This is BMW’s first sub-400cc bike in the modern age. It’s done small-ish singles before, as the established ‘G’ range, including the eminently-capable G 650 GS has shown, but the G 310 R shown here is an entirely different ring of boxers altogether.
With economic progress in all parts of the world, it’s made perfect sense for European luxury bike brands to get into the less-is-more way of doing things: Lighter, cheaper to buy and maintain, easy to handle, but still appealing for buyers who want upscale engineering prowess, performance and image.
As the first bike in a proposed range of 310 models, including a GS version, the G 310 R is the most straightforward, thus it’s a naked roadster. Visually it reminds us most of the F 800 R, which makes perfect sense since this is the next step-up in the range.
But thanks to the converging lines of the bodywork, the tank and radiator panels, bringing the visual weight forward like the S 1000 R supernaked, it manages to look even more focused than the F 800 R.
It’s not a big bike, but summons up as much gusto and road presence a machine of this size can muster. On our totally unscientific scale the G 310 R scores high: No stranger’s ever asked me about a test bike until I rode this one.
That’s important for a fashion-conscious, younger demographic, but it diverges from the Ducati’s new-retro look and is unabashedly a modern BMW, so it might not be everyone’s mug of pilsner.
That’s entirely the point, we think as BMW motorcycles have never been for a mass audience, and while the G 310 R is aimed at a wider, younger crowd, it still wears unique genes on its sleeve and under the skin.
Like the KTM Duke it’s produced with an Indian partner, in this case, TVS. Historically that’s meant some components don’t look as premium as they should, but this is not the G 310 R’s case.
There’s no wiring out of place, the plastic bodywork looks thick and sturdy, while the metal parts and componentry all look like they’d easily pass muster at BMW’s Berlin HQ factory. The only complaint we have is the large, plastic-looking silver cover/pillion peg unit that dominates the footpeg area, although it turns out this is metal and is there for a good reason (see box again).
It’s feather-light and a cinch to push or park, the low seat height (higher ones are available) means all but the most vertically-challenged will flat foot it.
The seating position is relaxed, the instrument panel clear and easy to read. Thumb the starter and the bike coughs politely into life then settles into a thoroughly un-magnificent idle.
In other words, the G 310 R appears to be exactly what it seems: A generic lightweight street bike. But you need to ride it to experience the benefits of BMW’s engineering approach (see box) are deep and numerous.
Zipping around town, the G 310 R’s main reason for existing, comes almost without thought, the low mass, easy controls and light, accurate throttle and fuelling make U-turns easy even after a few minutes on the bike.
Ridden gently in an urban environment, the bike delivers exactly what’s needed and little more, short-shifting below 4,000rpm keeps momentum up, the only clue being conspicuously little vibration from the single-cylinder engine.
Probe deeper and ask more of the little roadster though, and it delivers to a high level. The engine vibes increase toward 4,000rpm, but flatten out above that and it then continues to deliver punch without significantly tapering off all the way to its 10,500rpm maximum.
In fact it feels almost as punchy, and less vibey, than its F 800 parallel-twin brothers. While the top speed of 145km/h will win no awards, the G 310 R is extremely composed at speeds above 90km/h. 4,000rpm in sixth gear is 90km/h, leaving plenty in reserve for overtaking or higher-speed touring.
The long swingarm pays dividends in stability and makes the roadster easy to ride fast without the bike being twitchy or flighty as light machines tend to be, while the single radial front brake delivers decent stopping power with two fingers.
Why the G 310 R breaks into a new segment, but not new ground for BMW as history and a unique engineering approach show
Purists, if there are any, might argue that the G 310 R is illegitimate, but like most arguments of this sort it’s an entirely invalid one.
The very first BMW motorcycle, the R 32, was 500cc, and it’s made numerous 250cc singles in the pre-1960s era. What about going into a less expensive, more mainstream segment?
Well in in the same era BMW automobiles was struggling with its luxury car sales until 1962, when it launched the ‘New Class’ of cars that saved the company – and which eventually became known as the BMW 3 Series. If done right, the G 310 models could be a stepping stone to bigger things and BMW Motorrad’s own future target of 200,000 unit sales by 2020 – not too much to ask, given 2016 saw record sales of over 145,000 bikes globally.
It’s a brilliant twist and one which, BMW says, affords better intake and exhaust flow. Additionally, the engine’s valve gear is based on the S 1000 RR sportsbike’s, and incorporates the latest technology including wear and friction reducing Nikasil cylinder liners, plus diamond-like carbon coated rocker arms. A rotating counter-balancer reduces vibrations considerably.
Another feel-good point for all riders is the ride quality – while it runs on un-adjustable (except for preload on the roar) suspension, the basic setting was good enough for all the roads we encountered.
The OEM Michelin Pilot Street tyres are good, but slap on a set of proper sporty rubber – like Bridgestone’s S 21 – and the G 310 R would be more than game enough for a B-road blast in Malaysia. Getting there wouldn’t be a terrible chore either, given the bike’s highway manners, and our real world efficiency score of 3.1L/100km means a marathon-worthy 350km from the bike’s 11-litre tank.
In short, the G 310 R is much more than its label of sub-400cc shows, and displays all the hallmarks of its bigger, much more expensive brothers. Unique engineering from BMW that adds to the rider’s experience, a tractable and forgiving nature, all wrapped up in a unique looking package
One thing that joins almost all BMW models are their ease of use and usability. The R 1200 GS is, like an S 1000 RR, so popular partly because it makes doing difficult things easy.
For the G 310 R, that means going faster, further and easier early on in their riding career, and with enough ability and appeal to experienced riders too.
BMW G 310 R
Engine type 313cc, 4V, single cylinder
Bore X Stroke 80.0 x 62.0mm
Gearbox type 6-speed manual
Max power 34hp at 9500rpm
Max torque 28Nm at 7500rpm
0 to 100km/h Not stated
Top speed 145km/h
Wet Weight 158.5kg
Seat Height 785mm
Price $14,800 (machine only)
Agent Performance Motors Limited