With an unasailable hold on the big bike market, it was inevitable that BMW would want a slice of the emerging market for lightweight adventure bikes. Step up the BMW G310 GS, a small but perfectly formed younger sibling to the world-conquering R1200 GS. But with manufacturing transferred from Bavaria to Bangalore, can the entry level GS really cut the mustard and live up to that bicoloured roundel on the tank? We had to find out …
So first off, let’s look at exactly how this bike is put together.
The 310 is actually a 313cc single cylinder DOHC, four stoke, four valve water-cooled motor, made by TVS to BMW’s specification, as indeed is the rest of the bike. TVS may be India’s third biggest bike manufacturer but all aspects of the production are closely monitored by Teutonic pedants at every stage of the process to ensure quality control. And it shows.
The cylinder head is reverse mounted, allowing the exhaust to exit at the rear straight to the cat-equipped and fairly substantial silencer, with the intake at the front and fed by and EFI controlled fuel injector.
The bike puts out 25km of power through the six speed box, which for the older generation is 34 horsepower at 9500 rpm, at which point everything is a bit frantic – but more on that later. In terms of torque, there’s 25nm at 7500 rpm.
BMW actually quote the maximum speed as 143 kmh or 88 mph, which seems a tad ambitious from the little motor, but that’s what we were going to find out.
On the frame side of things, the little BM uses a tubular space frame but if you are thinking it’s a beautifully crafted lattice creation like a Ducati you’d be disappointed. From the cast plate at the swingarm pivot, tubes of different sizes go back for the passenger pegs, up for the subframe and forward for the main frame.
On the suspension, the little GS is nowhere near as equipped as it’s bigger brothers. At the front there’s a pair of 41mm USD forks with absolutely zero adjustment, and at the rear there’s a die-cast swingarm actuating a single shock absorber, the only adjustment here being for preload. Suspension travel is around 180mm.
The bike runs 17 inch wheels at both ends, but the rear is four inches wide compared to the three-inch front. Despite the bike’s of-road pretensions, BMW have kept with cast wheels, but given the speeds that this bike is likely to achieve off-toad with the stock suspension and geometry, that may not prove to be too much of an issue.
As for the brakes it’s a 300 mm disc at the front bitten by a four piston caliper, and the rear gets a 240mm rotor and a single pot caliper, While the actual calipers are made by Bybre, a relatively small player compared to Brembo or Nissin, the switchable ABS unit and software is BMWs own, possibly a relief compared to the nervousness that the phrase ‘Indian designed ABS system’ might cause …
The bike comes with Metzeller Tourance hoops as stock, so it’s good to see that BMW have not scrimped on the rubberware for it’s new baby, although the slant of the tyres is far more road than dirt.
Moving to the front of the bike it’s time to look at the cockpit, and there’s no hint of budget here too. A large and clear display that would put most sports bike equipment to shame tells you everything you need to know, from fuel to speed, gear selected, mileage and revs across the bottom. You can also select averages and current fuel consumption, fuel range and average speed. A fuel light pops up when it’s time to refuel, which on the quoted 3.3l per 100km should be good for around 330 km on the 11 litre tank.
The little GS gets a big bike GS style tank and front beak just like the larger capacity machines and this helps to stamp the bike with the adventure DNA that buyers will love. Colourwise you can chose the red as above, a stylish black or a mud-averse pearl white.
The stock bars are typically GS wide and are finished of with massively long brake and clutch levers on very minimal perches. Again matching the bigger bikes, the switch controls for left and right hands are chunky and easy to use
No review of an adventure bike would be complete without quoting the figure that counts, and that’s the weight. And here the 310 scores well against its counterparts with the bigger cubes, coming in at 169.5 kg fully fuelled and ready to go. In this sector, that’s light and means that it could be possible to pick it up unaided and without risk of serious back pain – not the case with the R1200 GS which is an incredible 93 kilos heavier. That said, for a 300 it’s still quite hefty.
But don’t be thinking because it’s ligher then this means it’s appreciably lower because the BMW G310 GS is tall for it’s engine size, only just a bit below as the rest of the GS stable. At 835 mm – just 15mm below the R1200 GS – then any shorter men or indeed women that thought this bike would tick all the boxes may be sorely disappointed – the 310 has the height and stance to justify the GS on the tank, so if you’ve got little legs you are going to have to look elsewhere! In fairness BMW do offer a low seat that drops it to 820mm or a taller one that takes it up to 850 mm, but either way, 820 is still quite tall!
Despite the seat height, the wheelbase is some 200mm shorter than the 1200. so the bike looks predictably more compact and combined with the relative narrowness and lack of weight, it feels considerably easier to move round in tight spaces.
RIDING THE 310 PART 1: ON THE ROAD
Now although this bike is pitched as an entry level advenbture bike, the reality is that as with all bikes in this sector, the 310 will spend most of it’s time on the blacktop. So it needs to have good road manners from the get go.
But somewhat dissapointingly, that is not the case. The BWM needs a fair bit of throttle to pull away cleanly from standstill without an embarassing cough-stall, almost as if first gear is too long and the gearing is wrong. However the fact that you have to change to second really quickly means that that cannot be the case so there’s something a bit odd there to start. You can get round it once you know, but it does leave you pulling away like an throttle happy novice rather than an experienced rider.
Once up and running, if you change up through the box in the way you would a bigger machine with more torque, you are in top in a matter of seconds and it doesn’t feel that the 310 motor has much to smile about. The exhaust note is a tad irritating and the motor feels gutless – not good
We went onto the motorway fairly soon after collecting the bike and riding the bike gently, it didn’t feel that the 310 had anything to justify being there. But then we decided to be a bit more unsympathetic with the throttle and OMG what a difference. The little 310 motor responds staggeringly well to spirited riding and suddenly the motor underwent a Jekyl and Hyde type transformation. The chugging little sound is replaced with a far more satisfying whine once you head past 5500 rpm, and the bike pulls well up to 70 mph and beyond. Whether it would have reached the quoted 88 was left untested, but if you got there that motor would be howling like a banshee on acid.
Once we had realised the BMW’s masochistic tendencies, the bike became so much more enjoyable to ride. Sweeping through A roads and country lanes was positvely grin inducing, and even dual carriageways were vastly improved if the motor was kept in the higher rev ranges. Pulling from 50 up to 70 was taken in the bike’s stride for hassle free overtaking. We were beginning to like this.
Once in the confines of traffic, the bikes over-wide bars were a bit of a liability when filtering and we’d have gladly lopped off a couple on inches either side – much as the road based R version has. It’s all very well aping the GS dimensions, but a 310 doesn’t really need these wide, wide bars.
In terms of stability on the road, the GS has little to fault it. The bike actually feels more stable than a 310 should feel thanks to that big frame and well sorted ergos – it just feels right and effortless to ride. The gearbox. once pulled away from stopped is smooth and predictable, the steering is light but not too light and the dimensions of bars to saddle to footpegs works well. Top marks BMW.
What does let the bike down is the softness of the front suspension. With no adjustment at all, the stock springs are really soft and plunge the bike forward under heavy braking. If you are anything like average weight then a stiffer set of springs would maybe be first on the shopping list.
The brakes themselves are plenty good enough to do the job, and thanks to the ABS can do it without leaving skidmarks, You can turn off the ABS on the fly if you really wish to, but the system resets once the ignition is turned off and on again.
The bike has a stepped seat and if you are of normal height, you will find yourself up against the step from the off. This is fine on short journeys, but we suspect that on a longer jaunt that this would begin to irritate and you’d be wanting to be able to move back in the seat without perching four inches higher.
Overall, the BMW G310 GS does everything it’s supposed to do on the road and does it well. If it’s your first venture into biking after passing your test – which as an entry level model if fairly likely – then you are going to be pretty happy with your choice.
If you are a bit longer in the tooth, then the GS may just scratch an itch, but for how long is another matter.
UP FOR AN EPIC ADVENTURE?
RIDING THE 310 PART 2: OFF THE BLACKTOP
Now despite the obvious fact that the 310 has all the looks of a baby adventure bike, BMW stop short of claiming this is a machine capable of conquering the world – the BMW website neatly manages expectations with – the adventures don’t have to be big to be unforgettable. And that’s a smart move because outside western territories, the intended and indeed most lucrative market for this bike is within South East Asia where it is being made, where the idea of adventure riding is perhaps more of a luxury past-time compared to just taking on hugely variable roads in the course of daily life. Either way, buyers of the 310 outside the Asian market are seeing this pocket-sized bike as the antidote to massive adventure bikes and potential contender for adventure riding. So we had to try it out away from the tarmac too.
The first thing to note is that if you are already a trail or enduro rider, you tend to stand up immediately you hit the rough stuff. And very quickly with the 310 you realise that the geometry of the frame and bodywork don’t really work too well for this position.
If you stay upright or lean back on the bars on the easy stuff it’s fine, even if the bars are, for out tastes, too low and wide to be totally natural. The bike feels lighter than the 170 or so kg it is carrying and it’s really easy to move the bike and yourself around. The Metzeller tyres grip well on rock, but having used them on mud and sand on another bike then you might need to upgrade if these surfaces are going to be a regular part of your riding. The brakes too respond well to off-road conditions, even if that diving tendency is exacerbated if standing.
But if the smoother stuff was OK, once you hit the rougher bits or hills where you might lean forward to allow the back to dance about a bit, your head is actually in front of the headstock, rather than over it which is the optimal position. Given the softness of the front forks, the effect is to load up the springs straight away and from then the bike doesn’t really behave as you would want. At slower speeds you can adjust to cope with this, but once you turn up the wick a bit, the forks begin to reach the extent of the travel available.
Adventure riding specialists Rally Raid have already spotted this problem and are marketing a full kit for the 310 with uprated suspension at both ends and wire wheels and if you do intend to cover serious mileage off road and on the pegs, this might prove a good if relatively expensive option.
The solution to this conundrum is somewhat counter intuitive if you are an experienced off road rider as it involves ignoring all you know about centre of gravity and correct body positioning. Because if you sit back down like a complete novice, or indeed just about every single rider across the entire Asian sub-continent, the BMW 310 works far better. With the load off the forks the steering, suspension and control improves vastly and you can make progress, albeit looking slightly more like a sack of King Edwards than the Dakar legend you obviously are …
In terms of how well the bike is protected if you do decide to venture off road, the little BMW is not well equipped as stock. There are no engine bars, no hand guards and the sumpguard is made of stupidly soft plastic that can be deflected with your hand. This design faux-pas is made all the more inexcusable by the fact that the bike’s oil filter is right at the front of the engine. It’s hard to imagine a more vulnerable location for the filter, so for BMW to protect it with something with the structural integrity of a Tupperware lunchbox has to be called out. Take this bike adventure riding without a replacement sumpguard and you will need to get used to pushing.
But aside from this gripe, the BMW was enjoyable to ride off-road and looks hugely better than direct competition of the plain ugly Kawasaki Versys 300 and the similarly cosmetically challenged Suzuki V Strom 250. We’re yet to ride these bikes but on kerb appeal alone, the BMW is streets ahead, and with acceptable abilities off road within the confines of softer adventure riding rather than maybe tougher trail riding, then the bike stacks up well.
REVIEW OF THE BMW G310 GS - THE VERDICT
So after beetling the little BMW around the roads and lanes for a morning, it was time to give it back and sum up what we thought of the baby adventure bike. And overall we were impressed with this new addition to the Bavarian stable – it fits with the others in the range and can be considered as a worthy entry level machine that BMW intended it to be. Although made far from the fatherland, the quality of the manufacture from TVS is well up to the standard that buyers would expect from anything with a BM badge on the tank. Yes, the components are lighter and less substantial than those of the adventure bruisers that the bike sits next to in the showrooms, but that’s to be expected.
But will it fundamentally change the market and convert the legions of adventure riders to small capacity bikes in the way that some internet pundits are predicting? In a word, no.
No doubt this bike will sell well in both Asia and the West and will attract a new generation of riders to BMW, but as to converting legions of riders so set off across the globe on 300cc bikes, then that’s not going to happen. There are precious few of the big bike riders that do this, so it’s fantasy to think that this bike will be the one to change that. The bike is competent when taken off road, but would need a fair bit of work to make it capable of crossing continents and the reality is that for most buyers that doesn’t matter. It’s a great little bike, it looks cool and it’s a BMW – that’s enough.
The 310 has a good riding position and ergos, but the stepped saddle prevents moving backwards, and the bars are wider than they need be so just four stars here.
It’s difficult to assess durability on a test , and with this bike so new it’s hard to know how the bike will last over time. However, being a BMW, we’re confident of the quality.
The base price for the 310 is £5275 – it’s not expensive, but there again it’s not cheap for a 300 cc entry level bike. The BMW brand carries and adds value.
We can’t fault the looks of the baby GS, it’s all killer and no filler. and genuinely looks every bit the rufty-tufty adventure bike, just after a hot wash!
RIDE EXPEDITIONS REVIEW RATING: BMW G310 GS
With the adventure market already dominated by BMW, the fact that they have come up what will doubtless be a another market dominating smaller version should come as no surprise. The 310 is good from the get go, but clearly has its limitations for true adventure travel. But if that’s what you are intending to do, are you going to pick a small bike and if so, would you pick the GS – probably not. The Honda CRF250L would be a much smarter choice. but hey – what do BMW care – that market is infinitesimal compared to the Asian and urban market that this bike is really pitched at.
KTM will doubtless follow suit with an adventure version of their 390, but as with the big bike market, they’ll be playing catch up to BMW once again …