Get 'em young and keep 'em keen
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Premium motorcycle manufacturers have a problem in the modern market. Although they have plenty of bikes that riders lust after, these often don’t translate into sales because riders develop other brand allegiances early in their riding careers.
With competition for sales hotter than ever, getting young riders on board has become more important, and BMW Motorrad now has a solution.
The G 310 R is the first sub-500cc bike BMW Motorrad has sold new in New Zealand, with the platform already spawning a second variant in the soon-to-arrive G 310 GS, plus rumours of other models in the pipeline.
BMW previously had only one variant that could be considered a learner bike, the G 650 GS. It was discontinued this year, but had plenty of drawbacks, putting off learner riders not keen on the adventure styling, including a taller seat height.
The new G 310 R addresses many of the shortcomings of the G 650 GS. It’s a tight package suitable for any learner rider, or a rider considering a nimble bike for daily commuting duties.
Its seat height is just 785mm, perfect for those shorter in the inseam, and it weighs in at only 158kg ready to hit the road.
As soon as you swing a leg over the seat and settle in, the package as a whole feels easily manageable. The bars are low, in keeping with the roadster styling, but are easily within reach. When the bike was stationary, my feet comfortably reached the ground.
You do lean forward into a streetfighter-inspired position as a result of how low and flat the handlebars are, but it didn’t result in any discomfort during my ride.
As it’s a learner bike, you'd expect the engine to be anything but exciting, but that's thankfully not the case with the baby Beemer. At 313cc, the heart of the G 310 R is compact, but it puts out a very useable 25kW and 28Nm– plenty for in town or the highway.
The engine is a clever design with the cylinder leaning back towards the seat.
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This means the air intake and exhaust flip around so that air enters at the front, helps explode some dinosaurs in as effective
a manner as possible inside the cylinder head, before bursting out the back to complete its journey.
This configuration has also allowed BMW to keep the exhaust short, and importantly, keep excess heat away from the rider.
Overall comfort is not bad at all, but the levers are typical BMW Motorrad, meaning there is a bit of a reach to them.
Up front, you’ve got a nice big 300mm brake with a 4-piston caliper, while out back there is a 240mm disc and single piston combo, all backed by ABS and braided brake lines.
Out on the road there is plenty of power for the riders this bike is targeted at, with the machine easily able to reach the open road speed limit.
In town it feels sprightly, nipping in and out of traffic like a pro thanks to the steep steering angle and relatively short wheelbase.
Riding through the Karangahake Gorge outside Paeroa — one of the most enjoyable strips of road around — I soon found myself revelling in each and every turn.
Sure, the G 310 R is a small machine with a modest output, but you can grab it by the scruff of the neck and have a blast in the tight stuff.
There was a little vibration making its way from the single-cylinder powerplant despite the rubber-mounted handlebar, but with the bike yet to be fully run in, I’m willing to give it a little leeway in that department. It is a single-cylinder road bike after all, so a little vibration is part of the character.
The whole package comes in at a tight $7995 plus the usual on-road costs, which makes you think there must be some cost-saving somewhere to have a BMW of all things, cost so little.
We searched and found only a few places where BMW managed to save a few bucks on its new LAMS machine.
There is a lot of plastic in use, particularly on the sides of the fuel tank, and the dash unit is an LCD affair, not a TFT unit as the Austrian competition has employed on its sub-400cc contender.
Other than that, the bike oozes the same BMW Motorrad quality you see on the hero bikes. The switchgear is functional and high quality, there is no rust on any of the metalwork, and the bike overall feels exactly like a BMW should.
BMW is on to something here. Like a certain American brand, it appreciates that the key to success in the market these days is getting riders in early and building a relationship with them which will see them return for their next purchase.
BMW G 310 R
Engine: 313cc single-cylinder
Pros: BMW quality, flexible engine, excellent price point.
Cons: Not quite as advanced as its direct competitor from Austria