Everybody’s doing it. Launching small(ish) capacity nakeds, that is, usually with edgy styling and graphics. Yet, not long ago, 250s of any description were rare and finding anything between that and 500cc was next to impossible. Then along came Kawasaki with a 300 version of the Ninja 250R shortly followed by KTM with the 390 Duke.
Since then, almost everyone has seemingly planned or launched a sub-400cc naked, so BMWs entry into the market is not exactly unexpected. Like the KTM, it is built in India. Given the 125, 200 and 390 Dukes have generated a few comments about poor finish and questionable build, it’s perhaps also no surprise that BMW bang on at length about their efforts to ensure strict quality control…
That really will have to be a wait-and-see, but what can we tell about the new baby-Beemer on paper?
Tale of the tape
Inevitably, the BMW invites comparison with its KTM rival. And a glance at the spec sheets suggests the (Indo)German is going to get spanked. The bikes are similar in size, with the Duke’s wheelbase coming in at 1367mm and the G stretching to 1374. The seat is fractionally lower on the Beemer (785mm to 800mm). But the KTM is significantly lighter (139kg plays 158.5) and torquier (35Nm versus 28), with 10 more horsepower than the BMW’s 34. The 62cc capacity advantage of the KTM is key here, plus its single-cylinder lump is in a higher state of tune despite both bikes making their maximum output at 9,500 rpm.
In the performance stakes, at least, it looks like game, set and match to the KTM. But it could be a closer call against the Kawasaki Z3 and Yamaha’s yet-to-come-to-NZ new MT-03. Those parallel twins are more powerful, with 39 and 42 hp respectively, but both weigh 168kg and won't have the low-down punch of the BMW’s single.
In geometry terms the BMW is slightly more relaxed than average. All of these small roadsters have a steering angle of about 25-26º, but the BMW has 102mm of trail versus 100mm for the KTM and Yam, with the Kawasaki on a sharp 82mm. All have 110/70 front tyres but the twins settle on a 140/70 size for the rear while the KTM and BMW go for wider, lower profile 150/60s.
With relatively small differences in wheelbase (the Z3 is longest at 1405mm, followed by the Yam at 1380), it’s safe to say any of these bikes will turn on a dime. One interesting feature of the BMW is its reverse-design cylinder, with the intake at the front. The motor is also rotated to place mass further forward and allow a longer swing arm. That’s usually a good combination, making for sharp steering and stability.
Suspension adjustment doesn't feature on any of these small roadsters, apart from rear preload, but there are a few differences with frame set-up. Yamaha and Kawasaki use what they describe as a ‘diamond’ design (with the engine suspended as part of the frame), KTM save weight with a steel trellis while BMW describe the G 310 R’s as a ‘tubular steel frame in a grid structure’. With light weights and low horsepower, none of these modern frame designs are going to be troubled.
With a 300mm front disc and 240mm, the BMW has the biggest rotors in the class. Like the KTM, the front caliber is radially mounted. ABS is of course standard for all.
Braking performance is as much as matter of feel as specification, so it’s hard to judge on configuration alone, but the BMW’s set-up looks impressive on paper. The quality of tyres can also make big difference. OEM fitment on the Yamaha includes Michelin’s Pilot Road 4, which are hard to beat. No word yet on fitment for the BMW, but Metzler would seem an obvious choice.
Whether the G 310 R lights your fire will also come down to subjective considerations like the looks and whether the BMW badge holds more allure for you than something Japanese. For our money, it’s a sharp looker. Especially in the signature white, blue and red of BMW.
It looks unlikely to take the KTM’s crown in the mad/fun category, but it should be a nice ride and that reverse-cylinder layout is certainly intriguing. No word as yet on price, but BMW New Zealand tend to be pretty competitive.
Its level of success could well come down to the issue of quality, something that raised the odd eyebrow when KTM went down the Indian-built route with the little Dukes. So far, the KTMs have endured mixed reports. If BMW has found a way to guarantee constant high quality in their venture with TVS, the G 310 R could be a winner.
It’s certainly a welcome addition to the choice in this burgeoning sector. Check out this pre-launch video here.
Model: BMW G 310 R
Cost: $ TBA
Engine: 4-stroke, liquid-cooled, DOHC 4-valve single
Fuel System: EFI
Transmission: 6-speed, chain drive
Seat Height: 785mm
Kerb weight: 158.5kg
Fuel capacity: 11.0 L