BMW G310GS blog: Final opinion after 8 months

John Milbank, BikeSocial Consumer Editor
By John Milbank
BikingMilbank BikeSocial Consumer Editor, John owns a KTM 1050 Adventure. He's as happy tinkering in the workshop as he is on twisty, bumpy backroads, and loves every bike ever built (except one). He's bought three CBR600s, two Ducati Monsters, several winter hacks, three off-roaders, a supermoto pit bike, a Honda Vision 50 and built his own custom XSR700. 

 

Mileage: 2,287 and 1,383| Power: 34bhp | Torque: 21lb-ft | Weight: 169.5kg | Price: £5,100

 

Defending the BMW G310GS has been a fight at times. First there was the criticism that it was made in India (really – that actually seemed to upset some people). Then came the claims it was too vibey (for a single, it doesn’t seem it to me). Then I was told it was too slow (it’s fine on backroads and UK motorways). And finally I was told – by someone who’d previously raved about it – that the little 310 wasn’t worthy of the GS moniker (Gelände/Straße, or off-road/road) that’s been seen on BMWs since the R 80 G/S of the 1980s…

 

Does the BMW G310GS deserve to be called a GS?

Yes, I honestly think it does. I’m not a great off-road rider, but I enjoy exploring off the beaten track at times. I recently sold my KTM 1050 Adventure – it was a brilliant machine, but the off-road ability was wasted on me; it’s just too heavy.

The same goes for the mighty R1200GS / R1250GS – while I’ve learned to ride one properly off road at the highly recommend BMW Off Road Skills course, I know that if I did slip up, or get horribly cross-rutted, picking up 249kg of bike is not easy. And it’s expensive to damage.

The G310GS weighs just 169.5kg ready to ride, so it’s easy to pick up. And as I know from experience, if you do drop it, very little touches down.

John Mitchinson is owner of Rally Raid Products in Northamptonshire, and despite being a high-level enduro rider, he loves the little GS thanks to its light weight. But he also knows what could be better, which is why his company produces upgraded suspension, spoked wheels and other useful accessories for it.

A more experienced off-roader will rightly tell you that the soft, relatively bouncy suspension of the G310GS isn’t up to much. Ask me though, as someone happy just pottering around on green lanes, and I’ll tell you it’s fine. Having ridden the Rally Raid-modified version, the improvements are excellent, but to me that makes for a great ownership path – enjoy the bike as it is until you reach the limits of the suspension. If or when that happens, consider some of Rally Raid’s upgrades and you’ll have a superbly-tuned machine.

BMW G310GS final verdict review

From solo Norfolk byways to local firetrails with my wife on the back, the G310GS has been more than capable for me

 

So is the BMW G310GS an adventure bike?

Of course it is. Unless your idea of an adventure is thrashing across countries by motorway.

My idea of a motorcycle adventure can be as simple as grabbing half a day at the weekend to explore new roads and green-lanes, or planning a big trip down through the back-roads of France and into Spain. The G310GS would be great for that.

To others, it could be exploring deep into eastern countries, tackling tough trails and camping each night. They might need to carry everything they need for several months. Honestly, that’s beyond me for the foreseeable future, and while the G310GS could do it, there would be better bikes; having bought a Royal Enfield Himalayan, round-the-world rider Nathan Millward swears by his machine, not least because of its huge luggage capacity – he can quite literally strap bags all over it.

The mini-GS is designed to take a top-box and not much else, but that’s been fine for me; in fact, I fitted the Givi top box rack to it, and with my way-overloaded 52litre Trekker box on board, I didn’t have any problems with the steering. Equally, with the Moto Fizz Camping Seat Bag strapped to the back in place of the top-box, even with 29kg in, the BMW handled fine.

 

What’s the BMW G310GS like as a day-to-day bike?

The light weight and very nimble handling makes it great in the city – you can really carve through traffic and you’re unlikely to feel overwhelmed by it. I added the Givi luggage rack, along with Barkbusters handguards (for extra protection as well as warmth through wind-deflection) and some R&G crash protection.

There’s enough space under the seat for some Rok-Straps and a disk-lock, and while I didn’t fit any electrical accessories (besides a TomTom Rider) while I had the bike, the alternator can handle it.

To be sure, I wired in a set of Oxford heated grips (drawing about 3A), a Keis heated jacket (pulling 5.4A) and a pair of Keis trousers (2.9A); at idle, with the full 11.3A of extra load, the voltage across the battery dropped from 14.6V to 13.6V. Just above idle and it was back up to 14.3V. With the heated grips turned off, even at idle the alternator was delivering 14.4V to the battery: even with everything on full power, the GS would appear to be able to maintain its charge while riding.

BMW G310GS final verdict review

Even with a load of luggage on the back, the G310GS was fine for my level of off-road ability

 

Is the G310GS engine powerful enough?

That depends on what you want to do with it. To commute every day, to hack around back roads and to power up UK motorways at 80mph it is, but take a pillion and luggage, and you might be wishing for more.

It’s got a power-to-weight ratio of 0.2bhp/kg, while an R1250GS puts out 0.5bhp/kg; if you need the power, spend the money. If you’re interested, a BMW 318i Sedan delivers 0.09bhp/kg. The 3.0litre M3 is about the same ratio as the G310GS. Pub bragging rights of course – the M3 also kicks out 0.3lb-ft of torque for every kilogram, compared to 0.1lb-ft from the 310 (the R1250GS manages 0.4lb-ft per kilo).

 

Is the G310GS engine refined, or is it really vibey?

Several journalists (who I very much respect) have said that the BMW has a vibey engine, but I don’t agree – sure, you can feel it, but it’s a single-cylinder. I’ve never found it uncomfortable, and even with the pegs’ rubbers pulled out for off-road riding, it’s not felt buzzy through them, the bars or the seat.

The mirrors do show the vibration however, and while you can easily see what’s behind you, it’s harder to spot details (like the word ‘police’). It also doesn’t sound that great, with an asthmatic gasp and uninspiring engine (it sounds better with Rally Raid’s Scorpion exhaust).

And the bodywork, while solid and well-finished (it was getting this right that contributed to the bike being delayed at launch), does buzz a bit at times; not something that helps the budget (for a BMW) image.

Worst of all though is the clutch, which makes a horrible screaming sound if you slip it at high revs, for instance when nailing it away from the lights after filtering between cars. Adam Mitchinson, who completed the Australia APC rally this year on a 310 said the noise stopped eventually. This bike’s only done 1,383 miles, but the one I had before had covered nearly 2,300 and still did it.
BMW G310GS final verdict review

My sidestand collapsed a few days before a global recall was announced…

 

Has the G310GS got any problems or faults?

Ah, now… this is why I’ve had two 310s, and also what’s made defending the bike ever harder.

In June this year, I rolled my long-term test GS out of the garage, getting ready to clean it. I left it on its stand and went back inside to grab my kit. There was a crash and it was on its side; the bracket that held the side-stand had snapped in half, leaving the bike to fall over.

As the bracket is part of the frame, the whole thing would have to be stripped down.

The problem had only just come to light, and repair would take time. A strengthening piece was developed that could be fitted to bikes made before the frame was redesigned, but many customers faced having their frames completely replaced due to signs of fracturing. I was fortunate in that BMW had a second bike on its press fleet, which I took on to replace the first one I had.

There was talk of the problem being due to people standing on their pegs with the stand down – I hadn’t done this, but to be honest, I’d expect any bike (especially an adventure bike) to be capable of this.

I’ve seen comments about issues with water pump seals and starter motors, but haven’t had any problems myself. What I have suffered with though is a leaking output shaft seal – a drip of oil hanging from the level sight-glass window was the first tell, and I soon tracked it back to behind the front sprocket. It’s not losing much, but it’ll need replacing – Balderston BMW in Peterborough tells me it’d be a relatively simple job, and that they would of course loan a bike while it’s repaired.

BMW G310GS final verdict review

If a fracture occurs, or the bush breaks off entirely like it did for me, a new frame is required

 

The headlight’s pretty annoying too; not for me – it’s reasonably bright and has a good spread – but for car drivers. It vibrates badly, bouncing up and down to the point that my wife told me it was unbearable when I was following her. Where it does fall down for the rider is on main beam – the foreground is darker than on dip, so some decent spot lights (like the Denalis I’ve used on other bikes) would help here.

The handlebars also came loose on the second bike after riding it off-road – it was only slight, but there was play in there around the damping bushes. Tightening them up requires removing the top clamp and bar, then nipping the bolt and its nut up. The guys at Rally Raid say this is common, but once nipped up, the bars don’t need doing again.

BMW G310GS final verdict review

The headlight can be really irritating for drivers ahead of you

 

Should I buy a BMW G310GS?

I’m often asked if I’d buy a bike I’m in the process of reviewing with my own money, as if it’s the question that trumps all other opinions. Reviewing bikes and kit for a living means you have to look at the intended audience and share what you think’s good, as well as point out any failings.

Having said that, despite already owning a KTM 1050 Adventure, for the first few months of riding the GS, I did wonder if it’d make a good second machine to allow me to explore off the tarmac. But as time has gone by, I’ve found myself wanting a bit more performance – not because I need more, but just for the sheer thrill. And that’s because, at heart, I’m a road rider. I also own a Honda MSX125, which I’ve modified to take on gentle trails (my Africa Grom) so I’m able to scratch that itch.

And honestly, the niggles and faults have put me off. But every manufacturer has recalls and issues, so I’ll leave you with the opinions of two owners…

BMW G310GS final verdict review

Kevin Fairburn’s owned his G310GS since March

 

BMW G310GS owner opinions

Kevin Fairburn’s been riding for 14 years, and bought his G310GS at the beginning of March 2018…

“My first bike was a Honda CB500 that I paid £400 for – I completely rebuilt it from the ground up but was so disappointed on the ride to the MOT station that I sold it the following day! Next was a like-new 1999 Kawasaki ZX9-R – as an inexperienced rider, that scared me half to death most of the time, but it was my baby. I later sold it and foolishly bought a 2004 Kawasaki Z750 as my then girlfriend started riding pillion and I wanted something a bit more sensible. It was the worst bike I’ve ever owned.

“I only kept the Z750 for a month, then bought a 1996 BMW R1100R, which I partially restored and rode for a few years; a great bike. This was when my bike ownership got out of hand...

“At one time I owned four BMW C1s (I commuted on one for 12 months), a BMW R1100R, a GSX-R600 Alstare, a Tomos A3 (yes, someone still owns one) and a Puch Maxi. I then made efforts to clear out the scrap and concentrate on having one decent bike, so in 2015 I bought a brand new BMW R NineT on PCP. I absolutely loved that bike but foolishly sold it at the end of that riding season. Having missed it I got another in 2016, but this time the all-aluminium Sport version. This I again sold at the end of 2016 for a bit more comfort, and in got a BMW R1200R Sport – a world away from the NineT, however a bit old-manish perhaps for a 30 odd year old! That went at the end of 2017, which brings me up to the little G310GS. Alongside all those bikes I dabbled in a few classic BMWs (R65 and R100GS, but never really rode those, and a couple of TTR250's – one Raid and one Open Enduro). I guess I've had quite a few when you look back on it.”

 

Why did you buy a BMW G310GS?

“A friend suggested we rekindle our youth and bought one, so it seemed like a good idea at the time. I hadn't ridden one but decided a small bike might be a bit of fun and perhaps slow me up on the daily ride to work. Luckily my commute takes in some wonderful back roads that I’ve known all my life, however the big bikes egg you on and some days it felt like I was pushing myself towards an early grave, or at least collecting several points from her majesty's revenue collectors!

“I also looked at the money side of things. I got this bike on a great PCP deal so I pay under £65 per month on the bike, and its residual was over £2,500 at three years old with 12,000 miles on the clock.”

 

What do you use it for?

“It’s a great commuter as it gives excellent fuel economy, and it’s small enough to dart in and out of rush hour traffic and have fun on without getting nicked. I average 26 miles a day, and have thought about doing some green-laning.

“I have a soft bag attached to the rear rack and also wear a rucksack, which is enough for my work clothes and packed lunch.”

 

Have you changed anything, or would you?

“The first things I changed were the indicators, to LED units, which are much brighter and look better. I then fitted a taller tinted screen from Powerbronze, and also a set of their handguards, which help to stop the cold wind blowing up my arms.

“I’ve also fitted spotlights, a tracker and an R&G Radiator guard to protect the radiator from stone damage… you spend quite a bit of time following cars on a 310.”

 

What’s the best thing about it?

“It’s like riding a 125 when you were 17, trying to squeeze every last one of the 34 horses out of the little engine. If you get your head out of big bike mode it’s actually a lot of fun!”

 

What’s the worst thing?

“No heated grips and no centre stand. Both are supposed to be coming but as of yet keep getting delayed and it’s bloody freezing at this time of year!”

 

What’s it cost to run and maintain?

“It’s getting around 73mpg in regular use, which is twice that of the car, so it’s very nearly paying for itself right now. I also save about 15 minutes per journey. Services are every 6000 miles or a year, which I don't expect to be too expensive, and I’ll probably trade it before anything major is needed.

“I hit some black ice earlier in the year and put the bike down the road. The damage was mostly down one side, and I think because it was so slippery it saved the bike doing an end-over-end. Some new panels, new handlebars and exhaust trims and it was back up and running. Parts are surprisingly cheap – the greater cost was to my riding gear, but it did its job and goes to show that the right gear works! Oh, and I’ve since fitted some crash bars…”

 

Have you had any problems?

“Mine had the recall for the side-stand problem. When I first heard about this issue my assumption was that someone had obviously overloaded a bike, bringing a rare issue to light. But when the modification to the stand was looked at on mine, it turned out that I had to have an entirely new frame under warranty, due to a hairline crack.

“It hasn’t put me off though – this is the same great bike that becomes more and more a friend every day.”

 

How long will you keep it and what will you get next?

“I usually change my bikes regularly, but because of the low monthly payments I may just keep it for the commute for the next three years, and get something else for the Sunday ride. I can’t help but long for a big GS!”

BMW G310GS final verdict review

Owner Roger Bickerstaff just wishes BMW had a decent selection of aftermarket parts available

 

Roger Bikerstaff bought his G310GS in April, having ridden for 44 years…

“I’ve owned a variety of bikes before this – Suzuki, Norton, Triumphs, MZs, Hondas, BSA, Yamaha, and BMWs. I chose the 310 after riding one as a loan bike when my RT was in for service. I was just enchanted by it, and watching the BikeSocial video of its launch in Spain swung the decision.”

 

What do you use it for?

“Mainly fun rides and its ability to meander the country lanes; I’ve rediscovered the endearing charm of a small bike ridden around the beautiful British countryside, and do about 3,000 miles per year… I’d love to ride it in Europe too.”

 

Have you changed anything, or would you?

“I’ve added a BMW accessory power socket and an after-market centre stand from Germany. I’m also waiting on a front mudguard extension and rear hugger.

“I have a Radiator guard and a Wünderlich side-stand foot plate, and am looking at options for engine bars, a taller screen and a metal sump guard.

“I am disappointed that BMW so far hasn’t supported the bike with heated grips or a centre stand. Hopefully the accessory market will develop…”

 

What’s the best thing about it?

“It’s got to be the machine’s ability to surprise the rider with its performance. Not to mention the light weight and economy. It’s such a fun ride with great ergonomics.”

 

What’s the worst thing?

“The suspension is a little basic, and the stepped seat restricts the ability to move back on a long ride. Oh, and the horn is pathetic.”

 

What’s it cost to run and maintain roughly?

“The first service cost £140, but it’s too soon to estimate devaluation.”

 

Have you had any problems?

“After going to the dealer for the side-stand recall work, I discovered I’d have to have a whole new frame fitted, which took a long time to arrive.

“The frame had been examined previously and was deemed safe – apparently there are two alternative modifications, and when my GS was examined to establish which was required, the frame again passed inspection. But after the proposed one-hour job stretched to three hours, I was invited into the manager’s office to be told a new frame was required.

“I still love the bike, which is also well received in the G310GS forum; I’m just disenchanted with BMW’s poor after sales support – all the parts I’ve added are aftermarket. Is BMW missing a trick, or is its head too high in the cloud of its more prestigious, larger capacity models?”

 

How long will you keep it and what will you get next?

“I’m planning to keep it for a long time for solo use as I’m running it alongside an R1200RT, which I use when my wife is accompanying me as pillion. I’ve no plans to replace either, but having said that, in January I didn’t know I’d get this baby GS!”

 

2018 BMW G310GS specification

New price

£5100

Capacity

313cc

Bore x Stroke

80x62.1mm

Engine layout

Single cylinder

Engine details

Reversed orientation,
liquid-cooled DOHC

Power

34hp (25kW) @ 9,500rpm

Torque

21 lb-ft (28Nm) @ 7,500rpm

Average fuel consumption

85mpg (World Motorcycle
Test Cycle)

Tank size

11 litres

Max range to empty (theoretical)

206 miles

Rider aids

ABS (switchable while riding)

Frame

Steel trellis

Front suspension

41mm upside down forks

Front suspension adjustment

None

Rear suspension

Monoshock

Rear suspension adjustment

Preload

Front brake

1 x 300mm disc, Bybre four-piston
radially-mounted caliper

Rear brake

240mm disc, Bybre two-piston caliper

Front tyre

110/80 R19 Metzeler Tourance

Rear tyre

150/70 R17 Metzeler Tourance

Wheelbase

1420mm

Seat height

835mm

Kerb weight

169.5kg

Website

www.bmw-motorrad.co.uk

For a competitive insurance quote here

 

Latest News from Bike Social

Latest News

  • Hex Innovate GS-911 bmw diagnostics
    Full BMW Diagnostic tool available to all riders
  • Rider Skills: How not to crash on left handers
    Rider Skills: How not to crash on left handers
  • 10 genuinely useful gifts for bikers | Real reviews
    10 genuinely useful gifts for bikers | Real reviews
  • Custom Works Zon BMW prototype engine
    BMW hints at its cruiser future