Summary so far...
So a quick summary of my thoughts on the new bike, now that I've racked up nearly 5000 miles (in three weeks of ownership to the day today).
To recap, before flying to the east coast and collecting the bike from the supplying dealer (Frontline Eurosports in Roanoke/Salem), I'd probably ridden a G310GS less than a mile, and spent as little time actually looking over the bike, other than the photos and information that John at Rally Raid had been sharing between us of course.
Unlike the Honda CB500X 'Adventure' project which I'd been instrumental in developing, the G310 range of upgrades has been much more of John's own work - and while they are effectively a derivative of what we'd already developed for the Honda (ie. dedicated heavy-duty spoked wheels with tubed/tubeless options that accept all the OEM drive and braking components, together with a choice of standard travel or longer travel high quality and adjustable front and rear suspension; plus substantial engine protection and a range of ergonomic and longer-distance travel specific accessories), I'd not spent any time myself on the pre-production examples, so would effectively be approaching this build and subsequent 'adventure' on the bike in just the same way as any other regular customer might be - and therefore the perfect opportunity to appraise the bike more objectively that otherwise perhaps?
I'll aim to include a few of my personal assembly and preparation hints & tips below, but generally speaking, the kit went together perfectly, and was very straightforward to fit (My LEVEL 1 GS kit being less time-consuming than the equivalent LEVEL 2 Honda kit, which gives that bike similar travel, ground clearance and wheel size/wheelbase as the GS has as standard).
One thing I did appreciate with the GS was how easy it was to remove a lot of the superficial plastic parts: the chain guard and shock protector for example are separate items that you can leave off or replace individually as required*.
Another example is the front fender bolts on using 3 x 5mm allen head bolts each side, and can be completely removed while the brake hose stays in place - meaning that if conditions got particularly muddy, you could feasibly continue with the fender bungeed to your back seat/luggage.
The rear fender extension (and stupid rear light location) is very easy to remove and replace with the R&G Tail-tide assembly, and if you choose the red rear lamp lens option as I did, I think looks very factory still with the OEM rear turn signals reattached?
I noted that the headlight bulb is also easy to access too if required. Conversely however, it does seem rather difficult (or at least long-winded) to remove the fairing and other bodywork panels to gain access for wiring-in accessories neatly for example.
*One thing I did have to do (you may notice that initially I had not refitted the rear shock guard) is to trim the plastic with a Dremel if you want to fit the remote hydraulic preload adjuster, but otherwise everything is completely bolt on, and therefore off again should you ever wish to remove the kit and revert to standard.
So, having ridden this bike right across the country, on a mix of dirt roads and trails, back roads and byways, and a huge amount of highway and interstate miles too - what are my conclusions so far?
In no particular order - Things I like (and don't like, where related)
Generally speaking, the body/plastic parts all strip down relatively easily, and all seem to be secured using the same size 5mm allen head bolts - meaning you really only need that size tool readily to hand. However, I did notice that rather than use captive nuts welded to the frame, almost everything is secured using the clip/spring-nuts, which is cheap, and doesn't provide as easy/secure location until the bolt is done up (ie. they can slide around a bit on their respective mounting tabs.)
The side stand seems suitably strong for hoiking the bike up to get a wheel off the ground. It does seem to hang down rather low and directly under the left hand footrest, but so far has not proved to be a liability.
The fuel economy is good. Initially while keeping the bike under 60mph, I got as high as 67mpg, and typically 62mpg was my average according to the dash display. However, it does start to increase once the speed rises - 70mph or thereabouts sees it drop to 57mpg (and as low as 48-50mpg in a head wind), while pushing 75-80mph means I didn't get over 50mpg, and as low as 39mph into that strong headwind and uphill over Tehachapi on Tuesday. note. This is based on the dash readout, not calculations between actual fuel fill-ups.
I'd say that at typical trail riding speeds (ie. sub 60mph on the pavement and around 30-40mph off-road), you will get 60+mpg even on the TKC80 tyres, which is technically close to a 180 mile range. I do like the fact that the dash offers fuel/miles remaining display too. Realistically though, you need to factor that 150 miles is about your limit on the stock tank.
The headlight low beam I thought was very good - the high beam conversely, is useless - removing all the foreground light but not giving any appreciable penetration further down the road. edit. it turns out the High-beam is much better once the headlight is adjusted down slightly - see later posts...
I've already mentioned the dash display in the main text and some of the functionality above - it has two trips, fuel range, engine temperature, average speed, plus a gear indicator together with the traditional fuel gauge, revs, speedo and clock.
The one button control does take a little getting used to (I did bump the year to 19 at one point, requiring me to press the button over and over another 99 times to get it back to 18) and I do wonder if a date function is strictly necessary (especially as it has that silly month first then day/year order so beloved of Americans ;o) The downside of having such a comprehensive display is that the single button means you also have to step through every function in order, rather than have the ability to skip backwards and forwards between your favourites as desired.
The side cheek panels below the seat on either side have actually proved to be really useful - I can stow all of the tools and bodge-it spares I carry on my Honda under here too (including a trio of MotionPro T6 tyre-iron/wheel wrenches), other than my 12v compressor. However, I do wonder why BMW made these panels so bulbous (unless stowage was the intention), as it means my Giant Loop Coyote has already rubbed the paint away on either side.
I like the easy access to (and simple number of) fuses under the seat - however, it is a shame there is not a dedicated fused 12v auxiliary socket under there for attaching accessories and or heated gear if you wished. The seat (and latch) itself is very easy to operate and secure on and off as required.
I like the fact there is plenty of hose/cable/wiring length as standard. I have fitted the taller RC High bend fat-bars, with risers and 10mm spacers (so approximately 45mm higher than the OEM bars in total) and the cables do not appear to be at their limit yet, although I did have to release one of the cable ties on the headstock that holds the loom, and reattach the wiring to the brake hose with a zip-tie instead so that there was sufficient free-play on full right hand lock.
I like the fact that the pillion footrest brackets are bolt-on/easily detachable, although the location of the exhaust mount means you'd need to replace the right hand assembly with something similar to support the silencer.
I like it's general on-road refinement - especially when you consider it is a small capacity single cylinder engine. It does seem to be a bit buzzy and vibrate around the 5000-6000rpm mark - something that can affect a number of single cylinder machines on the highway (they all have a rough/sweet spot it seems), but it does smooth out again once you get over 6750rpm, and is more than acceptable at 70-80mph. However, if you touch the tank side panels, you can feel it's heart is busy buzzing away under there.
Things I don't particularly like (most are quantifiable, some more subjective I admit)
The stock footpegs. They look great, but are far too small and skinny for standing up on for any period of time. Now I know I'm wearing some pretty soft touring boots on this ride, but really, the pegs are so uncomfortable, and also too short - my boots feel like they are about to slip off the ends the whole time. I really hope John can get a version of the CB500X platform pegs to me as soon as possible, as I'm not really looking forward to riding this bike aggressively off-road with the stock pegs.
The rear brake pedal is a little low (as a number of reviewers/owners have already commentated) and is unadjustable. you get used to it, but it's not ideal for off-road riding. Conversely, the gear shift leaver is easily adjustable - I wish they're had the forethought to include a similar threaded adjustment for the brake too.
Both the gear lever and the brake pedal are cheap and rather clumsy looking pressed steel parts. However, in general steel is a good material for such extremities, as it can be bent back into shape rather than snap. I'll be interested to see how they fare in the rocky terrain around Moab at the end of this month, but so far they work, and I have to say, the gearbox on this bike is a delight to use with or without the clutch.
The stock front brake and clutch levers work well enough, but are way too long (to fit neatly with hand guards) and unadjustable. I find their span and action fine, but would prefer a more tactile and adjustable throw set. Again, this is something Rally Raid intend to offer very soon.
Cush-drive rubbers. Mine were seriously worn at well under 4000 miles. I'll be speaking to the dealer about some replacements asap.
Air-box access. While the packaging of the reverse cylinder engine dictates the airbox/filter needs to be high up under the front of the tank (a good thing, especially when crossing deep water or in dusty conditions), it seems inordinately tricky to gain access to the filter to check it/clean it/replace it as required. I know the service schedule only suggests replacement every 12,000 miles, but if you were riding in a group in dusty conditions, you want to inspect and potentially change it much more frequently than that. I need to get my spanners out now I'm back home in the workshop, but it appears you have to remove half the body panels just to get at the filter cover.
Fuel-filler splash back. I noticed more than a few times that the angle you hold the pump hose can result in quite serious splash-back when filling - resulting in a Long Way Round Ewan-get's-fuel-in-his-eye scenario. You do need to be careful, and I've found that angling the nozzle slightly towards the rear of the tank seems to help minimise any splash-back.
Mirrors. I never even rode the bike with them so cannot comment on their effectiveness, but to me the OEM mirrors seemed very small and not much use. I fitted the Double Take ADV mirrors on RAM mounts straight away, and while they do buzz a little at higher speeds, they offer a nice wide field of vision on this bike I've found.
Coolant bottle access - again, much as with the air filter - the coolant overflow (and level indicator) is hidden underneath the right hand fairing side, and seems rather tricky to access/top up, never mind actually try and read the reservoir level.
Tank covers/side panels. While seated I find the ergonomics pretty much spot on with this bike (keeping in mind the scooped seat doesn't really offer you a lot of room to move around), conversely I've found that when standing up, the side panels on the tank splay your knees out far further than you'd like. This is particularly irksome, as they are essentially cosmetic trim to make the tank assembly appear larger and more macho (in the style of the 1200GS) than it actually needs to be, especially when the internal tank is the same 11 litre size as the R version. I do hope that either BMW themselves or at least the aftermarket offer a larger fuel tank for this bike, that actually utilises that otherwise wasted space - then I wouldn't mind the knee splay quite so much! Certainly my Honda CB500X has a far narrower width between the knees when standing - although admittedly the pegs are located a little further back.
On a more subjective, but related note to the above - I generally find the bodywork/styling overly fussy (this is a BMW trait in general of course). Where Honda might incorporate a swage or scallop primarily for ergonomic reasons, BMW seem to add recesses, steps and other '3D' detailing just for the sake of it? An example is those side panels under each side of the seat - not only are they quite bulbous in the first place, but they appear to have four 'lumps' moulded in for no reason, other than to perhaps replicate the pannier slots you get on the 1200GS. If that is the case BMW, then please tell your design team no-one, even in emerging Asia markets is going to be impressed with such superficial flim-flam.
I do like the shape and general brightness of the OEM turn signals (for info. conventional bulbs, but orange with clear lenses), but feel the stalks are a little overly long, making them potentially vulnerable in the event of a drop. note. This is a US specific detail. The EU model GS's have much shorter stalks, particularly on the front.
Bouncy headlight. Again, this is something previous owners have already commented on. Some might say it helps to draw attention to you when drivers are looking in the their rear-view mirror, but personally I've been a bit embarrassed when following another vehicle hoping they don't think I'm aggressively flashing them for example. That said, even oncoming traffic doesn't seem to be unduly put out by the bounce, so perhaps it's simply more noticeable when you see the reflection on a roadside sign for example?
Did I mention the headlight high-beam is utter crap? Oh yes I did. It's crap. I feel a visit to MotoMinded coming on when I'm passing through Colorado Springs later this summer ;o)
So, that's about the size of things so far.
Overall, the bike has continued to impress me - I'd had high hopes for this machine, and in general it has not disappointed so far. I do feel there are better/more appropriate bikes (not least my own Rally Raid CB500X) for embarking on exactly the same trip as I have just done, but the fact that the 310GS can do it too just shows it's potential versatility too of course.
The real proof of the concept of a lighter weight [than even the twin-cylinder CB500X] Adventure bike is going to be once I really get it into the rough stuff - and that starts next week with my revised trip, starting here in California and heading back to Arizona for the Overland Expo - indeed, a journey much the same as that initial proving trip
I undertook with the first Rally Raid CB500X in the US back in 2015.
From there, I'll be heading up to Moab UT, and I know Juan is itching to see what this smaller bike can achieve on the more demanding trails - film at eleven as they say.
Then, well, the second chapter is only just beginning... but you can expect a lot more dirt, plus some entertaining stories and associate photographs of course.
In the meantime, if anyone is looking to invest in stocks and shares, I'd suggest Starbucks, Waffle House and Motel 6 as good a place as any. Plus any and all of the petrochemical companies too of course.
It's going to be a long hot summer - I hope you can join me!
Toot toot for now!