Ask any female biker and she’ll tell you the same thing: A motorcycle is a great prop for soliciting male attention. Stares, smiles, honks, devil horns -- it starts happening as soon as you throw a leg over.
But in the almost two years I’ve been reviewing bikes, I’ve recognized a tipping point. When a woman rides a bike above 1,600 cc, she’s no longer perceived as sexy. There are just as many look-sees, but they’re directed toward the bike, not the rider, which leads me to believe that a woman outsized by her motorcycle isn’t just intimidating but so unfeminine as to be macho.
I was reminded of this theory while testing Suzuki’s newest and largest classic cruiser, the 2008 C109R. A burly 787 pounds and 1,783 cc, the bike is so over the top and masculine that I feared I’d grow chest hair from just twisting the grip.
Classic, in the case of the new C109R power cruiser, should not be confused with understated. Its liquid-cooled, fuel-injected motor flexes just as much muscle as its sporty big brother, the M109R. It just does it with a reshaped intake cam and a smaller throttle body, which gave it enough grunt on takeoff that I swear I experienced G forces. The power was so satisfyingly ample, in fact, that I never used more than three of its five gears, which was fast enough in an open-face helmet to make my facial skin undulate in the wind.
If the power on the C109R is very real, there are aspects of its style that are like a Superman suit with a padded chest and biceps. The gas tank, headlight and fork -- they all look a lot larger than they actually are.
One glance at the broad tank and you’d think you could ride the bike from dawn till dusk without refilling. If I’d have been asked to guess its capacity, like jelly beans in a jar, 12 gallons would have seemed reasonable. But the C109R holds only five gallons; what appears to be the tank is a shell that houses the real deal.
Same goes for the helmet-sized housing for the 60-watt halogen headlight, and the tube covers on the telescopic, coil-spring fork, which, at 90 mm in diameter, are as thick as a quarterback’s forearm. In reality, the fork tubes are a get-the-job-done 49 mm in diameter.
The C109R is a bike of many illusions that continue in functional ways, as well. The engine is rubber-mounted and the rear monoshock is hidden to give the bike the look of a hardtail.
It also has an excellent new combination brake system that engages one of the three pistons on the front brake caliper when the rear brake lever is pressed -- a safety feature that factors in the bike’s heft and power as well as its, likely, 50-ish demographic.
But what was most illusory on a bike with such extreme proportions was its handling. Considering the C109R’s wheelbase is exactly as long as I am tall and also outweighed me by 650 pounds, it was a breeze to handle, even at low speeds.
I may not be the target demo for the C109R, but for me, riding the C109R was better than a sex-change operation.
2008 Suzuki C109R Base price: $13,799Powertrain: Liquid-cooled, fuel-injected, four-stroke, DOHC, 54-degree V-twin, four valves per cylinder, five-speedDisplacement: 1,783 cc, or 109 cubic inchesSeat height: 28 inchesDry weight: 787 poundsTest drive MPG: 28 mpg (based on 398 miles traveled)