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Suzuki Boulevard C50: A bagless "bagger"

By Arv Voss, June 30th, 2018

The venerable Boulevard lineup is Suzuki's answer to the "cruising" motorcycle genre. The 2018 Suzuki Boulevard C50 is essentially a Harley-Davidson bagger look-alike without the bags.

Should you happen to require chrome-studded leather saddlebags, a windshield, passenger backrest, and wide whitewall tires, add another $1,200 for the "Touring" model Suzuki C50T.

Both the Suzuki Boulevard C50 and C50T display the look of a bygone era -- that of iconic old triangular rigid frames and hefty telescopic front forks common in the late 1940s to mid 1950s. There are smaller Boulevard models, as well as larger bikes in the Suzuki family, but the Boulevard C50 is an ideal place to start in the cruising range due to its size, styling, and affordability.

At first glance, many observers thought that my C50 test bike was a custom Harley-Davidson, given its chrome-laced wheels, front fender trailing edge flares, and full rear fender. The 45-degree, 805cc, 50-cubic-inch (actually 49.1 cubes) V-Twin motor with chrome right-side staggered exhaust pipes, forward foot controls, and traditional floorboards along with the tank console combine to complete the classic 'Merican cruiser. It may not be the quintessential long-range cruiser for some riders, but as already stated, it's a darned good place to start.

A few quirky things appear as part of this mid-range cruiser's makeup. Rather than being exclusively air-cooled, there's a big radiator to keep the temp down, and the final drive is a shaft-drive affair. There's only a single front disc brake, and the rear brake is a 180mm drum type. These aren't necessarily negative issues mind you, just unusual for a full-sized bike that seems to be trying to emulate an early traditional hardtail cruiser in visual terms.

The bike's rigid imagery comes from the triangular swingarm that looks to be an extended part of the frame members, but in reality, it articulates like a conventional yoke-type swingarm, providing a smooth ride quality despite its "old school" appearance. The swingarm's motion is softened by a hidden single shock that comes with a seven-position, spring-preload adjuster that provides 4.1 inches of wheel travel.

The tubular front forks are held out to a rake of 33 degrees thanks to the steering head angle, extending the wheelbase to 65.2 inches and the overall length to 98.4 inches. There are no adjustments for the front suspension componentry, nor is ABS braking available. The Boulevard C50 rolls on 130/90-16 front rubber with a 170/80-15 donut aft mounted on chrome-laced spoke wheels.

The motor may come across as being somewhat small for the bike's persona, but it does its job nicely, with the electronic fuel injection's throttle body managing the induction courtesy of Suzuki's dual throttle valve that aids in maintaining a smooth power delivery via the use of a computer-controlled, secondary butterfly valve. An auto fast idle system monitors engine temperature, opening the throttle automatically aiding with cold starts and then stabilizing the idle.

Power generated by the 50-cubic-inch motor is 53 horsepower at 6,000 rpm, along with a maximum of 50.9 lb.-ft. of torque at 3,200 rpm. The fifth gear of the five-speed transmission is an extra-tall top gear to allow for satisfying revs at speed, as well as for tooling around in urban surroundings. The shaft final drive delivers energy to the rear wheel, and uniquely resists the shaft-jacking experienced with many shaft-drive bikes as well as minimizing any backtorque effects.

The 2018 Suzuki Boulevard C50 is an excellent entry-level cruiser with an old-school look that comes with modern technology and convenience as well as a much more comfortable ride. And, it's affordable -- less than a Harley Sportster to put things on perspective. My test bike's base sticker was $8,249. Expect to spend an average of $300 more for dealer prep and handling charges.

The riding position is ideal with the handlebars at just the right angle, and floorboards and foot controls set forward for long-range comfort. The seat height allows for touching down without tiptoeing. A passenger pillion and pegs are provided for two-up sojourns. Longer trips would benefit from stepping up to the Boulevard C50T for the convenience of the saddlebags, windshield, and passenger backrest.

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