RideApart Review: Suzuki Boulevard C90T B.O.S.SS

For three years Suzuki has carried a big hole in its cruiser tourer line-up after quietly dropping the venerable but aging Boulevard 1500 in 2009. The 800cc C50 is too small, the 1800cc M109 too big, so is this brand-new, 1462cc Suzuki Boulevard C90T B.O.S.S. just right?

Photos: Anne Watson

What’s New

The C90T owes it heritage to the Suzuki Intruder that was launched in 1998. Later to be renamed the Boulevard, this 1462cc air-cooled cruiser was a popular Suzuki stalwart around the world selling more than 73,000 units. Then in 2009, due to tougher U.S. emission controls, it was dropped leaving Suzuki with no serious volume contender in the cruiser tourer sector apart from the 800cc C50 or the massive, over-sized 1,800cc M109.

That was a big missed sales opportunity for the company to carry for three years, so the 2013 Boulevard C90T underlines that Suzuki is back and ready to play rough again with the big boys in the cruiser tourer market.

For the moment the C90T B.O.S.S (‘Blacked Out Special Suzuki’) is the only Boulevard cruiser tourer available. There are other Boulevard cruiser models in the current Suzuki line-up but they don’t have the touring package of the C90T.

And as the B.O.S.S. name suggest it’s entirely black from its cast aluminum seven-spoke wheels, front forks to the slash-cut twin pipes – and as this is the B.O.S.S version it’s offered in ‘Sparkling Black’ paint only.

In a month, the B.O.S.S will be joined by two other C90T variants. So if all-black is not your style there will be a choice – albeit a limited one – of either red/black or white/gray and a lot more chrome.

What you get with this B.O.S.S version though is a good-looking, in a chunky sort of way, blacked out cruiser for $13,999 (which includes Suzuki’s 12-month unlimited mileage warranty). The pair of other C90Ts that follow will cost several hundred dollars less, look the same, minus the black paint, and will be technically and specification-wise identical to the B.O.S.S.

Although Suzuki claims this is a ‘new’ ‘bike that is not entirely true. The C90T shares the same steel tube frame and swing arm with Suzuki’s current muscle cruiser the Boulevard M90. It also uses the M90’s 1462cc, liquid-cooled, fuel-injected, SOHC four-valve per cylinder, 54-degree V-twin engine and the M90’s five-speed constant mesh transmission that delivers the power to the 16-inch rear wheel via shaft drive.

It is though a smart move by Suzuki to use proven existing components and then go to town on the C90T’s design to make it something that truly reflects the image of a big cruiser.

And the B.O.S.S is a big ‘bike. Not massive by some standards but it weighs in at a portly 800lbs, which is some 88lbs heavier than its closest rivals Honda’s Interstate or the V Star 1300 Tourer each tipping the scales at around 712lbs.

But all of those extra pounds the B.O.S.S carries are hardly discernable thanks in part to its 90 cubic inch, long stroke engine that’s been retuned specifically for the C90T.

RideApart Review: Suzuki Boulevard C90T B.O.S.SS

Suzuki has also gone back and raided other parts bins and taken the three air box set up from its M109R and its own in-house designed Dual Throttle Valve – from the GSX-R – which all help the C90T to achieve a respectable 77.8bhp at 4,800rpm and a torque figure of 96.6lb/ft at 2,600rpm.

Whilst none of this means the B.O.S.S. is going to be ripping the tarmac off the streets, it does develop a broad, low down power band that is more than competent for a bike of this type and provides precisely the kind of smooth effortless ride you should expect from any good cruiser.

RideApart Review: Suzuki Boulevard C90T B.O.S.SS

The C90T is the first Boulevard model ever to come with factory-designed ABS plastic hard bags as standard. They’re good looking too. Covered in the same material as the bike’s seat, lockable and compliment the C90T’s classic lines without any real compromise to load space. Suzuki says you can get 10lbs of luggage in each. But there is a hitch to them, which we’ll get to later.

The Suzuki designers also turned their attention to the C90T’s windshield and came up with a design for the B.O.S.S that works surprisingly well; no refraction, minimal buffeting and good rider protection and for once it actually looks integral to the overall appearance of the bike.

By Suzuki’s own admission, it was trying to create something not too radical and not too conservative with the C90T. We think Suzuki maybe being a little too modest here. The C90T is a handsome bike in the classic cruiser tradition and it has some real road presence.

The Ride
The point of a cruiser sometimes is not to have any destination in mind. Just get on the bike and head wherever the road takes you. The C90T is an ideal bike to do just that.

You get well laid-out floorboards and a 28.3-inch high seating position that will allow most riders to plant both feet on the ground when stopped. The C90T’s seat is wider and flatter than the M90’s, which actually means you can move around while on the move, unlike Honda’s Interstate, to find the best riding position and also stay comfortable on long journeys.

RideApart Review: Suzuki Boulevard C90T B.O.S.SS

The handlebars are four inches closer to the rider than on the M90 and even though it’s a big, heavy bike moving the B.O.S.S. around at low speeds is a doddle. We would have liked the bars to be more substantial and thicker to fit in with the overall chunky look of the B.O.S.S. But that’s just nit picking.

Out on city roads the B.O.S.S. is a quiet and leisurely ride. Suzuki’s clutch assist system (SCAS) reduces the force needed to pull in the clutch lever and it assists downshifts by reducing pressure on the clutch plates under deceleration. For upshifts and hard acceleration it increases pressure on the plates and it works well making gear changes smooth and straight forward.

The B.O.S.S. takes almost every road surface in its stride. Uneven surfaces can make it get a bit flustered momentarily and at other times it offers too soft a ride, due in part to the fat 200mm rear Bridgestone tire on the rear and the 130mm front.

However, neither the 45mm inverted front forks, with their 5.1 inches of travel, or the rear link-type suspension are pre-load adjustable. Both are pre-set at the Suzuki factory before the ‘bike is shipped. This means if you’re on the light side, weight wise, you may find the ride a little choppy over really rough surfaces but if you’re a heavier rider you may not notice any deterioration at all in the ride quality.

Deceptively nimble, the C90T is not a difficult ‘bike to ride around town although it has broad flanks – a big 39 inches wide with those hard bags on the back – but you can still lane split here in California if you plan well ahead and pick your moment to squeeze past the traffic. As an urban cruiser it’s an enjoyable ride and you soon forget the C90T’s size and grow to appreciate its laid back approach.

Out on the freeways, the B.O.S.S. ambles along happily. As the bike is geared very tall – you can run up to 50 mph in second – but it allows you to hang around in fourth thereafter and you only really need fifth gear to overtaken when accelerating between 70 to 75mph.

The C90T is more than capable of keeping up with freeway traffic flow and it’s a bike we’d be happy traveling long distances on. Relaxed and long legged and with the tall windshield offering good protection and excellent visibility, it has the makings of a competent cross-country motorcycle.

It stops well too and although no ABS is available the two-piston caliper single discs front (330mm) and rear (275mm) appear up to the job. We’d like a little more feel from them but under hard braking they do a good job bringing 800lbs of a motorcycle to a reasonably swift halt.

As a cruiser it’s fine but as a touring bike we think the B.O.S.S is worthy of a second look too. It has a reasonable size 4.8-gallon tank that should get you a decent couple of hundred miles plus between fill-ups. Coupled to its ease of use, screen and big bags it makes a compelling argument to just get on it and head out there for the weekend to see what lies around the next corner.

There is one small drawback though. With a bike of this type in the cruiser tourer sector, owners expect to have cruise control. The B.O.S.S. doesn’t have it. It’s not even available as an option.

Suzuki explained this would have increased the C90T’s final retail price but it is something we think needs to be seriously considered for the future. We’ve ridden bikes for some really long touring distances around the U.S. and can truly appreciate what a benefit it is to have cruise control fitted on a bike like this. However, that said we’d still consider taking the B.O.S.S. for a long road trip if it was the only cruiser tourer in our garage.

What the C90T is not though is a bike for tearing up the canyons. You’re never really going to want to test its mettle (or your own) on the tight, backwater twisties. It’s just not that sort of motorcycle.

Suzuki is not making any performance bike claims either about the B.O.S.S. but it is hoping the C90T will attract some existing owners who have been waiting these past three years to trade up to a heavier Suzuki cruiser tourer or others wanting to trade down from its 1800cc Suzuki M109. We think there are customers out there too that will like the C90T’s looks and ease of ownership and will want to jump ship from the other Japanese brands.

Those that fall for C90T’s charm will, according to Suzuki, use it for a mixture of cruising, touring and just running errands. It ticks the boxes for us in all of those areas with just a few minor reservations.

RideApart Review: Suzuki Boulevard C90T B.O.S.SS

What’s Good
It’s all too easy to look at the Japanese cruisers and dismiss them for not being Harley-Davidsons. Time has moved on and so too have these type of ‘bikes as demonstrated by Suzuki’s Boulevard C90T B.O.S.S.

It’s not the fastest or the most powerful bike out there but it achieves everything that Suzuki set out to do to re-establish itself as a serious player in the cruiser tourer market.

There are some nice touches too such as the helmet lock, a lockable storage space behind the left side cover, easy to read instruments and gear indicator along with the heel-toe shifter and it gets a screen and hard bags as standard equipment.

The C90T B.O.S.S. looks the part and acts the part. It’s well built and well thought out and there’s nothing really not to like about it.

And at $13,999 it just might be a steal too.

What’s Bad
Cruiser tourer owners expect to be able to choose their own suspension settings. That’s all part of the fun – changing the ride from solo to two-up or two-up with luggage. Suzuki might have missed a trick here by not offering adjustable suspension. Does it detract from the C90T? Not really but it would be nice to create a set-up on the C90T that really suits a rider and their riding style.

Full marks though to Suzuki for designing its own hard bags for the C90T. They look good and can carry a lot. The problem is you can’t take them off. (You can if you have plenty of time and the right tools according to Suzuki).

That we think is a shame as there’s something to be said for stripping the ‘bike down when you’re not touring and enjoying the simple naked cruiser look.

Which brings us to the screen. Suzuki’s design team spent some time getting this right and it looks good and works well. But you can’t take that off either. You could if you really wanted to but it’s no quick release system and you’d be left with some odd-looking bolt holes. Not every owner would want to remove the C90T’s screen, but it would be good to at least have the choice.

And when wearing its tourer hat the C90T needs cruise control. Not necessarily as standard but available as an option. Absolutely no debate.

The Price
The Suzuki Boulevard C90T is on sale now in B.O.S.S specification for $13,999. That’s $1700 more than the V Star Tourer ($12,290) and just over $700 more than Honda’s Interstate ($13,240). You could consider a Harley-Davidson Softail Classic but at $17,599 it’s a huge $3,600 more than the Suzuki.

It will be interesting to see what the two other C90Ts are priced at when they arrive in a month’s time. Suzuki has said they are going to be several hundred dollars less than this B.O.S.S. version which will bring the C90T almost head on in price with its other Japanese competitors.

RideApart Review: Suzuki Boulevard C90T B.O.S.SS

What Others Say
“Suzuki’s new Boulevard C90T B.O.S.S. combines clever, head turning looks with performance that delivers, whether you are taking a quick trip to your local bar, or a high-mileage interstate excursion.” — Ultimate Motorcycling

“The B.O.S.S. is an attractive, affordable, large-displacement tourer, with plenty of room for the owner to accessorize. And while there are insulting and nasty words we usually use with the term boss (usually cussing is involved), happily, I have none to associate with this B.O.S.S. I’ve got nothing but nice things to say. It’s the one boss you won’t mind going on a trip with. Now that’s a rarity.” — Road Bike

The Verdict
There’s no such thing as the perfect cruiser tourer but this Suzuki Boulevard C90T is a big step forward for the Suzuki brand. To our eyes the C90T looks good and handles and performs well.

On a sunny day cruising in Southern California the C90T’s seat is a pleasant place to be. It also has good touring abilities and is more than capable of taking two-up with their luggage over long distances.

Overall the C90T is a good, honest cruiser. It doesn’t pretend to be anything else.

Suzuki has faced some tough times in recent years. It tell us the Boulevard C90T B.O.S.S. is just the start of some exciting things we can expect to see coming down the line starting with 31 new model or revised product introductions for this model year alone.

That’s kind of appropriate as August 2013 marks Suzuki’s 50th anniversary of selling motorcycles here in the U.S. Happy anniversary Suzuki it looks like your celebratory year is off to a flying start.

RideApart Rating: 7/10

Gear
Helmet: Bell Custom 500 ($100)
Jacket: Alpinestars Viper Air Textile ($199.95)
Gloves: Alpinestars Scheme Kevlar ($59.95)

This article introduces Tim Watson, RideApart’s new Cruiser Editor. A veteran of the auto industry, Tim also writes motorcycle travel books. There and Back Again to See How Far It Is tells the story of his travels around small town America on a Harley-Davidson.