The BMW G 310 R and its more-aggressively fitted sibling, the G 310 GS, represent several firsts in the nearly 100 years that that German company has been making two-wheel transportation.

The 313cc engine has less displacement than the first motor BMW produced in 1921, the 494cc M2B15. It’s the lightest bike in the BMW inventory. It’s the first machine aimed squarely at the needs of emerging economies, particularly in Asia. It’s a low-cost, entry-model urban commando that may also win over a new generation of hipsters in the United States. And it’s the first BMW to be manufactured in India (where it’s launching about a year after its North America introduction.)

BMW G 310 R — photo courtesy of BMW Motorrad USA

The G 310 R is intended to live in the cities, although its tubular frame, paired with a long swingarm, lends it stability at freeway speeds. With a low wet weight of just 359 lbs (158.3 kg) it has the nimbleness (and narrowness) needed for daily urban combat. Although the fuel-injected, liquid-cooled single cylinder engine displaces only 313 cc, making just 34 bhp at 9,500 rpm, and feels sluggish off the line, it still has enough grunt to spare you the chore of constantly running up and down the six gears in city traffic. Its happy place is between 7,000 and 9,000 rpm. The G 310 R is a flickable, planted, fun ride (with BMW-standard two-channel ABS) that’s as fun in the twisties as it is practical downtown.

What’s the difference between the two models? The GS has 40 mm more suspension travel, a 19-inch front rim (as opposed to the R’s 17 inches,) taller tires and the ABS is switchable. It also has a slightly longer wheelbase, a Z-ring chain instead of O-ring and, oddly, a slightly less powerful alternator. As you’d expect, the GS has a taller ride height, 32.9 inch (835 mm) compared to the R’s 31 inches (785 mm.)

BMW G 310 GS — photo Courtesy of BMW Motorrad USA

It’s worth noting that the first-year models had teething problems in North America. BMW issued a recall to fix a problem with the kickstand, which could damage the frame with repeated use.

At just under five grand for the R and around $5700 for the GS variant, the G 310 line is a sporty, low-cost machine that  represents BMW’s attempt to woo first-time customers to its brand.

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