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2008 Suzuki C109R First Ride

Friday, April 18, 2008
2008 Suzuki C109R Main Graphic
Suzuki is bringing on the beef with its largest displacement classic cruiser to date, a 1783cc 54-degree V-Twin tuned for plenty of low-end power.
The wind whipped with Santa Ana's fury through the canyons of the Cuyamacas. A lesser bike would have been at the mercy of the elements. But luckily Suzuki's been thinking big . Heavyweight cruiser big. And it has its sights set high with the release of its 2008 C109R, a wide-tanked, big-fendered classic cruiser with styling Suzuki claims is inspired by American muscle cars of the 1960s and early '70s.

"The C109R is the biggest competitor to a Harley that we've ever had," said Vice-President of Suzuki North America, Mel Harris.

Which emphasizes what I mean by big. He didn't single out Kawasaki's Vulcan or Honda's VTX - they're shooting for the top dog in the North American market, Harley-Davidson itself. We tested the results of Suzuki's efforts recently on a 130-mile journey through Anza Borrego State Park and the Cuyamaca Mountains, a journey that started at sea level and topped out with a climb over a 6000-ft mountain pass.

Gripping the wide pullback handlebars tight and giving the light-actioned clutch lever a squeeze, a lengthy straight after a serious climb in altitude allows me to finally shift into fifth gear and get up to cruising speeds. The ride is smooth and I admire the motorcycle's high state of tune. The rubber-mounted 109 cubic-inch engine gives off nominal vibrations, an effect of its single counterbalancer and assisted by using off angle crankpins . The powerband is broad, good enough for between 50 to 55 mph in first gear, and fourth gear easily gets me over the century mark.

With GSX-R1000 technology at its disposal, Suzuki engineers used similar downdraft intake ports for the C109R's mill. Which is a good thing, because not only is the 1783cc engine Suzuki's biggest effort in the class to date, but it's got monster 112mm aluminum-alloy pistons that are touted to be "the largest, compared to any gasoline vehicle engine running on the ground." But despite their impressive dimensions, the slipper-type pistons are still relatively lightweight. Suzuki spent a lot of effort keep weight down on the mill in a multitude of ways, including using a compact cylinder head design with a two-stage cam chain drive system and by using components like lightweight shot-peened molybdenum connecting rods.

In developing the C109R's powerplant, it would have been easy for Suzuki to adopt the engine established in its popular M109R power cruiser. But it was looking for a little more pop down low. To achieve its goal, it altered its crankshaft for a claimed 15% increase in crank inertia that boosts power low in the rpm range. It also has different timing on the intake cam that aims to boost low-to-mid range power. The real-world application means it was lively at the throttle and the power delivery was fairly consistent. Response was solid in the lower end and lighter near the top, and for me the meat of its power delivery was between 5000 and 6000 rpm. This falls in line with its claimed peak of 114hp at 5800 rpm.

The 2008 Suzuki C109R is big and bold with styling inspired by American muscle cars of the 1960s and early  70s.
Suzuki had the 'big' picture in mind while creating the 2008 Suzuki C109R, a package that includes a big engine, tank, bars, fenders and tires.
The electronic fuel injection system on the C109R provided seamless delivery and I experienced no glitches during my time in the saddle. This is no surprise since it's equipped with Suzuki's Dual Throttle Valve (SDTV) system. The system uses two butterfly valves, one linked to the throttle cable and one controlled by the motorcycle's Electronic Control Module that also work to give the C109R increased low-end power.

The long straightaway gives way to a series of tree-lined twists and bends. A sharp right-hander and a 15 mph sign says it's time to break down for the corner, giving me reason to grab a handful of brakes. The 290mm dual discs on the front are a little soft by themselves, considering the bike is pushing over 700 lbs (no weight is given yet for the C109R, but the M109R weighs in at 703 lbs). Fortunately, the front gets help courtesy of the C109R's combination braking system. It's not a true linked system because only the rear is linked to the front. Step on the rear brake pedal and not only do the twin pistons clamp down on the rear's 275mm disc, but it engages the middle piston of the three piston arrangement on the front. The result is strong, controlled stopping action. I hit the rear brake hard trying to get the brakes to lock up, but was unsuccessful. The brakes bring the bike to an even halt and do an excellent job of keeping the bike firmly under you.

I pick my line for the next corner as the 240mm Bridgestone rear anchors me steadfast to the road. The sharp turn ahead of me requires a solid push on the inside grip and turn-in isn't acute, but is comparable to other cruisers in its class.

The big-boned design of the bike - wide tank, wide bars, and wide rear tire mean it requires a little extra radius to execute U-turns and a few toe taps will be necessary initially until you acquaint yourself with the bike's center of gravity.

Running up and down the C109R's gears, the five-speed constant mesh transmission shifted smoothly. A friction damper built in between the second driven gear and the driveshaft meant there was no clunkiness in higher gears, and even the inevitable clunk between first and second that is a trademark of the large-geared V-Twins was barely noticeable. In combination with its shaft drive, the C109R runs and shifts with calculated efficiency.

I did have a concern that the gearbox was slipping out of first into neutral. On two different occasions I went to make a left hand turn only to twist the throttle on a disengaged clutch. I quickly realized that it wasn't the transmission though. I had knocked the bike out of gear myself while I had the clutch lever pulled in because the back of my size 11 boot was catching the heel shifter. The C109R has floorboards that tie into its classic theme to go along with its heel-toe shifters, but there wasn't a lot of room to spare for my foot. It's fairly easy to inadvertently click out of gear, but could easily be remedied by switching out to standard foot controls.

A large analog speedo sits atop the five-gallon fuel tank and was easy to see while in motion.
A large analog speedo sits atop the five-gallon fuel tank and was easy to see while in motion.
The C109R's seating triangle is configured for a spine-friendly, upright riding position. The reach to the chrome-plated bars is slightly lower than shoulder level and my knees sat at an almost ideal 90-degree angle. The padded leather seat meant comfort was never an issue. The seat is long so it gives riders of varying heights enough surface area to shift around and find the spot that suits them best.

Showa units smooth out road imperfections for the C109R. A conventional Showa 49mm fork has a claimed 130mm of travel. On the backside, a cast, truss-type swingarm gives it a hardtail look, but a concealed 46mm Showa is tucked away to spare you the rigors of a rigid ride. The rear is 7-way preload adjustable. Over the course of our ride, I didn't experience any wallow from the suspension and the setup made for pleasant miles without any occasions where I hit the bottom of the travel.

As for fit and finish, the C109R is consistent with what you'd envision a cruiser should be. Though the fuel tank is said to be five-gallon size, it looks even wider. A chrome console houses an analog speedo that's easy to see while in motion. The wide, shiny pullback handlebars complement the bold tank. Dual slash cut mufflers sweep off the right side and there's plenty of requisite chrome between the fork, engine, and pipes to sate the most discriminating cruiser riders.

Suzuki enlisted the help of focus groups to help decide on styling cues. This brought about changes in the prototype, like beefing up the rear tire to its current 240mm dimensions and switching out the bulky looking taillight to a smaller LED. It also resulted in slimming down the fenders (which are still pretty dang big), altering the shape of the headlamp, and deciding to use a wider, muscular fuel tank.

And while the black and maroon options of the C109R are attractive, the blue and white two-tone option of the touring version, the C109RT, really pops. For an extra $1200, you get the sweet two-tone paint job, a giant shield of a windscreen, leather bags, a custom-style studded seat and passenger backrest. The windscreen gave me leverage against a strong headwind that buffeted me rudely on the C109R. It also had a healthy collection of bugs on it that would have otherwise zapped me in the visor. Try to piece these out separately and you'll see that the touring upgrades are a bargain. You also get the convenience of having them factory installed.

Suzuki's entry into the heavyweight cruiser market comes at a precarious time. According to Harley-Davidson's financial report, the heavyweight motorcycles' segment showed a 14% decrease in sales in the first quarter of 2008. It's priced in the middle of its Japanese competitors at $13,799, with the 2008 Vulcan 2000C coming in the cheapest at $13,049 while the 2008 Star Roadliner S is the spendiest at $14,980. Its styling is unmistakably classic and beautifully crafted, but so are its competitors. It's an ambitious aspiration, but the battle for "King of the Classic Cruisers" will not be easily won. But even Mike Tyson came in as an underdog in his first fight as a virtual unknown. And Suzuki is ready to slug it out with the best of them.

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the thermospas kid   June 3, 2011 05:27 PM
Doug D has got it right..I'll tell you the verdict is in. I AM da Judge and this Big Suzuki is the Shiznit! I have never ridden such a well engineered bike. I am so lucky to have found this bike and been able to buy it as I was not in the market for a new bike but stopped by a dealer to see what it would cost to get my 02 Honda Shadow Sabre back on the road after it has sat up for a while as I have been spending all of my time with my Horses and not riding bike. I saw this beautiful Hoss of a cruiser sitting there shining and asked about it and was told that after the Sunami Suzuki had tried to clear out all the old inventory stashed back and this dealer had gotten 5 crated untouched 2008 c109r's and the one i saw was the last one of them. He had it marked about 5 grand cheaper than a 2012 and it had .2 miles on it. I was suddenly in the market for a brand new motorcycle and did not even think about my Honda. I have had it 3 weeks now and about to turn 4000 miles and it is a love affair. It is so sweet that I will wake up in the middle of the night and just go out and ride for 2 hours and then go back to bed. I am a salesman of ThermoSpas Hot Tubs and have to give in home presentations all over the state. I condensed my sales kit down and strapped it to the seat and now ride it to appointments all over GA. Even if I don't make a sale, I ride home happy because the bike is so fun. I guess I could spend a bunch of money on accessories but it is perfect like it is. I guess the chrome radiator cover would be good but it already has just a ton of chrome. Everybody that sees it really looks it over good and then rave about its looks. I had to go to an assisted living home last week and wheni came out there were six elderly ladies standing around it admiring it. I am going to stop writing now so I can go out and ride it some more today!
Hasan -Harleys are rubbish for real riders  December 26, 2010 09:30 AM
Just wanted to share my thoughts as I was looking into buying the C109 after my brand new 2007 Harley sportster dies on me on the highway and the engine required more than half the bike's original price to fix. I used to ride it everyday and service it religiously at Harley dealership taking its reliability for granted, when I asked Harley dealership what could be the reason for that they blurted "it happens in Harleys, engines die, we have engines that dies at 25,000km, so you're lucky". All my harley owning friends were surprised to see I rode more than 65,000km (around 40k miles) in less than three years while their older harleys rode an average of 5k miles. Now I sold my Harley as junk at fourth its original price. I need a bike that's for riding, touring and cruising more than for showing off and most probably this will be my next ride.
Doug D -From75 SS750 to Goldwing to DL 1000 to GSF1250 to C109R  December 11, 2010 05:30 AM
Owned alot of bikes, rode alot more, there is nothing out there that combines pure power, comfort,realiability, and price like this new 109R. Makes the very torquey 1250S seeem like a toy. Doesn't handle like a Duc, but it isn't suppose to. Owned 17 bikes, rode dozens of friends, I'll keep this 109 until..... S&S better make a bigger motor, if Harley's want to run with this big dog. Throw away bikes to me are those that you constantly have to wrench to ride. Most Harley owners ride maybe 6-10 times a year. I 've seen them with seven year old bikes with 3000 miles on. My last bike was ridden everyday for three years without anything but an oil filter and chain adjustment tools needed. Can a Harley do that? I put 42,000 miles on a 1975 and one half Honda 750 SS. Nothing but normal maintainence so stop with all this disposable bike garbage and tell the truth. I don't trailer no motercycle, I ride it.
barovj -Harley vs Jap  March 26, 2010 06:41 AM
I have owned Japanese cruisers and now own a Harley. I can,t stand this piece of junk . I spend more time wrenching that riding. I will go back to a Japanese cruiser as soons as I can.
Don McInnes -canuck don on c109  January 30, 2010 05:14 PM
I had a c90 for about four years and traded it in on a great deal on a c109 that I couldn't turn down. Needed more power for two up and a trailer. The ride is not what I expected. I enjoyed the c90 and expected the c109 to be cumbersome. Wrong. It is surprisingly nimble on the highway and really enjoy the great increase in torque and pickup. the only negative after only 3000 kms is there is more front movement in the wind than the c90. waiting to put more miles on it. Love it so far
Chabon, VA -Let me tell you, guys  November 26, 2009 11:06 AM
I have so far done a 6,000 mile trip on it; 3 weeks after buying it.
Comfortable with the Mustang seat mod done.
Ergos are itself very good without adjusting anything.
Cobra fatty bars
Cobra Lightbar
Suzuki Windshield
Suzuki chrome cover for the radiator
And you're done forever... No Harley could even begin to try to get me in the road. Stability is AWESOME. Imposes when needed (to the cars and ladies), and I still have 10,000 in my pocket that I can use to get me a sporty ride when I feel like it.
Great bike!
bully-vard109 -c109r  September 11, 2009 11:31 AM
this bike is sweet, im doing 80kmph in first, 130 in second and 180 in third! the top speed is 250kmph or so stock. throw a set of hardkrome DD 3 inch big straights, dual hypercharger blowers and power commander 5 an you gain 23hp at the tire
Jeremy -C109R  June 27, 2009 05:23 AM
I just bought my C109R, the first bike I've ever owned. I rode it 600 miles in 2 days, a little for recreation, the rest to bring it home. I can't compare it to any other bike, as I have never ridden one. All I know is that I passed a truck in 4th gear doing 90mph. It's a big bike, I'm a big guy (6'6" 300lbs) and it's comfortable. I saw a comment about resale value, I think I'll ride this bike into the ground. Who needs resale value?
john Armstrong -Long rides  June 22, 2009 12:06 PM
I have a C109R was in Sturgis last year listing to all the Harley riders saying that they trailer the bike in from here and there. I rode mine 8500Kms there and back. Whats up with the trailer LOL RIDE IT i say!
nardy harris -suzuki take it all  June 5, 2009 06:16 PM
I was so close to think that there is no perfect bike but i was wrong after all my research thank you very much Suzuki I am so relieved the weight is off my shoulders and the payments will not hurt my pockets c109R lets ride Nardy from Wilton Manor FL
Allan -You Harley guys are all the same Milwaukee Mike.  May 29, 2009 10:16 PM
Give your head a shake Mike. The only reason Harley is giving your money back on a sportster is to get you hooked. They know that no one will put up with the terrible ride for long and they will naturally trade up. Go ahead and pay your 20 grand for your Harley and then add another 4 grand to bring it up to the size of the C109. Now saving 10 to 12 grand makes a lot of sense and I bet that upgraded Hog still couldn't catch the Suzuki. I know cause I've had 2 Harleys and I now have a Suzuki C109RT and I love it!!!!!!!!!!
Gunnsteinn -Suzuki C109R First Ride  May 19, 2009 07:14 PM
After reading your great article I have decided to trade in my Boulevard C90 and get the C109. I have always wanted to own an Harley because it is an Harley but I have heard so often that they are not as good as the Suzuki cruisers :)
Rich -C 109 RT Suzuki vs Harley  May 19, 2009 03:42 PM
I have been riding motorcycles for 41 years. I have owned 2 Harleys,2 Hondas and 3 Suzukis. I stared riding when I was 8 years old. I used to race motocross when I was younger. I just purchased a C-109 RT the touring model Suzuki. This motorcycle is by far the best I have ever ridden on the street, bar none! I loved my Harleys when I had them but they are not in the same league when it comes to the C-109 RT Boulevard.I want to address the issue of depreciation first, I traded in my Suzuki C-50 on this bike and I got all but 400 bucks of the original purchase price and I had the bike for a year and a half. enough said. do not get me wrong here, if there were a Harley that preformed as well as this bike had as much room and comfort as this bike and it was priced in the same range as the Suzuki, I would buy it instead. But that Harley does not exist at this time and probably never will. Here is the bottom line guys, what Motorcycle you choose to ride or not ride does not make you better or worse than the next guy that rides. We are all motocycle enthusiast out there.
Tero 2006 -Overpriced Harleys  May 16, 2009 01:16 PM
If the Harley Corporation would "get real" with their prices compared to the Japenese bikes they would be the only bikes to buy for the main reason-it is a Harley. However, in head to head comparisons in all categories except "resell," Harley gets its butt kicked everytime by the Japenese bikes. Don't believe me-do the research..it is true!
pancreasfromNL -r109  April 13, 2009 08:46 AM
harley is nice and but nothing compared to the r109 , the r109 gives you a dream ride! you will never forget.
DB -suzi vs harley  April 5, 2009 08:20 AM
milwaukee mike, Why is it that all harley guys can think of to recommend their bikes is trade in value? Are you that eager to get rid of them? Why don't you recommend them for the performance or engineering... Wahahaha. I knew I couldn't say that without laughing.
David -Thinking about switching to Suzuki....C109RT  February 21, 2009 12:44 AM
I have a 2008 Dyna Superglide, and it is a nice bike. Not big enough(already did the trade in deal on a Sportster). I don't like how the gearbox sticks out(because the bike is narrow). I wanted a Heritage Softail, but I don't want to spend the nearly 20,000 dollars on it. So I am seriously considering a C109RT instead(can't really tell THAT much of a difference in styling between the Softail and the C109RT). I get that "feeling" off of the Harley, the sound of the exhaust, it feels "real" so to speak, but in the end I know that that's all image. Both are good bikes, period and both will get me from A-Z.
milwaukee mike -suzuki cruiser  February 4, 2009 05:29 PM
At a price of $13,800, that sure is one expensive throwaway bike. With todays depreciation on jap bikes a used suzuki should be worth less than half in six months. If you buy a sportster and trade it in in three years or less, you'd get the entire purchase price when you buy a bigger Harley. If that suzuki were three years old, then you'd have to pay someone to take it off your hands. Sheeesh......that just don't make sense!