A Babe In Boyland:
BMW’S G 310 R
To channel the Animals (something we do – maybe – once every 50 years) from 1965, in the spring of 2020 ‘we gotta get out of this place’. The walls are closing in, and regardless of how often you might go for a walk or jog or grab the bike, there’s a very real need to get some social distance from your everyday ‘everyday’. As you might know (and might not), there are few better ways of getting out of any place than on a motorcycle.
The romance of the open road was established with the building of the first road, but the motorcycle’s arrival – early in the last century – kicked it up a notch. In a convertible you can put the top down, and high-performance cars allow for triple-digit speeds, but nothing quite connects you with the scenery surrounding you and the destination ahead than a motorcycle. And while many are intimidated by its format (more horsepower – in most instances – than your dad’s Beetle, sitting between two wheels), that format is evolving with a renewed emphasis on beginner bikes, those small-displacement motorcycles with accessible price points and manageable horsepower.
Thanks to the Motorcycle Industry Council, an advocacy group for the motorcycle industry, I have in my garage and on the road a newly rendered example of that beginner bike, BMW’s G 310 R. This isn’t the now-collectible BMW I started on in 1974, a /5 twin whose modest weight and horsepower were still more than I needed as a beginner. Forty-six years later the buyer with an interest in riding can land in a BMW showroom with little more than the desire, a $5K credit limit and motorcycle safety training, and head into the sunset aboard the G 310 R.
With styling drawn from the naked superbike file, and an attention to detail not always found on inexpensive bikes from Japanese OEMs or India, the G 310 R could define entry-level two-wheeling. Its single-cylinder displaces 313 cc, delivering 34 horsepower and 21 lb-ft of torque via a 6-speed manual trans and chain drive. The $5,500 bike’s 54-inch wheelbase is anchored by 17-inch rims front and rear, while a relatively low seat height – roughly 31 inches, give or take – and 349-lb. all-up weight makes this the sort of bike a beginner wants to be on when doing the miles and (hopefully) building the confidence.
With all of that, I was hoping it might be the reentry vehicle an experienced rider might want if joining his or her buds for a morning breakfast run, years after separating from the sport. And it’s not. Despite just 5’6” of height (and trending downward…) and a 29” inseam, I felt cramped by the BMW’s proportions. In its sit-up-and-beg riding position, I felt too close to the bars and on top of the tank, rather than behind it. And while I didn’t expect much from a 300 cc single and 34 horsepower, I was hoping for a degree of refinement the G 310 R simply didn’t deliver. Going down the road left me searching for a parking lot, and not – notably – a brilliant vista or a 4-hour ride.
BMW, of course, builds some great motorcycles. The adventure variant of this, which BMW calls a G 310 GS, provides a higher seating position, a commanding view of your habitat, and – given its dual-purpose orientation – a better chance to rationalize its agricultural drivetrain. On the R, going down the highway, 50 miles per hour seems like work. On the G 310 GS, taking gravel backroads, that same 50 miles per hour will get you exactly where you need to go: Outta this place.