With this in mind, I recently attended the launch of a new product from BMW’s Motorrad division, which has its sights set on conquering the sub-500cc motorcycle market. I took to the streets of Johannesburg on-board the G 310 R to see how this small-capacity commuter bike deals with South African roads.
What is a G 310 R?
For a manufacturer that sees its bread and butter sales coming from 1000cc-plus machinery, the G 310 R is the Motorrad division’s first foray into the sub-500cc segment if you exclude the rather odd Bertone-made C1 enclosed scooter from almost two decades ago.
The G 310 R is a compact naked machine that resembles its S 1000 R and F 800 R siblings, only smaller. It is also the first bike from the brand that is not produced in Germany but instead by a company called TVS Motor Company in India. This isn’t a bad thing as the bike was designed and engineered by BMW but built by TVS, who produce millions of motorcycles a year and have an unbelievably slick production setup.
In terms of design details, the G 310 R looks and feels like a Motorrad product with good quality switchgear, a detailed LCD instrument
binnacle with speed, fuel gauge, range, consumption, trip information, gear selection and a rev counter all easily visible.
The overall look of the bike exudes style and belies its compact dimensions. A quick poll over our social media networks to gauge its looks came back with overwhelmingly positive reactions. In short, the bike looks really good. One complaint I have is that it’s not easy to see when your indicators are on or off, meaning that these sometimes stay on and give the impression that you’re turning when you don't intend to.
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There are some practical benefits to owning a small motorcycle like this. The first is the seat height. With me being more Frodo and less Gandalf, the fact that the seat height is just 785mm from the ground means that this bike is great for shorter riders, while also catering for the taller individuals with reasonably low foot pegs.
The next benefit is fuel consumption; this little machine was averaging 3.4-litres/100km during my ride. Couple that with an 11-litre fuel tank, and you have a bike with reasonable range and impressive running costs.
The next benefit comes in ease of use. This bike has been made to be as easy to ride as possible, so you get a light clutch action and ABS brakes with levers that provide progressive stopping power and not superbike-sharp response. The bike is also very light and easy to manoeuvre, which comes in handy during the urban commute.
How’s the ride?
Our 70km-or-so ride took us through Johannesburg and its surrounds with tight traffic, open highway and suburban riding all covered. The bike feels best when pottering around town where its smaller dimensions and nippy powertrain had the BMW representatives on their S 1000 R’s struggling to keep up.
Powering the G 310 R is a liquid-cooled single-cylinder four-valve 313cc motor that produces 25kW/28Nm. This is paired with a six-speed gearbox which is certainly geared for speeds lower than 110 km/h. I found that on the freeway, the bike felt happiest below the speed limit and certainly more comfortable in town.
The ride is reasonably good as is the riding position, but what I was most impressed by was the availability of low-down torque. In rival products displacing a similar amount, you have to keep the revs up to keep momentum, but with this, the band between 3000-6500 rpm is enough to keep consumption low while still keeping up with traffic.
I was expecting the small BMW motorcycle to be good, but the G 310 R surpassed my expectations. It feels well made, is easy to ride, is more affordable than its competitors and of course, it has a massive dealership network to provide peace of mind.
Speaking of price and service, the bike comes with a two-year/unlimited mileage warranty as well as a three-year roadside assistance package. Retail price is R62 990 and there are three colours available, namely Black/White, Strato Blue and Pearl White with motorsport colours.