If this isn’t the bike that gets new, younger riders to stop photographing their genitalia, put away their iPhones and start riding, motorcycling is in a lot of trouble. Honda’s new Grom essentially takes away about every excuse there is to not buy a motorcycle.
New motorcycles too expensive, you say? The 2014 Honda Grom is $3199. Adjust that for inflation, and you’re looking at $400 in 1965 dollars—the ’65 CB160 actually cost more, with a list price of $530. Sure, entry-level wages suck these days, and most Millennials have to live in their parent’s rec rooms, but that’s not Honda’s fault.
Or maybe you think it’s hard to learn how to ride? If you can’t operate a Grom, you need to stay away from coffee grinders and staple guns. The four-speed gearbox is buttery smooth and precise, and the clutch pull is so mild you need stronger fingers to wave bye-bye. The seat height, though an intimidating-sounding 30.1 inches, is a little slab of foam so narrow that Peter Dinklage could flat-foot with confidence (I’m assuming he wears platform shoes, though), yet riders of all sizes find the ergos comfortable.
It’s clear Honda pulled out all the stops when it asked itself the question: what’s the best starter bike? When Honda finds a problem, it solves the crap out of it. The motor is user-friendly, economical, as reliable as a chattering teeth gag gift and peppy enough so it’s fun to ride in busy traffic. The chassis is responsive, good-handling and light: 12-inch wheels steer fast but provide okay stability, and there’s a 31mm inverted damper-rod fork with four inches of travel. There are even disc brakes front and back—this is a real motorcycle, but it’s just 225 pounds ready to ride and shouldn’t intimidate anybody.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t treat it with respect. My first ride almost ended in tears when the rear tire spun up exiting a parking lot. Heart racing, I dialed back the my impulses and tried to calm down. It was hard to do. The Grom isn’t fast, although spot-on gearing and flawless PGM fuel-injection make it feel smooth and quick enough, but I had no problem riding aggressively, mixing it up with traffic in fast-paced Orange County. It steers quickly…this is the part where I say, “without feeling twitchy,” but I’d be lying. The 47.4-inch wheelbase and frozen-pizza-sized wheels keep you from shoving too hard on the bars…but you don’t need to. The Grom’s steering response is yesterday. And this bike is the one to learn how to do wheelies, stoppies and all manner of illegal, show-off behavior. That comically short wheelbase gets either wheel off the ground, sometimes whether you want it or not.
One-hundred-twenty-five cc doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s plenty to get you from hither to yon. It’s also more than enough for a new-rider’s practice time, because, after all, a learner’s permit in California doesn’t allow you to ride on the freeway or carry passengers, so why have more power than you need? But if you do, the powerplant is well-supported by the aftermarket, with big-bore kits and even turbochargers available. The simple, cheap brakes, wheels, suspension and other bits are also amenable to inexpensive modification.
Honda did it right, but I’m not hopeful about younger people getting into riding like their Boomer grandparents, as the reasons they’re not riding aren’t about product. There’s a myriad of cultural, economic and social reasons they’d rather take the bus. But even if it doesn’t work, we can all have fun racing each other on our Groms in parking lots and go-kart tracks as we get older, grayer—but maybe not so much wiser. Check out further details and specs on Honda’s web site.
Gabe Ets-Hokin is the Editor of CityBike Magazine, and a frequent contributor to MotorcycleDaily.com