Some people are snobby about Indian-built bikes, but visually there is nothing at all to suggest the GS is built in Indian and not Germany. It appears a high quality machine and has lots of lovely touches that you expect from a BMW. The roundel on the top handlebar grip is very neat and appealing, the paint work is excellent, the radial brake is a nice touch (it is made by Bybre, a subsidiary of Brembo), the gold inverted forks look smart and there are no rough edges when it comes to the bike's finish. Unlike KTM, whose cheap singles are also built in India, BMW doesn't check its bikes in Europe before shipping to dealers, which is why it went the extra mile to ensure the Hosur factory's production was up to spec. For me the delay caused ensuring this level of finish was met has been worth the wait, because the GS appears to have a BMW-level of finish yet is priced extremely competitively at £5,100 OTR. To put this in context, the Chinese-built Suzuki V-Strom 250 is £4,599 and the Thai-built Kawasaki Versys-X 300 is £5,149, so that's very impressive.
In town the G310GS is excellent. Its single-cylinder motor is nice and peppy with a light clutch action that allows you to fire away from traffic lights with ease. Weighing just 169.5kg fully-fuelled it is very manoeuvrable and zips through gaps while the 'big bike' riding position is comfortable. It has a few irritations though; I'm amazed BMW doesn't offer panniers as an option, only a top box, and the front brake lever has no span adjustment yet is set really far away from the bar. Overall, however, it's a great city slicker. If I were looking for a cheap commuter, with a PCP deal likely to be in the £99 a month region, the GS is certainly a winner. However, when you venture outside the city its limitations start to show.
Holding motorway speeds the single-cylinder motor transits some really annoying vibrations through the GS's pegs. There are rubber inserts (which can be removed for off-road riding) but they only slightly damp the vibes and long stretches at 70mph leave your feet numb. Also the mirrors, which are the same units as the big GS, are too small and set too close to your body due to the petiteness of the bike, resulting on a poor view of what's behind. Add to this an indicator warning light on the dash that is impossible to read in direct sunlight (I've never seen so many indicators left on before during a ride in my life) and all in all it's not quite up to the high standards you might expect of a GS. It's comfortable enough, and the wind protection is OK (BMW doesn't make a taller screen), but it's not fantastic. And come the bends it's a similar story.
One of the things I love about the big GS is the fact it is a superb handling bike despite its adventure focus. The mini GS is also looking towards the rough stuff with its 19-inch front and 17-inch rear wheels, which are both shod in Indonesian-built off-road style Metzeler Tourance tyres, but its suspension lets the side down. Built for comfort, it is really softly set and only allows you to enjoy the bends at a moderate pace before a lack of confidence in the front end sees you backing off. The only adjustments you get are to the damper's preload, so this is quite a limitation and one I found annoying. Yes, it's a new rider bike, but it is also aimed at riders downsizing from a bigger GS and I reckon they will be left wanting more in terms of handling. The brakes, which have ABS as standard, are a bit lacking in bite but do the job, and I like the fact you can disable the ABS via a button should you wish to explore off-road.
After a day riding the GS I was left wondering: if a partner or family member had a big GS, would I want to take the G310GS on a road trip with them? To be honest due to the vibrations, soft suspension and lack of panniers, I'm not sure I would, which rather goes against what the GS name stands for.
Good, just not brilliant
When you see the GS logo on a bike you expect great things, but while the G310GS is good, it's not brilliant - and that's a bit of a disappointment. It has small irritations that I wouldn't have expected on a BMW, irrespective of its price point or where it is built. I can live with some of them, but the vibration through the pegs is really annoying, the European market should have panniers as an option and the soft suspension limits the bike's handling performance. For a bike that is targeting not only new riders but also those coming from a bigger GS, I expected a little bit more. But there again, compared to the underpowered V-Strom and buzzy Versys the GS is certainly the best mini adventure bike currently for sale. But is it a game changer?
Rookie to Rider scheme, which costs £500 for your test fees and training; as well as this you get £1100 of kit for free when you sign up for a two-year PCP deal on a bike, which on the GS is likely to be in the region of £99 a month. But outside a city it's just not quite up to standard and you can't ride it with too much enthusiasm due to its soft suspension and questionable tyres.
Before riding the GS I thought that it would arrive and like its bigger sibling, basically dominating this class of machine and kicking its rivals into the long grass. However instead it has left the door open for another manufacturer to enter the fight with a more accomplished machine and steal the show. Who else has an Indian-built single and adventure bike experience? KTM must surely be preparing a 390 Adventure for the very near future...
2017 BMW G310GS
Engine: 313cc DOHC single, water-cooled, 4v
Power (hp): 34@9,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 20.6@7,500rpm
Top speed: 80mph (est)
Weight: 169.5kg (wet)
MPG: 85 (claimed)