BMW officially launched the 2018 G 310 R in America and we got the chance to ride it for the first time on U.S. soil.
Motorcycles appear to be undergoing a seismic shift in terms of profile. There’s a renewed interest and fascination among the general public similar to the two-wheel craze that swept America in the ‘70s—where it seemed everyone wanted a motorcycle. In case you hadn’t noticed, motorcycles are cropping up in more and more commercials and advertisements, ad agencies having adopted them to craft auras of freedom and present examples of exciting lifestyles in their campaigns to sell jeans and soft drinks. Yes, it seems motorcycles are cool again.
Driving this trend is a new wave of riders with an appetite for small displacement, unintimidating motorcycles to make learning to ride fun and accessible. BMW has intelligently anticipated the new paradigm and has produced a motorcycle that caters to this demographic without losing any of the sex appeal so inherent in bikes. After the tease of a European presentation of BMW’s all-new, ground-up G 310 R at the end of 2016, there was speculation as to whether the pint-size machine would be available Stateside.
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By Jeff Buchanan
Photography by BMW
Well, the Bavarian manufacturer has confirmed that the company’s first, true, entry-level machine will be coming to America in 2017. And here it is. BMW recently launched the G 310 R—the official 2018 version—for the first time on U.S. soil and I was there to see how it performed in the hills and city streets of southern California.
The 2017 BMW G 310 R is an all-new, ground-up motorcycle for the Bavarian manufacturer, effectively the company’s first entry-level machine. The 310 counters BMW’s longstanding reputation for building high-end, somewhat exclusive motorcycles intended solely for experienced and serious riders. Another first is that the 310 will be manufactured entirely in India by the TVS Motor Company, under a strict managerial contingent out of Munich to ensure BMW’s reputation for quality build and reliability. Right off I will say that the G 310 R packs a lot more punch and performance than the numbers may suggest. Though intended for a new rider to confidently stride and turn their first wheel on, in the right hands the bike is capable of delivering some spirited riding.
The G 310 R evolved out of BMW’s research that suggested emerging economies and expanding populations would create demand for smaller displacement (under 500cc) urban mobility. At the same time, designers inherently understood that despite being a function-based motorcycle, styling would factor in significantly. This is particularly true in the case of the North American market, where styling cues share equally with practicality. Also, there is a large segment of hipsters and young people expressing interest in motorcycles who view them as part of a lifestyle statement as opposed to purely a stand-alone hobby, so looks is a factor.
The new G 310 R belies its displacement, sharing a similar silhouette to its big brother, the S 1000 R. Bold paint and graphics accenting minimalist, wedged bodywork and gold anodized upside-down forks grant the 310 an impressive physique. The only real giveaway to it being a smaller cc machine is the use of a single disc on the front. With its seat height of 30.91-inches, extreme lightweight (tipping the scales at 349 pounds wet), and a narrow midsection, the 310 instills confidence in individuals with short in-seams.
The unique powerplant layout is immediately noticeable. The single cylinder has a rearward facing lean, allowing the airbox and intake to feed the engine in a more natural flow line from front to back, with the exhaust port exiting out the rear—in theory producing a more efficient combustion process. The two big functions resulting from this design are that the angle of the cylinder helps keep the weight of the engine centrally located in the chassis, while also allowing the header pipe heat to be more easily and efficiently drawn away from the engine. The 313cc plant has a four-valve head that is operated by two overhead camshafts, the lightweight rocker arms coated with DLC (Diamond Like carbon) to minimize friction and wear. The power rating may sound embarrassingly low at just 34 horsepower @ 9,500 rpm (with a torque rating of 20.65 lb-ft. @ 7,500 rpm), but given that it’s only pulling 349 pounds the bike offers some go—granted, not superbike numbers, but that’s not what the 310 is all about.
Transmission is a 6-speed, with well-spaced ratios that complement the bike’s economic power. First gear is low enough to not require any serious feathering to get going, while sixth gear handles freeways speeds relatively well, capable of maintaining 75 mph speeds without redlining or excessive buzzing. In between first and sixth, the gears are evenly spaced and require nothing more than a gentle nudge of the toe to make shifts. Surprisingly, despite the small engine, the G 310 R has a torquey enough character to pull the bike through corners a gear high. Unlike a lot of smaller-displacement bikes, this usable torque means that the 310 doesn’t require constant massaging of the gearbox to find the right gear, being relatively forgiving—perfect for new and beginning riders. Final drive is by chain.
Essentially an addition to the Roadster line-up in BMW’s stable, the G 310 R possess’ comfortable ergonomics and nimble characteristics that benefit it in equal measure whether negotiating city centers or rambling along country roads. The bike is intended to deliver an enjoyable, relaxed riding experience with a mix of functionality and sportiness—which it does in surprising measure. Fitted with narrow bars, the 310 effortlessly slips between traffic, yet offers enough maneuverability in tight operating space and plenty of leverage when attacking canyon roads. Despite such a feathery weight the 310 expresses nothing skittish when ridden hard, staying remarkably stable under aggressive breaking and remaining solidly planted in corners—unusual for smaller machines.
Being a BMW, the G 310 R comes standard with ABS. The two-channel system works exceptionally well, without any serious oscillation between the front and rear brakes as the system adeptly balances pressure under heavy braking, avoiding any hint of lock-up, even on loose surfaces. The hardware consists of a single 300mm disc on the front grabbed by a four-piston caliper, while the rear end is handled by a single 240mm disc mated to two-piston caliper. Steel wrapped lines provide consistent feel and stable pressure, even under extreme application.
The chassis is constructed of tubular steel, providing torsional rigidity with minimal flex, and is mated to a long swingarm (which helps grant the 310 its stability) that is suspended by a single shock with a progressively-wound spring that adequately renders a smooth ride in the early stages of compression, progressively stiffening with resistance as more shock travel is used. The shock is mounted directly to the swingarm and frame in a simple and clean design, sans any linkage. The system, which provides a claimed 5.15-inches of travel, works well and never bottomed despite attempts to do so. For a small bike the 310 is fitted with somewhat beefy 41mm diameter forks that are anodized gold and mounted in an upside-down position. Triple clamps are beefy alloy units with plenty of grab on the forks—which provide a claimed 5.5-inches of travel. The front end works quite well, absorbing small bumps with ease while being capable of soaking up hard hits (such as divots and potholes) with equal aplomb. The factory settings give the 310 a very soft, plush ride at lower speeds, while manning up with increasing stiffness as the pace increases. Wheels are black, 17-inch 5-spoke die-cast alloy design (3.0-inch width on the front and 4.0-inch width on the rear) and are shod with 110/70R and 150/60R rubber respectively.
Specifications aside, the G 310 R is surprisingly fun to ride. Intent on reviewing the machine from the perspective of a beginning rider, I found myself flogging the bike around the back roads of Malibu with a great deal of enjoyment. The geometry of the frame, combined with a wheelbase of 54.09-inches, gives the 310 a nimble manner, that—when combined with the lightweight—makes directional changes extremely easy and second-nature. Though the little single is a bit sluggish right off the bottom of the throttle turn, it gets up to revs quickly and pulls itself along respectfully.
The powerband is relatively broad for a small engine, with the sweet spot being between 7,000 and 9,000 rpm, with a redline of 10,500 rpm. But the rider doesn’t need to chase the instruments to find the performance, it arrives quite organically, with the aural note easily deciphered as to what the rpms are doing and when shifts are needed. Throttle response is clean and smooth, and the bike—unlike a lot of singles—scoots long with fairly minimal vibration. On the other end of the canyons was Los Angeles’ famous gridlock traffic. Whether freeway or side streets, the nimble 310 easily weaves through the morass, its small size and weight being easy on the rider in terms of effort with minimal fatigue.
Speaking of instruments, the G 310 R has a small, but highly efficient cluster that sits atop the wedged headlight cowl. In highly visible crystal display it is comprised of a tachometer, speedometer, gear select, total miles, trip, engine temperature, fuel level, range, average fuel consumption and speed, and a clock.
A pastime of engineers and designers seems to be outdoing one another with elaborate descriptors of available colors. BMW is no exception. The new G 310 R will be available in Cosmic Black/Polar White non-metallic, Strato Blue metallic, and the stunning Pearl White metallic.
It is the G 310 R’s flexibility, the ability to perform well over various disciplines that makes it such a fun and versatile machine, catering to newbies and experienced riders alike. For the absolute beginner it’s a motorcycle that will forgive mistakes, yet allow plenty of room to grow with the rider as experience is gained. For the more experienced rider seeking functional, workhorse transportation with excellent fuel economy, the 310 fits the bill quite well, leaving room for the occasional detour into the mountains and backroads for weekend fun. Actually, what the 310 provides despite situation is a smile-inducing fun factor.
BMW is on a bit of roll as of late, introducing a wide range of choices and dipping into new territory. The release of the nineT brought an entirely new customer into BMW dealerships; young people. With the G 310 R they are certain to see yet another demographic unfamiliar to BMW showrooms; beginners. BMW’s ubiquitous reputation as a reliable machine will only add to a first-time buyer’s confidence. But what’s most surprising of all is the price. Customers will be able to roll a new G 310 R out the door for just under $5000. CN
SPECIFICATIONS: 2017 BMW G 310 R
Liquid-cooled, 4-valve, DOHC, single
80 x 62mm
6-speed, constant mesh
Tubular steel, bolt-on subframe
41mm, Kayaba telescopic fork, 5.5 in. wheel travel
Kayaba cantilever monoshock, 5.1 in. wheel travel
300mm single disc
240mm single disc
BMW Motorrad ABS
5-spoke, allow die-cast
110/70R 17 in.
150/60R 17 in.