Review: 2017 BMW G 310 R LAMS Approved
The G 310 R is BMW's first proper small LAMS bike... Here is our BMW G 310 R review. Test: Jeff Ware Photography: Kris Hodgson
BMW want a share of the small capacity market, not only the LAMS segment here, but also the thriving sub-500cc markets globally. The G 310 R will be a good start. It is basic, reasonably priced and with a low comp engine that will run on the crappiest fuels of SE Asia and India.
Over here, BMW hope to see a new younger generation of customers joining the family as the grandpa and grandma BMW owners grab their slippers and lap blankets and check in to the old folks home…
I have no doubts that BMW will succeed. They did it perfectly with the sportsbike segment.
I remember heading off to Portugal in 2009 to the ride the first S 1000 RR. The main mutterings among the press were along the lines of, ‘Should we pack a pipe and slippers or racing leathers?’… There was speculation that BMW were simply too conservative to take on the sportsbike class. How wrong we were… we knew on the first lap of Portimao that the bike was class-changing…
Did I feel the same way about the LAMS category when I rode the G 310 R home? Not quite… I did, however, take to the bike after riding it for two weeks in all sorts of conditions as my main transport.
THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM
OK, so the G 310 R is made in India by TVS Motor Company, under quality control by BMW. There. Every bit of research I have done on this bike and almost every review has, unfortunately, been as much about the TVS deal and justification about that than what the bloody bike is like. I’m not going to rave on about that.
My opinion? Time will tell if it was the right choice. BMW, being a super premium brand had more at stake doing this than any other manufacturer would. Should they have built the bike at home and priced it at a premium higher than the $5790 + ORC price? Possibly for some markets. Is the quality up to BMW standards? Not quite. It is good for a non-Japanese or Euro bike though, particularly having Michelin tyres and ABS. Besides, Ducati build a lot of bikes outside of Italy and it works for them.
THE RIDE – BMW G 310 R
I had a quick walk around the G 310 R when I picked it up and went over it. The finish for the category and price is very impressive. The paint is lovely, as are the decals, the joins and casting are pretty good, the silver painted and black painted chassis parts look fine, the triple-clamps are neat, tank cover, wheels, forks, shock, swingarm, all really good, it looks premium for the category.
The bike is stylish and looks like fun. It’s up the top in finish and style with KTM’s 390 Duke. How does it compare to other BMW motorcycles? The rubber parts are cheaper looking and a different rubber; the footpegs, gear lever rubber, handgrips etc seem different, as does the switchgear plastic.
The levers are non-adjustable and the rear brake lever looks out of place. The silver painted parts are a slightly different colour than usual BMW, as are the cast alloy parts like the triple-clamps. The fasteners look like good quality ones and the wheels are excellent.
The DOHC liquid-cooled 313cc fuel injected engine fires into life easily. It idles away with some mechanical noise from the valve train. The engine has a reverse-cylinder. BMW claim this is to help shift the weight of the engine further forward and to help mid-range. I’m not convinced, I think it is marketing. One definite advantage is the pipe exits straight out the back, leaving room under and forward of the engine for positioning. However, the airbox is above the radiator and would get lots of hot air and the engine is more mid-mounted. There is a long swingarm, an advantage for high horsepower bikes with a tendency to wheelspin. Not such an issue here… but with no shock linkage the length will help. BMW also wanted the trademark planted front feel they are known for, according to their press kit, but the G 310 R mass is more central in reality.
Riding the G 310 R is easy. It’s a tiny bike with a low seat-height of 785mm (there are taller and lower seat options available), yet the handlebars are super wide, giving a big bike feel. It’s a comfy bike, with a narrow seat and narrow tank and rubber-capped footpegs. Around town it is a combo that does take some getting used to.
The steering geometry is conservative and the wheelbase longish, yet to give the impression of sporty steering, BMW have fitted the wide ‘bars, giving the rider exaggerated leverage. Throw in grown-up sized 110 and 150-section tyres and it’s an interesting set-up. At first initial steering moments can make you feel a bit trigger happy but then you feel the resistance of the stable geometry and wide tyres and need to put a bit more effort in to turn, almost like turning is a two step process.
It makes the bike agile and easy in heavy traffic when it is upright, great for learning, yet stable and safe at higher speeds in the twisties. Without the wide ‘bars, the stability would make the bike a tad too slow to steer mid-turn should the need arise, such as a wet patch, large bump or other obstacle. On the proving ground where we did our photoshoot and some performance testing, the steering was precise and predictable, if a little one-line-once committed, again, it’s a conservative set-up, which is not a negative statement in this instance.
There is plenty of ground clearance, with the footpeg feelers only touching down during our performance testing. The Michelin Pilot Street are a good all-round tyre and much better than the crap that some LAMS bikes come wearing. I found the limitations of the front, but that was way beyond the scope of the normal levels this bike would be taken to. I spent a lot of time in the rain and the Michelin’s left me feeling confident, very important if I was a learner rider. The ABS also had my back.
In saying that, the G 310 R is not perfect to ride in the rain. The above mentioned steering characteristics combined with a lack of initial braking on application, excessive brake lever travel and very soft throttle response off the bottom-end, I’m assuming due to the low compression ratio, means keep the bike balanced and smooth requires more finesse and experience than the average learner will have initially…
More direct control over the bike via throttle and brakes would be an improvement, and some more flywheel inertia would help keep that engine ticking along, a heavier crank would be better. The gearbox is quite clunky also, adding another element to making smooth progress in the rain. When stopping at lights, finding neutral can be difficult as well. The gearbox is not a strong point.
I found myself stalling the G 310 R for the first few days, again, due to the low compression engine, probably big ports and a light crank, feeding the clutch out without what initially seems excessive rpm results in an abrupt stall. Once I got used to it, all was OK, but for our market a high comp version would have been welcomed, particularly now that lane filtering is legal and you want some initial punch off the lights.
The G 310 R doesn’t make progress until the upper bottom-end to mid-range area. However, once in the mid-range the engine impresses. It has linear, strong pull through to the top, where it tails off. For a small capacity single it definitely punches above its weight in this middle-range rpm area and pulls taller gears, even with my 90kg on board, without hesitation.
Dry weather braking performance was good without being exceptional. A 320mm rotor as opposed the 300mm rotor would be an improvement, as even by LAMS standards, the brakes are uninspiring without a hard squeeze. I’ve sample the calipers plenty of times so put it down to the rotor, master-cylinder and pad materials. When the brakes were hot, during our performance testing on the proving ground, they were great and came good. But they quickly became overheated and faded, not a surprise given the circumstances. A larger rotor would have reduced that.
The rear brake pedal, as mentioned, is massive and impossible to miss. The rear brake is good, offers good control and feel for a rear brake and was handy around town and in balancing the bike.
The suspension is basic non-adjustable aside from rear preload. I didn’t touch it and found it good over a wide operating range. The forks have some kickback in the high-speed compression damping, which give a sharp whack through the bars over sharp bumps, but overall both ends are fine.
I was surprised how good the suspension was during the performance testing, where I did around 20-laps including the famous esses where the suspension is loaded and unloaded with ferocity multiple times. It remained settled quickly and fade free at the rear, while the forks were supportive, even under hard braking.
Back to the engine, I enjoyed pulling taller gears and using the tractable mid-range on the bike. The gearbox was the main negative along with some mechanical noise and vibrations, but overall it is a good linear motor that just needs that bottom end punch and throttle response to make it more engaging and fun. Service intervals are 10,000km, which is great. Vibes on the freeway at 110km/h @ 6800rpm – 7000rpm are bad, which explains the rubber topped footpegs, but aside from there the engine is smooth. Clutch take-up and gearshifting need further refinement by BMW.
Riding at night, the headlight does a good job, the dash is LCD not TFT but is fine and has some good features like GPI and Fuel Cons, which averaged 4.0L / 100km for my two-weeks. It is easy to use too. I found the ignition switch fiddly and had to lubricate it with WD40 a few times in the test period to stop the key jamming and it was tricky at times to lock the steering.
Same deal with the fuel cap, it jammed at times and I was concerned I would snap the key. The mirrors came loose a few times as well so I carried spanners, as the toolkit does not have the correct size for the mirrors.
I’ve reviewed or ridden pretty much every LAMS bike this year and last year and it is a hotly contested category. The G 310 R is up against some stiff competition and the closest bike it is up against is the KTM 390 Duke.
The BMW is more conservative and an all-rounder that goes about its job reliably and without fuss. It’s not an overly engaging motorcycle, at least it wasn’t for me, but it is predictable and gets the job done. Long-term reliability and cosmetic appearance are impossible to predict, so it will be another year or so before we can comment on that, perhaps when we review the next model G 310 R.
The KTM has minimal issues, so I don’t see why the G 310 R would have any real long term problems…
If you want to get on a BMW and are starting out, or just like the idea of a single-cylinder sub-500, get to your local BMW Dealer and test ride one of these G 310 Rs, as I always say, ride as many bikes as you can before you part with your hard earned cash. You can find a BMW dealer locator here.
Also check out the wide range of optional accessories here.
2017 BMW G 310 R Specifications
Price: $5790 + ORC
Claimed Power: 25kW[34hp]@9500rpm
Claimed Torque: 28Nm@7500rpm
Engine: Liquid-cooled DOHC four-valve reverse-cylinder fuel injected four-stroke single. 10.6:1 compression, 80 x 62 bore x stroke, 313cc, 33.5mm/27.2mm valves (IN/EX), 42mm throttle-body
Clutch: Wet, multi-plate, cable
Final Drive: O-ring chain
Dry Weight: 158.5 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: N/A litres
Frame – Tubular steel grid structure bolt-on sub-frame
Suspension: Inverted non-adjustable 41mm forks, 140mm travel, alloy swingarm, single shock preload adjustable, 131mm travel.
Brakes: Brybo four-piston radial-mount single caliper, 300mm rotor, two-piston caliper, 240mm rotor, ABS.
Wheels & Tyres: Cast wheels, 3.0 x 17in, 4.0 x 17in, 110/70-17, 150/60-17 Michelin Pilot Street.
Seat Height: 775-815mm
Height (Without Mirrors): N/A mm
Rake: 35.1 degrees
Length: N/A mm
Wheelbase: 1374 mm
Instruments: LCD Dash
Colours: Cosmic Black, Strato Blue Metallic, Pearl White Metallic (as tested).
BMW G 310 R GALLERY
The Verdict | Review: 2017 BMW G 310 R LAMS Approved
The BMW G 310 R is a great little learner option for the new motorcyclist and a good effort for a first LAMS bike by BMW. There is room for improvement but it is a good start. The bike is light, economical, stylish and comfortable but there is tough competition in the price range and category…