For the first time in 50 years BMW offers a bike under 500cc. And the new G 310 R takes boring out of small bikes. I experienced the one-cylinder roadster on Mullholland Drive in California’s Santa Monica Mountains.
Another urban legend put to rest. America is not just made up of dirt-straight highways going all the way to the horizon and beyond. I am throwing a new BMW bike around bends and hairpin turns. One after the other. Including the infamous ‘Snake’, just past the popular biker meeting point Rock Store. The Santa Monica mountains, about a 30 minute drive out of L.A.. That’s where Jay Leno takes his chrome jewels for a spin, where Magnus Walker races his modified first-generations Porsche 911s and where Chip Foose feels the chassis of an overhauled classic.
I am on BMW’s newest bike, the G 310 R. It’s been a while since BMW last offered a one-cylinder motorcycle under 500cc. The year was 1966, the bike a 250cc R 27. Now the Bavarians are re-entering a segment they haven’t occupied for decades. They come well-prepared though. Initial surprise: this BMW motorcycle is not a toy, it’s a real bike and it looks great. At first glance it resembles a F 800 R. That’s how grown-up it looks. The snub-nosed S 1000 RR look-a-like front end gives it an amazing presence and street cred for a mere 310cc. It doesn’t feel downsized at all. And with a seat height of 758mm even taller riders will have no problem with the bike.
Second surprise: It is the very first motorcycle ever, that hasn’t been made in Germany. It was designed and developed in Munich, but is being produced cost efficiently in Bangalore, India. Inexpensive but not cheap. In cooperation with India’s third-biggest bike manufacturer TVS. Latter produces about three million bikes per year. It took almost three years to transfer the Bavarian BMW spirit to India. Not so easy. Imagine a restaurant serving fusion cuisine, a combination of crispy pork knuckle and tandoori.
The new G 310 R is assembled in a dedicated area of the TVS plant. To (strict) standards of the Berlin facility. From there the bikes are shipped to Germany and distributed all over the world. The G 310 R conforms totally to BMW’s brand identity in terms of performance, manufacturing quality and styling. 80% of the parts are made by TVS or sourced in India. Such as frame, brakes, fairing and seat. The other components are imported. Like the Kayaba upside down fork and the non-adjustable central shock, the Continental ABS and LCD instrument, as well as the 17-inch Michelin Pilot street tyres.
Heart of the bike is a brand-new liquid-cooled one-cylinder with four-valves and a power output of 25kW. The engine is fitted backwards into the frame. The inlet is at the front and the exhaust at the back. Resulting in a straighter, more efficient flow of air into the powerplant. The motor moves closer to the front wheel for better weight distribution and a front-oriented driving behaviour.
At 160 kg it is an agile and comfortable everyday bike, that will attract novice customers but won’t aggravate seasoned BMW enthusiasts. With the help of the ‘310’ BMW predicts sales of 200 000 motorcycles annually by 2020. And there is more good news. An enduro version, the G 310 GS is already available. It looks amazing, actually even better than the R and might well outsell it’s sibling.
Back to the curvy canyons outside L.A.. The premium flea awakens above 5000rpm. Rev it high, shift gears often and on those twisty roads the G 310 R has no problem in keeping up with bigger bikes. The sound is crisp. But I must admit, when we reached our lunch stop on the other side of the mountains at Malibu beach, my bum was aching. But I was still impressed.
To answer your most obvious question. A BMW from India, does it work? Yes, it definitely does. Trust me, I am Bavarian. The G 310 R is a real BMW. And it will be a best-seller.
BMW G 310 R
Engine 310cc liquid-cooled one-cylinder
Power 25kW and 28Nm
Top Speed 145 km/h
0-100km/h 6.8 seconds
Price R65 000