Johannesburg – While the BMW G 310 R makes for a very good, highway-capable commuter, it may lack a bid of attitude in the eyes of some riders.
Happily, I can report that the newly-launched G 310 GS doesn’t suffer from that problem at all. Early in February, BMW Motorrad SA took the local media to George and gave us the opportunity to experience the 310 GS not just in urban conditions, but also on the untarred Montagu Pass.
My first sighting of the 310 GS brought a surprise; the bike was much taller than I had expected. It boasts typical GS looks with a long-travel suspension, a huge rear carrier and the ubiquitous GS ‘beak’ over the 19″ front wheel. In short, it looks like an adventure bike, with only the mag wheels giving you a clue that this bike is not intended to stray too far off the beaten path.
Seating position is upright and neutral, although (if you want to ride standing up), the handlebars are a tad low in their standard position. The positive spin-off is that they are comfortably within reach when you’re seated.
The seat itself is also extremely comfortable, to the extent that after a long day’s riding, my nether regions didn’t feel particularly tired. This is extremely welcome if, like me, you do inter-city commuting and routinely spend long periods on the bike at a stretch.
The 313 cm³ liquid-cooled single-cylinder engine, straight from the G 310 R, has four valves and two overhead camshafts and boasts electronic fuel injection.
A salient feature of the engine is the fact that its cylinder is tilted to the rear and its cylinder head is rotated by 180 degrees, with the intake at the front, and exhaust at the rear. BMW Motorrad says that this configuration “follows the logic of a straight, power-enhancing supply of fresh air-fuel mixture and also has positive consequences in terms of the bike’s architecture.”
The engine has a power output of 25kW at 9500 rpm and a maximum torque of 28Nm at 7 500 rpm, and riding it I got the distinct impression that a generous helping of the latter is available from fairly low down in the rev range.
Like its road-only sibling, the GS is surprisingly responsive for its engine size, making it a pleasure to ride in traffic. It is equally at home at highway speed – I was actually able to coax just over 150km/h (indicated) out of it lying flat on the tank.
While it isn’t intended as a hard-core off-roader, the GS didn’t feel out of sorts on dirt roads. It is built around a tubular steel spaceframe that gives it good torsional rigidity. This makes the bike very stable on rough surfaces, and also gives it accurate steering response. The front suspension takes the form of a solid upside-down fork, while at the rear an aluminium swinging arm is suspended with a direct-mounted spring strut. The standard ABS can be deactivated for dirt-road riding.
The fact that the G 310 range is manufactured in India may have some readers concerned about quality but looking at the bike closely doesn’t reveal anything to be worried about. The powder-coat finish on the frame is silky smooth, and the switchgear has a high-quality feel with positive operation. Keeping a close eye over the manufacturing process, BMW Motorrad seems confident that the bike won’t hurt their reputation for producing premium motorcycles.
BMW owners have for long been members of a rather exclusive club but Beemers have become a lot more accessible of late. In view of the fact that South Africans seem to prefer adventure bikes over roadsters (even if they don’t do a great deal of off-road riding), coupled with a launch price of only R79 650, I am expecting the G 310 GS to do very well.
If I may indulge in a cliché, justifiable because it is true in this case, I would say that the G 310 GS is a lot of bike for the price.