With an enviable reputation in the world of adventure motorcycling, BMW Motorrad, with its famed GS-series machines, has set the standard for other manufacturers, for good or bad. However, large capacity machines tend to be expensive for the younger rider or rider on a budget, along with the associated costs in maintenance and insurance.

There is also the aging rider demographic, and shrinking motorcycle market over the past couple of years, something that has hit many mass manufacturers hard in terms of sales figures. This is what has led to the production of the 2018 BMW Motorrad G 310 GS, priced at RM29,900 including GST for the Malaysian market, and an extension of the G 310 R naked sports bike released earlier.

The G 310 in both ‘R’ and ‘GS’ forms represents BMW Motorrad’s foray into the sub-500 cc market, an area it has not entered since the 60s. Despite both bouquets and brickbats from the motorcycling public, it cannot be denied that BMW does make motorcycles that have a considerable road presence, especially in Gelande Strasse form.

When the G 310 R and subsequently the G 310 GS, were announced, almost everyone sat up and took notice, because the question all were asking was, “what are these bikes like?” Well, when we took the G 310 R out for an extended highway run, along with a little in-town running around, we found the the bike to be a pleasant little roadster, with almost spot-on matching between the rev range and gearing, and fairly capable handling.

As a manufacturing collaboration between BMW and TVS of India, there were comments about Motorrad watering down the brand and nay-sayers predicting a drop in quality. So, when BMW Motorrad Malaysia asked us to take the baby GS out for a spin, we jumped at the chance, eager to see what this made-in-India motorcycle could do.

At its essence, the G 310 GS is a rebodied 310 R, with taller suspension. On the first approach, we noticed the 310 GS stands tall, with 200 mm of suspension travel front and rear. Climbing into the 835 mm tall saddle, the author just about got his feet down comfortably, and if you are somewhat short in the inseam department, the G roadster might be a better choice.

Using a common trellis frame, the baby GS’ engine is also identical, putting out a claimed 34 hp and 28 Nm of torque at 7,500 rpm from its 313 cc single-cylinder, DOHC liquid-cooled thumper with four-valves per cylinder. Obviously, with the additional bodywork, the 310 GS clocks in heavier at 169.5 kg fully-fuelled, while the R model weighs a full 11 kilograms less, at 158.5 kg.

Thumbing the starter button brings the 310 GS to life with a muted thump, putting us more in mind of a sewing machine. We do not blame either BMW Motorrad or the bike for this, understanding that this is something imposed by the powers that be. Needless to say, that giant Euro 4 mandated exhaust can would soon be binned if the 310 GS was going to stay with us for any length of time.

Setting off on the 310 GS, we clicked the gearbox into first, finding the lever action quite smooth, and precise. This counted as a plus for us, considering this bike is targeted at the new rider market. It is bad enough learning a complicated skill like riding a motorcycle and having to deal with a recalcitrant gearbox at the same time.

One of the things that deters many from taking up motorcycling as either transport or a hobby is the challenge of executing smooth gear shifts. In this respect, BMW Motorrad got this right, the gear shifting on the 310 GS, while not quick, was easy to do, and the engagement of the clutch was precise, allowing for good rider control.

Clutch effort itself was light to medium, and any rider will not have a problem with pulling in the clutch or changing gear. Accelerating through the six-speed box, the 310 GS exhibited a reasonable amount of get-up-and-go in the first four gears, before plateauing out in fifth.

If you’re merciless with the gearbox and clutch, the 310 GS will get to 160 km/h, but it will take its time getting there. In any case, we found the baby GS to be quite comfortable, engine speed wise, at normal highway cruising speeds, with enough in reserve for over-taking and evasive manoeuvres.

We took the 310 GS along a variety of road surfaces, including a long-ish highway stint and some (mild) off-roading. Through it all we found the suspension – a 41 mm diameter upside-down fork, non-adjustable, in front and pre-load adjustable rear monoshock – to be nicely firm, but compliant.

Taking a pillion along made the rear compress, and we managed to hit the bump stop a couple of times during “spirited” riding while zooming over road bumps. Overall, the front forks on the 310 GS were nicely setup, but the rear shock was a little soft, and will need the pre-load dialled up a little.

On the braking side of things, duties are looked after by Brembo’s budget brand, Bybre. The front 300 mm disc is clamped by a four-piston, radially mounted calliper, while the rear wheel gets a 240 mm diameter disc, with single-piston calliper and switchable two-channel ABS is standard, allowing for off-road use where ABS can sometimes be a hinderance to best braking performance.

Braking performance while riding solo was adequately covered by the front brake, needed only two fingers on the lever to bring things to a stop. While performing pillion duties, both brakes needed to be brought into play to haul speed down when approaching a corner.

Speaking of speed, the 310 GS comes with a 11-litre fuel tank, which, in reality, only looks big due to the plastic cover which mimics the look of the bigger GS-series bikes. We managed to get some 200 km or so in range from the tank before the little orange light came on.

We did expect more, but we were not, shall we say, gentle on the throttle. Your mileage will vary, probably by quite a bit. Anice touch would have been spoked wheels on the 310 GS, but instead cast alloy hoops are provided, in 19- and 17-inch wheel sizes, front and rear respectively.

Passenger accommodation on the 310 GS was quite good, eliciting a “it’s quite comfortable and vibration free” from our pillion. On the rider side of things, you are placed in a pocket, much like the 310 R, and fore-and-aft movement was a little limited.

With the short fly-screen mounted on the instrument binnacle, wind blast hits the rider square in the chest, and the small seat space made moving back and getting out of the wind a little cramped. Smaller riders will probably not have this problem, and there is always the option of installing a slightly taller screen to increase rider comfort.

As it is, with the upright riding position of the 310 GS, coupled with the 810 mm wide handlebars, made the junior adventure bike somewhat sensitive to the dirty air coming off other vehicles on the highway, while cruising at high speed, exhibiting a slight weave. Relaxing the grip and shoulders made the problem go away, but it is something to be aware of, especially when riding with a passenger and weight is biased towards the rear.

In terms of modern conveniences, the 310 GS comes with a aluminium rack fitted and ready to accept a top box. We have no idea if the rack is compatible with the aftermarket, but BMW Motorrad has several options in the official catalogue. It is a shame, though, the rack is not prepped to attach panniers.

Inside the cockpit, a single LCD instrument panel is placed atop the triple crown, similar to the unit on the 310 GS. The plain black readout was clearly legible, and the panel displays everything the rider needs to know.

Overall, we liked BMW’s baby GS for what it is. The handling and road manners of the 310 GS was good, and for the newbie or less experienced rider, confidence inspiring. If you’re an experienced rider, you will find the bike easy to ride and handle, and capable of going anywhere.

Build quality was on the high side of acceptable, with panels fitting together and no signs of poor finishing. Two things we noticed that put us in mind of cost cutting.

One was the plastic cover over the frame covering the swingarm pivot. This is a trick frequently used by lower-end makers to hide the tubes and swingarm pivot plate coming together. The other was the little square hole under the rear rack, nicely sized for a tail-light.

This was omitted, and the 310 GS comes with a tail light mounted at the end of a long mud guard stalk, like the 310 R. While the 310 GS has an LED tail light, the rest of the lighting is halogen.

So, who needs a 2018 BMW Motorrad G 310 GS, priced at RM29,900, including GST? At the 300 cc point, while there is a dearth of adventure styled machines, the Kawasaki Versys X-250 is an alternative, at RM23,789, along with the Kawasaki Z300 at RM26,000, and BMW’s own G 310 R at RM26,900.

However, the adventure styling, especially in BMW Motorrad’s design language, will find many fans amongst local riders. There is something about the look of the G 310 GS we liked, a lot, and many who saw the baby GS when we were riding it around complimented its looks.

That the 310 GS also has a handling package that works and with non-intimidating power delivery, makes it eminently suitable for young riders, new riders and those coming back to the sport after a lay-off. With the addition of a top box, the 310 GS can easily be pressed into commuter duties, with steady-speed touring not out of the question, if the rider is not in much of a hurry.

We found the 310 GS to be a good all-rounder, more so than the 310 R, especially if you like the adventure bike style. In this case, and it is a very strong case, there might be room in the stable for the author’s young shaver next year, when he gets his motorcycle license.