It may be the smallest and most basic of BMW Motorrad's GS badged offerings, but the G 310 GS has plenty going for it to make it worthy of the legendary GS badge.
Words and Photos: Mathieu Day-Gillett
After BMW discontinued the F650GS a couple of years ago, the company was left without a learner-legal adventure bike in their lineup for the first time since LAMS was introduced in 2012. Thankfully, not long after the arrival of the G 310 R, it was announced that there would be a GS variant of the 313cc single-cylinder bike - the G 310 GS.
The G 310 GS arrived in New Zealand in late 2017 as a 2018 model, and while it is a budget adventure bike, it does have a few bells and whistles befitting a bike wearing the GS badge. Included in the package, which retails at under $10,000 at dealerships, is an LCD dashboard display with all the info you need - from fuel monitoring to gear position, it's all there - as well as ABS braking with a switch to disable the ABS at the rear wheel for adventure riding. It's not a lot of tech, but at this end of the adventure bike spectrum that's all you need, and any more technology would quickly push the price out of that appealing sub-$10,000 category.
While for some a GS will always be the top-tier R 1250 GS, not everyone can access the hero of BMW’s adventure bike lineup – financially or physically – so a sub-$10,000 bike with GS cred? That’s pretty appealing.
As its name suggests, the G 310 GS shares a few components with the G 310 R, with the same engine and steel frame making their way to the GS model. Even the LCD dash is the same, although it is mounted higher within the GS’ new fairing.
While some may bemoan the lack of a TFT - as seen on the rest of the GS range and the soon to arrive KTM 390 Adventure - this is again offset by the cost factor.
Styling is clearly inspired by the big GS with the beaked fairing looking like the G 310 is definitely part of the family. Even the plastic shrouds around the 11-litre fuel tank feel sturdy, though, I still wouldn’t want to test out by how much without fitting some aftermarket protection.
While 11-litres of fuel load doesn’t sound like much, combined with a tested average economy of 4.4 L/100km you should comfortably see around 250km between stops. That’s plenty of adventure in most people’s books, especially when most of us are far from our optimum level of bike fitness.
The engine itself is a clever little unit, utilising the same backward slant to the cylinder head that Yamaha uses on their successful dirt bikes to aid in mass centralisation. At 313cc, the little engine isn’t a powerhouse by comparison to other ‘Adventure Bikes’ out in the market, but its 25.3kW (34hp) is more than ample for the needs of the market the G 310 GS is aimed at.
Low end grunt really isn’t really the 313cc engine’s thing and as you might expect from a small-bore machine it loves to rev out. Get the revs up to above 7,000rpm and it really does sing its way right up to the 10,000rpm redline with its peak power coming in at a lofty 9500rpm.
One of the first things I noted while riding along the motorway was the lack of good wind protection offered by the little GS’ fairing and screen.
While it does look very cool and very GS appropriate, I found that my upper chest and shoulders weren’t particularly shielded from wind blast by the factory screen. If only it was a little taller...
Thankfully the rest of the bike was a gem out on the open road, with the seat in particular needing praise in a class where it seems other manufacturers have forgotten that riders actually spend a lot of time on their arse. While it’s not all day comfy, it‘s pretty damn near it I reckon.
Equipped out of the gate with a set of Metzeler Tourance tyres, the blocky tread does a pretty decent job of balancing the road and off-road desires that come with a bike wearing a GS badge.
But it was when the road surface became loose that the Metzelers and the G 310 GS really started to come into their own. Up until this point in my ride, the G 310 GS was good, but nothing really stood out. But pulling up to my first gravel road, the best trick the little GS has up its sleeve was finally able to be unleashed.
The G310GS in factory trim isn’t exactly the worst bike to be exploring gravel backroads on. Its 313cc engine provides enough power to be entertaining, while its suspension offers a pliable ride that doesn't bottom out every time you glance at a pothole.
In fact, the only real downsides to the G 310 GS would be the slightly cramped cockpit, which is mostly put down to its surprisingly comfortable stepped seat, and the factory Metzeler tyres which offer a good amount of gravel confidence but are by and large a road tyre.
Switching to the Mitas E-09 tyre for the 2019 NZ GS Rallye, proved that the little GS doesn't need much to really up its game. In fact, the simple swap to new rubber really transformed the ability of the G 310 GS. Despite the knobbly appearance, road manners are barely affected while the G 310 absolutely rips along loose surfaces.
Like the bigger GS bikes, the G 310 has the ability to have the ABS braking turned off for loose surface riding and unlike other bikes in the class can be disengaged and re-engaged on the fly.
Adopting the stand-up and be counted position and putting my best ‘I’m a seasoned adventurer’ face on, I wound open the throttle and went in search of the loose stuff.
Departing home base slightly ahead of the main pack with a pair of riders, the ease of the route sheet navigation method – which was the mode of choice for the Rallye organisers – was immediately clear. All you need is a pair of eyes (okay, one eye will actually do), a working odometer and the ability to follow basic instructions to sufficiently get from point A to point Z.
Navigating our way North to Waipu saw the weather turn with a downpour seeing many riders pause to don their waterproofs. However, the rain couldn’t put a dampener on the roads we were about to turn onto with the picturesque Waipu gorge road providing the first taste of the hidden gems the area has for those willing to step off the seal.
The day only got better from here, and by the time we emerged back into the main highway again the rain had long since stopped and we had ridden some fantastic roads on our way to Dargaville.
After stopping up fuel for both rider and machine, the winding route saw us return to a mixture of winding roads and gravel tracks before our eventual return to Mangawhai. By now the 80 or so riders were spread out and trickled back to base cap at the Mangawhai Hall, with only a couple needing to utilise the services of the BMW MOTORRAD supplied support vehicle to complete the journey.
While it will never be as agile as a full-on trail bike, with the combination of the reversed engine and lightweight chassis, it was a confidence-inspiring ride. Exactly what a bike aimed at bringing riders into the GS lifestyle should be. When the hero GS costs in excess of $30,000, the ‘baby GS is sure to continue the G 310 R in growing the BMW brand in the LAMS segment.