Boldly Making the Case that Bigger is Better
If you’re searching for absolute piston size, the biggest cylinder squishers money can buy, look no further than the Suzuki’s C109R cruiser ($13,799) and C109RT touring cruiser ($14,999) motorcycles. These bad boys boast what Suzuki claims are the largest pistons in any landgoing, gasoline powered engine, and they’re capable of producing a seriously fat torque curve.
Torque alone does not a heavyweight bike make, so we spent a day riding both variants on the twisty roads that run through the Anza Borrego desert in Southern California. How do these fearsome pavement pounders perform? Read on.
It’s no wonder almost every modern Suzuki shows traces of GSX-R DNA; the company’s track-ready motorcycles (which include the GSX-R1000) have made a name for themselves by providing reliable performance while winning plenty of races. The technology developed on the racetrack has trickled down into regular streetbikes, and the all-new C109R and C109RT are latest recipients of those Gixxer-bred traits.
The heart of the C109 is a 1,783cc liquid-cooled 54 degree V-twin plucked from the M109R and modified for cruiser duty. The big twin has been tweaked by increasing the inertia of the flywheel, strengthening the conrods, and revising the camshafts for more low-end and mid-range torque, among other alterations. A 2-2 exhaust system utilizes a valve for torque and sound optimization, and also mated to the massive twin is a 5-speed transmission.
Up front, 49mm Showa forks offer 130mm of wheel travel, and are shrouded in thick, chrome fork covers. The rear Showa monoshock is connected to a cast and extruded composite aluminum swingarm. The C109RT variant adds two small leather saddlebags, a passenger backrest. and a tall windscreen.
Styling is fairly predictable for such a large bike, with a big nacelle framing the single headlight, large flowing pipes gracing the bike’s right side, and an enormous radiator that no doubt makes dyed in the wool Harleyphiles snicker. The rear tire measures an impressive 240mm, but you’d never guess it because the bulky fender hovers over the rubber.
Throw a Leg Over
The mighty V-Twin.
Photo © Brian J. Nelson
You won’t quite grasp the size of the C109 until you stand next to one, and even then you won’t get the full effect until you climb aboard. Once astride this big-engined bruiser, you might start to realize the extent of its bulk; the tank’s width demands what the Victorians might have called an immodest posture, the swept back handlebars offer a commanding grasp of the controls, and the bike’s overall ergonomics are far more conventional than the M109R, which requires the arms and feet to stretch forward.
The C109R’s saddle is large and comfortable, and an upright seating position makes extended seat time comfortable. Floorboards are generously sized, though your left boot will have to fit between the toe and heel shifters. Though the grips sit relatively far apart, the riding position is generally at ease and inspires a laid back but in-command stance.
A chrome-plated housing on top of the fuel tank contains a large speedometer. and just off to the right is a fuel filler cap, which is also chrome-plated. In all, the C109 is an imposing and well-finished bike, though details like the oversized radiator and somewhat clunky rear fender detract from its overall allure.
On the Road: Riding the Suzuki C109
At 787 lbs dry, the C109 is hefty by any standards, and you’ll feel the cruel effects of gravity when you lift it off its sidestand. Start it up, and a surprisingly mellow, pulsing exhaust note throbs from the two chrome pipes. The C109 might feel a bit muted compared to most Harleys, but a few revs reveal a hint of sportbike lineage.
It’s an aggressive snarl that lends it the C109 an unusual characteristic, though other parts of the powerband produce a more traditional bass note that’s typically associated with thumpy cruisers.
Once you get the C109 rolling, the less intimidating it becomes. Low-end torque is astounding, and its V-twin pulls with a sense of authority that is inspiring and addictive. Unlike most of its competitors which peter out around 5,000 rpm, the C109’s power peak of 114 horsepower occurs at 5,800 rpm.
Clutch action is light, though the shifter can be a bit clunky.
Once you get the hang of this big bike’s road presence, you’ll find that leaning into turns is easier than you’d think, and that banking power eventually translates to turning. Think ahead, and you’ll probably find the C109’s handling dynamics intuitive. It’s not nimble by any stretch of the imagination, but its seat height of only 28 inches brings it low enough to the ground to lend it decent handling for its weight.
Braking is linked, rear to front, meaning that hitting the rear brakes will activate the fronts, but not vice versa. 2-piston 275mm rears and 3-piston 290mm fronts do a commendable job of bringing this hulk to a stop.
The Suzuki C109R in action.
Photo © Brian J. Nelson
The world may not need a ginormously imposing cruiser or touring cruiser (especially since heavyweight bike sales have been sliding as of late), but time aboard the C109R and C109RT reminds you of the joys of good old-fashioned, big bore riding. Do these bikes compare come close to a Harley? Not really; both variants of the C109 still feel definitively Japanese, especially considering their sportbike-inspired desire to rev.
A surprisingly capable performer, the C109 behaves itself impressively well on the road, despite its curb weight. Although anti-lock brakes would be a welcome addition, the linked system also works well enough that you’ll probably never miss ABS, and at the end of the day the bike’s voluptuous torque and surprising higher end power make it a blast to whip around town.
The C109 behaves itself better than you might expect on the road, and if there’s an element missing from this bike’s big picture it would have to be styling. It’s got all the right classic cruiser cues—lots of chrome, a locomotive-like headlight, expansive chrome exhaust pipes, and the thick rear tire, but those details are marred by the clunky looking radiator, and the too-big-for-its-own-good rear fender. The C109’s appearance may not be enough to deter most buyers from going for this heavyweight Suzuki, and if you’re drawn in by its performance you’ll find solace in the fact that the view over the handlebars is great.
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