Pros: Powerful, smooth, classic looks & high tech features.
Cons: Speed-o is located in a poor place for the rider. Low ground clearance.
Why choose a cruiser motorcycle?
I don't like the riding position of a bullet or sport bike, nor do I desire to travel at 180+ mph. A touring bike is to large/heavy for in town use; so a cruiser type motorcycle seemed to be a logical choice for freeway travel. My wife and I both ride dual-sport bikes (street legal dirt bikes); while these are great on and off the trails they are not comfortable after 30-60 minutes at highway speeds. A cruiser would provide the classic looks and comfort we wanted on longer highway rides. Vee-twin's have a distinctive exhaust note and look classy. The layout of a cruiser bike gives tall riders wiggle room too.
What cc size and type of cruiser?
We visited several motorcycle dealers to see what type of bikes caught our eye and found we liked the classic-style cruiser. A classic, looks like it was made in the 1950's, skirted fenders, balloon tires and a large tractor style seat/saddle. We decided on bikes in the 750-800cc range because they would have enough freeway power, get good gas mileage and be down on weight when compared to larger cc bikes. Both of us are solo-riders so carrying a passenger was not considered.
Next, we used the internet to research, reading reviews and tests posted by motorcycle magazines and other riders. We found that Suzuki Boulevards got high marks because they have been made for many years. In 2005, the "Volusia" was updated and became the C50 Boulevard. Some authors felt that Suzuki is the industry-leader with 800cc sized cruisers. Other manufactures have build 800's, then stopped and later restarted production; while Suzuki has always been improving their 800 cc bikes over the years.
Finding a quality used bike?
We used a local newspaper's on-line classified section to search for 750-800cc bikes in the price range, total vehicle mileage and distance we were willing to travel. Next we contacted the sellers and started test riding. I rode a beautiful 600cc Honda ACE, but I found it lacked grunt and it had a rough bouncy ride. I rode a 2004 Suzuki Volusia 800, it had classic style but it shifted rough through the gears, had a carb and the owner had installed loud straight-pipes. It was a close winner, but we kept looking. A red 750cc Honda Magna had racy looks with four chrome exhaust pipes, but not real... classic-cruiser-style. The Honda ACE 750 had classic cruiser style but with chain drive, so I did not even test ride it.
We decided upon a C50 Boulevard:
At last we found two low mileage (3000 miles) 2005 Suzuki C50 Boulevards. By the way...the Volusia was updated and became the C50 Boulevard in 2005. What impressed us most was, the updated Volusia...now had fuel injection, shaft drive, floor boards and heal-toe shifter, stock from the factory! Other 750-800cc bikes still had carbs, foot pegs, air cooling, chain drive and twin spring-type shocks rear shocks. The Boulevard line comes in several style types: classic, chopper and touring. The bikes look impressive! I have had many friends comment on the bike's classic looks and styling.
Many people think a Harley is the "top of the stack" in cruisers but I beg to differ. A Harley-guy we ride with loved the looks of our bikes and about fell over when he found out he could have purchased 4 or 5 Boulevards for the price he paid for his hog. He also said he would look into a Boulevard as a bike for his wife to ride. I take that as a big compliment coming from a HD rider
Impressions of the Boulevard:
What impressed us first about the C50 Boulevard is its solid feel on the road. On windy days or when a semi-truck passes, the bike stays put. As a dual-sport rider, I hate the fear factor of being blown around on the highway. The bike produce NO engine vibration, NONE! My Harley friend's bike rattles-away on idle...like a jackhammer. The bikes ride smooth as silk because of a hidden single-shock rear suspension and a large comfy seat. So far we have made a dozen or so, 150 mile pleasure rides and feel little fatigue after two or three hours in the saddle. Update: Currently, we have logged over 7,000 miles on each bike. Although the bikes are heavier then dual sports, they balance and maneuver nicely at any speed and the weight is low to the ground. The cycles have loads of torque and grunt so they accelerate powerfully. They pull strong all they way to 98 mph. I don't have to shift much because the bike can be in top gear at 32 mph. You just slow down for the city, and twist the grip when you hit the highway, no shifting needed. I feel these bikes would impress most riders to find out that they are only 800cc. Gas mileage has been 48 to 50 mpg and the tank holds 4 gallons which gives you plenty of ride time between fill ups. On one of our out of the state rides, where we kept the speed to 60, we got over 65 mpg! I recommend getting a fork mounted wind shield for longer rides and to keep the bugs off your face and clothes.
I have few complaints about the Boulevard. One is the poor location of the speed-o. It's placed on top of the gas tank and the rider must look way-down to check the road speed. Also the floor boards can scrape on the road during tight parking lot turns. The exhaust note is very quiet, but you can drill a few 1/4" holes in the muffler baffles. This will give the bike better sound quality but not an over-loud one. The past owner, I had a pair of "Cobra" pipes on the bike. It really made a difference in power and acceleration, but at the cost of my hearing. I like the stock pipes (drilled out).
*Ride smart and be seen!