2018 BMW G 310 GS | First Ride Review

BMW G 310 GS
It rained the first half of the day, but after lunch the sun came out, our suits dried out and spirits lifted as we tossed the littlest GS through corner after corner. Photos by Kevin Wing.

We’ve been waiting for more than a year to get our gloved hands on the 2018 BMW G 310 GS, so a little rain wasn’t going to dampen our mood. In fact, as the herd (Flock? Gaggle? Pod?) of journalists trooped out to the row of GSs, which were being toweled off in a thoughtful but futile gesture by the BMW staff, we all agreed that it seemed fitting that we’d be testing an ADV bike in less-than-ideal conditions. That is, after all, what they’re for.

We got our first in-person look at the G 310 GS at the press launch of the G 310 R way back in December 2016. The GS shares a lot of components with its roadster sibling, including its comprehensive LCD dash, tubular steel frame with bolt-on rear subframe, 313cc liquid-cooled single-cylinder engine, die-cast aluminum swingarm, brakes, seat and headlight.

Read our First Ride Review of the BMW G 310 R here.

BMW G 310 GS
On the sometimes slick Black Canyon Road, which is mostly graded dirt (er, mud), the G 310 GS handled confidently. Its light weight meant a few slips and slides weren’t all that scary.

Because it wears the “GS” badge, however, ADV-ability expectations run high, and so it received a number of appropriate alterations. The handlebars are wider and angled farther back, it’s fitted with a luggage rack, wind deflector, beak, larger front fender, narrower and taller front wheel (2.5-inch x 19-inch vs. 3.0 x 17 on the R), spiked footpegs with removable rubber inserts, extended suspension travel (7.1 inches front and rear vs. 5.5 front and 5.2 rear on the R), two-channel ABS that can be switched off for off-road use, and Metzeler Tourance dual-sport tires, plus its exhaust was redesigned with a new heat shield and more upswept silencer.

BMW G 310 GS
Large luggage rack has plenty of tie-down points and is wide enough to support a duffel.

Thanks to the longer-travel suspension, its rider is perched on a fairly lofty (for a small bike) 32.9-inch seat, although its soft dual-sport suspension sags considerably once aboard and EIC Tuttle, who has a 29-inch inseam, was able to get the balls of both feet solidly on terra firma. In fact, the “Lil’” GS doesn’t feel so little—apart from its feathery 377-pound curb weight—from behind the handlebar. Sitting next to its R 1200 GS big brother it’s clearly smaller, but not 75-percent smaller. More than one person has asked me if it’s a 700 or 800. Lil GS has a big personality.

BMW G 310 GS
A close look at the 310 GS’s engine might have you cocking your head: yes, the cylinder is tilted backwards like the leaning tower of Pisa, and yes the intake is in front, the exhaust at the rear. This design, the first used on a street bike, centralizes mass, lowers and brings forward the center of gravity, and creates more power.

At its heart is a somewhat radical engine, its single cylinder tilted backwards and rotated 180 degrees, so that the intake is at the front and the exhaust at the rear. Seems logical enough, right? Besides creating a bit more power, having the intake at the front also allowed BMW to use a shorter fuel tank, reducing weight shifts from back-and-forth fuel sloshing.

BMW G 310 GS
Thanks to a wider handlebar with more pull-back and taller suspension, the 310 GS is comfortable enough for all-day rides. Note: tester is 5-feet, 9-inches.

While rotating the cylinder isn’t as unusual as it seems (the technique has been used on motorcycles and even a helicopter since the 1920s), tilting it rearward was something the engineers at Yamaha came up with when they were designing the 2010 YZF450F dirt bike. They found that by doing so, they could shift weight toward the front wheel and centralize mass, creating a quicker-steering machine.

BMW G 310 GS
On beat-up, wet pavement the G 310 GS shines. It soaks up bumps and is small enough to throw around anything you don’t feel like riding over/through.

BMW is the first to make use of the design on a street bike and it promises similar benefits, plus it allows a short wheelbase/long swingarm combo—which translates into quickness and stability. The 4-valve, DOHC cylinder head design is based on the S 1000 RR, including finger follower-type rocker arms with a super hard DLC (Diamond Like Carbon) coating that minimizes friction and a low-friction Nikasil coating on the cylinder sleeve. Nice touches for such an inexpensive bike.

BMW G 310 GS
LCD screen is better than what you’ll find on most bikes in this price category. It displays fuel level, speed, engine speed, time and gear, plus has a switchable odometer, two trip meters, fuel consumption data, engine temperature, date and range to empty. My only complaint is how hard it is to see the indicator lights in direct sunlight.

It looks the business as an ADV bike, but the G 310 GS turned out to be a surprisingly capable street master—as long as there aren’t a lot of high-speed freeways involved. It likes to be revved, with a 10,500-rpm redline, and you’ll find yourself working through the 6-speed gearbox on a spirited ride. Keep the tach at 6,000 or above and twist away.

Power output is modest as expected for a 313cc single—on the Jett Tuning rear-wheel dyno it managed 30 peak horsepower at 9,600 rpm and almost 19 lb-ft of torque at 7,600. A rotating counterbalancer shaft tames the vibes; I did a 3-hour freeway stint riding home after the launch and while my wrist was sore from holding the throttle open for so long, my hands, butt and feet never went numb.

BMW G 310 GS
Brakes are by ByBre, Brembo’s Indian subsidiary. Stainless steel brake lines too; BMW may not be known for inexpensive bikes, but they also aren’t known for cutting corners.

With long-travel suspension, the Lil GS eats potholes, frost heaves, bumpy patchwork and any other manner of pavement realities for lunch. For those more interested in being king of the urban jungle than king of the mountain, the 310 GS would make an excellent choice. It sips fuel, even when ridden aggressively; it’s averaging 64 mpg so far. All that combined with a tall seat, wide handlebar and commanding upright riding position—plus the fact that what you’re commanding weighs a scant 377 pounds—make the GS a fantastic city bike.

BMW G 310 GS
The 310 GS is more about power than torque, which is just as important off-road as it is on. Chugging your way out of a sticky situation is tough.

That’s not to say it doesn’t shine off-road as well. The China-built Kayaba suspension works quite well, soaking up bumps without being overly soft or pogo stick-like from a lack of rebound damping. There are no adjustments apart from rear preload, but even larger testers didn’t complain; a more thorough report will have to wait until we’ve had a chance to attack more than our test ride’s graded dirt road, but it’s worth noting that BMW took care to point out that it’s intended for “light” off-road use, a clear sign of which is the 19-inch front wheel vs. a more dirt-worthy 21.

BMW G 310 GS
It’s rather noisy for such a small bike, which only adds to the feeling of speed. A perk of riding small bikes fast.

The ABS-equipped brakes work well and provide decent feedback, but there is quite a bit of travel in the rear lever before it bites. With a powerful radially mounted 4-piston ByBre (Brembo’s Indian subsidiary) caliper and big 300mm disc, I found the front brake is strong enough to be used alone for most casual riding. The ABS can be disabled on the fly, and be aware that when it’s off, it’s off. There is no “off-road” mode where only the rear wheel is disabled.

BMW G 310 GS
Despite the kickstand hanging out down there, the G 310 GS has decent cornering clearance, and the Metzeler Tourance tires gripped well on wet and dry pavement.

BMW already has a handful of accessories available, including a 32.3-inch low seat and a 33.4-inch comfort seat, tank bag, top case and power sockets, with more expected in the future—“necessities” like heated grips and engine protection bars. It’s also planning a new Essentials riding apparel line that will be priced to appeal to 310 GS buyers.

The 2018 G 310 GS is in dealers now, and comes in three colors, Cosmic Black, Racing Red and Pearl White Metallic with Motorsport colors (carries a $100 upcharge). It’s priced at $5,695, which means that after the $245 destination & handling fee it still comes in under $6k, at $5,940. That’s a lot of bike for not a lot of dollars, and we’re betting dealers will have a hard time keeping them in stock. BMW is smart, capitalizing on its popular GS line to create an affordable entry into its brand, where it surely plans on keeping buyers hooked for life.

BMW G 310 GS
2018 BMW G 310 GS in Pearl White Metallic.

2018 BMW G 310 GS

Base Price: $5,695
Warranty: 3 yrs., 36,000 miles
Website: bmwmotorcycles.com

Engine

Type: Liquid-cooled single
Displacement: 313cc
Bore x Stroke: 80.0 x 62.1mm
Compression Ratio: 10.6:1
Valve Train: DOHC, 4 valves per cyl.
Valve Insp. Interval: 12,000 miles
Fuel Delivery: EFI, 42mm throttle body
Lubrication System: Wet sump, 1.7-qt. cap.
Transmission: 6-speed, cable actuated wet clutch
Final Drive: O-ring chain

Electrical

Ignition: Electronic
Charging Output: 308 watts max.
Battery: 12V 8AH

Chassis

Frame: Tubular-steel w/ bolt-on rear subframe, die-cast aluminum swingarm
Wheelbase: 55.9 in.
Rake/Trail: 26.7 degrees/3.9 in.
Seat Height: 32.9 in.
Suspension, Front: 41mm stanchions, no adj., 7.1-in. travel
Rear: Single shock, adj. for spring preload, 7.1-in. travel
Brakes, Front: 300mm disc w/ radial-mount opposed 4-piston caliper & ABS
Rear: Single 240mm disc w/ floating 1-piston caliper & ABS
Wheels, Front: Cast, 2.50 x 19 in.
Rear: Cast, 4.00 x 17 in.
Tires, Front: Tubeless, 110/80-19
Rear: Tubeless, 150/70-R17
Wet Weight: 377 lbs.
Load Capacity: 384 lbs.
GVWR: 761 lbs.

Performance

Fuel Capacity: 2.9 gals., last 0.3 gal. warning light on
MPG: 89 PON min., Avg. 65.4
Estimated Range: 190 miles
RPM at 60 mph: 5,750

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5 COMMENTS

  1. A 32.9 inch seat height on the bike intended to attract newer riders. In what world is that altitude required or advisable for newer riders? This is an issue manufacturers need to address as a part of their effort to market motorcycles to new riders.

    • It’s an “ADV”-style bike with relatively long-travel suspension. I’d imagine the pure road version with 2″ less travel would better accommodate shorter riders. Looking at the riding position of the reviewer, at 5’9″, I’d say BMW designed a reasonably-sized bike for a normally-sized rider, beginner-or-otherwise, rather than for beginners-only.

  2. Dear Gentleriders: battery power and streamlining means this is the very last of the 19th century developments of the chain-driven rear-wheelers. The pedal-powered bicycle with an added petrol engine is a very poor notion to try to carry over into 2018 and onwards.

    Noise, thrash, vibration and demands for servicing mean this embodiment of the olde concept really means it generates little desire to be purchased by the up-coming generation.

    Apply this reasoning to the 2018 market and you suddenly see why the motorcycle market is a shrinking one: this concept for adventure or transportation does not meet the needs or aspirations of new riders.

    Why is that so hard for manufacturers to see and understand?

    Tell the folk at BMW, Kawasaki, Suzuki, Ducati, Honda and all the others, plus your friends, that they are not thinking or designing exciting bikes for you – or for the years ahead.

    Tell them now, tell them often and demand better designed two-wheelers into the future that will meet your need for stirring performance and so much less maintenance.

    You can do it.

    Do it now.

    TimZ: Coffs Harbour.

    c v y

  3. TimZ, while I agree that battery powered motorcycles are in dire need (and even some demand at present) I can tell you that the fable of less maintenance will only be real if the electric bikes get realistic service intervals. In the summer of 2016 I replaced a 2010 twin BMW F650GS (after ≈ 60k commute miles) with a 2016 Zero DSR for my daily ≈ 60mi round trip. After about 18k mi on the DSR I can tell you for fact that the service costs for the Zero DSR are higher than for any of my gas powered bikes. The reason is simple, Zero wants you to take the bike to a dealer every 4,000mi if you want to keep the warranty (which you’d want to given the uncertainty of charge cycle stamina for Li ion batteries). Compare this to 6,000mi for the BMWs, factor in how little work is done during most routine services for both types of bikes and even the more challenging work on a combustion engine. The killer is the hourly rate at your friendly Zero dealer. Why would an electric bike need service every 4,000mi? Even the belt doesn’t require that much attention. All of this doesn’t take into account the fact that the Zero is significantly more expensive as e.g. a BMW F800GS. If range isn’t a concern, electric motorcycles are great, but the manufacturers need to get the costs down. Factoring in gas prices vs. electricity cost and state as well as federal incentives for the Zero my cost of ownership numbers show that the pay back time exceeds the 5 year warranty. So, I took a gamble in an effort to support the development of electric motorcycles. And yes, the established motorcycle manufacturers need to wake up and offer mature electric bikes.

  4. My 2007 BMW g 650 x challenge has 20 more horsepower and weighs 50 lbs less. Seems like BMW is taking steps backwards.

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