With the arrival of the all-new 2017 BMW G 310 R, a new era in the 100-year history of BMW Motorrad is officially under way.
- Hollywood, Los Angeles, California
The little G 310 R not only owns the distinction of being the first small-displacement bike BMW has made since some unsuccessful attempts in the 1920s, it’s also the first BMW motorcycle produced outside of Germany. The G 310 R is the first of two confirmed models based on this engine-chassis combo, with more variation likely on the way. But for now, let’s take a look at this sweet little riding machine.
It has taken BMW a half decade to perfect this bike and, after riding it on the mean streets of Los Angeles and the curvy canyons that surround it, I believe it was well worth the wait. The fact that BMW has chosen to build an entry-level motorcycle is a surprise to some folks. After all, it’s in stark contrast to the performance-first philosophy the company has taken in the last 10 years with the release of the uber-awesome S 1000 RR, K 1600 GT or Boxer-powered R nineT models for that matter. Instead, this is a purpose-built motorcycle for beginners, commuters, and riders who simply enjoy riding but are looking for something a bit more refined than the same old, small-bore bikes they’ve been offered in the past.
Engine and Transmission
The G 310 R is powered by a liquid-cooled, fuel-injected, 313cc four-stroke single with a reverse cylinder layout that points the intake to the front and the exhaust out the back. It weighs in at a claimed 349 pounds ready to ride and has an easy to manage 30.9-inch seat height, so it’s light enough and low enough that it should not be intimidating for new or smaller riders. That single cylinder of raw power won’t blow experienced riders away but it won't intimidate a newbie, and it is more peppy than most of us expected.
Our test ride started off in Hollywood during the morning rush, so we were subjected to stop-and-go traffic moving at a slow pace for the first hour. During that time I found the clutch pull to be very light, although the lever is not adjustable and it was a long reach for my size medium hands. Shifting through the six-speed transmission revealed that it makes precise gear changes with a bit of a schnikt-sound when the cogs and dogs align, but otherwise it’s quite smooth. Sometimes there was a little lag between the actual shift and when the gear position indicator would acknowledge the change.
The engine is eerily quiet at idle, so much that the first time I fired it up, I couldn’t tell if it was running for a moment. Once you get going and wring the throttle a bit, the stainless muffler emits a respectable little growl as it builds rpm. There’s just enough torque and the gearing is short enough that it doesn’t require dragging the clutch too much when getting it moving from a stop.
After slogging our way through the quagmire of cages we finally popped out on the 101 Freeway and had our first chance to stretch the BMW's legs a bit and see what she could do. Hitting the on-ramp I held the throttle pinned and rowed through the gears as the tach swept towards its 10,500 rpm redline and traffic disappeared in my mirrors in a blur as the warp drive kicked in. I’m just joking. Actually, that’s not the way it happened. It takes a few moments for it to build up speed, but it was much quicker than I expected.
This baby is making due with a claimed 34 horsepower (25 kilowatts) at 9500 rpm so it will not be breaking into the triple digits unless you want it to. It runs great at 70 miles per hour (112 kilometers per hour) with the tach right around seven grand, which is also about where it feels it’s at its strongest in the rev range. I may be off a few hundred rpm either way but this gives you some idea what to expect. The vibes of the counterbalanced single are noticeable at these speeds but not annoying. Overall, this engine works good on the interstate as well as it does darting around surface streets.
We made our way across the Mulholland Highway to the world-famous Rock Store for a quick brunch and a cup of coffee to warm our lightly chilled bones. Wind protection was minimal but then again, I didn’t expect any different. I also didn’t really care because I was having a lot of fun riding this bike.
Ride quality and Brakes
From that point, we were officially testing the handling prowess in the 75-mile ride back on Mulholland through the canyons between there and Malibu. By the time we were 20 minutes away from the Rock Store it was obvious the little Beemer could carve with the best of them. Its combination of lightweight, 17-inch tires (our test units came with Michelin Pilot Street – 110/70-17 Front and 150/60-17 Rear) and well-balanced chassis delivers a fun riding experience. Snapping the bike side to side is almost effortless and it feels planted in the higher-speed sweepers, too. The 41mm KYB front fork is not adjustable but it worked well for me despite diving a bit under hard braking.
BMW reps explained that the shock and fork are set up for a range of riders from 100-200 lbs and they chose to keep the cost down by going with a non-adjustable fork and a simple, preload adjustable shock. They also pointed out that most new riders don’t fiddle with the suspension very much anyway. I weigh in at 185 lbs, so I was on the upper end of that spectrum and I was having a great time blasting up and down So Cal’s best curvy roads. I also heard other journalists saying how impressed they were with the handling, how smooth it is and how fun it is to ride. The way I see it, when it comes to tackling the twisty stuff, the G 310 R is an overachiever. Which means it gets a thumbs-up in all three of the situations you might be riding in: city, highway and byways.
Which begs the question: How did the German designers get this so right? Because it’s what they do (and it took them five years, so, yeah, it better be good). It starts with the steel trellis frame and how the engine is placed within it. The engine is as far forward in the chassis as possible, thanks to the reversed cylinder layout, which keeps the weight over the front. Also the head is canted slightly to the rear, which further allows it to be near the front wheel. The forward facing intake helps the single also takes advantage of the small performance gain from the ram-air effect of having the intake in the front and helps keep the weight distribution at a theoretically perfect 50/50 balance.
Many of the fundamental pieces of the G 310 R come into play because of the placement of the engine. This made it possible to use a long aluminum swingarm, which makes things easier on the direct-action rear shock and, in turn, helps the front end stay planted when you are pushing it. The short header makes a quick exit for the spent gasses, which, in turn, decreases emissions a wee bit and helps the bike meet the stringent Euro 4 standards that modern bikes are regulated by in Europe. However you look at it, this thing works and I’m not the only person gushing over it.
What Everyone Else Says:
“The tighter the curves the better — the BMW eats ‘em up never missing a beat. And if the pace gets too hot, ABS keeps wheels inline and streets clean from rubber skids. Both disc brakes provide progressive slowing power, without a sharp brake bite that can make them tricky to use.“ - Adam Waheed, Riders Domain.com.
“Only the plastic switchgear looks cut-price, the rest of the G 310 R components look very BMW, with high quality alloy castings and forged triple clamps, an LED tail light, an exceptionally lustrous paint job, and on this early production model at least, build quality looks good. This is an inexpensive BMW, not a cheap one.” – Alan Cathcart, Cycle News.
“Thirty-four horsepower isn’t much to work with, and its initial power delivery is slightly dull, but once past 4,000 rpm the 310R has an impressive amount of scoot for its size, continuing up to its 10,000-rpm redline.” – Troy Siahaan, Motorcycle.com.
What Stands Out?
Without a doubt, the G 310 R employs quite a bit more high-end parts than you might expect. First off, the bodywork is tight fitting and sharp, Allen-head fasteners are used on all the visible parts, the paint is awesome and the build quality looks to be high quality at almost every turn. Welds are nice, the wire routing is tidy and the dash looks like it would work on a much more expensive bike. The LCD instrument features a large display with speedo, tach, fuel gauge, clock, trip meters, average mpg and a distance to empty countdown meter that kicks in once the fuel light comes on.
ABS is standard equipment and although it’s not the ultimate state of the art unit, it works fine. The roads were cold and wet in some places and I was constantly dragging the rear brake to see how it feels when it kicks in. I got the front to bite, but only when I was trying to make it happen. It’s obvious to me the system works and that’s the most important part. The actual brake system components are nice, too. Steel braided lines start at the fluid reservoirs and lead to a single radial-mount four-piston caliper biting down on a 300-mm disc up front and a single-piston caliper clamping on a 240-mm disc out back. There was never a point when I questioned the braking power on the G 310 R and we were riding pretty hard, all things considered.
We saw 60 miles per gallon on the dash and BMW claims it’s capable of 70 mpg. With a 2.9-gallon fuel tank it means you have a range of 190-200 miles depending on how you ride. Does that mean it’s a capable touring machine? I wouldn’t say it’s your best option, but I’ve ridden single-cylinder bikes all over the United States, so there’s no doubt it will be plenty capable if you choose to go that direction.
What’s Not to Like?
BMW fashions the G 310 R as a Roadster: Part sport, part naked, all Beemer. It looks good, rides even better and has a US $4,750 MSRP ($4,995 after dealer set-up and prep), so what’s not to like? The finish on the bike is everything you expect from a BMW even though there will be people that will bitch about it being built in India. But the BMW staff with us in LA were very keen to point out that this is a purpose-built BMW plant in India, run by the TVS Motor Company that is capable of producing one million motorcycles per year. They also have one in Brazil now, too, so we’re all going to have to get over it because BMW is not the only OEM expanding production outside its home country.
I had a long time to look over the bike both standing still and while it was in motion. What I saw out of place was the huge foot peg brackets and a quirky rear taillight. On one hand, the rear light is a bright, reflector type but it looks quirky and I didn’t like the way it was hung on the back after staring at them all day. But the big, ugly painted aluminum foot peg bracket is what I would want to change the most. It is not used on the GS and after seeing how it dulls down the whole area I disliked it even more. On the G 310 GS, a small black plastic cover hides the rear brake reservoir and a tubular steel bracket holds the passenger peg instead. I’m sure it provides a cost-effective way to hold both the pegs with one unit, so maybe they could paint it black? But on the GS you can see that set up looks cleaner to me..
Also, it will not be available to the public until the summer of 2017, so you will still have to wait until June-July to get one for yourself.
Would I Buy It?
These small street bikes are not really my style but I know lots of people will dig it. Now, if I was suggesting an entry-level street bike for my kids, this motorcycle would be in the running because it looks great and performs even better. Plus, it’s a BMW and my daughters would be all over it based on appearances alone, and at $4,750 I could even afford to buy one.
Overall, it looks like BMW is on to something here. The company has had decades to watch what the competition is doing in the small-displacement category, and another five years fine tuning their own entry-level offering, so you would expect its first effort to be this refined. It ticks all the boxes: cheap, economical, good-looking, sporty, and fun to ride. What more do you want from your first bike? Maybe a BMW badge on the tank?
Helmet: Shoei RF1200 - Model: Valkyrie
Jacket: Alpinestars T-Jaws Waterproof
Gloves: Alpinestars GP Air
Pants: Alpinestars Crank Denim Jeans
Experience: Decades Spent Doing This.
Body Type: Short, old, stocky with a beer belly
RideApart Reader Questions
Ahead of the press event, we posted an article asking our readers to come up with some questions about the G 310 R.
Q: Will we see a G310R vs KTM 390 Test?
A: Good Lord, I hope so. What do you say Chris (Chris Cope, RideApart.com)? You ready to rumble? (Good idea. Maybe –CC)
Q: How does it compare to a KTM 390 Duke?
A: I haven’t ridden the Duke, but others have and they say the BMW is not quite as fast but the 310R beats it in other areas.
Q: MotoShane513: How long until they put a brown seat on it and call it a Scrambler?
A: The way I see it, BMW already have a beginner GS based on this chassis/engine combo and although there is nothing officially scheduled at this time, I would not be surprised to see more variations in the future.
Q: Kawatoo: How is it on the highway at ~80 mph? How is the vibration at those speeds? Is it as quick as a 300 Ninja or Yamaha R3?
A: At 80 mph the engine is spinning just under 8,000 rpm. It is a single, so there are definite engine vibes but it was pretty smooth. I would say it should not be an issue for anyone. The Ninja and R3 are both parallel twins but the 310R feels like it should be real similar to the Ninja because it feels faster than I remember the CBR300, but it is not as fast as the RC390. I haven’t ridden the R3 so I can’t speculate on that one.
Q: Josh!: What is the cost to maintain and service the 310 vs that of the Japanese competition?
A: Tough question. It will depend on your local BMW dealer more than anything.
Q: Daveinva: Presuming this will come with a BMW price premium, what makes this bike any better than a Honda or Kawasaki 300 competitor?
A: Actually, MSRP is $4,750 and dealer prep/set-up is capped at $245 so it comes in under $5,000 out the door. Having ridden all three of these bikes it is going to come down to what you are personally looking for. The G 310 R feels more peppy than the CBR, is probably going to be quicker, but not faster than the Ninja but we’ll need a head-to-head test to make sure I’m not speaking out of turn here. I feel that the BMW has the build quality you would expect from a BMW even though it’s built in India.
Q: Jason: What is the measurement from the seat to the pegs (Rider and passenger positions). Is the overall fit and finish up to BMW standards; welds, casting lines, paint finish? Is there going to be a high seat option (that seat looks pretty low and thin)? Is the catalyst in the muffler or under the engine? What is the real fuel mileage? Also the height of anyone you photograph on the bike. I've seen photographs of people two up on the 310 that make it look like a touring bike and then photos of people that make it look like a Grom.
A: Damnit Jason you are asking a lot from me when I only had a short time on the bike. I wish I had answers for all this stuff but this is all I got for you. As far as fit and finish goes, this bike is sharp. Welds are pretty, lines are smooth and all bodywork fits tight and looks good. They even use ALlen-head fasteners all over it. The dash is stylish and the controls, seat and rider interface looks and feels like a bigger BMW than this. My bike showed 70mpg when we were on the freeway and at the end of the entire ride it showed 63 mpg. The guys sitting on the bike below here is about 5'10" and the guy standing there is over six foot tall, for reference..
Q: Slartiblartfast: How well did BMW deal with vibrations of this thumper? Does the counterbalance shaft work well in this? How well does the ABS work (I've read mixed reviews on BMW ABS, though that may just be based on mixed feelings on ABS on bikes in general) and is it switchable? Not curious about 0-60 per se, but how does it feel? Peppy, light, flickable, etc? Is it possible to compare/contrast with the newly introduced 310GS?
A: Vibrations are going to be felt because this is a single-cylinder engine. BMW did a great job keeping them in check with the counter balancer, though. The vibes feel purposeful – like a V-twin’s character more than a buzzy feel. The ABS kicks in with a moderate intrusion, nothing abrupt about it. I am not sure why someone would knock it. As far as acceleration goes, it’s a single, so it’s not super-fast. It gets going pretty quick and – like I said earlier – it falls right in the middle between the CBR300 and the RC390. As far as the handling goes, this bike is a blast. I kept thinking that this thing was an overachiever. It handles great, it’s easy to manipulate directions, it's light and most of all it is a lot of fun in the twisty stuff. We haven't ridden the G 310 GS yet, so I can’t compare it but I'm going to go out on a limb and say that thing shoudl be good.
Q:Brandon Murphy: Will it still have a 3-year warranty like other BWW motorcycles?
A: Yes, Standard issue BMW Motorrad 3-year 36,000 miles plus BMW Roadside Service.