The BMW G310R Versus The World

Troy Siahaan
by Troy Siahaan

How does BMW's new little bike stack up to its competitors?

With BMW’s announcement that it will be producing a small-displacement, single-cylinder motorcycle – the G310R – aimed at newer riders and available come the latter stages of 2016, the German marque has signaled to everyone that it’s aiming at world domination. And if you’re familiar with South Park or internet memes, I’m imagining the plan goes a little something like this:

Step one: Lure new riders with the G310R.
Step two: After a while, move them up to the G650, F700, or F800 models.
Step three: Move them up again to the RnineT, R1200 or S1000 line.
Step four: Finish them off with the K1600 series.
Step five: ???
Step six: Profit!

There are a lot of players in the naked little bike category, but none pose a greater threat to the BMW G310R than the KTM 390 Duke.

Ok, so that was clearly an attempt at humor. On paper anyway, BMW seems to have a formidable small-displacement motorcycle on its hands with the G310R. The problem it faces is a stacked field of competitors from Austria and Japan in the form of the KTM 390 Duke, Suzuki GW250Z, a pair of Hondas – the CB300F and CB500F – and the not-yet-announced-for-America-but-probably-will-be-soon Kawasaki Z300 and Yamaha MT-03 (likely to be called the FZ-03 if/when it comes here). The irony here, of course, is that none of these machines are manufactured in their OEM’s home country, as global economics dictate these motorcycles be produced in up-and-coming markets – India, Thailand, China, and Indonesia in this case.

So, with the small-displacement, entry-level category heating up, let’s take a look at all seven of these models to see how the BMW stacks up. Here we’ve gathered the relevant specs to draw some conclusions. Pricing has yet to be announced for the BMW (and the Kawasaki and Yamaha have yet to even be announced for America), but save for the CB500F, the sweet spot in this market is between $4000 – $5000. Expect the G310R to slot in near the KTM at $4,999.

Kawasaki has not officially said the Z300 will be coming to the U.S., but we’d be surprised if it doesn’t.

The S1000R-inspired G310R’s 313cc Single features two camshafts and four valves, but its distinctive feature is its slightly rearward canted cylinder and reverse-mounted cylinder head, placing the air intake towards the front of the motorcycle while the exhaust exits from the rear of the cylinder head, giving the header a more direct route towards the silencer.

BMW claims 34 peak horsepower at 9,500 rpm and 21 lb-ft. at 7,500 rpm. When compared to the G310R’s closest likely rival, the KTM 390 Duke, the BMW falls slightly behind due to 60cc less displacement. Using the power numbers we obtained with the 390 Duke’s close sibling, the RC390, we get 39.7 horses at 8,900 rpm and 24.6 lb-ft. at 7,000 rpm. At a claimed wet weight of 345 lbs., the Duke also has a 4-lb. weight advantage over the G3.

The Yamaha MT-03 is another model not slated for the U.S. Like the Z300, we expect that to change very soon.

That said, the two European brands have a leg up on the other five bikes here. Assuming power outputs for the Z300 and MT-03 are similar to their fully-faired counterparts, the Ninja 300 (34.6 hp, 17.6 lb-ft.) and YZF-R3 (35.3 hp, 18.9 lb-ft.), respectively, the two Japanese twin-cylinders lack the torque of the BMW and KTM Singles and carry a nearly 30-lb. weight penalty, both bikes claimed at 370 lbs. For comparison, the Ninja 300 tipped the MO scales at 381 lbs., the R3 at 370 lbs. Thirty pounds is a big burden to carry, especially when you’re asking less than 40 horses to do it.

Unsurprisingly, the CB500F Honda, with the largest displacement of the group, produces more power and torque (43.0 hp, 29.1 lb-ft.) than the rest, but not by much. It’s also the heaviest model here at 418 lbs. The 286cc CB300F Single puts up a respectable 26.2 hp and 17.4 lb-ft, and weighs in at 351 lbs., while the Suzuki brings up the rear with 19.2 hp, 13.7 lb-ft., and a 407-lb. curb weight. At 248cc, the Suzuki has the smallest displacement here and is also the only one with single overhead cam. It should also be noted that the Suzuki is listed as a 2015 model and is not listed under Suzuki’s 2016 lineup.

Honda’s CB500F could be an option for larger riders looking for a little more oomph, but it’s also the heaviest bike of the seven.

As budget-minded motorcycles intended for new or newish riders, none of the seven models come with sophisticated suspension, though the BMW and KTM again stand out from the crowd with inverted forks. Both add a certain element of sophistication and class to their respective models despite the overall low price point. Only the CB500F offers fork spring preload adjustability. Rear suspension is similarly basic, each offering a single shock only adjustable for spring preload. That said, in our time with the Duke, CB300/500, Ninja 300, and R3, all are capable of ripping up a canyon road at a rather respectable pace while still providing a decent ride everywhere else. There’s no reason not to expect similar handling from the BMW.

With its 25.1º rake and 4.0 inches of trail, the G310R’s geometry is similar to the rest. The KTM, again, has a slightly sharper rake, 25.0º, but so does the MT-03. The Suzuki and Kawasaki have the laziest rake angles, 26.0º, but the Z300 has the least amount of trail, 3.2 in. Compared to the Ninja 300’s 27º rake and 3.7-inch trail numbers, that’s a rather steep difference. The BMW has the second-shortest wheelbase at 54.1-inches (bested only by the Duke’s 53.8 inches), so it should be poised to keep pace with the pack-leading KTM come the tight stuff. All seven bikes ride on 17-inch wheels, and all but the CB500 use 110mm-wide front tires. The KTM and BMW use slightly fatter rear tires (150 vs. 140) than the Japanese roadsters, save for the CB500’s 160.

At $3,999, the Honda CB300F is the most affordable in our grouping, but lacks the pizzaz offered by most of the competition.

Like the rest of the BMW model range, the G310R will come standard with ABS, a major plus in our opinion. The KTM has such a feature as standard equipment, as do the Z300 and MT-03. All seven models rely on a single disc at either end, with the BMW’s front measuring 300mm. It’s clamped by a radial-mount four-piston caliper with gold anodizing. Steel-braided lines are also standard. Those are trick features for any bike, matched only by the KTM in this crowd, though the Austrian skips the gold anodization. The Japanese models feature single front discs ranging in size from 290mm to 320mm and are all clamped by twin-piston calipers.

In our experience, we’ve been disappointed with the KTM’s braking, favoring the braking power of the Japanese models instead. Our suspicion is a simple brake pad swap is all that’s needed to bring the KTM in line with the others. On paper anyway, the BMW should be among the best in this group when it comes to shedding speed.

With the smallest engine, the least power, and the second heaviest curb weight, the Suzuki GW250Z puts up a weak showing compared to the rest of the pack.
Other Odds and Ends

When talking about bikes aimed at newer riders, seat height is an important topic. At 30.9 inches, the G310R is within 0.2-inch of all the others except the 390 Duke and its 31.5-inch saddle. Should that be too high or too low, BMW has also made available accessory seats that either lower the seat height to 29.9 inches for shorties, or 32.0 inches for taller folk.

Fully digital LCD gauge clusters provide the BMW, KTM and Honda riders with information, while the Suzuki, Kawasaki and Yamaha all feature an analog rev counter. Gear-position indicators on the BMW, KTM, Suzuki, and Yamaha get bonus points, especially for the price category these bikes reside in.

Sharp looks and impressive numbers make the BMW G310R sound appealing on paper. But the proof will come once we get to throw a leg over one.

In the end, there’s no reason to believe the BMW G310R won’t have what it takes to claim the crown among the small-displacement naked-bike field. Just look what it did in the liter-class sportbike category. It observed the field and made an astounding (and arguably better) product at a competitive price. BMW appears to be following the same formula at the other end of the spectrum, with the competition equally as fierce at this end of the field.

Of course, comparing specs on paper can only tell you so much. We’re looking forward to testing the BMW G310R against its rivals. Here’s hoping the Kawasaki Z300 and Yamaha MT-03 are able to join the party. Hover over the image below to see the complete spec chart for each bike.

  • Hover for full specifications table
    BMW G310R
    KTM 390 Duke
    Honda CB300F
    Honda CB500F
    Suzuki GW250Z
    Kawasaki Z300
    Yamaha MT-03
    MSRPN/A$4,999$3,999$5,799$4,099$5,299 (Ninja 300 ABS)$4,990 (YZF-R3)Country of OriginIndiaIndiaThailandThailandChinaThailandIndonesiaEngine Type313cc, liquid-cooled Single w/reverse-cylinder design373.3cc, liquid-cooled, four-stroke Single286cc, liquid-cooled, four-stroke Single471cc, liquid-cooled, four-stroke parallel-Twin248cc, liquid-cooled, four-stroke parallel-Twin296cc, liquid-cooled, four-stroke parallel-Twin321cc, liquid-cooled, four-stroke parallel-TwinBore and Stroke80.0mm x 62.1mm89.0mm x 60.0mm76.0mm x 63.0mm67.0mm x 66.8mm53.5mm x 55.2mm62.0mm x 49.0mm68.0mm x 44.1mmFuel SystemEFIEFIPGM-Fi, 38mm throttle bodyPGM-Fi, 34mm throttle bodiesEFIEFIEFICompression Ratio10.6:112.5:110.7:110.7:111.5:110.6:111.2:1Valve TrainDOHC, 4 valves per cylinderDOHC, 4 valves per cylinderDOHC, 4 valves per cylinderDOHC, 4 valves per cylinderSOHC, 2 valves per cylinderDOHC, 4 valves per cylinderDOHC, 4 valves per cylinderClaimed Crankshaft Power34 hp @ 9,500 rpm43 hp30.4 hp46.9 hp24.1 hp38.9 hp41.3 hpMO-Tested Rear-Wheel PowerNA39.7 hp @ 8,900 rpm (RC390)26.2 hp @ 8,500 rpm43.0 hp @ 8,400 rpm19.2 hp @ 8,200 rpm34.6 hp @ 10,800 rpm (Ninja 300)35.3 hp @ 10,800 rpm (YZF-R3)Claimed Crankshaft Torque21 lb-ft @7,500 rpm25.8 lb-ft19.9 lb-ft31.7 lb-ft16.1 lb-ft19.9 lb-ft21.8 lb-ftMO-Tested Rear-Wheel TorqueNA24.6 lb-ft @ 7,000 rpm (RC390)17.4 lb-ft @ 6,800 rpm29.1 lb-ft @ 6,800 rpm13.7 lb-ft @ 6,700 rpm17.6 lb-ft @ 9,700 rpm (Ninja 300)18.9 lb-ft @ 9,200 rpm (YZF-R3)lb/hp10.3 (based on claimed power and weight figures)8.7 (based on RC390 power and claimed 390 Duke weight)13.49.721.210.7 (based on Ninja 300 power and claimed Z300 weight)10.5 (based on R3 power and claimed MT-03 weight)Transmission6-speed6-speed6-speed6-speed6-speed6-speed6-speedFinal DriveChainChainChainChainChainChainChainFront Suspension41mm Inverted fork, adjustability NA. 5.5 in. travelWP 43mm inverted fork. 5.9 in. travel37mm conventional fork. 4.65 in. travel41mm conventional fork, preload adjustable. 4.3 in. travelKayaba conventional fork. Non-adjustable37mm conventional fork. Non-adjustable41mm KYB conventional fork. Non-adjustable. 5.1 in. travelRear SuspensionSingle shock, adjustability NA. 5.1 in travelWP shock, preload adjustable. 5.9 in travelPro-link single shock, preload adjustable. 4.07 in. travelPro-link single shock, preload adjustable. 4.7 in. travelSingle Kayaba shock. Preload adjustable.Bottom-Link Uni-Trak shock. Preload adjustable.KYB single shock. Preload adjustable. 4.9 in. travelFront Brake300mm single disc, radial-mount 4-piston caliper, ABS standardSingle 300mm disc. Radial-mount 4-piston caliper, ABS standardSingle 296mm disc. 2-piston caliperSingle 320mm wave disc. 2-piston caliperSingle 290mm disc. 2-piston caliperSingle 290mm petal disc. 2-piston caliperSingle 298mm disc. 2-piston caliperRear Brake240mm single disc, 2-piston caliper, ABS standardSingle 230mm disc. Single-piston caliper, ABS standardSingle 220mm disc. Single-piston caliperSingle 240mm wave disc. Single-piston caliperSingle 240mm disc. Single-piston caliperSingle 220mm petal disc. 2-piston caliperSingle 220mm disc. Single-piston caliperFront Tire110/70 – 17110/70-17110/70-17120/70-17110/80-17110/70-17110/70-17Rear Tire150/60-17150/60-17140/70-17160/60-17140/70-17140/70-17140/70-17Rake/Trail25.1∫/4.0 in.25.0∞/3.9 in.25.3∞/3.9 in.25.5∞/4.1 in.26.0∞/4.1 in.26.0∞/3.2 in.25.0∞/3.7 in.Wheelbase54.1 in53.8 in.54.3 in.55.5 in.56.3 in.55.3 in.54.3 in.Seat Height30.9 in. (claimed, 29.9 in. and 32.0 in seats optional accessories)31.5 in.30.7 in.30.9 in.30.7 in.30.9 in.30.7 in.Curb Weight349 lbs. (claimed)345 lbs. (claimed)351 lbs.418 lbs.407 lbs.370 lbs. (claimed)370 lbs. (claimed)Fuel CapacityNA2.9 gal.3.4 gal.4.1 gal.3.5 gal.4.5 gal.3.7 gal.
    Troy Siahaan
    Troy Siahaan

    Troy's been riding motorcycles and writing about them since 2006, getting his start at Rider Magazine. From there, he moved to Sport Rider Magazine before finally landing at in 2011. A lifelong gearhead who didn't fully immerse himself in motorcycles until his teenage years, Troy's interests have always been in technology, performance, and going fast. Naturally, racing was the perfect avenue to combine all three. Troy has been racing nearly as long as he's been riding and has competed at the AMA national level. He's also won multiple club races throughout the country, culminating in a Utah Sport Bike Association championship in 2011. He has been invited as a guest instructor for the Yamaha Champions Riding School, and when he's not out riding, he's either wrenching on bikes or watching MotoGP.

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    2 of 66 comments
    • Madskills Madskills on Apr 07, 2017

      Good for BMW. It only makes the biking experience better for everyone. All these bikes are freeway doable. ABS, proper horse power, brakes, and suspension should be a given. I have a 1200R, but my daughter keeps talking about getting one, all these bikes will get a look see.

    • DuckyRider DuckyRider on May 05, 2017

      After the design and manufacturing of the bike, the dealer is the weakest, or strongest, link in the motorcycle sales and service chain. I was recently advised of a recall on my Yamaha FJ09 and called three dealers for help. I live in the boonies, and thirty-five miles from the nearest dealership. Without even checking to see if I had purchased the bike from them, two of the three said I would need to ride my bike to them, leave it for two to three weeks, and navigate a trip home and then back to pick it up when done. My favorite dealer, Simi Valley Cycles, in California, didn't drop a beat, and emailed me a work order, I signed and scanned and attached the recall letter to my email and sent it back. They ordered the parts sight unseen, and will tell me when the part comes in and I ride down and have it done while I wait. Now that is what I can call just ordinary service but is way above and beyond what I found elsewhere; kudos to them for their approach. I have purchased five bikes from them and will gladly do another when the FJ10 emerges.

      BTW, I have had a similar experience with my local Ducati dealer, who responds to emails, gives me estimates back via email, and takes really good care of me. I know that some have had other opinions and experiences, but I for one also like Ducati of Santa Barbara. If there is a problem, they work with me on it, and the BS about Ducati taking you to the cleaners on service they have proven wrong.

      The dealer is the weakest link in the supply chain. The lack of service is what kills me. That comes for sales and after-sales service. So easy to do right, and so many do it so wrong. If they all could behave like they cared about the customer and were willing to treat you with kindness and respect, there would be more bikes on the road.