Test Ride: 2017 BMW G310R

The Good

  • big-time bang for the buck
  • sexy as hell
  • solid handling

The Bad

  • could have more power
  • tiny fuel tank
  • could use stronger front brakes

The pegs touch briefly, sending a smile through the toe of my boot, up my spine and exploding across my face inside my helmet. The little 313 cc single is singing and the sun is shining gloriously in the sky.

The BMW G310R changes direction quickly and holds its line with confidence.

The manicured pavement rises, twists and falls away under the all-new BMW G310R and I’m in a state of near-meditation. Nothing is on my mind.

Not the 45-minute traffic jam we had to deal with to get here. Not the bitter cold back home in Toronto. Not politics. Not money. Nothing. The BMW G310R fits perfectly, my diminutive 5'6" chassis well-suited to that of the small-yet-substantial bike. Our ride leader has the pace set exactly right: it’s hot but not excessive. The bike changes direction quickly and holds its line with confidence. My own confidence climbs as the day goes on, too.

The winding mountain roads surrounding Hollywood are spectacular. It’s late in the year, but the sun is out and we’re comfortable on the bike. It’s almost enough to make you want to live there. Almost. We stop at the Rock Store cafe, an iconic bike hangout at the base of the iconic “Snake” on Mulholland. A ribbon of motorcycle heaven where weekend warriors entertain troupes of camera-toting spectators (and their millions of YouTube viewers) all under the watchful but unobtrusive gaze of shockingly permissive local law enforcement.

A colleague hikes the front wheel of his own 310 skyward as he takes off past the photography point, as the former police officers BMW has hired as our guides all look out at an eagle circling the valley. It’s got some grunt, this new BMW single. Not class-leading, but more than sufficient. The 34 hp and 21 lb-ft of torque come on at 9,500 and 7,500 rpm respectively, shuttling the 158.5 kg wet chassis from rest to highway speed in brisk, if not blistering, fashion.

This bike means a lot to the German marque. It’s their first foray into entry-level motorcycling and it is priced aggressively – $5,300 here in Canada. If it had a codename back in the office, it was probably “Operation Marketshare” and from what I can feel – it’s going to get plenty. It’s all part of a master plan to double BMW’s global motorcycle sales by 2020. There is also a GS version which we saw in a static display at our lunch stop – expect more on that closer to spring.

One hurdle the marketing folk will have to clear is that this bike is built in India, and not in Germany. BMW has partnered with Indian firm TVS and headed off concerns about Indian versus German build quality by explaining that TVS employees were flown to Germany for special training ahead of the build.

Also, all the design and development of the bike was done in BMW’s homeland, and even much of the tooling used to build the bikes was built in Europe and shipped to the sub-continent.

The G310R also won’t come with full fairings, which the Yamaha R3, Kawasaki Ninja 300 and Honda CBR300R all have. The G310R has ABS standard, for that $5,300 price. To get ABS on the other 300-class members you’d need to spend $5,399 for the Honda (or $4,999 for a naked, CB300F), $5,499 for the Kawasaki, $5,799 for the Yamaha, or $5,995 for the KTM RC390.

Horsepower-wise the BMW is down on all but the Honda, but it’s also lighter than all bar the 147 kg KTM, which is the most expensive but also most aggressive of this crop.

Put simply, the smooth-riding BMW’s striking appearance is more than enough reason to take a chance on it. Add in the fact it performs equally well or better on paper than all but the KTM and the low price is even more surprising. Hence, my prediction it will claim a chunk of market share.

I am a big fan of these small-displacement (note: not small) bikes, I think their appearance on the market will draw in a lot of riders and maintain their interest for a long time to come. Naked solutions like this G310R are even more intelligent to my mind, as they are forgiving for low-speed drops common to a learner, and also fit the aggressive, street-fighter trend that is at its peak right now.

That BMW has priced it at the lower end of the lightweight sport bracket will make this a no-brainer for those already drawn to the brand, and makes it a compelling and intriguing choice for those who were otherwise looking elsewhere.

Looking to attract bulk buyers means making a bike fit a broad section of society. Furthering that goal for BMW is a three-seat-height offering, the shortest option seat is 760 mm, the standard seat a perfect-for-me 785 mm and there is a 815 mm comfort seat so those with longer legs can fit their feet on the pegs and their knees still comfortably into the sculpted sides of the oversize airbox/fuel tank cover. That fuel tank, by the way is a diminutive 11 L with a one-litre reserve.

At 1,375 mm in wheelbase the G310R looks almost square in profile and its enthusiasm for direction changes is palpable. Despite that short wheelbase and small fuel tank you won’t find anything on this bike that looks or feels “small”. Even the front forks are proper, 41 mm upside-down units that feel as confident and strong as they look. I’d have liked a twin-disc at the front but for aesthetic reasons more than anything else.

The single 300 mm rotor and its four-piston radial-mounted caliper made by Bybre do a strong job of hauling everything down to a stop. Bybre is “virtually Brembo” according to BMW – and they’re half right. The name actually means “By Brembo” and is the famous brake maker’s product for small displacement bikes and scooters. The ABS takes effort to trigger and when it does kick in it’s smooth enough not to be disconcerting. Even with the rear brake kicking back against my foot in ABS protest the G310R is composed and controlled.

Reaching a max speed of just 145 km/h means the engine is working hard at just over highway speeds, and passing maneuvers take planning, but that’s typical for this size of bike. Apart from outright power there are not many riders who’ll really need more. I could have happily ridden the canyons around Hollywood for days on end and would have felt as comfortable coming home as I was going out – only with sore cheeks from all the grinning.

With one of the best-looking, smooth-riding bikes on the market BMW’s competitors are probably hoping for some sign of weakness in this cheekily priced package.

I think they might be disappointed.

Engine Displacement: 313 cc
Engine Cylinders: 1
Peak Horsepower: 34 hp @ 9,500 rpm
Peak Torque: 21 lb-ft @ 7,500 rpm
Fuel Economy: N/A
Cargo Space: N/A
10 0
Scoring breakdowns 8.5
10 Styling
8 Powertrain
9 Quality
8 Comfort
6 Practicality
10 Drivability
8 Usability/Ergonomics
9 Fuel Economy
8 Features
9 Value