If you’re wondering how important the small-displacement segment is to BMW, here’s a figure to chew on: Edgar Heinrich, BMW Motorrad’s Head of Design, estimates, on a global scale, its current model lineup, excluding the G310R, appeals to approximately one million motorcycle shoppers. This means motorcycle consumers are buying bikes in segments BMW currently is present in. That includes everything from the G650GS on the low end, all the way to the K1600GTL at the other extreme.
Add in the G310R and BMW says its potential motorcycle audience has now doubled in size: two million people. All thanks to one motorcycle. That’s how important the G310R is to BMW. Further driving home the 310R’s importance was the sheer number of people on the BMW payroll in attendance at the model’s international press launch in Hollywood, California; both from BMW North America’s New Jersey HQ, but also from the motherland in Deutschland. Clearly, there’s a lot riding on this new Beemer.
A Little Backstory
It’s been more than a year since we first broke the news about BMW’s G310R, and since it’s been awhile, here’s the pertinent info again: It’s powered by a 313cc fuel-injected, DOHC, four-valve Single, with bore and stroke measurements of 80mm x 62mm, respectively. Compression ratio is a modest 10.6:1. What makes the 310R unique is its reversed cylinder-head arrangement – its intake faces forward, with the exhaust pointed towards the rear. The entire engine is tilted backwards slightly, allowing it to be placed as far forward in the steel-tube frame as possible. BMW claims 34 hp and 21 lb-ft of torque at the crank, with an impressive claim of 71 miles per gallon (though we weren’t able to verify this ourselves).
BMW’s hoping the little G310 will capture the hearts of future S1000R riders, and with a base price of $4750 – $249 less than the KTM 390 Duke but $601 more than the Honda CB300F – it seems poised to do just that. It’s pretty big news in itself that BMW is finally entering the entry-level market, but not to be forgotten is the fact the G310R will be manufactured in India with help from the TVS Motor Company (though it should be stressed the 310R was designed and engineered in Germany). We shouldn’t be surprised, as KTM’s 390 Duke is made in India with help from Bajaj, and numerous other OEMs are shifting manufacturing of their small-displacement bikes to other countries to drive down costs.
In the process of patiently waiting for our chance to ride the G310R, we decided to throw it in a virtual test, including it in a spec sheet shootout with competitors like the KTM 390 Duke, Suzuki GW250Z, Honda CB300F, CB500F, as well as the Kawasaki Z300 and Yamaha MT-03 – two bikes we thought for sure would be on U.S. soil by now but are still conspicuously absent. On paper, the BMW looks every bit a match for its contemporaries, but we couldn’t know for sure until we threw a leg over one. It’s been a long time coming, but that opportunity has finally arrived.
Beginner Bikes, The BMW Way
While small-displacement motorcycles are typically aimed at new or otherwise inexperienced riders, BMW also wanted to attract the attention of those with plenty of miles under their belts looking for another bike to add to their collection – say, to commute with, run errands on, or even to play in the canyons. In short, the G310R achieves all of these goals.
Sitting on it, the 30.9-inch saddle height doesn’t intimidate, and the slim tank/seat junction make it extremely easy for someone of my 30-inch inseam to flat-foot the ground. Still, taller or shorter riders will be happy to know accessory seats will be available, raising the seat height to 31.5 inches on the high end and 30.3 inches on the low end. Weighing in at a claimed 349.4 lbs, the little G feels almost toy-like between the legs. Seating position skews more upright, with only a slight bend forward and pegs aren’t too high up, either. What’s really impressive is how narrow the bike feels between the knees – almost as if you can touch your kneecaps together. BMW wants you to know there’s nothing to be afraid of with this bike.
Once underway, that easygoing theme continues. Power delivery from the 313cc Single is smooth and gentle, with power meted to the rear tire via a cable-operated throttle. The wrist has to twist a long way to reach full throttle, but it’s likely a good thing considering potential ham-fisted noobs the bike is aimed at.
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. Vibration – or lack thereof – is hugely impressive from the counterbalanced Single. At freeway cruising speeds there’s almost zero buzzing felt in the hands or feet. Even at redline the vibration is very muted. Oddly, the most vibes I felt was between the seat/tank junction, conveniently placed to tickle the nether regions…
Clutch pull is light, too, making it easier to modulate when leaving a stop or especially when negotiating traffic. Good, too, since the lever isn’t adjustable (neither is the brake lever). In typical BMW fashion, shift throws are very short and positive, making it easy to shift up the gears with or without the clutch. The first three gears feel closely spaced together, with fourth gear a nice place to be most the time. Freeway speeds are easily attained, and despite its size the BMW doesn’t feel vulnerable cruising along at 80 mph, unlike some other small bikes. Sixth gear and 7000 rpm will have you cruising along at 70 mph.
There’s no quickshifter here, so changing down the gears is done the old-fashioned way, with the clutch. Finding neutral was an issue at times, but that might be because the units we were riding had less than 400 miles on the clock. Time and more miles will tell if neutral will become easier to find.
The G310R gets its styling inspiration from the S1000R naked streetfigher, and it even acts like one in the canyons. Without much power “You have to earn every corner,” says Heinrich. A 41mm Kayaba inverted fork is non-adjustable but is well damped for both canyon riding and average commuting. Together with the steel tubular frame, aluminum swingarm, and preload-adjustable shock, the 310R handles a twisty road with ease. The bars give good leverage to throw the bike into corners, and both ends never seemed fazed by the spirited pace we were flicking in either direction.
If anything, the Michelin Pilot Street Radial tires (110/70-17 front, 150/60-17 rear) were the weak point, the front never truly feeling planted, and both ends giving a small slide during one particular photo pass. In fairness, it was a relatively cold day and it’s possible the cold pavement didn’t jibe with the cold tires. BMW reps on hand said the 310R will be available with either Michelins, Metzelers or Bridgestones depending on the market, but it hadn’t yet been finalized which tires we’d be getting in the U.S.
Also, the G felt just a tad slower to turn than I remember from the KTM 390 Duke. My brain could be playing tricks with me, however, as the geometry measurements are almost identical between the two. The BMW has slightly more rake (25.1º vs. 25.0º on the KTM), slightly more trail (4.0 inches vs. 3.9 inches), a longer wheelbase (54.1 inches vs. 53.8 inches), and weighs a paltry four pounds more than the Austrian.
When it comes to stopping power, the BMW isn’t lacking. A single 300mm disc is clamped by a radial-mount ByBre four-piston caliper in front, with a 240mm disc and two-piston caliper out back. ABS is standard. A similar stopping system is found on the 390 Duke, and while we had complaints of a soft lever and mediocre brakes on the KTM, there’s no such issues on the BMW. Braking power is strong but not overpowering, with decent feel at the lever. If anything, ABS intervenes too soon. But that’s coming from the perspective of an experienced rider.
The Path Towards World Domination
By all accounts, the BMW G310R is hugely impressive. It’s a comfortable, non-intimidating scoot for the new rider, but it’s also a hoot for the experienced veteran. It’ll easily handle commuter duties, especially with the selection of top cases available in the BMW accessories catalog, but is also fun if you feel like harassing sportbike riders on tight, twisty roads. And the fact it’s so smooth and refined belies its modest $4750 price tag.
During his speech, Heinrich mentioned that BMW wants to sell 200,000 motorcycles by the year 2020, and that this is only possible if the company “attacked different markets.” We’ve already started to see the fruits of this strategy with the S1000 and RnineT lines, and now new doors are opening with this, the G310R. Don’t be fooled by its low price point and where it’s made, as it’s still every bit a BMW in terms of fit, finish, and quality. And unlike some other small-displacement motorcycles, this isn’t one you’ll get bored with quickly.
Here’s the catch: if you’re interested in one, BMW tells us the G310R won’t be hitting dealerships until late Spring or early Summer 2017. You’ve already been waiting this long for the bike, why not wait a little longer?
|2017 BMW G310R|
|2017 BMW G310R Specifications|
|Engine Type||313cc, liquid-cooled Single w/reverse-cylinder design|
|Bore and Stroke||80.0mm x 62.1mm|
|Valve Train||DOHC, 4 valves per cylinder|
|Horsepower||34 hp @ 9,500 rpm (claimed)|
|Torque||21 lb-ft @7,500 rpm (claimed)|
|Front Suspension||41mm Inverted fork, non-adjustable. 5.5 in. travel|
|Rear Suspension||Single shock, preload-adjustable NA. 5.2 in travel|
|Front Brake||300mm single disc, radial-mount 4-piston caliper, ABS standard|
|Rear Brake||240mm single disc, 2-piston caliper, ABS standard|
|Seat Height||30.9 in. (claimed, 30.3 in. and 31.5 in seats optional accessories)|
|Curb Weight||349.4 lbs. (claimed)|
|Fuel Capacity||2.9 gallons|