From the first time I threw a leg over Suzuki’s Boulevard C50T Classic, I felt that it was an eager to please, family dog of a motorcycle that would put a smile on the face any cruiser aficionado lucky enough to find one in his garage. The length of the ride that gave me that impression? The 50 yards up my driveway between where I unloaded it from my truck and parked it in my garage. The next day, I got to watch someone else ride it while I shot the photos. At the first stoplight, I asked the rider what he thought about the bike, and the response was that the Classic was friendly and easy to ride. Sometimes, we know how we feel about a motorcycle from the first instant we engage the clutch. Still, I’d spent no real time in the saddle. Was this simply a good first impression or the sign of something more?
First, I’ve gotta get this off of my chest: Boulevard C50T Classic is a terrible name, a name that made me think I would be testing a touring cruiser. Since I’ve known some cool people with hard-to-pronounce names, I’ve decided to just let this one slide. The name does, however, point us in the direction of its closest family member, the Boulevard C50T. The Classic is a slightly stripped-down version of the C50T. Simply remove the windshield, the saddlebags, and the backrest from the C50T, and you’ve created a C50T Classic. (Why Suzuki didn’t follow through and remove the T from the C50, thus eliminating the tourer confusion, is an open question.)
Aside from the Classic’s good looks, much of the bike’s initial positive impression comes from the 805cc, liquid-cooled, 45-degree V-twin engine. The engine fires immediately and the exhaust note from the staggered dual pipes is personable. Like the thumping of your dog’s tail on the floor when you walk into the room, the Classic seems happy you’ve thumbed the starter. The bike lifts easily off its sidestand and feels nicely balanced between your legs. The 27.6″ seat height helps a bunch, though it does feel a tad higher thanks to the wide saddle. Snicking the transmission into gear, rolling on the throttle, and easing out the clutch are the three actions that will win over riders, experienced and newbies alike. The lightly sprung clutch lever combines with the well-sorted bottom end torque to make pulling away from a stop seamless.
Naturally, the Classic seems most at home doing the boulevard shuffle: pull away from a light, accelerate to third gear and then just motor along with the flow of traffic. The Suzuki Dual Throttle Valve optimizes air velocity through the intake tract, delivering silky throttle response from the bottom end through the mid-range with nary a hiccup, whether you’re rolling the throttle on or off. Suzuki’s engineers did their homework.
The easygoing character carries over to the around-town handling, too. The wide bar places the rider’s hands in a comfortable position for navigating the urban maze. The extra leverage provided by the handlebar is not necessary, though; response to steering input is immediate. In fact, the front can steer a bit too quickly at low speed, becoming a little floppy, but this behavior is easy to accommodate once you expect it.
Eventually, however, you’ll run out of boulevards and want to venture out into the wider world. While the Classic’s low and mid-range make the engine feel larger than an 800 around town, on the interstate it shows that there is no free lunch when it comes to power. While accelerating up to speed to merge into traffic is accomplished with relative ease, you’ll need to wind the engine out if you’re in a hurry. Similarly, passing on a two-lane road usually requires a downshift, and even then, the engine feels like it’s working hard. Cruising at a constant speed on the interstate reveals a surprising flaw in the Classic: for a bike with touring in its DNA, the engine feels remarkably busy once you top 70 mph. I frequently found myself trying to shift into a nonexistent sixth gear. Although only a little of the vibration reaches the grips, the floorboards transmit a noticeable amount to the rider, adding to the impression that the engine is overexerting itself.
The rest of the rider accommodations are quite comfy for the long haul. The riding position is cruiser neutral, meaning that the feet aren’t too far forward to give a little assist in raising the rider’s rump out of the seat to absorb bumps. Longer-legged riders may feel that the floorboards are a tad high, but since the result is more cornering clearance, the compromise is worth it. The handlebar puts the rider’s arms in a good position to fight the wind blast, which is turbulence-free and pretty manageable until you get above 75 mph. The wide seat allows for movement to alleviate fanny fatigue. Although the seat foam is on the firm side, it doesn’t lead to any discomfort on extended stints.
The rider’s experience of the chassis will vary with the riding environment. Overall, the single shock is stiff, transmitting much of the sensation of the road surface to the rider’s hind parts. On a winding road, this stiffness means that the suspension doesn’t compress too much and eat up ground clearance, which is nice. Major bumps do get transmitted to the rider but don’t upset the chassis. On a freeway drone, that same stiffness feels harsh over expansion joints and other pavement irregularities, detracting from the enjoyment of the ride. The backbone frame feels stout enough to handle the stiff suspenders with only a slight flex during high-speed sweepers. Abrupt steering inputs, like a snap swerve maneuver to avoid debris, will cause a slight wobble that disappears after two cycles.
The engine seems almost as comfortable on winding roads as it does in the city. The 32-bit ECM delivers seamless throttle response that many more expensive motorcycles fail to do. The lack of driveline lash in the shaft final drive assists in smooth power delivery. The willing engine coupled with decent ground clearance will make you wish for a never-ending series of curves. When you do touch down the floorboards, they drag benignly, giving plenty of warning before any solidly mounted parts intrude on the fun.
One big disappointment on the Classic is its brakes. While the single front disc may look nice, giving a clear view of the spoked wheel, Suzuki needs to put a beefier caliper/pad combination on the fork, or add a second disc. As it stands, the front brake is underpowered, requiring a fair amount of effort. The rear drum, while not as light or as stylish as a disc, offers decent power with the unfortunate side effect of grabbing in some situations. In summary, the brakes are the most obvious sign that the Classic is built to a strict price point (as are the rest of the 800 class cruisers).
Suzuki nailed the styling of the C50T Classic. From the hardtail lines unsullied by any suspension components to the shape of the fenders and the tasteful amount of chrome, this Boulevard looks considerably more expensive than its $7,999 price tag. The two-tone paint looks great in a variety of lights. The cleanly designed, tank-mounted instrumentation features nice touches like a clock, a gear indicator, a fuel gauge, and an adjustable brightness control. All of these add to the perceived value of the Classic, though having the fuel gauge move in increments smaller than a
quarter-tank would be nice.
Overall, the Suzuki Boulevard C50T Classic is a motorcycle that both the neophyte and experienced rider can enjoy. To sweeten the deal, the Classic is easy on the wallet while still offering high-value styling. With the exception of the busyness at highway speeds, the Classic’s shortcomings can be easily addressed through the aftermarket via brake pads and a shock. Still, the best characteristic of the Classic is a friendly personality that will work its way into your heart — just like that puppy you brought home 10 years ago — and become part of the family. Maybe you’ll fall for it, too, the first time you ease out the clutch lever. RB
Review By Evans Brasfield