Three groups did a similar 1200-km loop, mostly on G310Gs all with around 30,000 rental kms on the clock. The 310 engines and finish are still great in mostly dry Morocco, gearboxes work fine, but neutral is hard to select (as it was on the old Tornados) and the shock damping is not what it was (which was never that much). There are no leaks from the USDs and for wear and tear, that’s about it. The worse mpg was 75, best was an amazing 112 or 39kpl. We got 12 litres into the supposed 11-litre tank with ‘1km’ indicated on the range.
Bike problems over a cumulative ‘21,000km’ (1200 x 3 x 6) included a persistent flat battery on the same bike which we deduced must be down to an intermittent electrical fault somewhere, probably as a result of vibration from rough tracks. There were no punctures on the Mitas Terra Force TL tyres and one smashed front wheel from an unlucky fall which smacked into a square-edged rock. Oh, and another sidestand failure (a known 310 weak point and new frame warranty) literally coming to a halt back in the garage and even though they’ve been strengthened. So at this rate the 310s seem to be keeping up well with the old XR250 Tornados, but perhaps that’s because renters don’t take them onto the tracks the which Honda could manage easily.
In April 2018 a couple of us tested two brand new but modified rental G310GSs in the High Atlas, alongside one of the aged XR250 Tornados these bikes were replacing. A year later I’ve now had a chance to ride for several weeks with or on more rental GS310s, effectively covering 11,000 rider kilometres, with me accounting for 2200km.
In a line
Enough poke and agility to be a fun canyon bike and, all things considered, satisfactory on the dirt,.
• Indian build still keeping up
• Efi motor fuels smoothly at all altitudes
• Great brakes and easily switchable rear ABS
• Mitas E-07/ Metz Karoo 3 do-it-all tyres better than stock Anakees
• 19″ front wheel ideal road/trail compromise
• Suspension surprisingly well damped
• Chunky looking subframe should manage loads fine
• Very good economy – I averaged 90 mpg (75 US; 31.8kpl; 3.13L/100k)
• Range from the 11-litre tank well over 300km, or about 200 miles
• Hallelujah, a near-proper toolkit!
• Useful dash data too, scrolled or edited with one button
• Yes it’s 169kg wet (claimed) but like they say of a GS12, it carries it well
• Side stand bracket breaks off at the frame – recall up to May 2019 (see below)
• Thin seat lasts a couple of hours
• Tank panels too wide for comfortable off-road standing
• Over geared; could easily lose a tooth off the front sprocket
• Some bikes had starting issues at <5°C
• Still stalls occasionally when pulling away or cold
• Mirrors blur above 90kph as vibes set in
• ABS malfunction with spoke-wheel conversion (non-factory mod)
Now with 10,000km on the clock, give or take, the bikes I used on my tours had loosened up noticeably since the new 310s we tried in April. Selecting neutral is still difficult from a standstill, but at higher or lower revs, they pulled better and felt less harsh.
The first 310 I used was a spoked conversion with a brand new Metz Karoo on the front and a worn E-07 on the back. Once the Karoo’s unnerving edginess quickly wore down, or the Moroccan backroads we ride, this (or similar) is a much better tyre combination than the stock Anakee road tyres. No surprise there: on your typical gravel-strewn, bendy Moroccan mountain road, the Michelin rolls sideways over gravel patches, where the widely blocked Karoo or 07 find grip sooner. And once aired down to 2 bar (28psi), on full dirt the blocked tyres obviously provided more reassurance.
This time on both 310s I used I bothered to jack up the rear shock at the end of day one. The job’s easily done with the under-seat toolkit: pull off the LHS side panel with a 5mm hex key and with the C-spanner I cranked up the shock to max or one below. With my 100kg-in-kit and 10-kilo load the bike rode much better over lumpier highway bends and on the dirt – occasionally bottoming out where you’d expect it to. You can’t adjust the forks but, like the F700GS I also rode for a week, for a budget bike BMWs stock set up was much better than many Jap bikes I’ve owned.
This time round I meddled with the dash too. Besides rpm, gear position, fuel level and time of day, you can scroll through read-outs for: odo, 2 trips, engine temperature, date, current and average kpl and remaining range. The only one I miss there is ambient temp, but I didn’t have difficulty reading it as I did in April. It was the way with many of the GS’s small irritations we registered back then: after a while you just get used to them.
A good example was the wide 11-litre tank – or tank casing (left) which helps bulk up the 310’s look. Many riders found it annoying when trying to stand up and get their weight forward, and (depending on your footwear) the narrow footrests don’t help. Or so I thought, but after a couple of days I didn’t notice or just gave up standing up as the bars were a bit too low and anyway, I’m a bit lazy.
A couple of riders could have used the 15mm lower saddle option and others, like me, could have done with bar risers. Comfort wise, the secret with all duff saddles is get off every hour, which I Morocco we end up doing. Failing that, standing up into the 90-kph breeze is all you can do. The screen too looks ineffective, it’s just a layer of the front cowling but it works as an air lip, jetting air up without the in-your-face plastic which, BMW say, newbie riders don’t like. I used mine to lash down waterproofs and can’t say I noticed the wind blast, but I rarely exceeded 90kph (55mph). In the rain no air-dam effect will keep it off you. I’m sure the usual aftermarket suspects have released full height options.
One thing that really needs changing is the tall gearing. The rental agency told me it runs a 19T on the front – unusually large. Most others say stock is 16T and that a 15T works much better. As it is, a 310GS is over-geared and won’t pull to the red line in top. I briefly clocked 140kph with a few hundred rpm left (claimed top speed is 144kph/89mph). So dropping a tooth may allow it to rev out at the top end while making the GS hopefully less stall prone and more manageable at low speeds. Many times riders would stall and stall pulling away from cold. It could be unfamiliarity with the low-down gutlessness not helped by the short range of clutch movement, but lower gearing would surely help.
Almost every time I recorded it, I got the best fuel consumption of the group, probably helped by the fact that I’m paying for the fuel, knew the roads and wasn’t on holiday. The highest is got was 93mpg with others on 310s mostly in the mid-80s and as low as 78mpg. BMW claim an average of 85 (3.33k/100L) which seems spot on. So our figures give a range of between 300km and 360km from the 11-litre tank (conversion table, right). The fuel light comes on with a good two litres left. This fuel consumption was better than the aged Tornados being replaced.
On one circuit an R1200GSLC ridden at our moderate, sub 100-kph pace got no better than 66mpg, so this may be just about the best possible mpg from this powerful machine, which is well over 400km range.
Problems with our G310GSs
• A couple of the bikes with the wire wheel conversion had malfunctioning ABS: the ABS ring sensor was probably slightly mispositioned. • One one wet morning and on a couple of chilly <5°C mornings, a couple of the bikes wouldn’t start straight away. One guy ending up jump starting, needing to get into 4th gear. To be precise, if you didn’t get the engine to fire up first time, it took a minute or three to catch, initially misfiring before firing properly. Switching off to possibly reset something, and ‘no throttle’ seemed to do the trick.
The agency has had a few breaking sidestand mounts; a couple on one of my tours on a biker with 15,000km. The skimpy mount is part of the frame, not bolted to it, so is a tricky repair to do well. Post May 2018s were redesigned, they say. We didn’t notice worn cush-drive rubbers.
Perhaps because it’s trying to disingenuously capitalise on the reputation of the bigger GSs by brand association alone, the 310GS isn’t a bike riders warm to. The buzzy engine lacks grunt and like any machine tbis size, needs to be wrung out to get a move on. On my previous tours riders often came back looking for something like the 250 Tornado, they’d just ridden (often ending up with a CRF), but none of the mature riders expressed the same interest in adding a BMW’s mini GS to their fleets, far less a sole bike. Try one out on a flat open road and – like any road bike of this capacity – you’ll be underwhelmed unless you’ve only ever ridden smaller machines.
But on the 1100 clicks we cover over a week, its no exaggeration to say we swing through thousands of bends, and up in the mountains, through the canyons and over High Atlas passes, the 310GS is all the bike you need. It’s not fast enough to get you in trouble, it’s not heavy enough to get out of shape, and it has enough braking, grip and chassis stability to keep you on the right side of the Armco.
On the trail the stock tyres will hold you back, as does the weight and modest suspension travel. But ridden within these limits and your own ability the GS manages fine on gravel tracks and briefly rough sections, while still being a fun backroad bike. Asking round the dinner table on the last night, we all agreed the G310GS scored a solid 7/10.
In a line Great-looking mini GS that’s not at all bad for what it is, but don’t kid yourself it’s anything other than a 30-hp road-bike motor packed into a 170-kilo bike.
Note: this was a brand new bike but with several non-standard mods. More below.
• Feels like a full-size mini GS • Indian-made build quality looks solid • Efi motor runs smoothly up to 2200m/7200′ • Great brakes and easily switchable ABS • * Mitas E-07/ Metz Karoo 3 do-it-all tyres better than stock • 19″ front wheel great on road and trail • Suspension, including USD forks, surprisingly well damped • Good economy – averaged 88 mpg (73.2 US; 31.3kpl; 3.21L/100k) • Range looks good too; well over 300km or about 200 miles • Yes it’s 169kg wet (claimed) but like a GS12, it carries it well.
• Thin, soft seat • Occasional stalling off 1st gear • Mirrors blur above 90kph as vibes set in • LCD display a bit hard to read in bright sun • Tiny screen • * G650GS spoke wheel conversion loses tubeless feature • * Clanking DIY bashplate and front fender hits DIY engine bar on compression • It’s only a ‘310’
Review In Morocco Honda XR250 Tornado imports stopped a couple of years back and the Marrakech rental agency I use for my fly-in tours is finally replacing their weary 7-year old XRs with the BMW G310GS. Honda’s newer CRF250L had been a contender too, but Honda Morocco don’t list it. As it is, the 310s suit the agency’s BMW profile and their brilliant, unkillable Tornados, some with over 100,000km on the clock, have paid for themselves many times over. It will be interesting to see if the 310GS stand up as well and for as long. I flew out for three days with two mates, both experienced desert and overland riders. At the end of it neither were that excited by the 310; it’s a big bike with a small engine. I myself was pleasantly surprised.
Performance Officially, BMW claim the 310GS makes 34hp at 9500rpm. An independent dyno run here shows it’s more like 30hp and Cycle World got a similar figure (left). No great surprise there; most official manufacturers’ figures are optimised. Although the bike doesn’t feel that heavy once on the move, the additional 20% of power over a regular 250 is negated by a similar weight gain adding up to a claimed 169kg. Coming down the twisty R203 back to Marrakech, the old Tornado (135kg) could just about keep up. Climbing up to the pass it struggled, especially once the carb started choking on the elevation. I never revved the 310 over 5-6000rpm, nor really needed or wanted to; the efi helps it pull smoothly but above 6000 it all got unpleasantly buzzy. And yet, according to the Cycle World power graph it’s only making 20hp at 6000rpm after which the extra 10hp pile in. Even then, I suspect that like any bike this size, riding across Spain on a mission to Morocco wouldn’t be much fun. Brakes were great as you’d expect. On the dirt it was the weight and suspension which held us back alongside the XR, and on road or trail I tend not to brake hard to maintain momentum. I forced the ABS on a couple of times to see how it responded and, with no frights, was happy to leave it on. Overall it’s a huge potential benefit, especially on the front. The slightly notchy gearbox I can forgive at such low mileage, but the occasional stalling on pulling away or at low rpm was irritating and I read is not unique to our two GSs. It’s possibly a gutless, negligible-flywheel small-bike knack to overcome with experience and more rpm. Cutting out as I tried to ease round a steep hairpin without feathering the clutch nearly tipped me over. You’d hope a remap at a service may iron this out.
Economy and range Over three fill ups my 310 averaged 88 mpg/73.2 US – 31.3kpl – 3.21L/100k. The official BMW website claims 3.33L/100km (94mpg) which like the hp, also sounds massaged. Still, that was some 20% more than the 88,000-km old XR which, with the same sized 11-litre tank, completed a 230km loop on fumes. Meanwhile, it looked like the 310 was good for at least 300km at that consumption. But – I hardly ever exceeded 90kph (56mph) at which point the vibes set in. As I often observe with these small-bike mpg comparisons, if I rode a bigger bike like my XSR and especially the ultra frugal CB500X RR at such modest speeds, I bet (in fact, I have) got similar fuel mileage, but with the benefit of proper overtaking and cruising speeds when wanted or needed. It’s possible of course that the mileage could improve as the bike runs in, and that our lowered 21/25 psi tyre pressures didn’t help efficiency.
Build quality Looking the new bike over, there’s nothing glaringly cheap or shoddy to suggest this bike is made in the same place they build Enfield Bullets. Paint, welds, plastics, assembly and finish all look well up to BMW’s standards. That may all change after a few months rental use. At the end of the first day’s piste bashing we thumped and waggled various bits to make sure nothing had come loose or broken, but apart from the fender and non-stock crash bar or bashplate clanking, all looked in order. Under the seat was a handbook in Turkish and a near-proper toolkit which included spindle spanners (won’t fit the new spoke wheel nuts) and a C-spanner for the shock. And for load-carrying duties the rear subframe looked a lot more chunky than what you’d find on a CRF250L for example.
Suspension I was pleasantly surprised or should I say relieved by the springing. Weighing 92kg (Simon is nearer 70kg), I was expecting the hefty GS with 180mm/7 inches oftravel to cripple me on the dirt- or on broken roads. The 310 was certainly slower on the dirt than the clapped-out XR, but road or trail the spring rates and suspension damping felt unusually good compared to cheaply sprung Jap bikes like my XSR before I did it up. Like any big or modestly sprung bike, as long as you progressed smoothly, rough roads and trails were fine. On our bikes the front fender pushed against the DIY engine crash bar and somehow rubbed on the tyre knobs underneath (you can hear it in the video above at 2:48). They ought to fix that before the fender cracks. If I owned a G310GS I’d fit some firmer forks springs and consider a shock spring, but it’s a relief to have half-decent suspension out of the crate, as I recalled on the F650GS SE from 2012. The USD forks aren’t adjustable but USDs usually have better action than conventional forks; the back shock can be cranked with a C-spanner once you remove the LHS side panel. We thought about it but didn’t bother.
The Rally Raid G310GS RR kit
Following their deservedly successful Honda CB500X RR conversion which I also used in Morocco, Rally Raid have developed a similar kit for the G310GS in their quest for supporting smaller machines to use as real-world, all-road travel bikes. I’ve not seen, far less ridden this bike but there’s a lengthy development thread on the advrider vendor forum, and on the same website Jenny Morgan has just set off to ride a new 310GS RR along the Trans America Trail, as she did with a CB500X RR a couple of years back. Rally Raid’s kit replicates some of what Loc2roues have done to the 310s we rode: proper bash plate and engine guard, hand guards, tail rack, all-road tyres and a conversion to spoked wheels. IMO this last modification is redundant on a road-oriented travel bike – this isn’t a WR250 – but at least Rally Raid offer to make the spoked wheels (1150g lighter up front; 2kg heavier at the back) tubeless which is a real benefit on the road. Beyond that, Rally Raid will do you a taller screen, suspension improvements, swaps and height increases, bar risers, lighter pipes and other accessories, but I see no wider footrests listed, nor a seat. I’d imagine they’ll get round to those. You could spend over two grand to end up with a slightly heavier but much more functional bike that still only makes 30-hp. But heck, it sure looks good and the suspension upgrades ought to eat up the trails.
Road riding Coming back over the High Atlas with the tyres back at 2 bar (BMW manual recommends a rather low 1.7-1.9 bar), me ‘broken in’ to the machine and in a bit of a rush to catch the plane, the 310 swung effortlessly through the hundreds of bends up and down the R203 Test n Test road. Along with me knowing this road well, great ABS brakes the now worn-in new Karoo 3 tyre on a 19-inch wheel all helped with stability and confidence to make the GS fun to ride.
But on a flat straight road and reluctant to cane the new engine, the 310 feels little better than a 250, albeit still adequate for the quiet Moroccan backroads. Initially the bike’s bulk can trick your brain into thinking you’re on a 650 until you try and nip past something. This is to be expected with any bike of this size and weight, but at 90kph the usefully wide mirrors blurred and the motor got unpleasantly buzzy. Top speed they say is 144kph/89mph but at the speeds we rode, the handling and brakes have little danger of being outrun by the engine’s performance; ideal for inexperienced riders, especially in wet conditions or on the dirt.
Comfort The seating position feels natural; for once I’m not cramped nor look it. But it took just a couple of minutes out of Marrakech to notice the thin and soft padding of the 835mm/33″ seat. I thought it might be a thinner, lowered option but was told it was standard. This was by far the worse thing on the 310, recalling my agony on the F650GS SE I rode here a few years back. Add the big step and it means you can’t slide back. As mentioned, the vibes over 6000rpm (about 100kph) make it uncomfortable to travel above this speed, but the vibes may fade with some miles or the engine smooth out at higher rpm. You sit fairly far back; the tiny screen was too short to be effective, although if crouched right down I could just get under the vented wind blast. Taller screens will be an easy fitment. I didn’t meddle much with the modes of the LCD display whose digits I found a bit thin or too small to read in bright sunshine, but all the basic functions are there, hopefully including the ability to swap between kph and mph when abroad.
Off road Swapping with the MTB-like XR on the trail, you notice straight away how much more slowly and carefully you need to pilot the 310. That’s to be expected for what it is (I keep saying this!), but it was still possible to roll along smoothly thanks to the efi, suspension and general layout (dropping the tyres to 21/25 definitely helped). The suspension never bottomed out hard, not did the ally bashplate clang on anything other than kicked-up stones or the engine.
Even without risers I (6′ 1″) could stand up with only a small stoop (above left), but after a while the narrow pegs became uncomfortable, even on my off-road boots, compelling me to sit back down. On the slow, rough track up to the 2200-m Tizi n Oumerzi pass the other two said the fans kicked in and the bikes were hard work, but when I took over on the smoother descent the 310 was great fun – to be honest like any adv bike, large or small. (With ambient temperatures up to 34°C, I myself never heard the fan come on. You wonder if the reversed engine – exhaust pipe at the back – may help keep the radiator cool).
Conclusion This new-ish 300-cc category is a bit obscure in the UK and much of the developed world; offering little extra over the well-established and huge selection of 250s. Elsewhere class or power categories may be different and must be where the main market for this bike lies (in India it costs about £3260). Before I rode it I assumed that the G310GS would be poor compromise for my sort of riding: too heavy and road-oriented for off-road exploring beyond smooth gravel tracks (like my current XScrambleR), but too underpowered on the open road in the face of hills, headwinds, traffic and payloads unless you cane the nuts off it (like last year’s WR250R). This may be so but inMorocco the GS felt right in its element. The easy trails and quiet, sub-100kph backroads suited the 310 (or any ‘250’, tbh). That ought to translate to a good small RTW travel bike where the last thing you actually need is a quarter-ton, 140-hp behemoth. But I’ve found choosing a bike with this little power depends a lot on your weight (if not your size), the load carried and your expectations. When overlanders settle for the clear-cut limitations of a 250 they hope to gain a more manageable machine off-road. You wont get that with the 310. For my one-week tours it’ll probably be more suited to experienced riders comfortable with its weight and bulk on the dirt; the lowish seat helps here over the annoyingly tall XR. So if you’ve owned a lot of bikes, large and small, the 310GS isn’t such an exciting proposition, but I’m sure its great looks, price, spec and bulk will lure newer, younger riders into the all-conquering Cult of GS.
Otherwise, at about the same price Honda’s new for 2021 CRF300L Rally might be worth a look: lighter, better protection and the similarly great looks which these image-conscious millennial demand. And it’ll surely be more nimble on the dirt.