People in the motorcycle industry work hard to get people to buy their bikes. They work even harder to get consumers to buy into their brand and stay with it. Look at Harley-Davidson. They are geniuses at marketing. They market to every age, but the upper-tier motorcycle brands are out of reach for most first-time buyers. When I say upper-tier brands, I mean companies like Harley-Davidson, BMW, Ducati and now, Indian. Other brands have not had the commercial success of Harley-Davidson, but they have brand name recognition for other reasons, like reputation.
A few years ago, I was at an event and was able to hear BMW’s vice president of marketing speak. He told us that BMW has an 88-year marketing plan. At the time, their concern was first-time motorcycle sales because, as an industry, those sales had been declining. They looked at various data points to decide their roadmap – average income, number of years of riding experience, and the cost of first-time bike sales. As a new rider, you have two choices: New or used. Cost is a big factor for the new rider. Traditionally, the upper-tier brands are not the first bike a person owns.
These companies continue to work to get people into their showrooms. Harley-Davidson does a great job at community events and creating branded clothing, and most dealerships offer motorcycle riding classes.
The folks at BMW are changing the marketplace again. This year, they have introduced the G 310 R with a starting price of $4,750, which includes antilock brake system, or ABS, brakes.
A few weeks ago, I visited my friends at Garcia Motorsports in Raleigh, and they had just gotten in on the G 310 R. They are very accommodating and let you take a bike out for test ride. I hopped on. At first, I was blown away that you could get anything with the label BMW on it for this price. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it rode quite nicely. At 349 pounds, this bike is lightweight and nimble.
The bike is clean, and there is no sign of a lack in quality for the price’s sake. The display features an LCD dash with a bar graph tachometer, gear indicator, shift light and trip computer. ABS is standard. This is a great feature for a new rider. When given the option, I strongly recommend getting ABS. It has saved me a number of times.
The BMW dealership is on the outskirts of Raleigh, so it is easy to catch an Interstate, back roads and, of course, stop-and-go traffic. The bike was taller than I expected. The seat has a 30.9-inch seat height. There are different bike positions. Both sports and the cruiser are generally low. Some bikes ride high or more upright. In particular, I like being high because I can see over most cars and feel more comfortable in the upright position.
From the stop light, it was easy to get going and get ahead of traffic. At the posted speed limits, the bike had plenty of power. If you like riding above the speed limit, then depending on your weight, you may want to add a windshield.
BMW is also expanding the 310 line to include a 310 GS. If you are not familiar with the GS family, The GS refers to either Gelände/Straße (German: off-road/road) or Gelände Sport. The GS series of dual purpose off-road/on-road BMW motorcycles have been produced from 1980, when the R80G/S was launched, to the present day.
Not only is BMW offering a sub $5,000 price entry bike, but so is Suzuki, Honda and KTM.
This is also great news for people who already own a bike. Maybe you want to have a sport bike feel for a low price. If so, check out the Honda CBR300R or the Kawasaki Ninja 300. If you are looking for that naked sport bike feel, then check out the KTM 390 DUKE.
I hope that more manufacturers follow suit and start creating lowerpriced options for first-time buyers and bikers who want the option of adding another bike to their collection for an affordable price.
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