Writing these new bike stories ain’t always easy. But I love it when I go to my thesaurus and find tons of synonyms to work with. Plenty of word play available for this story. A boss is a leader, a chief, a manager, and a biggie (yes, my thesaurus actually said biggie). Or the word can mean groovy, neat, cool, or bad (as in bad-azz). There are some underworld references as well, such as in mafia and mob. But being based so closed to New York City, I wouldn’t want to offend any of the locals. Although in this case, B.O.S.S. is actually an acronym for Blacked Out Suzuki Special. Talk about literal.
You may have noticed in our Letters section that folks (including myself) were wondering where the hell Suzuki has been. Did it forget about motorcycles in the United States? It has been conspicuous by its absence in recent years on the retail two-wheeled market. One might begin to think the only models Suzuki offers are the M109 muscle cruiser and the assortment of Gixxer sportbikes. I’ve always been of the opinion that if you don’t see an offering from a particular manufacturer, then you should expect that it’s working on something for next year. Finally, the ray of hope that is the V-Strom 650 broke cover last year but not much more than that. This year, though, along with the announcement that Suzuki will discontinue its automobile sales in the United States, comes word that all of Suzuki’s US marketing efforts will go into motorcycle promotion. Along with that “state of the union” type news and the revelation that 2013 is Suzuki’s 50th year of selling bikes in the US comes the release of several new models. See, I told ya they were working on something.
You may recall that the Suzuki C90 model was available from 1998 to 2009 as an air-cooled V-twin cruiser and has been absent from the lineup the last few years, but the 2013 C90T B.O.S.S. isn’t just an old bike with new paint. It’s a new, purpose-built model marking Suzuki’s return to the 1500cc/90″ segment. And hopefully one of its purposes is to lead Suzuki back to motorcycle sales dominance. The 1500cc range cruiser is a right-sized, constant seller with substantial demand in this displacement size. This year also marks the return of the C90 classic cruiser and M90 musclebike to Suzuki showrooms. And if cleaning an all black bike is not your idea of how to keep the boss happy, then you’ll like hearing that the standard C90T will be available in two color schemes with plenty of chrome.
But today it’s all about the B.O.S.S. But then again, isn’t it like that in most workplaces? Suzuki’s return to the touring/cruiser arena comes in at 1500cc (1462cc to be exact), with claims that this is the most powerful engine in the 1000-1600cc segment. Suzuki was looking to return with a touring package offered as standard with long-range comfort and authentic classic looks, yet not traditional in appearance. I think Suzuki nailed it. It built the bike it needs to sell, with strong, masculine styling, nice lines, and perfect proportions. The overall size and footprint exudes strength.
The C90T B.O.S.S. and M90 cruiser will share a build platform, with similar powertrain, frame, and swingarm components. A steel-tube frame carries the powerful V-twin engine. Fat tires, front and rear, are mounted on seven-spoke, cast-aluminum wheels. I love the stance. The rear is a substantial, 200mm-wide profile. Up front, the 45mm inverted telescopic nonadjustable front forks soak up the bumps well. Out back, there’s a link-type rear suspension using an oil-damped, coil-over shock to produce a smooth, ground-hugging ride. Unfortunately, preload adjustability isn’t available for when the B.O.S.S. is loaded down. I was elated to see Suzuki chose trouble-free shaft drive to help move the B.O.S.S. down the road — one less worry while on a long trip. A LED taillamp atop the long angled rear fender covers it all up. I found the handling of the B.O.S.S. stable and predictable, yet it turned into corners well. Actually, while the B.O.S.S. looks low and tough, ground clearance was plentiful. Touching down the floorboards was a rarity. Unfortunately, I found the braking to be weak. The rear brakes felt wooden, not effective at all. And I’m not convinced a single front disc with a puny two-piston caliper on an 800-pound bike is a wise choice. ABS is not available. And while there weren’t any emergency stop situations on my test ride, I was hoping for plenty of advance notice when it came to slowing down.
Pushing the B.O.S.S. around is something we’d all like to do, but in this case it’s a hard job (remember, 800 pounds). Suzuki’s 90″ (1462cc), 54-degree, liquid-cooled, SOHC V-twin cranks out plenty with 77.8 hp at 4800 rpm and 96.6 ft-lbs. of torque at 2600 rpm. It utilizes a 9.5:1 compression ratio and four valves per cylinder with dual spark plugs in each head. The fuel injection is fed via three separated airboxes, the same technology used in M109R cruiser, so we know that works fine. The Suzuki dual throttle valve (SDTV) throttle body is from Mikuni with a 42mm bore. The C90T actually has more torque than its sistership M90 thanks to revised cam spec differences. However, I found the C90T needs to be in the correct gear and is unforgiving for every application of throttle. If not, dreaded engine lugging was pretty easy to find, which required immediate gear changes. For example, during my highway stints, 65 mph in fourth gear was comfortable, but in fifth, the bike starts vibrating a little. Anything over 66 mph I found fifth gear most comfortable, and the bike pulls well.
The exhaust pipe layout is a dual, slash-cut exhaust producing a strong rumbling sound and is finished in matte black for a tough look. The Suzuki clutch assist system (SCAS) reduces the force needed to pull in the clutch lever and smoothes downshifts by reducing pressure on the clutch plates under deceleration. For upshifts the system increases pressure on the clutch plates when accelerating. The B.O.S.S.’s five-speed produces nice shifts, and I like the heel-toe shifter; it works well and doesn’t get in the way.
The only chrome on the B.O.S.S. is found on the headlight bucket, signal lights, gas cap, grip trim, saddlebag hinge, valve covers, tank emblem, shifter, and brake pedal. Other than that, it’s all sinister black. The relatively large 4.8 gallon tank is great for long range. Just aft of that is a broad, flat seat with plenty all day comfort. The C90T has a seat that’s flatter than the M90’s for better long-range positioning. The C90’s floorboards are large for rider comfort, and the handlebar is wider and closer to the rider than the M90’s version as well. Just under the bars resides a multifunction, tank-mounted dash gauge. It’s a nice gauge layout with an easily readable gear indicator. An attractive, clear lens covers the large analog speedometer and the entire gage panel. It also features a clock that always remains on, fuel gauge, odometer, and dual trip meters. The backlight illumination is adjustable, and while nighttime illumination could be brighter (even turned way up), everything was quite readable. I like that the bike is equipped with hazard light flashers.
Suzuki was pretty proud of its in-house designed side bags and windscreen, as well it should be, this is the first Suzuki Boulevard with factory-designed hard sidecase. The ultra-wide bags hug the body contours nicely, definitely not an afterthought. A left-side protection bar underneath is partially hidden from view. The inner lid at the rear of each bag is there to prevent air and dust from entering the bag. Each side has a 10-pound carrying capacity with the right bag capable of holding 24.5 liters, and the left bag 26 liters. They’re constructed of impact-resistant ABS plastic covered in material to match the seats. The wide covers provide easy entry and flip to the outside, and the cases can fit a semi-full backpack inside. What I at first thought was an awkward bag mechanism that requires mandatory use of the key to open and close the lids turned out to be quite efficient. When I was off the bike and needed something from the bag, I knew where the key was at all times. And when I was riding, I knew there wasn’t any chance of an unlocked bag accidentally opening. If the bike was running, the key was obviously in the ignition, therefore the bag lids were definitely locked. A single helmet lock is easily accessible just to the inside of the left bag, a separate steering head lock is nice to find, and there’s a lockable storage space behind the left side cover.
Suzuki tested dozens of shapes and mounting angles before finalizing this windshield design. The windscreen is positioned and designed to provide ample wind protection at freeway speeds and minimize buffeting by allowing just the right amount of air to pass above the headlight. The inside of the windshield is finished nicely, no unsightly hardware is visible.
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. RB
Story By Steve Lita, Photos By Brian Nelson