Custom. Naturally, ’Guzzi mounted the engine in its usual fashion, which is to say sideways in the frame, but that’s typical and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Although the Boulevard comes with Suzuki’s Dual Throttle Valve and Idle Speed Control, it falls a little short on engine wizardry against the traction- and cruise-control that comes standard on the California. When it comes to the power figures we find a mixed bag. The M90 cranks out 96.6 pounds against 87 pounds from the Cali, but cedes some horsepower with only 79 ponies versus 96 from the Cali. I won’t leap into the torque/horsepower debate here, but will simply call these two close enough, and the differences a wash.
Suzuki picks up a big win in pricing. The M90 Boulevard rolls for a mere $11,199, significantly cheaper than the lofty, $18,490 tag on the California. Sure, the Cali comes with traction control, ABS and a whole lotta’ name recognition, but at a third-again more expensive one begins to question if the champagne is worth the extra dough. As it stands, the M90 is barely above what I consider to be the entry-level range, and may actually be within it for older (better monied) first-time buyers.
My husband and fellow motorcycle writer, TJ Hinton, says, ““Sharp-looking ride, and certainly a lot of bike for the money. I will spare y’all the usual ’for a few thousand more you could get a Harley’ routine, and simply say that you could do worse for a beginner’s boulevard bruiser.”
“Overall, I like the bike well enough. The torque comes on early, but the stock exhaust muffles the V-twin rumble. I much prefer the bike be louder, with that sexy lope. I also don’t care for the all-in-one high/low beam and passing lights. I’d rather have pimp lights than the single Cyclops light up front, but that’s a personal preference.”
|Engine:||Four-stroke, Two-cylinder, liquid-cooled, DOHC, 54-degree V-Twin|
|Compression Ratio:||9.5 to 1|
|Maximum Power:||79 Horsepower at 4,800 rpm|
|Maximum Torque:||96.6 Pound-Feet at 2,600 rpm|
|Fuel System:||Fuel Injection|
|Transmission:||Five-speed constant mesh|
|Final Drive:||Shaft Drive|
|Suspension Front:||Inverted telescopic, coil spring/5.1-inch travel|
|Suspension Rear:||Lynk type, oil damped, coil spring|
|Brakes Front:||Two-piston calipers, 290 mm disc, twin|
|Brakes Rear:||Single Two-piston caliper, 275 mm disc|
|Tires Front:||Bridgestone 120/70ZR18M/C (59W), tubeless|
|Tires Rear:||Bridgestone 200/50ZR17M/C (75W), tubeless|
|Ground Clearance:||5.7 inches|
|Seat Height:||28.2 inches|
|Fuel Tank Capacity:||4.7 Gallons – Including Reserve|
|Curb Weight:||723 Pounds|
|Warranty:||12-month unlimited mileage limited warranty|
|2015:||Pearl Glacier White|
|2016, 2017:||Candy Daring Red, Glass Sparkle Black|