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A woman’s ride by Marina Mann. Photos by Marina Mann and courtesy of BMW by Jon Beck and Kevin Wing.
While its larger engine stablemates earn BMW fame and fortune, in many ways the new smallest-engine, fuel-injected, liquid-cooled 313cc, four-stroke G310R is expected to take the spotlight when it hits dealerships Summer 2017. The 'G' stands for single-cylinder, the ‘R’ stands for ‘Roadster’ designed to democratize access to the luxury brand.
On my first ride, in sunny LA, I found the G310R to be two-wheeled common sense, built for fun. It’s got the basics covered: comfy, light, practical, solid, decent turn of speed, good handling, has luggage (extra cost), and boy does it wheelie (so I’ve seen).
This year, is not your typical year. A month after the American election, in a country divided, journalists crossed continents to gather in the heart of Hollywood to ride BMW’s new G310R. Five years in the making, Motorrad’s first under US $5000 (C $5250), first under 500cc bike in 40 years is a single-cylinder, 34 horsepower, and BMW’s first bike to be produced outside of Germany.
There were skeptics. But, by the end of the ride, on this subject, the consensus is clear. This is a refined machine.
Despite being on the eastern edge of the city in a rather rough neighbourhood, the Mama Shelter Los Angeles (6500 Selma Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90028, USA, Phone: +1 323-785-6666, mamashelter.com) is a fitting backdrop for the press launch. Here, there’s an “everyone welcome!” feel in contrast to the make-it-or-break tension of Hollywood. (Jim Heinmann’s opus Los Angeles: Portrait of a City is required reading for understanding LA.)
The hotel is easy to underestimate from the outside. Inside it's unique and quirky. You know somethin’s up from BMW when you’re welcomed into eccentric lobby with communal tables, low chalk-board ceiling, dimly lit hallways and freight elevator. The place where style-du-jour melds with pre 1930’s history evoking its previous existence as a Church of Scientology residence.
The location was no accident. On the contrary, it was carefully selected to demonstrate BMW’s walk on the wild side with the G310R.
Under 500cc is a new segment for BMW Motorrad
The small-capacity sport bike market has seen a real burst since 2013 and both Honda and KTM have set the table with the success of the CB300s and the KTM RC390. Like BMW’s new G310R, all are single-cylinder, four-stroke, liquid-cooled engines with laudable fuel economy, manufactured in India and Thailand. Light, nimble and affordable across the board.
Admittedly, BMW is last take to take its place at the under 500cc table. Currently BMW plays in a world bike market of 850,000 bikes, designer Edgar Heinrich explains, “In order to grow, and we want to grow, we have a target to sell 200,000 bikes in 2020-to reach that you have to approach new markets and one of these is below 500cc.
“Suddenly you’re in a market, not of eight-hundred-and-fifty-thousand bikes but potentially two million customers.
“This is a new segment for us. We haven’t been in there before. If you enter a segment you haven’t been in before, and it is occupied by the competition, you have to play according to the rules. You cannot invent the rules. And this is what we did [with the G310R], we did it the BMW way” Heinrich expounds. “BMW stands for innovation, technology and quality and all this is built-in. We took the DNA from the S1000R and put it into this small sibling.”
BMW G 310R stands out for new and seasoned riders
Fun is a hard thing to explain and even more difficult to measure. It’s all there with the G310R. The torquey engine launches the bike effortlessly from a stop and the ABS does its job. Although I heard you had to work to get into the corners, in my intermediate-ness, all thumbs up.
Targeted at new male and female riders the 313cc also satisfies seasoned riders too. With technology moving as quickly as it is, “how many R’s do you need to deliver power and to have fun?” asks designer Edgar Heinrich. “This bike is now a very different story” muses Heinrich, also at the helm of the R NineT, S1000R sportbike design team.
“It’s different riding; you ride like you’re sixteen on your first bike […] you don’t need 150 plus horsepower to have fun on the road.”
Unfortunately, I wasn’t lucky enough to have a first motorcycle at age 16, but the small, affordable Beemer oozes 'perfect' for young people who have just obtained their license.
Meanwhile back to the ride. Throwing a leg over immediately infused me with confidence. My 5-foot-4-inch (1.6 m) frame felt in control at the 785 mm (30.9-inch) seat height, which by the way, is about 30 mm (1-inch) lower than what you get on the S1000R and about 15 mm (half-inch) lower than my Street Triple.
You can opt for a lowered 760 mm (29.9-inch) seat height for an added cost too, but with a bit of a shoe lift for the vertically challenged, I don’t see why you’d need it.
How it rides
It’s quite a sight to see a pack of journalists riding out of Hollywood on motorcycles in a quiet single-cylinder mob. Riding through LA traffic, even with legal lane-splitting and front of the line priority, it’s enough to crush the hardiest of riders.
LA drivers are notorious for bad road-manners. All the while the G310R kept me feeling calm and cool. It’s almost like riding on a cloud because of the natural riding position, the lightness of the bike and the low heat emitted by the liquid-cooled engine.
I really did feel at one with the bike. I have a habit of bad shifting, turning the engine off in-gear at stop lights and downshifting into the wrong gear. The G310R took all my abuse gracefully.
On the freeway, the engine felt a bit vibrate-y at speed but I quickly realized I was in the wrong gear by glancing at the dash. Once I upshifted, there was enough reserve power for passing.
With the comfortable seating position and unnoticeable seat, I could cruise around at about 120 km/h with a top speed of 145 km/h, add the bags and a multi-day trip would be easy-peasy. Not only that but the suspension is awesome. For me, the suspension setup felt very similar to the F800R. As a result, I was bursting with poise over broken-up, pot-hole laden LA freeways and roads: no problemereich.
Our first stop out of LA: the canyons leading up to the Rock Store
I’m not yet a get-your-knee-down kind of rider but I could see the more experienced riders enjoying the cornering and getting their kicks on the G310R.
Next stop was the “Snake”
The road winds through the Santa Monica mountains, wraps around Mulholland and is the LA road that tricks more motorcyclists into crashing. It’s a remarkable destination for anyone who loves to ride. The two-mile stretch ends with what could be called the most crashed corner in California. No crashes on the G310R - just 2.5 minutes of great motorcycle riding entertainment, that is, if you can get in-front of the skateboarders.
Canyon Riding : Forget the clutch on upshifts
My BMW guide, Alex, breezed through each corner like a kid in a candy store. I trailed behind absorbing his movements to learn his lines and techniques. I made classic mistakes like not looking far enough head through the corners which slowed me down.
But what I couldn’t grasp is how fast he made it through the bike’s six gears. What I later learned was that using a technique called 'clutch-less upshifting' which essentially works with all bikes, Alex was able to breeze through the gears without bringing in the clutch. The benefit is smoother, faster shifting and lower clutch wear.
Here’s how to do it. As you accelerate and approach the up shift, place your toe under the shift lever and apply a little upwards pressure. Quickly close the throttle a bit little while keeping that upward pressure on the gear lever and you’ll feel the gear slip in, and then open the throttle back up.
Takes a little practice to make it smooth and it won’t work if you’re moving at a constant speed or decelerating when you shift (which is a stupid habit of mine!). You may want to clutch between 1st and 2nd to avoid going into neutral, after that, it’s all clutchless (up), all the time.
About the new single-cylinder engine for BMW
Next on to Zuma Beach along the Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu for lunch at the Sunset Restaurant (6800 Westward Beach Rd, Malibu, CA 90265, USA, Phone: +1 310-589-1007, thesunsetrestaurant.com) and up through the Hollywood Hills before we circle back to the Sunset Strip.
The centrepiece of the new BMW G 310 R is a “completely newly developed 313 cc liquid-cooled single-cylinder engine with four valves and two overhead camshafts together with electronic fuel injection delivering performance advantage for power and maximum torque output”. This essentially means you get engine pull-power when you need it.
The G310R design team achieved this by turning the cylinder around with air intake at the front and the exhaust out the back. This revolution seems obvious, right? The 'reverse-cylinder' engine design is actually an old idea abandoned in the early years of motorcycle production brought back to life by Yamaha with its YZ450F motorcross engine to improve intake and exhaust duties. For more on this, I leave it to the experts to explain.
What I can tell you is the decisions made in engine design translate to an excellent ride experience. Switching between commuting and the winding roads, I really enjoyed how the bike handled in and out of the corners as well as the pull-power I saw when opening up the throttle on a short stretch of LA freeway. When we hit traffic, a lot of it, I had some time to reflect. I realized a few more things I particularly appreciated.
While at idle the 313cc engine is hardly noticeable. Not only was it quiet, I didn't feel it burning up my thighs and legs; I wasn’t lamenting about how hot it was.
My main complaint with most motorcycles is the heat they emit at low speed and idle. How do people put up with air-cooled in traffic is beyond me? When it’s hot and sunny and even more heat hits the rider, liquid-cooled is table-stakes. Even so, many bikes remain un-ridable in traffic on hot summer days.
On the G310R, in a ton of stop-and-go LA transport, long waits, crawling past cages, I didn’t feel the engine; it was undetectable. Imagine summer in Dallas, Istanbul, Mexico City, Buenos Aires… whatever choices the design team made with the engine, I know this: it’s a win.
The standard ABS brakes are worth noting. I had my foot on the rear brake more than normal to test out the brakes and they worked without issue. Of course you won’t know how good your brakes are until you need them. Made by Brembo India, the BYBRE brakes adapt performance braking for small and medium displacement motorcycles. Notably, ABS won't stop you from learning to do wheelies.
I also liked the instrument panel: a basic rectangular dashboard displaying speed, RPM, time, fuel level, trip meter, fuel economy and gear position. Gear position! While an obvious gift for beginner riders, for some reason, gear position display remains absent on too many bikes.
Coming soon to a gravel road near you: the G310R GS Adventure
Coming soon to the G 310 family is the highly anticipated G310 GS and is a bike many journalists are excited about. My first impression is that it sits taller then the R and feels like a bigger bike. The GS features the same engine, technologies and hardware and is more suitable for light-terrain and country roads than hard-core off-roading but at this price the Adventure riders will definitely put her to the test when she’s ready. No news on availability date or price yet.
Made in India, Get Over It
Small bikes have become mainstream now in emerging markets; a welcome form of contagion in my opinion. This luxury brand is making the technology available to new riders at a shockingly affordable price in great part due to the small engine, and quality production manufacturing outside of Germany.
Yes, the G310R is made in India. Similarly, KTM and Ducati are producing their small displacement bikes in India and Thailand respectively. As a RideApart reviewer Ken Hutchinson put it “…we’re all going to have to get over it because BMW is not the only OEM expanding production outside its home country.”
BWM is 100 years-old and the G310R is the first Beemer to be produced outside of Germany. The company design team worked hard at getting the manufacturing right. One staffer called the whole endeavour from design, production to PR: the “BMW Olympics”.
A BMW staffer explained what a purpose-built plant in India, run by the TVS Motor Company, means.
TVS has a production volume of 2.5 million vehicles per year. The production facility in Bangalore, India is a flagship facility for the TVS Group of 90 companies.
Basically, BMW re-created its Berlin-Spandau production plant at TVS. Machine tools are made by German manufacturers and a dedicated production area was created to replicate the production facility in Germany meeting the same quality standards as the BMW Motorrad plant in Berlin-Spandau. Rob Dexter, of BMW added: “every employee was trained in Germany.”
You get a lot of bike for a little price
There isn't anything that can be justifiably called a flaw. What this single may lack in horsepower, it more than makes up in ride-ability, teeming with sporty character shooting down winding roads or gliding through commuter traffic. The thrills come at a bargain of easy maintenance, good fuel-efficiency at a staggeringly affordable price of C $5,250/US $5,000 all-in. I expect the G310R to take a piece of Honda’s CB300 series pie.
I can see new riders enjoying the G310R as a low-risk, first bike. For new woman riders, this bike is a perfectly light, cool and sophisticated machine for those who want to ride with enough horsepower on highways and keep up with the group on the twisties. At the same time, the G310R is a great second bike coming in at the same price as a scooter with a comfortable, sit-up, naked, bad-ass looking ride.
Actually, the G310R’s S1000R styling makes it look like a full-size motorcycle with modern appeal. Available in three colour variations it will go well with any wardrobe:
CosmicBlack/PolarWhite non-metallic (black with white accents); Strato Bleu metallic (with silver highlights); Pearl White (extra charge with blue and red S1000R inspired graphics).
Women riders have been a small but growing demographic among motorcycle riders. This woman rider has been hearing for years that OEMs want to attract more female riders but the truth is motorcycling needs to attract new riders by making bikes safer, more comfortable and more affordable–-then the women will come. The G310R does just that with no pressure to achieve, just enjoy.
For more info, exact delivery dates and to locate a dealer, check BMW's G 310 R webpage.
Triumph Women's Waxed Barbour Jacket for men and women.
Triumph Jeans for Woman are raw denim made with a knitted DuPont Kevlar lining on impact areas and D3O knee pads.
Arai Defiant Helmet in XS with XXS padding.