Test ride review – BMW G 310 R and G 310 GS
Why did the BMW G 310 take so long?
Finally, the wait is over with BMW Motorrad India launching the G 310 twins two days ago. Yes, the alliance with TVS Motor Company that began in 2013 and bore fruit in the form of the BMW G 310 R naked motorcycle in 2016 and G 310 GS adventure bike the following year, is finally available to us sods in India – despite both bikes being manufactured in Hosur for the world. We’ve finally got our hands on them and took them for a quick spin around BMW Group India’s training facility in Gurgaon. So, have they been worth the wait?
Simply put, the Germans wanted the motorcycles to be up to the high standards that they’ve established over the course of the past 90 years. They took two years just to get the vendors to pass BMW Motorrad’s quality control checks and tests. Those who managed to score seven on ten barely managed to get a pass mark in BMW Motorrad’s book. That is the level of quality they demanded from the suppliers. As a result, BMW Motorrad ended up working extensively with Indian vendors to improve the quality of parts that are close to 80 per cent localised, 95 per cent if you include Asian countries.
Another reason for the Indian delay was to first establish themselves as a premium motorcycle manufacturer in India. BMW has been all about big bikes that scale the mightiest mountains, set scorching lap times and set streets on fire. They wanted India to get a glimpse into the whole persona of the brand before they actually went about releasing the baby Beemers.
How do they look?
You have to literally been living under a rock if you haven’t at all got an inkling as to what the two BMW bikes look like. And for those of you who have, this for you. The naked BMW G 310 R is a brutish muscular naked that is chunky in the front and has a similarly wide rear section. The face of the motorcycle is rather small and that gives it a bit of a disproportionate look. The same feeling arises with the sleek tail tidy. And while BMW has launched a new ‘Racing Red’ colour scheme (TVS Racing incidentally has the same colour), I liked it best with the traditional BMW livery of blue and red strips on white body panels. And the letters ‘HP’ on the tail section also do the trick for me, though High Performance from a 313cc single is a bit debatable.
“Simply put, the Germans wanted the motorcycles to be up to the high standards that they’ve established over the course of the past 90 years”
The BMW G 310 GS had to look like a descendant of the hallowed GS range of big adventure motorcycles. After all it was BMW that kick started the whole adventure biking segment. Yet this baby GS manages to maintain a fine balance between intimidation and relaxation. The large tank shroud, the small wind deflector and the rear luggage-cum-grab rails have been filtered down from the bigger GS siblings.
That said, there are a few flaws that come to the fore when the bike is viewed in the flesh. Namely, panel gaps. On the test BMW G 310 R bikes, the seat didn’t sit flush with the grooves on the tank panels. The wiring and cables are visible between the frontal side panels and really are a bit of an eye sore. The BMW G 310 GS too has a large panel gap between the tank shroud and the front apron. Even the housing of the lighting system seemed to have a fair bit of play in it and though we could not verify it on our short test I think it may lead to a flickering beam at night. The instrument cluster had a flimsy mounting on our test BMW G 310 R, but the rest of the test bikes seemed better put together so we shall reserve our judgement once we do a full road test. All these seem a little odd and out of place for a BMW, especially when so much talk about quality has preceded the ride.
The instrument console is a fully digital unit that would have looked great in 2016, the time when the bike was actually launched in international markets. In 2018, it feels run of the mill, something that we have already seen on motorcycles of smaller cubic capacities like the Suzuki Gixxer or the Yamaha FZ25. I am not saying that the motorcycle had to have a full-colour TFT dash but the layout is a bit too familiar. They could have taken a page from the TVS folks and done what they did with the console of the RR 310.
Under the skin
BMW Motorrad boffins have managed to create a platform that is super versatile and led to three motorcycles in three distinct segments from the two partners. The range is able to meet the needs of a street junkie, the track enthusiast and also the adventure-seeker who aims to go off the beaten track.
The trellis frame, aluminium swingarm, golden casing USD forks and monoshock as well as the aluminium forged wheels are standard across the platform. These cycle parts are of the highest quality and each one of them is tuned to suit the motorcycle’s characteristics. The BMW G 310 GS’ shocks are slightly longer to make it suitable for off road use – 180mm of travel on either end compared to the G 310 R’s front 140mm and rear 131mm. Thus, the steering angle is different on both bikes – 26.7 degrees on the GS and 25.1 degrees on the R. The GS also gets a 19-inch front wheel.
Both get wide flat handlebars, the one on the GS being slightly wider to offer better leverage when taking it off road. The ergos on the two motorcycles are drastically different. The R puts the rider in a slightly forward biased posture but not as aggressive as the fully-faired TVS Apache RR 310 (obviously). I was quite happy with the stance as the saddle height of 785mm allowed both my feet to reach flat on the ground while perched on the seat. The pegs are also in a very comfortable position and should work wonders while zipping through the city traffic. The GS on the other hand has an upright ADV stance. The saddle height of 835mm may spell trouble for shorter riders as I (five foot, ten inches) was just about able to get my toes on the ground. The single-piece seats on both the BMWs are extremely comfy and pillions need not have small derrieres for either of these motorcycles.
The 313cc single-cylinder DOHC liquid-cooled reverse-inclined engine is something that we have seen already as the Apache RR 310 that came nearly a year ago sporting the same motor built on the same production line. There are subtle differences though between the TVS-tuned motor and the one that the BMWs get. Peak power of 33.53bhp remains same on both motorcycles but it’s made at 9500rpm on the BMWs, 200rpm lower than the RR 310. The 28Nm of peak torque is made at 7500rpm, which is 0.7Nm more and peaks 200rpm lower than the TVS motor. The two manufacturers have decided to tune the motors to suit their needs and have used different ECUs – Bosch on the RR and Magnetti Marelli on the BMW. The engines though have similar nature – strong mid-range punch.
The gear ratios on the six-speed transmission are unchanged but the two manufacturers use different final drive ratios on their bikes. The Apache runs on a 42-tooth rear sprocket while the BMW twins run on 40-tooth units. So ideally, the BMW should have better top speed, right? Well, that isn’t the case as the claimed top speed figures say differently, the BMW G 310 R and the G 310 GS max out at 143kmph while the Apache RR 310 continues to plough through until 160kmph. It’s the aero efficiency of the Apache’s wind-tunnel-honed fairing that allows that higher top speed.
The brakes on all three motorcycles are dimensionally identical but where the TVS uses a petal disc, the BMWs make do with regular rotors. The 300mm rotor gets a four-piston fixed calliper upfront and a 240mm disc with a single piston calliper, callipers being provided by Bybre. The ABS units are different though. The Apache uses Continental’s system where as BMW have their own in-house unit.
How is the G 310 R to ride?
BMW Motorrad India hosted the ride session at their training centre in Gurgaon where they had four of each ready for us. I decided to jump on the naked first as that was more up my alley. I loved the fact that the BMW G 310 R makes you instantly feel as capable as our very own stunt guru Hrishi Mandke. I was pulling wheelies, and carrying them while at it, surprising the heck out of me with just how effortlessly the front can get airborne. The ABS unit allows you to pull off stoppies too, but it cannot be switched off completely to slide the motorcycle around. The motorcycle revels in doing such crazy antics. Why not, as the one-and-only Chris Pfieffer has had a role in its development too, spawning a concept stunt machine as well.
“The one-and-only Chris Pfieffer has had a role in its development too, spawning a concept stunt machine as well”
That’s where the fun bits end for the BMW G 310 R however. The motorcycle will do a great job for those who want a zippy motorcycle to get through traffic. The motor can pull from as low as 35kmph to triple digits in fifth gear, knocking it out of the park in the tractability department. But while tractability was great, getting off the line seemed to be an issue since the bike has a tendency to stall. Perhaps a different set of initial ratios would have cured the problem. What I missed most was the lack of excitement from a motor that is housed in a bike with the hallowed BMW badge. It is very manageable and will appeal to the older motorcyclist who doesn’t want his motorcycle to scare him witless.
There were hardly any corners to speak about so can’t really talk much about the cornering capabilities of the naked motorcycle. I can assume that the motorcycle will be light on its feet but certainly not as agile as the KTM 390 Duke. While we will of course do a physical check once we get our hands on both bikes together, the geometry differences between the BMW and the KTM (the latter being sharper and with a smaller wheelbase) also support our initial impression.
The BMW G 310 R is shod with imported Michelin Pilot Sport radials, the same as on the TVS Apache RR 310. My own experience with these tyres is that they don’t seem to offer as much grip as you’d expect of a Michelin. They offer little feedback and wet weather grip is poor, which makes BMW’s choice of this rubber inexplicable. Especially when there are Indian manufacturers that offer tyres with similar or even better grip.
How is the G 310 GS to ride?
A quick lunch break and I am now on the saddle of the baby GS. I have been a bit hesitant to ride the big daddy, the R 1200 GS, which looks extremely intimidating. The BMW G 310 GS thus was ideal for me to pop my GS cherry and allow me to progress to bigger ADV bikes. And it is everything that is being advertised. From the first instance that I took the motorcycle off the tarmac, there was a wide smile across my face.
The GS has the right set of tools for a noob like me to venture out into the wild and discover the countryside. The toothed foot pegs get a rubber insert which can be easily removed by hand for better control when going off road. One could stand on the pegs quite easily and ride for miles on end as it is quite easy to grip the motorcycle with your legs. I would have liked the bars to just be slightly higher here as I had to arch my back a bit in the process.
“The baby GS has the right set of tools for a noob like me to venture out into the wild and discover the countryside”
On the go, like in the case of the naked R, I find the same characteristics as on the GS. Great tractability but a need for better starts off the line. Perhaps a different initial ratio? The BMW G 310 GS may not have as much torque as the Royal Enfield Himalayan but what it has is spread wider, which allows the rider to be more focused on the trail than at missing out on drive in tricky situations.
The high ground clearance of 220mm as well as the long travel suspension is confidence inspiring enough to take the motorcycle off road. The dual purpose Metzeler Tourance tyres help a great deal in this regard as they are currently the best OE rubber in its class. There is also the option to switch off the ABS, thereby allowing the system to only operate on the front wheel. Thanks BMW!
Also when you’re riding off road you’re certainly going to take falls, which means cost of spares is a big consideration. In the case of the BMW these costs will be rather high, going by what we’ve seen on the TVS Apache RR 310. Besides essential elements are either missing or not up to scratch. For instance, the bash plate (and the belly pan on the G 310 R) is made of plastic. You’d rather have a metal one for off-roading. There is no knuckle protection, which will eventually mean broken levers. We found out first hand when our bike stalled at a slow speed U-turn and a lever broke promptly.
There are better motorcycles than the BMW G 310 R at nearly half the price and I find it really hard to justify the ex-showroom price of Rs. 2.99 lakh. Sure, the bike is a great entry to the Motorrad brand but offers very little otherwise. It is a different story for the GS though. The bike is definitely what we needed in India and is the answer for enthusiasts who were saddled with the underpowered Himalayan or the exorbitantly priced Kawasaki Versys-X 300. The GS fits the bill nicely with its all-round abilities and premium-ish Rs 3.49 lakh price tag. That is until two other motorcycles get launched, the Hero Xpulse 200 and the KTM 390 Adventure, in the span of the next 12 months.