Sometimes being ahead of your time is a good thing. Back in 2006, Suzuki’s M109R seemed off base. In a market that only rarely produced a hit vehicle that hinted at performance, here was this big, moderately expensive bike (with spacey lines) that oozed Suzuki racing heritage. Sitting here, 13 years later, it seems like a good idea. Still the same as it ever was, while trends have come and gone, and technology marches on, it seems Suzuki’s forward-facing view of cruisers paid off. In the intervening years, the only M109R still produced is the B.O.S.S. version, which features a blacked out motor and painted wheels.
Story and Photos by Billy Bartels
In the quest to merge Suzuki’s knack for extreme performance machines like the GSX-R1000 and Hayabusa with a cruiser, some choices were made that seemed odd at the time, but prescient nowadays. The big M had a 240-section rear tire when they were still an oddity; the motor revs freely, while also putting out good bottom end; and the suspension was well beyond what most cruisers can claim.
The M109R is a muscle bike with a 109″ (1800cc) motor, and we’d like to assume the ‘R’ is for racy. On that it delivers. Its 54-degree V-twin is spread out past the de rigueur 45 degrees to house straighter intake ports. Rejecting the notion that a big-inch V-twin with overhead cams is too tall, Suzuki designed the motor to be more oversquare (and thus shorter) than most cruisers, with 112mm pistons going through a 90.5mm stroke. This also moves the powerband up the rev range, relative to Suzuki’s other cruisers. By the way, thanks to those gigantic, forged 4.4” aluminum pistons, the 109 has some of the biggest stock pistons on the planet (auto or motorcycle).
Unique Styling of the 2019 Suzuki M109R B.O.S.S. Edition
The other big feature on the big M is a 240mm rear tire. Not willing to give up an ounce of cornering prowess for the sake of wide-tire style, Suzuki carefully worked with Dunlop to get the profile just right. Other sportbike-inspired features include dual radial-mounted front calipers and an inverted front fork. Working in harmony with one another, these components are designed to give a confident front-end feel and superior braking action. And, let’s face it; they just look cool.
The styling goes with the performance theme of the machine, with everything keyed to work around the functional aspects of the bike. Most cruisers are retro by definition. But this machine is meant to take the basic parameters of a cruiser (forward controls, wide rear tire, etc.) and make a performance bike from it. There are swoopy, flowing lines throughout the bike. In fact, from any angle that’s not vertical, the huge rear tire isn’t very apparent. The headlight stands out, the boxy housing recalls an ’80s Superbike, perhaps the original Katana.
In this future vision of cruising, elemental design is an afterthought, or at least only an inspiration. Plastic covers abound, making for smoother lines and integrated color (and replacing costly shaped-metal parts). The plastic frame covers, cylinder head covers, and body pieces are all designed to make the functional pieces of metal created by the engineers fit into the styling mold that the designers had in mind. Cruiser traditionalists will be offended, but if you buy into this vision of a cruiser, you’ll be sold.
Despite being a big bike, it’s perfect for Southern California. In the city, it’s nimble enough and accelerates hard; while on back roads its balance of quick, stable steering and smooth motor are a joy to ride in tight and wide open terrain.
The Motor and Tranny on the 2019 Suzuki M109R B.O.S.S. Edition
Still, a bit of mature forbearance is needed. That big engine is fully capable of breaking the rear tire loose if you get too enthusiastic when leaned over (or otherwise). The 109 feels like a well-oiled metric bike that happens to have a fat rear tire. In fact, you can even forget that it’s back there. However, don’t think that you get that giant tire scot-free. There’s still the fat-tire tendency to get leveraged around on uneven pavement. It also supplies plenty of contact patch to help the stout motor lay down its claimed 127 hp.
Numbers are one thing, but the “butt dyno” is the only one most people strap their machine to, and my butt can attest to the M’s arm-stretching power. It has loads of bottom-end torque, but (after a slight flat spot in the middle) feels like a race bike with its top-end rush as the throttle is opened. That said, It’s also very easy to control; docile, in fact, unless you grab a handful and twist.
With a sweet-shifting tranny to match the smooth motor, I have only one complaint about the 109’s drivetrain: The shaft drive sucks. Besides limiting what a custom builder can do with the rear end, it also gets between a nice smooth cruise and a herky-jerky lesson in throttle control. Couple a high-compression motor with shaft drive and quick (for a cruiser) throttle response, and you have a recipe for low-speed jerkiness.
Suspension duties are handled by fat, 46mm inverted forks and a linkage-equipped rear shock mounted horizontally under the bike. Though the front end has only 10mm more wheel travel than the rear, it feels like much more, as the front soaks bumps far better than the rear. Again, the price of hefting that really huge chunk of rubber out back. The whole package feels tight, but not overly harsh — it’s decidedly more sporty than plush.
The ergonomics are quite aggressive, yet an all-day ride will leave a taller rider in pretty good shape. You sit slightly forward in the saddle, with legs out in front. While much of the rider’s weight rests on his backside, the firm saddle is plenty supportive enough to handle it. The downward-sloping rendition of fat 1.25-inch drag bars look odd at first, but they put your mitts in a neutral position. A shorter tester told a different tale. An uncomfortable reach to the ground, due to a wide cross section; an uncomfortable reach to pegs that are mounted too far forward, leaving the rider to ride the front of the seat, though the bars line up acceptably well.
What Do We Really Think of the 2019 Suzuki M109R B.O.S.S. Edition
The bottom line is this: if you like the slightly futuristic (still), slightly plastic look, and want a high-performance cruiser, you’ll likely love this motorcycle. Unlike most categories of motorcycles, the bar hasn’t moved much in the decade-plus since this machine was first released. While style is an important consideration, nobody gets between Suzuki and performance. In fact, despite styling cues derived from a number of sources, in the end the thing that shines through is uniquely Suzuki.
When I first rode the M109R at its inception, I couldn’t help but think that this futuristic machine was before its time. The jury is still out on that, as it’s never set the sales charts on fire, but few big motorcycles do these days. But in the evergreen world of cruisers, it’s still a nice high-performance outlier.CN