BMW G310GS: FULL TEST

 

How much of a dirt bike is the 310? It depends on who you’re with and what they’re riding.
How much of a dirt bike is the 310? It depends on who you’re with and what they’re riding.

The G310GS is in America now, and it’s a very-BMW-like product that’s offered to a very non-BMW-like buyer. The key piece of information that defines this bike is the price. The MSRP is $5695. Even when you add destination and setup, it’s still under $6000, and there’s nothing else in the company’s adventure bike line that sells for less than $10,000. A well-equipped R 1200 GS Adventure sells for more than the price of five G 310 GSs combined.

REASON FOR BEING The question of which manufacturer started the whole adventure bike trend is debatable, but there’s no arguing that BMW has become the main player. The GS line more or less defines what is and isn’t an adventure bike, and, as a group, the GS bikes are the company’s best sellers. Despite all that, BMW has been on the sidelines while others have exploited the lower price ranges. Honda has the CRF250L Rally ($5149), Kawasaki has the Versys 300 ($5399), and there are wild-card bikes like the Royal Enfield Himalayan ($4500).

If you want handguards, heated grips and luggage, BMW offers it all. In standard form, the 310 is fairly bare.
If you want handguards, heated grips and luggage, BMW offers it all. In standard form, the 310 is fairly bare.

BMW’s solution is a bare-bones GS with a single-cylinder, 313cc motor. The concept was conceived in Germany, but the bike itself is made in India to BMW’s quality-control specifications by TVS (a very large scooter and moped manufacturer). The design of the motor is similar to that of a YZ450F. The cylinder is tilted rearward, with the intake in the front and the exhaust in the rear. It has double overhead cams, six gears, four valves and a 10,000-rpm redline. The bike looks so much like the 1200, it will probably make those guys furious. And it should.

There are a number of giveaways that the 310 is built with price in mind. Even though the fork is inverted, it has no adjustability. The brakes are called Bybres, which is shorthand for “By Brembo.” They are said to be designed by Brembo but made in India. And, the 310 is only available in a base package. You can add accessories like handguards and luggage from the BMW catalog, but you have to do it à la carte. If you get carried away, you can double the price of the bike.

It seems strange that BMW can offer something this sophisticated for less than the market price of a 125cc motocross bike.
It seems strange that BMW can offer something this sophisticated for less than the market price of a 125cc motocross bike.

On the other hand, the little GS comes with some surprisingly good components. The instrument cluster would be right at home on a premium adventure bike and has several modes, including on-the-fly fuel consumption. It has anti-lock braking as standard equipment, and when you go off-road, you can turn it off with the push of a button.

The 310 motor was first offered almost a year ago in a street-only model called the G310R. To make it into an adventure bike, or what BMW terms an “enduro model,” it got more wheel travel (7.1 inches at both ends versus 5.5 front and 5.2 rear on the R), a 19-inch front wheel, a wider and taller handlebar, Metzeler Tourance tires, a luggage rack, and different bodywork with the distinctive beak. The GS has a little wind deflector in front (you can’t call it a windshield because it’s opaque). It also has off-road footpegs with real teeth, but you first have to remove the rubber inserts.

BMW isn’t known for small bikes or inexpensive bikes. The G 310 GS is something new.
BMW isn’t known for small bikes or inexpensive bikes. The G 310 GS is something new.

RABID LITTLE RACER When you take most small-displacement bikes on the street, they never let you forget you’re on a little bike. That’s not the case here. The 310 motor rips! What’s surprising is how broad the powerband is. It runs well—really well—from 5000 rpm up. You don’t have to keep it screaming all the time. When you do rev it up, it pulls well and sounds great. This is in stark contrast to a bike like the Honda CRF250L Rally, which is somewhat stressful on the open road.

If you’re in a hurry, you still have to upshift right on cue. And when you come to a stoplight, always remember to go all the way down to first. At highway speed, the 310 has fairly meager roll-on acceleration, just as you might expect. You have to pay the piper somewhere. But at sustained speed, it’s easy to forget that. It’s very comfortable, has little vibration and feels like a big bike right up until you try to accelerate from 55 to 70 mph. Then, it takes its time. You’ll also notice it isn’t a big bike when you go to the pump. The 310 did as well as 60 mpg in our possession.

The motor in the G 310 GS is laid out like that of a Yamaha YZ450F, with the exhaust in the rear and the intake in the front.
The motor in the G 310 GS is laid out like that of a Yamaha YZ450F, with the exhaust in the rear and the intake in the front.

In the dirt, the motor size isn’t as much of a factor. You have other things to think about. The bike isn’t laid out like a pure off-road bike. The seat puts you in a deep pocket, and the handlebar shape has a lot of rearward sweep. The overall rider position is very similar to that of a big adventure bike, just scaled down about 10 percent. For some riders, the lower seat height is a blessing, but tall riders might feel cramped. In the dirt, it’s also limited by very street-oriented tires and soft suspension. The good news is that it’s much less intimidating than a big adventure bike. It feels small, light and low. BMW claims it weighs 374 pounds with a full tank of fuel. That’s over 100 pounds lighter than an R 1200 GS and maybe 40 pounds heavier than a Honda XR650L dual-sport. You can take it on smooth dirt roads all day long without feeling like you’re doing something wrong. When the bike starts to drift, it feels somewhat natural. And even those off-brand brakes are more than strong enough for the bike’s weight. Overall, you can ride pretty aggressively as long as the road is smooth. What you can’t do is take it on rough singletrack trail. The suspension will bottom and traction will be a problem.

WHO NEEDS A G 310 GS? Very few riders will be drawn to a 310 as their one and only motorcycle. This isn’t a replacement for a pure dirt bike or a heavyweight adventure bike.It’s for a guy who already has one of those and wants to dabble in the other world. If you’re a hard-core dirt rider who wants to stick a toe into the adventure bike world, this is a perfect first stop. On the other hand, if you have a $20,000 Ducati or BMW and you can’t bear the thought of a real dirt ride, the 310 makes perfect sense. You’re not risking nearly as much. If it is a first bike for a new rider, we’re guessing it will do exactly what BMW wants, which is to get you hooked and coming back for more.

Comments are closed.