Suzuki M90


Goldilocks is here

Not too this, not too that … in fact, just right

Some cruisers can be, let’s face it, a little intimidating. Lots of power, lots of weight, lots of everything. Not that we’re intimidated, of course.  But we know some people who are. Friends of ours.

Some other cruisers can lack a bit of the road presence that is one of the main reasons why people buy cruisers in the first place. They can also be just a little too mild in the moxie department — for some people — leaving them wishing for more action when they twist the throttle.

As always, it’s hard to find the balance. Especially since the point of balance is different for just about every cruiser owner. But Suzuki has done a terrific job of establishing one such point with the M90.

This is a well-balanced motorcycle in several ways, but naturally it will be compared to its big brother, the M109. How do the two actually compare?

The 90 has a capacity of 90 cubic inches, or 1462cc instead of the 109’s 1783. The 90ci engine is a long stroker and makes do with one overhead camshaft per cylinder instead of two. It puts out about two-thirds of the power but weighs only 18kg less than the M109. Compression is lower, the swingarm is steel instead of aluminium and, for some truly weird reason, the seat is actually 30mm higher. The six-inch-wide wheel at the back carries “only” a 200 tyre instead of the 109’s 240.

On paper, the comparison does the 90 few favours. With things like its lower-spec brakes, lack of adjustment on the front fork and the more utilitarian instruments — which lack a rev counter — the M90 can look like a cut-price special. And, of course, it is significantly cheaper.

The 109 unquestionably has the power and it also offers more flexibility. The 90’s long-stroke engine is not as quick to rev and makes you stir the gearbox far more than the bigger bike’s short stroker does. It’s just as well, then, that the gearbox is more user-friendly, though it can still be difficult to make a change without a crash. Midrange power is good, but at the bottom end the engine emphatically does not like to be lugged.

Both bikes provide great road presence with their individual styling, which is similar enough for non-riders to confuse them. But the 90 is easier to ride. It takes far less effort to muscle around corners and is generally a sweeter handler — mostly, I suspect, due to the narrower rear wheel but possibly helped along by the shorter wheelbase. Added trail maintains good straight-line stability.

Mind you, the bike is still no lightweight. Just lifting it off the stand takes a bit of an effort and, while it has decent torque available almost immediately, it doesn’t like you to change up too early. Acceleration is good rather than neck-snapping, but handling and especially cornering are also rather good. The bike still requires a bit of an effort to turn, but nothing like the 109. Likewise, it does scrape, but not unduly and pretty safely because the hero pegs on the ends of the folding footpegs are the first things to hit the road.

The bike has a nice, deep exhaust note. We’ve become used to a lot of tramlining from cruisers, because of their fat rear tyres, but the M90’s 120 front and 200 rear show no particular tendency to follow lines in the road. Less is more, eh? In moderate conditions, the fork and rear suspension cope well, but corrugations do overtax both ends of the bike pretty quickly. Nothing unexpected there.

The tank is possibly a little wide, although the wide, flat bars compensate to some extent. Otherwise, the riding position is good and even pillions will complain a little less on this bike than on many other cruisers. The forward controls are at a moderate distance and therefore within reach of even relatively short legs.

There are not many things I would change on the M90, although a larger and more easily readable speedo would be welcome. So would another gear, though I suppose I’d only lose my licence that much earlier then. If you’re after a slick-looking, substantial and powerful cruiser but find the top end of the market a little intimidating, check out the Goldilocks bike.

Model: Suzuki M90
Price: $15,290 (plus on-road charges)
Warranty: Two years, unlimited distance
Power: 59kW @ 4800rpm
Torque: 126Nm @ 2700rpm
Engine: Liquid-cooled 54-degree vee twin, 4-stroke, 4 valves per cylinder OHC, dual spark, fuel injection and digital ignition
Bore x stroke: 96mm x 101mm
Displacement: 1462cc
Compression: 9.5 : 1
Transmission:  5-speed, wet multi-plate clutch, final drive by shaft
Suspension: Front, 43mm upside-down telescopic fork, travel 130mm. Rear, link-type monoshock, preload adjustable, 108mm travel
Dimensions: Seat height 716mm, curb weight 328kg, fuel capacity 18 litres, wheelbase 1690mm
Tyres: Front, 120/70 ZR 18. Rear, 200/50 ZR 17
Frame: Twin loop steel tubing
Brakes: Front, twin 290mm discs with floating 2-piston calipers. Rear, 275mm disc with floating 2-piston caliper.
Top speed: 190km/h
0–100km/h: 4.6 sec
60–100km/h: 4.4 sec
Fuel consumption: 5.5 litres per 100km, unleaded
Theoretical range: 327km
Colours: Pearl Black, Metallic Blue
Verdict: Just right