Now that I’ve ridden the BMW G310 GS for 2000+ kms on the motorways and rural roads of France, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Germany, I’m ready to offer my two paisa on what I think of it as a touring motorcycle.
I’m amazed at the amount of power that the BMW and TVS engineers have managed to pack into this tiny 313 cc single cylinder engine. They have done something really nice to the gearing as well. There is a lot of grunt in the lower gears and the 6th gear is pretty tall, which gives it a amazing cruising temperament.
Between 80 kmph to 100 kmph in 6th gear you are left with the feeling that the engine is idling. There aren’t any noticeable vibrations apart from the gentle rumble to let you know that the engine is running. The sweet spot of this motorcycle is between 110 and 120 kmph. You can sit at this speed all day. I did. Quite literally.
The speed limit on the French motorways is 130 kmph. I sat to the right of the fast lane at 120 kmph for hours on end. The only time I moved up to 130 kmph was to change lane and overtake someone in front of me. The wonderful thing about this motorcycle is that the move 120 to 130 kmph involves a twist of the throttle and a few seconds. I didn’t need to change gear or wait endlessly for the motorcycle to gain speed. This pleasantly surprised me. It didn’t feel like I was riding a 313 cc motorcycle.
Although BMW states the top speed of the motorcycle to be 143 kmph, I managed to hit 150 kmph. Maybe I had some tail wind helping me. But then I’m not a light person. So I’m pretty sure someone lighter than me could easily manage to do more than 143 kmph.
After 130 kmph, the motorcycle starts feeling a little uneasy. At 140 kmph the uneasiness increases and the engine starts feeling stressed. At 150 kmph, all hell breaks loose and you start wondering when something will give way.
80 kmph is the speed limit on most Indian highways. But given the multitude of things that can go wrong on an Indian highway, I usually don’t ride faster than 120 kmph on my Triumph Tiger 800 XRx. So as far as highway cruising goes both motorcycles would effectively be similar for me.
Of course, every time I need to slow down for some idiot truck driver not driving in the slow lane, the Tiger would get me up to cruising speed faster. But I don’t think the 310 GS would be very far behind. It’s this rapid rise to cruising speed which I believe makes the 310 GS a mile muncher.
Having said this, something else happens to the 310 GS after 130 kmph. The wind blast starts to play havoc with the low weight of the motorcycle and the bike starts shaking. The shaking can get pretty nasty if you are tailing or trying to overtake a large vehicle. So like I said earlier, it’s best to sit tight between 110 and 120 kmph. The engine runs at around 7000 RPM at that speed, which is quite far away from the 10,000 RPM redline.
There is a good reason why cruisers and adventure bikes are heavy. Weight helps stabilise the motorcycle at high speeds. The 310 GS is a pretty light motorcycle. So even though you can wring its little neck and make it scream to go faster, it doesn’t mean that you should. This reminds me of the KTM 450 EXC that I rode in Mongolia. The bike was insanely powerful and insanely light. Not a good combination for high speed highway cruising. I had a tough time keeping it going straight on highways with severe cross winds.
There were two things I didn’t like about the 310 GS, both of which can be fixed. The wind deflector is useless. It channels the wind directly at my chin. Even if I wasn’t 6 feet tall, it would hit me in the head, rattling my helmet. I actually got a headache sitting at 120 kmph for hours just because of this. I don’t know what the BMW folks where thinking when they decided not to give the motorcycle a proper windshield. This motorcycle is capable of doing speeds which need a windshield.
The second is the handlebar. I would need at least 2 inch risers. I had to bend to reach forward and it ruined my sitting posture giving me a back ache. Once again, I don’t know what the BMW folks were thinking when they placed the handlebar. Even if this motorcycle isn’t designed for tall people, shorter folks have shorter hands. They would still need to lean forwards to grab the handlebar, which is pretty wide, I might add. An adventure motorcycle should have an upright riding position. The 310 GS quite simply doesn’t, irrespective of whether you are tall or short. Standing on the foot pegs and riding was quite simply out of the question for me. I felt that I would fly straight over the handlebar.
Another pleasant surprise for me was the seat. It’s extremely comfortable and really helps for long hours in the saddle. I would go on the say that the seat of the 310 GS is even better than that of my Tiger. I’m serious. It’s that good.
All in all, I think the BMW G310 GS is an awesome little motorcycle. If I was going on a long distance road trip involving just tarmac and maybe some light trails then I would take my Tiger. But if the road trip involved some serious off-roading, then I would take the 310 GS. The little Beemer would be able to handle the long distance to the off-road location and I’m guessing that due to its low weight I would be able to have fun with it off-road. I will need to ride this motorcycle off-road to know for sure. But I get the feeling that this could very well be the do-it-all single motorcycle that I’ve been waiting for.