Since BMW introduced the G 310 R and G 310 GS in 2017, the tiny, mighty Beemers have been two peas in a pod. While the little roadster sticks to the pavement and the wee ADV dabbles in the dirt, the Bavarians treat them like fraternal twins. In 2021, both receive a Euro 5-compliant 313cc single with throttle-by-wire, low RPM assist, and a slipper-assist clutch. A new LED headlight and adjustable levers complete the upgrades, but that’s where the similarities end.
The R and GS share the same tubular trellis frame construction. However, the baby GS enjoys a gentler rake and longer wheelbase. Both feature cast-aluminum wheels but the 19-inch front and 17-inch rear suit occasional off-road jaunts. Long-travel suspension and signature GS styling also set the entry-level ADV apart.
The G 310 GS may forge its own identity, but many budding off-road riders still wonder if the differences amount to a capable adventure bike. We set out to answer that very question when we got our hands on the 2021 G 310 GS.
BMW’s steel trellis frame underlies both G 310 variants, but the brand tweaks the geometry to suit its GS’s dual purposes. Rake extends to 26.7 degrees, trail decreases to 3.9 inches, and the wheelbase lengthens to 55.9 inches. Despite the relaxed geometry, the GS still turns on a dime. Steering isn’t as direct as the R model, but if you’re looking to nail apexes, the roadster is a better fit. If you’re fixing to wind through the esses and venture onto a fire road, however, the little GS is your bike.
In addition to the frame revisions, a non-adjustable 41mm USD fork and a non-linkage, preload-adjustable monoshock bolster the baby Beemer to new heights. With 7.1 inches of travel at both ends, the GS not only smooths out rough urban pavement but takes on bumpy off-road terrain as well. Shod in 85-percent on-road/15-percent off-road tires, the 19-inch front and 17-inch rear wheels sacrifice little on the road but allow the 310 to trundle over moderate obstacles on the trail.
Riders won’t conquer singletrack trails on the pint-sized adventure bike, but the GS provides a mellow introductory course to the dirt. The undersprung suspension may resemble a rocking horse under heavy acceleration and braking, but the damping settings ensure the rider doesn’t go bobbing into a berm. Luckily, the soft suspension absorbs even the harshest hits, encouraging beginner off-roaders to take on more challenging landscapes. The G 310 GS does have its limitations, however.
Without switchable ABS, users can’t slide the back wheel in the loose stuff. Pairing the firm single-piston caliper and 240mm rear disc with the sensitive ABS activation only impedes the rider’s ability to evaluate available traction further. With just 21 lb-ft of torque coursing through the Metzeler Tourance tires, steering the rear around a corner is also a tall task for newer riders.
On the road, the GS has its constraints as well. Both G 310 models tout the same radially-mounted, four-piston ByBre caliper and 300mm disc at the front end, but the squishy suspension makes the brakes feel much stronger on the GS. Under hard braking, weight transfers forward rapidly. Steel braided lines deliver a responsive feel at the lever, but beginners should remain smooth on the front brakes to reduce dive. Like any budget-friendly ADV, the G 310 GS has its quirks, but it also provides a welcoming environment for developing riders.
The GS’s long-travel suspension may equip it for light off-road duty, but it also lifts the seat height to 32.9 inches. For the inseam-challenged, the taller perch may be discouraging, but the Beemer also boasts a narrow midsection and generous suspension sag. With a 32-inch inseam, I easily flatfooted the GS, but shorter riders can drop the seat height to 32.3 inches or taller folks can bump it to 33.5 inches.
No matter what height the rider chooses, the well-padded seat offers all-day comfort. That plushness proves beneficial with the 71-mpg single sipping from a 2.9-gallon tank. The higher seat also opens the cockpit, providing extra legroom for the rider. Shifted lower and further forward, the footpegs decrease knee bend as well. With the rider’s knees flush against the tank, it’s easy to squeeze the bike’s midsection when standing on the pegs or hook a leg into the tank at lean.
BMW matches the GS’s touring-friendly ergos with a tail rack, and luggage easily lashes to the sturdy platform. If the rider has a far-flung destination in mind, however, they may want to take the backroads. The G 310 GS’s flyscreen certainly aligns with its adventure ambitions, but it provides little to no wind protection. Fortunately, the sunk-down seating position provides some refuge from the wind, but the Beemer still prefers highways to interstates. Of course, another limiting factor for the GS’s touring prospects are those freeway speeds.
Just like its roadster sibling, the G 310 GS produces 34 horsepower at 9,500 rpm and 21 lb-ft of torque at 7,500 rpm. Unlike the G 310 R we previously tested, the ADV suffers from a snatchy throttle below 4,000 rpm. The soft rear suspension also makes hard acceleration more pronounced, resulting in a jerky ride quality. Once the DOHC, fuel-injected thumper gains momentum, however, the ride smooths out.
It may take the GS time to reach highway speeds, but at 70 mph, the 313cc single sings along at 7,000 rpm. The baby Beemer can easily sustain that speed, but the thumper starts living up to its name as the revs climb, sending vibes through the handlebars and pegs. For that reason, trips on the interstate are more suitable for linking separate highways and trails. Extended freeway miles are possible aboard the little GS, but the rider will enjoy the adventure bike’s strengths more off the beaten path.
Thanks to the G 310 GS’s suspension, ergonomics, and off-road abilities, it clearly distinguishes itself from its R-spec counterpart. The budget-conscious ADV is a suitable entry-point to BMW’s celebrated GS range, but more model-specific features would help bridge the gap between the brand’s G and F platforms. Switchable ABS, wire-spoke wheels, and a taller windscreen would go a long way toward improving the bike’s off-road prowess. More touring capabilities would also take the adventure bike further away from the G platform and further into GS territory.
Even though the little adventurer shares much with its naked bike relative, the G 310 GS is a capable option for those just getting into adventure riding. The simplicity, versatility, and pure fun factor will keep new riders entertained until they gain enough skills to move up to an F 850 GS. Along with the G 310 R, the G 310 GS has come a long way since 2017. Hopefully, BMW grants the baby GS more autonomy as the two models establish their independent identities.