2015 - 2017 Suzuki Boulevard C50 / Boulevard C50T
Suzuki released its Boulevard C50 brothers together for the third consecutive year after the C50 cruiser took a one-year hiatus in 2014. The reunited siblings carry the ’15 designs straight into 2017, so the pair still serve as Suzuki’s mid-size cruiser/weekend tour bike. Sure, the engine is a trifle on the small side, but the Boulevard S40 takes the bottom slot with its 652 cc thumper engine, which necessarily pushes the C50 up a notch in the pecking order as it were. Competition is as hot as ever as the Japanese manufacturers battle for a slice of the American metric-cruiser market, and the Boulevard range from bottom to top is built specifically for that purpose. Join me while I check out Suzuki’s weapon of choice.
Continue reading for my review of the Suzuki Boulevard C50 and Boulevard C50T.
2015 - 2017 Suzuki Boulevard C50 / Boulevard C50T
Much like its big brothers, the C50 and C50T models emulate the look of the old rigid frames that have (thankfully) long since been consigned to history. The choice of fat front forks with a triangular, hardtail-looking frame dates the design to around the late ’40s to mid ’50s, an iconic and defining era in American motorcycle culture, not a bad choice for a bike family meant to garner greenbacks from redbloods.
Laced wheels complete the rolling chassis in period style, and flares on the trailing edge of the front fender and full rear fender give it a custom touch. Naturally, the V-twin engine plays right into the genre; ’cause let’s face it, nothing else looks quite right. Everything from the tank console to the bucket-shaped saddle and forward foot controls complete with floorboards screams American cruiser, and you don’t have far to look to find other manufacturers putting out similar products, but let’s not get bogged down in who-came-first, m’kay?
While the C50 comes somewhat stripped down, the tour-tastic C50T boasts a windshield, passenger backrest and chrome-studded leather saddlebags, all for his and her touring pleasure. It won’t be quite as capable as a fully dressed tour bike, but for causal touring/weekend trips it should prove to be comfortable enough.
It’s hard to beat a faux-rigid frame for classic good looks and curb appeal. The genius of this design lies with the triangular swingarm that appears to be an uninterrupted extension of the frame members, but actually articulates like a traditional, yoke-type swingarm so you get the sweet vibe without the harsh ride.
Suzuki mellows the swingarm action with a single shock tucked away out of sight so it doesn’t spoil the deception, and it comes with a seven-position, spring-preload adjuster and provides 4.1 inches of wheel travel. Tubular steel members make up the double-downtube, double-cradle frame, which is the only configuration that will look right to be honest.
The steering head angle holds the forks out with a whopping 33 degrees of rake that pushes the wheelbase out to 65.2 inches for a 98.4-inch overall length. Front suspension components come sans any sort of adjustments, but this isn’t unusual, even on cruisers much heavier and pricier than the C50s. Make no mistake, this is a full-size chassis on par with the benchmark Softail models they most closely resemble, and at over 600 pounds should have much the same feel.
Overall, the brakes are rather unimpressive. Sure, the front carries a large, 300 mm disc, but only gets a two-pot caliper to bind it, and the rear tire apparently doesn’t even rate a disc brake, but instead comes with a 180 mm drum. I can’t give Suzuki a bye on this one. Drums are OK, even expected, on scooters and the smallest-displacement UJM models, but to find a drum on a full-size bike like this is nearly criminal.
Needless to say, ABS isn’t available for the C50/T models. Both roll on a 130/90-16 front hoop and a 170/80-15 rear. The C50T sports broad whitewalls in keeping with its overall panache, while the C50 base model mounts the whitewalls to the inside for a more modest finish.
As per Suzuki’s naming conventions, the C50 mill measures out at 50 cubic-inches. Well, 49.1 cubes (805 cc) to be exact. Much like its larger engines, the factory chucked in a fistful of its alphabet-soup acronyms, so let’s dig right in.
The 45-degree V configuration is somewhat unusual amongst imports, even ones meant to compete against the likes of Indian, Harley-Davidson, and the now defunctVictory, and I have to give Suzuki credit for going to the trouble for what amounts to aesthetics at the end of the day.
The single over-head cams eliminate the external pushrods associated with some of those competitors as they actuate the four valves in each head, and the crankpin design leaves us with an offset between the cylinders for a fairly balanced firing order. Liquid cooling is a mixed blessing. On the one hand it’s an efficient method to remove waste heat and the water jacket dampens mechanical noises from the engine, but it also complicates things, and of course there’s that big radiator to deal with. But it is what it is, and it is water cooled.
A throttle body with electronic fuel injection manages the induction with the help of the Suzuki Dual Throttle Valve that helps maintain smooth power deliver through the use of a computer-controlled, secondary butterfly valve. An Auto Fast Idle System (AFIS) monitors engine temperature and opens the throttle automatically to aid with cold starts and stabilize the idle after same. The dual exhaust system uses Suzuki’s Pulsed-secondary air-injection system (PAIR) that pumps fresh air into the exhaust stream to help burn off any excess free hydrocarbons. Like I said, alphabet soup.
Power is comparable to other similarly-sized power plants with 53 horsepower at 6,000 rpm, and a maximum of 50.9 pound-feet of torque at a low 3,200 rpm. The five-speed transmission comes with an extra-tall top gear to keep the revs reasonable at speed, and within putt-putt cruiser range around town. A shaft final drive makes the connection to the rear wheel, and comes set up to resist shaft-jacking and the effects of backtorque.
Seeing how the ’17 models are a direct carryover from last year, which were a direct carryover from ’15, its not surprising to see the same pricing as well. Suzuki expanded the available paint packages last year for the C50, so you can score one in Glass Sparkle Black or Pearl Glacier White this year for $8,199.
As usual, the C50T comes in a year-specific paint scheme with a Glass Sparkle Black base and tank graphic replacing ’15’s Glass Sparkle Black/Candy Dark Cherry Red for $9,399. That price includes a 12-month, unlimited-mileage warranty.
Between the home-grown, American-made cruisers on the market, and the plethora of imports trying to look like them, I had no shortage of potential competitors from which to choose. Because of specific styling and displacement differences, and in the interest of fairness, I settled my sights on one of Suzuki’s top domestic competitors, Kawasaki, and its version of Americana in the Vulcan 900 Classic LT.
Like two peas in a pod, these bikes share design characteristics across the board. Wide, shrouded front forks mount laced rims and long, shallow fenders that show off as much of the wheel as possible, but the Suzuki comes off looking a bit more pimp with the whitewall tires that seem to set off the spokes.
Both ride on a faux-rigid frame, so naturally the rigid-esque lines leave them with very much the same profile. Studded leather appointments finish the look, and a windshield, backrest and saddlebags complete the touring gear across the board. Really, there is little to choose between the two in the looks department.
Fairly unremarkable suspension cushions both bikes, but that’s par for the course with “basic” cruisers, and even some not-so-basic ones. Neither bike offers ABS, but at least Kawi had the decency to put a disc brake in back instead of a drum like on the C50T.
Both mills are fairly attractive, though the Kawi motor runs a 55-degree V, so it doesn’t look quite as natural to someone used to looking at H-D plants. Not a big deal. Both run fuel injection and water cooling, but the C50T has more in the way of electronic engine gadgetry, leaving the Vulcan motor looking a little vanilla. Kawi packs a few more cubes in with a total of 903 cc and 58.2 pound-feet of torque, just a skosh more in both categories than the 805 cc C50 mill with its 50.9 pounds of grunt for a slight victory for the Kawi.
The Vulcan scores again at the checkout counter with a $8,999 starting price, 400 bucks cheaper than the $9,399 C50T. Given the similarities in design and price, I’m a’feared that brand loyalty or a very convincing test ride is the only way for the individual buyer to choose between the two.
“What can I say? The Boulevard family serves as the Suzuki Softail for the American market, and it’s impossible not to notice the similarities with the Heritage Softail Classic. At face value that may sound like a criticism, but the fact that it’s so obvious means they did a passable job of it, I suppose. At less than 10 grand, this could make a decent upgrade for someone looking to shed their training bike, or even for an entry-level rider that fancies a bit more to begin with. “
My wife and fellow motorcycle writer, Allyn Hinton, says, “Okay, I’ll give you my thoughts and impressions. The seat is nice and wide, which is comfortable; but the tank is wide, which is not. I kinda feel like I’m riding a horse with my legs around that wide tank. Acceleration is smooth and responsive and the bike just seems to lay nice and easy into turns. I like the great big tank-mounted speedometer. It’s an analog gauge, which I prefer because it’s easy for me to take in at a glance and I’d have to do something with the handlebars because it’s too low. I can’t turn the bars lock-to-lock without hitting my legs, which hampers low-speed maneuvers.”
|Model:||Boulevard C50||Boulevard C50T|
|Engine:||805cc, 4-stroke, liquid-cooled, SOHC, 45-degree V-twin||805cc, 4-stroke, liquid-cooled, SOHC, 45-degree V-twin|
|Bore x Stroke:||83.0 mm x 74.4 mm (3.268 in x 2.929 in)||83.0 mm x 74.4 mm (3.268 in x 2.929 in)|
|Compression Ratio:||9.4 : 1||9.4 : 1|
|Fuel System:||Suzuki Fuel Injection||Suzuki Fuel Injection|
|Lubrication:||Wet sump||Wet sump|
|Transmission:||5-speed constant mesh||5-speed constant mesh|
|Final Drive:||Shaft Drive||Shaft Drive|
|Suspension Front:||Telescopic, coil spring, oil damped||Telescopic, coil spring, oil damped|
|Suspension Rear:||Link type, coil spring, oil damped||Link type, coil spring, oil damped|
|Brakes Front||Disc brake:||Disc brake|
|Brakes Rear:||Drum brake:||Drum brake|
|Tires Front:||130/90-16M/C 67H, tube type||130/90-16M/C 67H, tube type|
|Tires Rear:||170/80-15M/C 77H, tube type||170/80-15M/C 77H, tube type|
|Fuel Tank Capacity:||4.1 US||4.1 US|
|Ignition:||Electronic ignition (Transistorized)||Electronic ignition (Transistorized)|
|Spark Plug:||NGK DR7EA or DENSO X22ESR-U||NGK DR7EA or DENSO X22ESR-U|
|Headlight:||12V 60/55W||12V 60/55W|
|Tail Light:||12V 21/5W||12V 21/5W|
|Dimensions and Curb Weight:|
|Overall Length:||2500 mm (98.4 in)||2500 mm (98.4 in)|
|Overall Width:||955 mm (37.6 in)||955 mm (37.6 in)|
|Wheelbase:||1655 mm (65.2 in)||1655 mm (65.2 in)|
|Ground Clearance:||140 mm (5.5 in)||140 mm (5.5 in)|
|Seat Height:||700 mm (27.6 in)||700 mm (27.6 in)|
|Curb Weight:||611 lbs||644 lbs|
|Warranty:||12 month unlimited mileage limited warranty.||12 month unlimited mileage limited warranty.|
|2015:||Glass Sparkle Black, Candy Daring Red||Glass Sparkle Black / Candy Dark Cherry Red|
|2016, 2017:||Glass Sparkle Black, Pearl Glacier White||Glass Sparkle Black|