BMW enters learner arena with G 310 R
Learner bikes seldom offer as much status and quality as BMW’s new offering, reports Paul Owen.
Ihope you haven’t been holding your breath while waiting for the new BMW G 310 R learner/commuter street-bike to appear on the Kiwi market.
The affordable $7995 single was slotted to touch down here back in December, but got held up by BMW Motorrad making sure certain that its Indian partner, TVS Motors, could build the bike to the standards expected of the Bavarian-badged brand at its new factory in Bangalore.
Now that the G 310 R is finally here, it looks like something that has been polished and buffed to within an inch of its life. No learner/commuter bike costing less than five figures has ever looked this well-groomed before.
Honda’s 500cc twins are some of the only other LAMS-approved bikes that can compare to the new Beemer in terms of the quality of the finished product, but you’ll pay more than 12 grand for one of those. Triumph and Ducati make quality LAMS offerings as well but you’ll have to bring more than $16k to the negotiating table to secure the key to those.
You can imagine that India has just won some bike-building test match over Thailand as you run your eye over all the tasty details of the G 310 R. You might even then decide that it’s worth paying the extra grand above the $6995 cost of a Yamaha R3 or Kawasaki Ninja 300 twin as you consider the extra garage/cafe´ carpark appeal that the bike exudes. And who can put a price on the ability to boast to your friends that you’ve just bought a brand-new BMW?
The official burgundy/white/ blue racing livery of the Motorrad is expertly applied to the G-machine and appears thick enough to adequately resist chipping from loose stones. The welds of the spine frame are spatter-free; there’s braided-steel brake lines, top-shelf fasteners and quality Michelin tyres fitted instead of the MRF rubber fitted to Indian-made KTM singles.
The stainless steel exhaust heat shields are highly polished, adding a further impression of quality along with the exhaust header pipe made from the same material, and the footpeg carriers and pillion grab handles are alloy castings of the highest quality. The peg carriers even have a plastic overlay to better resist scuffing from a rider’s boots.
Had BMW Motorrad carried the quality offensive all the way to the rider’s hand and foot controls, this bike could be compared to anything that BMW makes in Germany. But alas, the G 310 R fails to leap that final hurdle. The hand levers are un-adjustable in terms of their span (which is wide enough to put off the women and the Donald Trumps of the world), and the gear-lever and rear brake pedal look the work of a less recognised bike maker.
Perhaps BMW wanted to leave a couple of areas where owners could apply their own personal upgrades.
Those minor control changes are the only ones I’d feel compelled to make if I owned a G 310 R. For the rest of the bike comes together in such a cohesive manner that any further upgrading would be wasteful exaggeration. The old cliche ‘‘adds up to more than the sum of its parts’’ definitely applies to the first Asian-made BMW twowheeler. Some will consider the 34 horses generated by the revolutionary ‘‘facing backwards’’ fuel-injected single to be not enough, but I beg to differ. For the little Beemer generates its performance in such an accessible way that it’ll happily lug high ratios and always seems to have enough grunt to handle any riding scenario (well, while ridden solo anyway).
It also appears capable of carrying you to and from work on a couple of thimblefuls of fuel; the exhaust emitting some the sweetest sounds ever heard from a road-going single of modest displacement.
The rest of the powertrain continues the quality theme of the bike. The clutch has a positive action and makes hill starts foolproof, while the six-speed gearbox could have come from one of BMW’s S-series sportsters. On/ off throttle transitions are exceptionally smooth for a single, like the cush rubbers in the driven rear hub are of the ideal compound, and the fuel mapping is beyond reproach.
The chassis performance of the bike is the real highlight though. Reversing the cylinder head of the bike so that the exhaust ports face backwards, and tilting the engine back slightly so that the inlets have a straight shot at the combustion chamber from the airbox, has bought the mass of the engine closer to the bike’s centre of gravity. The weight of the bike’s powertrain feels like it’s located adjacent to the rider’s ankles, reducing the steering inertia of the bike. Top tyres, supple yet pothole-proof suspension, and a decent set-up for the BYBRE discs and calipers complete a machine that offers exceptionally wellrounded performance.
That’s provided you’re not tempted by the extra 10-horsepower generated by the identically-priced KTM Duke 390 (also made in India). That bike is obviously a racier alternative to the G 310 R. However the BMW beats it for refinement and finesse, and its more elegant looks are easier to appreciate. Take your pick, but both bikes are absolute winners, so there’s no real loss suffered in choosing either.