The Bangalore Torpedo!
BMW motorcycles are aspirational. You could pin it on Charlie Boorman and Ewan McGregor, you could pin it on Marco Melandri or even Reg Pridmore (look him up). It’s entirely possible that you could pin it on next-door’s five series. However you look at them BMW are undoubtedly a bike (and a manufacturer) that many bikers aspire to owning. It’s a double edged sword though, all the desire that we might have to own one comes from developing an appreciation of the brand over years of riding other stuff. I’m not saying that BMW make better bikes than anyone else, I’m saying that by the time you’ve made the decision to buy one, you’ve probably owned three or four other brands of bike.
The downside to this desire for BMW is the fact that they don’t get to sell you a bike until you’re at least half way through your motorcycling life cycle. Regardless of your bank balance, a GS Adventure or an S1000RR doesn’t make for good first bike material. BMW has addressed the issue with this, the new G310 R.
Mechanically it’s probably the simplest machine Mottorad has rolled out in decades, but in every other respect, this bike represents the boldest move by BMW that I can remember.
The G310 R will be built in India, in collaboration with the TVS group. This may not sound particularly ground breaking and it is something that other manufacturers have been doing for years. But, Teutonic titans like BMW typically maintain brand values by way of reputation and top of the food chain prices. Stack ‘em high and sell ‘em cheap simply isn’t the BMW way. Well, it wasn’t until the G310 R came along. The TVS group build nearly three million motorbikes a year, that’s approximately 8219 bikes a day, every day of the year. Last year BMW sold 23,681 BMW R1200GS’ globally. TVS are monsters when it comes to mass production, they could have made all of those GS’ sold last year in just three days. Think about that for a second.
The Bangalore factory where these bikes will be made means Bangalore wages for workers, which means a ridiculously cheap ticket price. BMW levels of quality and finish will remain thanks to a dedicated factory full of BMW trained staff, all working to typical BMW targets for quality. We’ll get to the price once we’ve covered everything else.
The G310 R is a single cylinder, A2 licence compliant, back to basics motorcycle. Echoes of S1000R in the design wont fool anyone, they won’t offend anyone either, though. In a segment (Yoof targeted) where looks are very important, I think the baby BMW will be able to hold its head up high. Non-adjustable forks and a simple shock setup are no less fancy than you would find on a Ducati Scrambler or a Yamaha MT-07 (for example), capable, but reflected in the price. The average buyer wont need better suspension than this bike has. They also wont have experienced much else by way of comparison so there’s little point worrying that this bike wont feel like an S1000R because it isn’t supposed to.
The ignition key felt Japanesey, not quite the fluid fit that I’m used to with BMW. It’s a small thing, but a thing nonetheless. Buttons looked and felt like BMW should, well made and built to last. Mirrors didn’t flap about the place the minute I tried to adjust them. Little things like I said, but things that contribute to that premium feeling that you’re allowed to expect from a premium brand. The front brake lacked the range of movement that the rear brake had too much of. The lack of adjusters again reminded me why the price is as low as it is. When I was finally able to accept that I was riding an actual BMW rather than an Indian knock off, I stopped comparing the build quality to other BMWs and started comparing the riding performance to rivals in this sector. In that respect, I expect the G310 R will again be able to hold its head up high. It’s punchy in the first three gears, it’s happy to cruise at motorway speeds without vibrating the change out of your pocket and it’s light enough to be able dive into and out of corners with minimal effort and fuss.
I like singles cylinder bikes, they’re simple things that if built well can often provide a feeling of character as well as momentum. I’ve owned some terrible ones and I’ve ridden some great ones. They’ve all had that trait of feeling like they’re doing more than just making the back wheel go round, the 313cc single in the G310 R is no different. I say no different, but it is a step ahead of the others when it comes to design. The head is fitted in reverse to what you and I are used to. Rather than having the exhaust exit out the front and around the motor, on the G310 the exhaust comes straight out the back of the engine. It’s completely logical in mechanical terms, but the heat that engines generate usually dictates that the exhaust gets the Lion’s share of air flow (found at the front of the bike) in search of efficiency. Modern construction methods and the relatively low power of the G310 R means that BMW can run the back to front layout without fear of you setting fire to your tracksuit trousers. The knock on effect of this, coupled with transmission placing, means that the centre of gravity is pushed further towards the front wheel, as well as allowing room for a slightly longer than expected swing arm. All of these attributes combine to offer an easy to ride package that will suit the newbie nature of the target market. With the intake at the front, BMW also had to adapt the fuel tank to fit, making it shorter which prevents fuel slosh. It’s clever stuff.
In marketing terms, BMW were clear about the fact that they want in on emerging markets. It was refreshingly honest, I sat down expecting to hear about how the G310 R was here for shorter riders, females and city dwellers. Those people will benefit, but the G310 R has its sights fixed firmly on countries that have a need for a bike like this. South America, India and China to name but a few of the massive possibilities. To reflect the nature of these developing countries (in motorcycling terms at least), the G310 R has the ability to run on low octane fuel. There’s no hardware differences, as bikes are built in batches dependent on where they’re going, the fueling software is adapted to suit.
Riding through sunny Munich, the 310 R performed well. Getting the drop on other road users from the lights was easy, it just takes a couple of gears rather than one, as you’d find on a larger capacity bike. Stacks of steering lock made sneaking through gaps easy, despite the German’s absolute disdain for filtering. It’s a small bike, but the riding position isn’t cramped and it was easy enough to maintain vision over cars. The 785mm seat height actually felt slightly higher than I expected, which was nice. There are various seats (and seat heights) available in the stacked accessory catalogue but expect to be the same height on this little single as you would be sat astride an ER6 or an XJ6 as standard. On open roads, the 310 R was capable. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to say it lit my pants on fire every time I twisted the throttle, but it did what I needed it to, when I needed it to. Whether it’d be able to keep pace with a 390 Duke remains to be seen, but it seemed more than happy to skip along with me on it. Another unexpected surprise was the willingness to rev. Peak power is up at 9500rpm, high for a single cylinder bike. Revving the thing out wasn’t quite the puppy kicking exercise I thought it’d be and the bike remained vibe free all the way. Eventually the tiny shift light showed itself on the easy to read clocks, letting me know I should chuck another of the six gears available into the mix. Cornering didn’t equal flex and wobbling, though I think I was probably just a bit too big (fat) for the little bike to really shine. On the few occasions when our lead rider wasn’t sticking rigidly to the speed limit, I went at it. Hanging off the thing with the throttle pinned on the stop didn’t uncover any nasty handling flaws. I’d have liked a little bit more feel from the brakes, they performed well but felt a little bit wooden at the lever. Overall, G310 R is a very simple and honest bike to ride. I imagine it’ll fill riding schools and learner centres quite nicely.
Like I said at the start, it’s a relatively simple little beast in mechanical terms, but the collaboration with TVS is a clear sign that BMW are future proofing Mottorad. This bike is priced at £4290, smack bang where it needs to be in this competition heavy sector, I think it represents great value for money. In getting more buyers on the BMW hook earlier, they’re maximizing their chances of sales success down the line. The job of convincing younger riders in developing countries that BMW is worthy of time and money isn’t going to be an easy one, I think the BMW G 310 R is more than up to the job. Expect to see it in showrooms in the next few weeks.
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