Mini adventure bikes are currently the hot topic in the motorcycle world with Suzuki, Honda, Kawasaki and now BMW all launching brand new small capacity machines styled to take on whatever the world can throw at them. And there is a very good reason for their increase in popularity and it isn’t to do with Europe…
Manufacturers are focusing huge amounts of attention on emerging motorcycle markets such as India, Brazil, China and Thailand and riders in these areas aren’t necessarily after litre sportsbikes. With rough roads and restrictive licencing laws, not to mention huge import duties, emerging markets view machines of around the 300cc capacity as their premium models as anything above this capacity is effectively ruled out of the equation for all but the ultra rich. When you consider that Indian-based Royal Enfield build over 650,000 bikes a year for its domestic market and KTM also sell over 20,000 125 Dukes in India, you can see why these growing markets are so important to all the manufacturers in terms of future growth. All of which brings us to the new BMW G 310 GS.
Powered by the G-series single cylinder motor the smallest GS is, like the naked R version, built in India by TVS and not by BMW in Germany. It is purely a cost consideration and there is no way that a German-built small capacity bike could retail at the £5100 that BMW are asking for their GS. It is the same story with the GS’s competition as the £4599 Suzuki V-Strom 250 is built in China and the £5149 Kawasaki Versys-X 300 assembled in Thailand. Does it matter where a bikes is built? In truth a factory is just a factory irrespective of where it is located, it is the checks that you put in place that matter and on that score BMW have been ultra careful.
When you have a brand as strong as BMW’s you need to meet customer demand and the reason the GS has been delayed by nearly a year is down to BMW ensuring that every GS that leaves the Indian factory is up to standard. A task they have more than succeeded in if the G 310 GS is anything to go by.
Visually the GS appears a high quality machine with a good paint finish, excellent attention to detail and even quality components such as inverted forks, a radial brake (built by Bybre, a subsidiary of Brembo) and Metzeler tyres (which are actually manufactured in Thailand, not Europe). It’s all very promising and when in town the GS continues to impress.
The 313cc single cylinder engine is nice and peppy and fires merrily away from traffic lights. The clutch action is light, the fuelling perfect, gearbox precise and with only 169.5kg to lug around, the smallest GS is very maneuverable for zipping through gaps or turning in the road. It’s an excellent town machine for new or more experienced riders and aside from lacking panniers (a top box is an optional extra and the luggage rack is standard fitment) all is well. Even the riding position is ‘big bike’ and roomy for taller riders. But out of town the story isn’t quite as rosy.
At motorway speeds the single cylinder motor transits annoying vibrations through the GS’s pegs. There are rubber inserts (which can be removed for off-road riding) but they only slightly damp the vibes and long stretches at 70mph leave your feet numb. Also the mirrors are too small, resulting on a poor view of what’s behind. All of which is rather frustrating and very non-BMW. The GS is comfortable enough, and the wind protection is ok (BMW don’t make a taller screen), but it’s not fantastic. And come the bends it’s a similar story.
In corners the GS’s soft suspension gives a lack of confidence in the front end, which is not helped by the fairly solid Metzeler rubber. You can’t really throw the GS into bends and instead they are best taken at a moderate pace rather than anything too enthusiastic, which is a shame as the big R 1200GS is a fantastic handling machine. Newer riders probably won’t find it an issue, but those more experienced (BMW have found that current GS owners are viewing the G 310 GS as a potential bike for hacking around on or using in town) will be disappointed. The brakes, which have ABS as standard, are a bit lacking in bite but do the job, and I like the fact you can disable the ABS via a button the switchgear should you wish to venture off-road.
All in all the G 310 GS is a good bike, but not a brilliant one, and when you are designating your bike ‘GS’ the bar is always going to be set very high. It’s a good city slicker, and certainly the best of the current crop of mini adventure models, but it has a few very un-GS annoyances that slightly tarnish its ride and overall performance. It has the feel of a bike built for emerging markets and not the European ones, which isn’t probably that far from the truth.
Engine: 313cc, liquid-cooled, 4v DOHC single
Power: 33.5bhp @ 9500rpm
Torque: 20.6ft-lb @ 7500rpm
Claimed economy: 85mpg