2006 Suzuki M109R – A Thunderous Marauder of Voracious Appetite

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m109_img_8344At 4500 RPM I whack the throttle of Suzuki’s new power cruiser offering, the M109R, and the result is a melodious baritone trumpet.  It’s the type of sound a dinosaur might make in its death throws before it got on with something useful like becoming petroleum.  Give the M109R’s voracious appetite for fuel that makes the M109R the tyrannosaurus’s natural enemy, though displaced from the late Cretaceous by 60-65 million years, give or take.  In the present, however, the M109R is aiming to take a ferocious bite out of a more modern prey, the power cruiser market.  How has this latest thunderous marauder gained the upper hand?  By out evolving the competition of course…  Actually evolution isn’t quite right, Suzuki has gone Jurassic Park and transplanted GSX-R DNA into this power-raptor.

Idling around town the M109R’s strengths are well hidden by its custom inspired looks.  It’s a thirties deco steamer meets H.R. Giger; smooth curving lines, extensive lashings of chrome (though much of it is plastic to keep the weight down), arching pipes, brutish animal grace and a hint of disturbing alien sex appeal.  The only out of place bit is the drooping and heavy looking headlight cowling that pounds it’s way through the air ahead of the M109R’s muscular body.   The brake lever and cable-actuated clutch hang off the substantial tapered bar finished with 1-inch grips.  Gigantic 240mm wide rear Dunlop 109 finishes the tail, hinting at the colossal torque and power on tap.   The lines are powerful, squat, and low to the point of sinisterly hovering over ground, which the M109R’s 694lbs threatens to crush at any moment.  The M in M109 stands for “Marauder” in Suzuki’s new the alphanumeric ontology of the Boulevard sub-brand, still there is no doubt the aggressive former nomenclature would fit by looks alone.

That this bike looks and sounds the part is uncontested; tinted Escalade windows roll down and fingers contorted into gangsta signs of approval emerge as you slide by, motorcycle cops pause from affairs of taxation and gape, and passing Harley riders concentrate on it so hard as to nearly forget to ride.  Suzuki can put a big check by “target market” on their clipboard list.

At the lower RPMs it’s all accompanied by a soundtrack of massive locomotive’s pistons firing up and down.  Massive is the operative term here; the 112mm pistons travel a 90.5mm stroke, and are some of the biggest in current automotive production… Yes, automotive, not motorcycle.  That this engine revs so easily to 7400 rpm before the limiter batters things to a halt is a marvel for the ages.  The around town audio assault jackhammers the presence of the M109R into its surroundings, a stirring sonic abuse that chirps every car alarm and midlife crisis within 20metres.

You probably wouldn’t buy the M109R for around town.  Twenty minutes of rumbling around the city slumped forward to the bars, with my lower back curved and legs forward, has the upper part of my ass numb and my shoulders aching. This position is as brutal and purpose built as any sportbike.  The throttle control at this pace isn’t to my liking either.  Lifted from the GSX-R 600/750 it features dual throttle valves, one controlled by the rider and the other by the 32-bit ECU to smooth the ride out.  But at these low speeds, just on and off idle, I find it twitchy and abrupt on and off unless you’re overly aggressive with it.  While other cruisers may be content to drift from coffee shop to coffee shop, the M109R is not; find your way to open road, twist the throttle and this bike is suddenly meeting the world on it’s territory… and the world should be scared.

With a full throated snarl issued through twin chrome exhaust, a 2-1-2 system, the Suzuki M109R issues warning to the roads that ungodly things are about to be done to them.  Developing a whopping 127hp at 6200RPM and 118ft-lbs of torque at 3200RPM the compact, if one can use that word for 109cubic inches (1783cc) of displacement, 54-degree V-Twin, hurtles you up to speed with meteoric force.  Freely revving the engine is its sweetest powering past 5000RPM, as displayed on the digital tachometer mounted stylishly over the bars, and pulling very strong.

Acceleration is immense on the same scale as being launched by a trebuchet.  Any thoughts of the M109R being heavy and cumbersome are left well behind in the fashionable but functional rearview mirrors.  It’s all done with minimal vibration to boot.  If you need the validation of rocking and thumping American iron you’ll be looking elsewhere.  When you do settle down, and for your licenses sake we suggest you do, the M109R is perfectly contented to cruise smoothly along all day at 4500-5500 RPM.

All that displacement and power has a price though. Fuel economy? Lets move on; the M109R consumed 30L over a “well paced” 340km run, putting it at roughly 9L/100km or 32miles/gallon.  The M109R likely passes everything on the cruiser market except the gas pump.

This engine is in a territorial battle with the bike’s nature. In a gentle sweeper the peg’s “tetch” breaks my road concentration and I glance down at the speedo inconveniently located on the tank, further shifting my focus.  It reads180kph, and the suspension and engine have written a check that the clearance can’t cash.  There is a remedy for this, shoulder shift and you can keep the bike more upright… with a less foot forward position I’d be tempted to hanging off.  Need further evidence that this is a power-cruiser, bordering on the domain of sport-cruiser?  Watching photographer Kevin blast by an unsuspecting group of sportbikes toddling along at 160kph in the local sweepers is it.  What the M109R needs is a kit to lift the oft-scraping pegs up and out of the way of the fun as Harley did in transforming the V-Rod to Streetrod.  There is another problem at these speeds though, bits start falling off – namely you.

At these speeds I’m fighting to keep my feet on the forward facing pegs – it’s a gym workout and a ride all in one.  Suddenly my right leg snags in the air coursing over the bike and is wrenched sideways.  My groin is sore for the next two days and my point of discretion becomes a bit lower where the windblast is more sedate.  Things needed not be settled down too much in the twists either.

On the Crowsnest Highway, the M109R proves its road going prowess.  Grabbing the brake lever and making the awkward reach from peg to pedal, I burn off straight-line speed into a tight 40kph marked corner.  Radial-mount Tokico four-piston calipers, again technology transplanted from the GSX-R, clamp progressively down on a pair of 310mm floating discs out front.  Out back is a 245mm rear disk coupled with twin calipers that seem largely lockup resistant.  Speed is burnt off quickly, but not in the world stopping proportions that the rest of the M109R suggests.  In panic stops the binders prove adequate, but not exceptional, likely a function of the bike’s mass.  Front-end dive is controlled admirably by the 46mm inverted forks, which clasp the stylish cast aluminum-alloy wheel.   Out the back the rear shock is adjustable for 7 preload settings for those contemplating two up riding or luggage.  The long wheelbase however, gives the M109R a lot of leverage and rough roads paddle your hind…  likely you were being bad anyway.  Catching me off guard is that counter steer on the M109 doesn’t seem to begin until 60kph, my first tight turns are tentative, but as Highway 3 progresses comfort with the big bike’s handling grows.

By the time I’m riding back from Keremeos, a 70km overshoot of my original destination and a gauge of how enjoyable the bike is, the M109R and I are in a rhythm.  Maximum posted on the corners is worth the loose mathematics of “double less ten” provided I remember to brake early, shift my shoulders keeping the bike upright, and hit the throttle mid-turn using the shaft drive’s tensing of the M109R to make the most of the Spartan clearance.  Turn in is slow courtesy of the 240mm wide rubber acreage out back, but the initiation is light through the bars. It’s an odd feel but the M109R out handles the preconceptions its “custom” looks create, and aggressive riding is a calculated effort.

Even the ergonomics and I come to peace on this longer ride.  Shifting about through the twists my arse is mercifully comfortable on the broad saddle…  does this bike make my behind look small?  You’d have to be King Kong for it not to.  At highway speeds there is enough airflow to support your upper body and the attitude laden custom cruiser slouch becomes comfortable.  It’s still an awkward bend for my foot between the peg and the brake lever, but hanging my foot off the pegs sorts that.  For the tall amongst us highway pegs would be a boon, but I make do with the Achilles of my boots supporting the weight of my leg against the stock pegs.

While Achilles’ baptism in the river Styx made him all but invulnerable, mine simply goes to show how vulnerable to weather you are on a cruiser of any ilk.  A spring thunderhead opens and the oversized drops slam into my shins stinging.  I slow off to 110kph minimizing the drops’ pelting effect.  As the road’s furrows begin to pool I expected hydroplaning from the huge rear tire, instead the big M remains stable, planted and true in the wet.  The bike’s sheer exposure moderates your speed.  The downpour soaks me in an instant, is gone after three minutes of misery, and makes the point that the M109R has no storage for rain gear…  a gold card maybe, but raingear?  No, but when has a bike like this ever been about practicality?

Whirling above the trees mid-straight-stretch near Manning Park’s Eastgate is a murder of crows.  If I were superstitious I’d say these avian descendants of the thunder lizards are an omen, not for the M109R but the power cruiser competition.  The Boulevard M109R has hit the roads with meteoric force, marking them with Suzuki’s redefinition of what a power cruiser can be; obscenely powerful, massive, stylish, and well-handling.  Once the dust settles from this cataclysmic strike and the competition finish their stunned wanderings it will be interesting to see how the market responds.  Evolution, some theorists say, occurs in jumps, which means the M109R may the opening volley in a war of leapfrog evolution.  For now though, you’d be hard pressed not to see the M109R as the prevailing species.

Daily Living:
Cleaning is surprisingly easy.  The custom looking wheels with their broad flat surfaces are easier than those on most sportbikes to wash down.  The chrome was the big worry; a lot of it being plastic, previous cleanings had turned it milky.  Still, even given all the shiny bits the M109R washed down easily.  The only fiddly bit is the engine with all those freaking fins.  Yes, we know it needs to look the part but is there a special brush for those in the tool kit?  The biggest downside of the bike when cleaning though is its weight and height, which make it hard to move around.

MSRP: $17,999 CDN
Web:   Suzuki Canada

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