The wild card of our trio (read the Mini ADV comparo with the Kawasaki Versys-X 300 and Royal Enfield Himalayan here) is perhaps the one you’d least expect, the Indian-built BMW G 310 GS. Its biggest brother is known for on-road prowess and an uncanny balance off-road despite its bulk, but the littlest GS has an attitude all its own.
While it has plenty of space for luggage, it’s clear the emphasis is on sporty, nimble and quick, more of a playbike than a true ADV tourer—witness the 2.9-gallon gas tank and short wind deflector. It’s surprisingly capable both on-road and off, its 313cc single spooling up slowly; you won’t spend your whole time shifting.
Off-road, the wide, low handlebar, 377-pound wet weight, 26.7-degree rake and compact 55.9-inch wheelbase contribute to a mountain bike-like feeling of control, but the downside is an inability to stand up without bending forward; our solution was to rise up off the seat just enough to get our weight on the pegs.
We did give it the nod for best suspension (as long as you’re on the lighter side of 180 pounds or so); plush and compliant in the rough stuff, its 41mm USD Kayaba fork and single rear shock, both with 7.1 inches of travel, soak up the bumps at both high and low speeds. Yet on twisty pavement, it’s not so soft as to cause excessive fork dive.
Our more experienced photo model said her pick was the BMW simply for its on/off-road yin/yang balance and playful nature, but it would make a stellar city bike as well, unfazed by beat-up streets and ready to shred traffic.