Suzuki M109R/C109R



How do Suzuki’s twin takes on the theme “extremely large cruiser” compare?

The Germans have a wonderfully expressive term: Warmduscher, someone who showers in lukewarm water. I guess the expression is derived from Revelations in the Bible with its reference to those who blow neither hot nor cold. It’s used to describe someone who vacillates and takes the easy, safe way out whenever possible. Someone who is weak.

It’s a shame the expression hasn’t made its way into English because, whatever this brace of motorcycles might be, it is not for Warmduscher.

As for everyone else, hey … read on.

Shall we compare thee?
These two motorcycles, the VZR1800 (the M) and VLR1800 (the C), leapt (or perhaps, to non-cruiser riders, lumbered) off the same drawing board. They are powered by essentially identical engines, although the C’s fuel injection makes do with a 52mm throttle body while the M’s gets 56mm. Valve duration is increased on the M as well, and a bigger catalytic converter opens up the exhaust. The effect is to reduce the M’s 92kW at 6200rpm and 160Nm at 3200rpm to 84kW and “only” 155Nm for the C.

The 54-degree vee twin engine with its five-speed gearbox is quite sophisticated for a cruiser, as you’d expect from the M’s output. It gets two overhead cams, four valves per cylinder and liquid cooling. Capacity is 1783cc, which puts it among the biggest twin-cylinder engines on the market. Bore and stroke are 112mm and 90.5mm respectively, and the short stroke is another reason for the outstanding power it produces. The M’s mufflers have a somewhat more authoritative tone than the C’s, an outward sign of their bigger cat.

The running gear is very similar, although the C is bigger in just about every way than the M. It is 125mm longer at 2580mm and 45mm wider at 985mm, and its 1755mm wheelbase is 40mm longer. It is also considerably heavier, 357kg as against the M’s 315kg. The greater weight and length of the wheelbase explain much of the difference in handling, which initially puzzled us because rake at 32 degrees and trail at 130mm are identical. The C obviously has more weight on the front, although we can’t tell you just how much.

Both bikes have 19-litre tanks and a 10.5 to 1 compression ratio. Both also have shaft drive. The two high-tensile double cradle frames are noticeably different, with the C getting a more conventional and heavier design than the M, but suspension specifications look the same for both bikes with seven preload options for the link-type rear being the only adjustment.

One big difference comes with the tyres. The smaller, lighter M gets a 130/70R 18-inch hoop on the front and a massive 240/40 18-incher on the back, while the C runs a 150/80R 16 on the front and a 240/55R 16 on the back. That obviously also contributes to the handling differences, as does the suspension. The M’s upside-down forks do their job well.

Brakes are quite different, too. The C makes do with twin 290mm discs on the front with radially mounted three-piston calipers and a 275mm disc with a twin-piston caliper on the back, although they are linked, while the M has 310mm front discs with four-piston calipers, also radially mounted. The rear brake appears to be the same on both bikes, although it seemed more responsive on our test M. Maybe that was something to do with the fact that it isn’t linked.

This is, of course, all very interesting because it gave us an opportunity to assess what actual difference these changes in specifications would make when you’re out on the road.

How do they go, mister?
Well, consider that the bikes are called M (for mugumbu, meaning “power” in Swahili*) and C (for classic, meaning “over-tyred” in American*). That already tells you quite a lot. You’re familiar with the expression “chalk and cheese”? Well, hold onto that thought. These bikes are not at all alike.
Appearance is a matter of de gustibus non est disputandum. No point in arguing about taste and that’s what will decide which of these bikes you enjoy looking at more (did I just write that sentence?). Each is a good representative of its respective style: power cruiser on the one hand, classic cruiser on the other.

Even keeping in mind that we had optioned the C up with panniers, windscreen and a few other goodies (a ride report and the final roundup of the project is, has been or will be in these pages), it looks and feels far bigger than the M. The seat, also, might only be marginally higher at 705mm but it feels like more. Ergonomics are “dragstrip” for the M and “cruisin’” for the C — see the diagram.

As for performance, our friends at Motorrad magazine in Germany tell us that, in Europe, Suzuki claims a top speed of 216km/h for the M, although the rev limiter will, in fact, catch you by the time you reach a little over 200km/h. They don’t have a figure for the C, but we would devoutly hope it’s less because we would not want to try to stop one from anywhere near that speed. The C’s brakes are OK for cruisin’, but not for haulin’, while the M’s setup is rather more effective at all speeds.

Likewise, the M pulls away smartly and enthusiastically from very low down — little over 1000rpm — and gives you a lovely bellow as it does. You need to wait a little longer on the C and then the power increase is much more gentle and linear.

The fat rear tyre takes its toll on the handling of both bikes and the small, fat hoop on the front of the C makes the effect more noticeable. Both bikes like to follow grooves in the road — mind you, so does every cruiser equipped with this kind of huge rubber.

Cornering is pretty hard work on the C at speed — you really need to push the bike down into corners. Then, when you’re going slowly, it wants to tip in instead. On the M, the effects are similar but not nearly as pronounced. You pays your money and you takes what you’re given with big cruisers, I’m afraid. But the M is definitely a better handler than the C.

Despite its handling foibles, the C is the better traveller. On the open road, and going fast enough, it’s a smooth rolling delight and comfortable enough to keep you going for a good long time. Even the pillion seat and riding position are OK, something that’s fairly rare on any kind of cruiser. Equipped with touring gear like our project bike, the one in the photos, the C is at home away from home.

Wind pressure can become a problem on the M despite the action-man riding position after a while, so it’s less of a freeway muncher. It also offers far less luggage potential and, while there is a pillion seat, it’s not intended to be used for any length of time.

So which and why?
Both bikes are pretty much state-of-the-art for mega cruisers, but they are very different within that envelope. What it really boils down to is that the M is the around-town bike, while the C (as we thought when we devised our project) is the open-road machine, the tourer.

We don’t have strictly comparable fuel figures, but we’d bet the M would be more economical in traffic while the C would drink less on the open road — that’s pretty much written in the specs. With their 19-litre tanks (which actually seem to hold a little more), both bikes should still give you a fuel range well over 300km.

If those differences aren’t enough for you, we suggest you simply look at the bikes. If one of them rings your bell, the other won’t, so your choice is sorted, isn’t it?

The Suzuki C109R costs $18,590 plus on-road costs (indicative pricing and all that), while the M109R will set you back $19,390 plus on-roads (indicative etc etc).

* OK, I made that up.