Later this year the learner market will be joined by two important new models. One will be a naked version of what is in our opinion the best learner sportsbike on the market (the Yamaha R3) to be known as the Yamaha MT-03. The other is the first in a new partnership for BMW by way of the G 310 R which will see the German manufacturer target the entry level market for the first time. Let’s take a look at what each offers and who is likely to reign supreme in learner naked category.
For this comparison, the MT-03 is somewhat of a known quantity already. Firstly, other than some ergonomic changes it is the same bike as the Yamaha R3 but with different looks. Secondly, the MT-25, which is a smaller capacity version of what western markets will get has already been ridden and reviewed in Indonesia where it went on sale late last year and reports are that it is a very solid machine.
The brand new BMW R 310 G on the other hand is a clean sheet motorcycle in more ways than one. The engine is brand new, it’s a totally new platform and it’s the first motorcycle to come out of the BMW/TVS partnership which sees BMW design the bike while it is manufactured by TVS factories in India.
Looks wise, the BMW comes across as uninspiring and very generic. With the white, blue and red livery it’s sometimes hard to distinguish it from the Honda CB300F – and Honda are hardly known for their design flair. Comparing the G 310 R to the likes of the Kawasaki Z300, 390 Duke and MT-03 makes it seem even more boring and benign. BMW has played it disappointingly safe with the G 310 R and given that the S 1000 R looks so aggressive and modern, we feel it’s a missed opportunity by the Bavarian brand to make this bike stand out.
The MT-03 takes most of its styling cues from its bigger brother MT-07 and MT-09 bikes which is a good thing. We’ve always found the new MT range of bikes to be quite handsome and they manage to stand out without looking overly aggressive and brash like Kawasaki’s Z range can sometimes be.
Fit and finish wise we wouldn’t expect there to be too much difference between the two. While BMW would usually go the extra mile with quality of finish, the fact that these bikes are being produced in India will no doubt mean that typical German attention to detail will be lost. Add to that the fact that this bike will have to compete on price – despite its badge – and there’s little doubt that the Yamaha will sit alongside the BMW without any embarrassment.
BMW obviously sees this as a potential issue to customers and were at pains to point out that quality control would be of the highest order in their press release, a snippet of which is below:
TVS Motor Company’s quality management system has been based on Japanese role models for many years. For the G 310 R, this system was extended to include the requirements and standards specific to BMW Motorrad, and within the area of quality management there are interdisciplinary teams from both companies working in close collaboration.
Furthermore, staff were specially selected and trained by TVS for production and assembly. Additional training programs were held for assembly workers together with colleagues from the BMW Motorrad plant in Berlin-Spandau over a period of more than a year prior to the start of serial production. From the very first motorcycle to come off the production line in India, they have also contributed to the high assembly standards and heightened quality awareness. All in all, production of the new BMW G 310 R is subject to the same quality criteria that apply to production at the BMW Motorrad plant in Berlin-Spandau.
This goes on for two whole pages of the press release. Time will tell how the finished product stacks up. The best comparison that can be made is with the KTM 390 Duke and RC 390 – both made in India and probably do suffer slightly in terms of quality compared to the rest of the KTM range produced in Australia. Again however, we’re comparing budget entry level bikes to higher end machines that sometimes cost more than family cars.
Our major area of concern with the G 310 R is the engine. BMW chose to go with a single cylinder engine while the majority of the competition has moved towards twins, the exception being KTM and Honda (although the latter is expected to shift to two cylinder units in the near future). And while the 390 Duke and RC 390 are great bikes, one of their weaknesses is something many single cylinder powerplants suffer from – vibrations.
Like the KTM’s, the G 310 R will feature a single counterbalancer to help combat these vibrations but generally speaking, they will still be present at higher revs. These become more noticeable at higher rpm which means that on long highway stints, they can become annoying and fatigue inducing. BMW’s track record with vibrations hasn’t been wonderful lately either, with the otherwise brilliant S 1000 XR suffering from sometimes severe vibrations at certain engine speeds.
Power and torque wise, the Yamaha has a fairly large advantage over the German, whereas torque figures are more closely matched.. The MT-03 will put out 30.9 kW (42 hp) @ 10,750 rpm and 29.6 Nm (21.8 lb-ft) @ 9,000 rpm. The G 310 R produces 25 kW (34 hp) at 9,500 rpm and torque of 28 Nm (20.65 lb-ft) @ 7,500, meaning that the BMW will probably be slightly more responsive down low as one would expect from a thumper.
But does the BMW have a weight advantage to counteract this power deficit? Yes, it does. The MT-03 with a full tank of fuel tips the scales at 168 kg (370 lbs) – and that is including ABS brakes. The G 310 R will come in at 158.5 kilos (350 pounds) – a not insignificant weight saving of almost 10 kilograms considering the small power figures here which therefore amplifies power to weight ratios. That said, some of that difference is due to fuel tank capacity with the MT-03’s 14 litre tank able to take in 3 more litres than the BMW, reducing the weight difference by about 2.5 kilograms.
With braking, the both the G 310 R and MT-03 make do with single 300 mm discs up front, but the G 310 R takes it up a notch with a radially bolted 4-piston caliper compared to with a two-pot caliper on the Yamaha. The BMW also gets steel-braided lines – a rarity at this end of the market.
Suspension is similarly comparable between the two machines as well, albeit the MT-03 will potentially be marginally more sharp. Both feature 41 mm forks, with the G 310 R’s being inverted. Travel for the BMW is 140 mm up front and 131 mm at the rear, while the Yamaha is slightly shorter at 130 mm front and 125 mm behind. Handling should be fairly comparable with a nearly identical wheelbase (only 6 mm separates the two), although the BMW does get a slightly wider tire of 150/60 compared to the Japanese bike’s 140/70.
Other dimensions are also near identical. Seat height for the G 310 R is 785 mm and 780 mm for the MT-03. Overall length for the Yamaha is 2,090 mm and the BMW comes in slightly shorter at 1988 mm. However, trail on the BMW is marginally more at 102.3 mm as opposed to the MT-03’s 95 mm meaning that on paper at least, the Yamaha will corner slightly more aggressively and that will be assisted by the skinnier rear tire, too.
On paper, the G 310 R will have a big fight on its hands. It’s down on power, slightly on torque although it does have a weight advantage. It also looks to have better quality anchors up front. The key will be to its handling and comfort. Will it suffer from engine vibrations like the 390 Duke? And what will the quality of its suspension components be like?
There’s also the price. There’s little doubt BMW will price their bike above most of the competition by way of its badge, but that’s a very difficult ask to make of new riders who generally seek value for money as a main determination of their purchase. The G 310 R also doesn’t really appear to try to win on looks either, although beauty is in the eye of the beholder. We’ll find out later this year.
|BMW G 310 R||Yamaha MT-03|
|Engine Type||313 cc 4 strong, single cylinder||321cc 4 stroke inline twin|
|Bore And Stroke||80 mm x 62 mm||68 mm × 44.1 mm|
|Induction||BMS-E2 42mm throttle valve||n/a|
|Compression Ratio||10.6:1||11.2 :1|
|Valve Train||DOHC; four valves per cylinder||DOHC; four valves per cylinder|
|Horsepower||25kw (34hp) @ 9,500 rpm||30.9 kW (42.0hp) @ 10,750 rpm|
|Torque||28 Nm @ 7,500 rpm||29.6 Nm @ 9,000 rpm|
|Chassis / Suspension / Brakes|
|Front Suspension||41 mm fork, 140 mm travel||41 mm fork, 130 mm travel|
|Rear Suspension||131 mm travel||125 mm travel|
|Front Brake||Single-disc brake Ø 300 mm, 4 piston caliper||Single-disc brake Ø 298 mm, 2 piston caliper|
|Rear Brake||Single-disc brake Ø 240 mm, twin piston caliper||Single-disc brake Ø 220 mm, twin piston caliper|
|Front Tire||110/70 R 17||110/70-17M/C|
|Rear Tire||150/60 R 17||140/70-17M/C|
|Trail||102.3 mm||95 mm|
|Wheelbase||1,374 mm||1,380 mm|
|Seat Height||785 mm||780 mm|
|Wet Weight||158.5 kg||168 kg|
|Fuel Capacity||11 litres||14 litres|