GEORGE, Western Cape ? While riding this new GS on the launch, I was reminded of my early motorcycling days. This was back when 16-year-olds were allowed to get licences only for 50 cc bikes. While this may sound odd, it was especially exciting to be able to dice your school mates (we all had different makes of bike) using full throttle and timing your gear changes to perfection ... all without breaking the law by exceeding the speed limits (well, not by much, anyway). With high-powered bikes these days, however, you have to be exceedingly careful to control the power so as not to fall victim to speed traps or collisions.

And this is where the latest BMW Motorrad product comes in. At just 313 cc with a single cylinder, the G 310 GS allows its rider to have a lot of fun without getting into trouble. It forms part of the "Adventure" stable that is tuned for both on- and off-road journeys. This is not a hardcore off-roader; indeed, the wheels are aluminium and not steel-spoked.

Available in three colour options ? red, blue and black, each paired with grey ? I preferred the blue version. The bike is a looker with a body much larger than you would expect from a smallish single. In a way, this is a good thing since it helps make it comfortable to ride. You sit "inside" the bike with good legroom for standing up over the bumps. That said, the seat is sited far too high.

Given that this is an entry-level motorcycle aimed at younger riders, putting your feet flat on the ground if you measure under 1,9 metres tall is not possible. Fortunately, there is an option of specifying a 50 mm lower seat. There is also an option of a 50 mm higher seat, but this surely won?t find many buyers. Wheels are large 19-inch items at front and 17-inchers at the back.

The fuel consumption is excellent; I saw an impressive 3,0 L/100 km on the trip computer read-out. The official figure is 3,33 L/100 km, with a tank size of 11 litres. Top speed comes in at 143 km/h, which is plenty to keep up with traffic and for overtaking. The six-speed gearbox is slick-shifting although engaging neutral can sometimes be tricky.

The single-cylinder is a BMW design, not a Rotax, and has four valves and is DOHC in configuration. Liquid cooling is used and the head is reversed so the fuel injection is ahead and the exhaust behind. It produces 25 kW at 9?500 r/min, while the torque spread is good at low- and mid-range, making for easy acceleration. At higher revs, it gets a bit buzzy but the vibrations do not detract too much from the riding experience. We traversed many gravel roads, including the wonderful Montagu Pass over the mountain from George. Whizzing around the lakes area near the Wilderness showed off some of the best motorcycling roads in the country.

ABS is standard on the single discs (front and rear), but can be switched off for off-road use. A small flyscreen is fitted and the tyres are semi-off-roaders. Gravel roads are easily tackled and the long-travel suspension, typical of BMWs, soaked up the bumps. This all makes for pleasure riding, on tar or gravel.

The R79 650 price-tag may seem high at first glance, but it's actually reasonable if you consider that BMWs hold their value well ... and that the Ducati Scrambler Sixty2 (with 400 cc and 40 kW) costs a heady R116?000.