FIRST RIDE: 2018 BMW G310GS
An Economical And Easy-to-ride Entrée Into The BMW GS Family By Adam Child Photography by Amelie Mesecke
Inexpensive and compact adventure for the masses.
The BMW R1200GS adventure bike flagship is just that: a flagship. It’s large, comfortable, capable, and expensive. For these reasons it can also be a bit intimidating, and it certainly isn’t entry level. But people love the GS, and it’s become the bike BMW is known for. So why wouldn’t the company want to extend its glow to a much more accessible motorcycle for a wider audience?
That bike is the 2018 G310GS, the long-awaited single-cylinder lightweight adventure machine that takes the company’s offerings for multi-surface touring into new low-cost, more accessible territory. The G310GS is largely based on the G310R roadster and therefore shares the same unusual reverse single-cylinder engine with the intake at the front and the exhaust at the rear, as well as many other common parts, which helps control cost.
The engine design and packaging allows for a lower center of gravity, as well as efficient and direct intake and a shorter exhaust. The small displacement and short pipe means there’s no need for a heavy, bulky, collector box—the catalytic converter is inside the end can. BMW claims 33.5 hp at 9,500 rpm and 20.7 poundfeet of torque at 7,500 rpm.
The bike is small, easy to manage, and ideal for new riders (despite a fairly tall 32.8-inch seat height). Clutch pull is light, gearbox action is positive, and the Abs-equipped brakes offer friendly response. Suspension tuning is on the soft side and copes well with bumps, while the tall riding position gives you road presence, allowing you to peer over cars. You have a dominant feeling on the GS, which is unusual for an entry-level bike.
Longer-travel suspension (7.1 inches versus the G310R’S roughly 5.5 inches) and a larger-diameter, offroad-friendly 19-inch front wheel help with this in-command stance on this claimed 370-pound-wet motorcycle.
The small windscreen is standard as is the large luggage rack, which can accommodate a factory BMW top box. BMW doesn’t offer panniers in the accessories pack, so you’re stuck with an optional top box and tank bag.
On the open road the small screen offers more wind protection than I was expecting. At 60 mph, the single-cylinder four-valve engine is happy revving at 6,000 rpm. Twist the light throttle and increase the
revs to just over 7,500 rpm and 75 mph is easily achievable—and still the claimed 33.5-hp motor isn’t fazed. Once above 7,500 rpm, however, you start to notice vibration, especially through the pegs. As the digital speedo passes 80 mph, the vibration keeps on climbing.
Thankfully the little 313cc motor doesn’t mind being flogged. Although BMW quotes 33.5 hp, it feels like a little more. It you want the G310 on the boil, keep the digital tachometer above 6,000 rpm and don’t be afraid to push all the way to the 10,600-rpm redline. At 55 mph it’s a fuss-free world, and the bike is far roomier than the 310R. Reach to the levers needs to be shorter for smaller riders, but unfortunately they're not adjustable. Also, the single-cylinder engine can be a little lumpy at low rpm, and the mirrors need to be a fraction wider—small criticisms.
Once off the freeway and into the mountains, I discovered the BMW’S limitations. The handling is user friendly but not sporty. The nonadjustable KYB fork is too soft—it would benefit from more compression and rebound damping—and the softness dilutes the feeling from the front Metzeler Tourance tire. The single rear shock isn’t as spineless but would also benefit from more control. It is also worth noting here the tires are specifically designed with softer sidewalls for the GS, so that could help explain some of the sogginess in the rear end.
The brakes—which are reassuring in town—lack bite when used aggressively at speed. There’s plenty of lever travel but a worrying lack of stopping power in extreme conditions. Plus, the ABS isn’t up to the modern standards. I might’ve been riding the entry-level GS a little too hard considering its intended customer, but even at a moderate pace it doesn't feel like a BMW should. Your experience level and weight (I’m 172 pounds) might give you a different experience. If you’re new to motorcycling, you’ll have very few complaints because the baby GS is easy to ride and fun. But if you’re thinking of downgrading—like many current maturing BMW GS owners, or alternatively wanting a second bike for commuting—you’ll find the G310GS’S street handling limited.
Quality level is impressive. The only real giveaway that this BMW is made in India by partner company TVS is the Bybre brakes; Bybre is Brembo’s Indian sister company. In fact, the majority of parts for the G310GS are sourced or produced in India. But, looking at the bike, most will just presume the little GS was made in Germany like the big 1200GS.
The G310GS is an economical, easy-to-ride step onto the BMW ladder; you can probably join the GS family for less than $6,000 (price TBA). It’s an impressive alternative commuter that can also take light off-road action. More experienced riders contemplating downsizing within the GS range will discover it’s a significant step down—in power, handling, and specification. But new riders will love the baby 310GS.
G MEANS GO: The 313cc single revs to 10,600 rpm and produces a claimed 33.5 hp. Note the header exiting the rear of the cylinder (below), meaning all of the emissions architecture is inside the muffler (above).