Limited displacement now requires few concessions
Story by Costa Mouzouris
Photos by Kevin Wing and BMW
One important element new riders must deal with when buying their first motorcycle is their budget, especially after having already dealt with the costs of rider training, a new helmet and riding gear, as well as having to factor in impending insurance costs. However, entry-level riders shouldn’t have to make concessions when making that first bike purchase, especially if that bike is new. With a low price of $5,250, the 2017 BMW G310R can certainly help keep costs down, including insurance premiums, since it’s a small-displacement motorcycle. The G310R is BMW’s first foray into the entry-level category and, despite its low price and insurance-friendly engine displacement, offers full-size appeal. We attended the international launch of this global motorcycle in Hollywood, just a stone’s throw away from an abundance of canyon roads.
While the G310R’s clean, sporty profile is quite attractive from a distance, a closer look also reveals a fit and finish that belies its low price. The bike is manufactured in India, in conjunction with Indian bike maker TVS Motor Company, but it was developed entirely in Munich by BMW. Swing a leg over the bike and you’ll also notice that it’s a proper full-size motorcycle.
It boasts a sportbike-like wheelbase of 1,374 mm (within 1 mm of Yamaha’s R6) and has a seat height of 785 mm, with a wide faux-tank that rises high between your knees and makes the bike feel
substantial when seated.
It’s an easy reach to the ground for me, though the foot pegs are a bit cramped for my six-foot frame, which is why I’d opt for the added legroom offered by the taller 815 mm comfort seat. There’s a lower 760 mm seat available, too, though the non-standard seats are extra-cost options. The cockpit includes a rectangular digital instrument cluster that displays speed, rpm, gear position, time, fuel level, trip meter and fuel economy. You can also see the tops of the 41 mm inverted fork’s large-diameter sliders when seated, further emphasizing the bike’s sizable proportions. What gives the bike away as a smaller-displacement machine is its subdued compressor-like exhaust note, and its lightness when you lift it off the side stand (at 158.5 kg, it undercuts the lightweight Honda CB300F by 2.5 kilos).
A torquey engine launches the bike effortlessly from a stop, and you find yourself rowing through its closely spaced six-speed gearbox in no time. In fact, the engine feels powerful enough to pull taller gearing, encouraging you to search for a seventh gear by the time you’ve reached 65 km/h. Despite similar output to the CB300F, the BMW feels stronger at lower revs and pulls harder up top, though it doesn’t match the larger-displacement KTM 390 single in pulling power.
On the highway the engine spins just a bit more than 7,000 rpm at 110 km/h, with plenty of reserve passing power. The counterbalanced engine is mostly smooth; the mirrors are clear at around 90 km/h, with a buzzing vibration increasing at about 105, which was felt prominently in the handlebar, foot pegs and gas tank by about 115. The bike smoothes out a bit at higher speeds, and can cruise all day long at 120 km/h. It even has some passing power from that speed, though I didn’t have an opportunity to wring it out to top speed. One thing I did note is that the engine is mechanically noisy when hot, producing a light piston slap-like noise at idle.
The 313 cc liquid-cooled single claims 34 hp and 20.7 ft-lb of peak torque, which is just slightly stronger than the Honda CB300F’s 30 hp and 20 ft-lb. The engine boasts a few high-tech features, including a rearward-tilted cylinder that uses a reversed cylinder head design, with the intake system at the front of the engine and the exhaust system routed out the rear. This was done to move the crankcase forward for a forward-biased weight distribution, while also allowing for an unusually long swingarm despite the short wheelbase, which enhances handling, especially when experiencing front to rear weight transfer while braking into and accelerating out of turns.
And the bike handles exceptionally well. It is stable at speed, while exhibiting light, neutral steering on twisty roads. You can dive into corners hard on the brakes without upsetting the chassis, and its light weight lets you flick it aggressively through a series of esses, though riding aggressively does reveal its limitations.
Although it might sound odd or unlikely, the G310R’s suspension compliance feels very much like it does on my Kawasaki KLR650; it’s smooth, plush and surprisingly refined for an entry-level bike, but it’s too soft for me at an advanced sporting pace. I could live with this setup for everyday use, but would have preferred adjustable rebound damping when riding at an elevated pace, at least in the rear (only rear preload is adjustable). The suspension is probably ideally suited for a rider of about 160 lb (I’m 220 lb with riding gear on). As is, the bike can handle a very quick pace, but it wallows about at the rear.
That said, I actually prefer the suspension setup as is, and would have likely been more critical of it if it were too firm; it’s designed to handle a very wide range of road surfaces, not just racetrack-smooth pavement at a track day pace. It’s a great setup for a daily commuter, offering plush enough compliance to deal with potholes and frost heaves, yet providing enough control to handle quick turning transitions without getting too out of shape. If you do intend on taking the G310R to the track, which it’s entirely capable of, you’ll have to look into aftermarket…