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  • April 22, 2014
  • Gabe Ets-Hokin
  • Chris Rubino
  • 79 Comments

Honda Grom – Gabe’s Perspective

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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.

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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

79 Comments

  1. reagan says:

    Yea I could get a Grom for my 12yr old daughter to learm
    to ride on, around the neighborhood. My 14yr old son is riding one of my KDx220’s so he probably wouldn’t ride it. The only problem would be the beating I would take selling it about a month later when my daughter wanted to upgrade.

  2. RKW says:

    I can ride 20 miles in any direction from my house and not hit a road with a speed limit greater than 55 mph. The Grom is perfect for me and my type of riding. I find it a lot more fun to wring the snot out of these 10 horses than short shift a 100+ hp bike all day.

    As soon as I saw the Grom (MSX) I knew it would be fun and I wanted one. A year later when Honda announced it was coming to the US I was the first to put a deposit down. I am not sorry and have no regrets. I am giving serious thought to selling my big “fast” big because it is just not as much fun.

  3. paulysr says:

    It’s like an xr100 for kids (of any age) who don’t have access to dirt. How could it be anything other than FUN!

    • MGNorge says:

      I’ve always been a believer to make life long motorcyclists you need a catalyst. For me and many of my age I know, that was access to affordable, fun and easily manageable small bikes. When those bikes rather dried up, and I think it was because they became “uncool” in the minds of the young, that’s when we started to lose riders to other activities. Electronic distractions didn’t help either. But when the only bike that will do is a 600 Super Sport or bigger in the eyes of the public I think we lost lots of potential riders. Got to set the hook first before you can reel them in for a lifetime of riding. Right now the Grom seems to offer that again.

      As for Dual Sport tires: http://www.motorcycle-superstore.com/15133/i/kenda-k761-dual-sport-front-rear-tire?WT.ac=SLIsearch

      • Dave says:

        Economy was the driver in the era MGNorge refers to, when we liked more like Europe, where car ownership is less common and families often only have one. In an economic climate like that, small bikes are attainable for young people and big ones just aren’t. Unfortunately, we’re heading back in that direction.

  4. Randy says:

    It is cute. What’s it’s top speed? My wife’s first bike (she has a Ninja 250 now) is a SYM Wolf Classic. That bike saw 70 mph most rides, cruised 60-65, and routinely got 80mpg. It has a 48″ wheelbase, a lower seat, and is good looking in a retro classic way.

  5. Tank says:

    I notice most of the negative posts about this bike are made by people that have never ridden the bike. Who cares if a used bike is a better value? People want it because of the fun factor.

  6. reagan says:

    The Grom motor comes from a scooter motor that produces a whopping 9.7hp and 8fp of torque. The msrp is $3199+tax. Is this not one of the biggest hype jobs in history. No suprise as Honda has done these slight of hand hype jobs before. Honestly there is no value in this machine. Although as usual there are people who will bite like a fish on hook.

    • red says:

      this hp/$ ratio reminds me of the old BMI (body mass indes) where you divide persons height/weight.

    • Philip says:

      I walked into the dealership to look at a CBR for fun. I saw the Grom, thought it had value, so I bought it. Then I went to my dentist to have the hook removed, and now I’m all good! It’s a fun little toy bike, check out what owners are doing at hondagrom.net.

    • MGNorge says:

      You’re measuring fun by numbers alone. All I can say is that I would have been in heaven if I had 10hp when I was young. The Mini-Trail 50 Honda sold a gazillion of them back when and they had less than 2hp and yet people who rode them and they were intended for loved them. The grin factor does not always come from the spec sheet.

      • Reagan says:

        Who doesn’t look at numbers when they buy a motorcycle .
        Honestly , 9 ponies , basic and minimal suspension.
        Just look at what is available now, why would you want to settle.
        And sure it looks pretty , and there is a lot of hype and hoopla . But no substance.

        • Jeremy in TX says:

          Everyone looks at the numbers, and everyone tallies things up differently.

          If you are shopping for horsepower and / or utility, then there are more sensible options than the Grom available at your local dealership – no question. However, the Grom offers things at its sub-$3500 price tag that you won’t get with other bikes. That has value, too. And while you may not value things like nostalgia, sub-sonic hooliganism, the Grom Prix, or the novelty of riding what almost amounts to a minibike, there are plenty of people that do.

  7. DF in Michigan says:

    Anyone else think these things look like a downsized 90’s Monster? Down to the shape of the tank and the forward facing cylinder that simulates the Ducati V/L configuration. No wonder people think they look good – they copied a classic.

    • paul says:

      Yes, also the fact that it has two round wheels with black tires on them.

      Honda has had that engine layout ( as have others ) for millennia, so the word “copy” can’t really be used here.

    • Gary says:

      Nope. Looks like a Trail 70 to me. In fact it IS a trail 70 … punched out, no doubt. I’d recognize that motor anywhere.

      • GearDrivenCam says:

        Reminds me more of the street legal Honda ZB50 from the late ’80s. Like an evolutionary development of that bike.

  8. Lew K says:

    I was super excited when the Grom was announced last year as I remember how much fun the Trail 70 was to ride in my youth. Sold my KTM as my body just can’t take the abuse of off road any more. Got lucky and scored a new Grom in February from a dealer that wasn’t marking them up because demand has been high, and supply has been low in the U.S. If you take the Grom for what it is, a 125 street-legal scooter with a four speed manual, it will actually exceed your expectations. It handles well, has more than enough power for non-freeway situations, is stealthy quiet, and probably one of the most fun around town and local hill bikes I have ever ridden. Getting over 100mpg is icing on the cake. My daughter who is in the process of getting her permit is looking forward to taking the MSF course so she can ride it.

  9. Gary says:

    This bike would make a great dirt bike. Not so sure for the street. Sometimes you need a little power to get you out of a bind … even if you are a beginner. When my son took an interest in riding, he bought a GS500 for $1k …. rode it for six months, then sold it for $1k.

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      Suspension looks a little short on travel for dirt work. Still, I’d kill for one if there were knobbies made in that size.

      • Gary says:

        When I was a kid, during the Paleolithic Epoch, everyone rode in the dirt in little mini-trail 50s and 70s. They all had doughnut wheels and the same basic engine as the Grom. And believe me when I tell you they had next-to-zero suspension travel.

      • Gabe says:

        Yeah, today on the way back from the hardware store I launched off a big speed bump and came down pretty hard. I think you’ll need more travel and softer springs.

  10. Tommy D says:

    I think any used bike is a better value than this thing. But I do want one. Anyone make a stunt cage for the Grom?

    I would like to see an ADV guy tour with one. That would be an interesting read.

  11. Dargo says:

    Speaking of the issue of what a ninja or drz can cost, god knows what demons a bike like that will have costing so little.
    I’m not going to a track day, or dual sporting, or riding cross country. I’m looking to get a worry free (insert new honda here) grin on my face. This can come at sub 50 mph speeds in the environment i most find my self urban/suburban.
    This bike looks like it could be the grin medicine to offset my average day

  12. Vrooom says:

    Even my wife thought they were cute, and I’ve tried to get her to ride for years. There’s hope! They look fairly fun too, especially if you could find some street legal knobbies in that size.

  13. Mars says:

    Gently-used Ninja 250R – $2500.00 to $3,000.00

    100 MPH
    55-60 MPG
    150-200 mile range
    Freeway capable
    Handles like a bicycle in the turns
    You can ride it from Seattle to San Diego and back

    Grom looks fun, and I’d totally buy two used ones for $4,000.00, but not ONE.

    Sorry Honda. This is niche writ large.

    The part about Craigslist is on the money.

    In two years I’m all over a used Grom with 500 miles for $2,000.00, which the owner will use to pay off the loan.

  14. Buzz Aster says:

    This could be the first review Gabe has written where he hasn’t complained (or at least looked goofy riding the bike) about the seat height. It fits him perfectly.

  15. reagan says:

    Nice review but who is going to buy that thing. It looks like a non step thru scooter. Young teen aged boys just starting out are going to want a Klx250 or Honda eqivilent. Its only 125cc, my god its a girls scooter or camp ground mini bike.

    • Gabe says:

      I actually just bought one! Seriously.

      • reagan says:

        Why . You can get a used (in great shape) DRZ400 for $2500-$3000. The DRZ has over 30hp and real suspension. The Grom probably has 10-12hp.

        • bmidd says:

          You don’t get it.

        • Dave says:

          You can get a CBR 600f2 or 2 for that money with nearly 100hp and good suspension.You can get all kinds of things for the same money. People who buy this, want this. I know two people with them, both love it.

        • Gabe says:

          I don’t want a DRZ.

          Please tell us what bike you bought, and why it’s such an awesome paragon of value.

      • Tommy D says:

        That’s great you can get one. All the dealers near me can’t get them fast enough to keep up with demand.

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      There is a waiting list in my area. The two dealers closest to me say that every Honda dealer in the Houston area has a waiting list.

  16. Martin B says:

    I remember looking at dusty old photos of Dad and his various 1930s BSAs, Indians and Harleys. When i was 14 I stopped riding my bicycle because it wasn’t cool anymore. As soon as I was 15 I saved enough to get my first bike, a little 100cc Yamaha two stroke twin. A year later I had my first proper bike, a Suzuki T250 Hustler. A little later and Dad, my two brothers and I were all riding motorcycles, and having the best times of our lives. Good times.

  17. John says:

    I want one and probably will add one to the collection. But comparing to a cb160 in current dollars isn’t a good analogy just because the engine size is similar. The 160 was considered a full size bike in its day. Like a 650 is today. In today’s dollars you get a street legal mini bike, in 1965 you got a full size bike.

  18. Gronde says:

    How would it do with off-road tires? Do they well dirt tires for that size wheels?

  19. Brian says:

    I hope these are still around when my little boy gets a bit older (he’s only 2 right now) Since my last name isn’t Rossi, natural motorcycle riding isn’t technically in our blood, I won’t get him riding at age 3 but maybe a few years later.
    At least this is a cool option for the both of us to get matching models when he is ready and to go along with our future matching dirtbikes.

  20. paul says:

    Good article and a great little bike. It may be small but its big on fun!

    I recently acquired a Honda CBR125R and have rediscovered the joys of riding small. These bikes are an absolute blast to ride in town and on quiet rural roads. I use it to commute to work everyday.

  21. Jeremy in TX says:

    I have absolutely no use for such a bike, but I want one for some reason.

  22. Craigo298er says:

    I have one, and have added an FMF pipe, swapped bars with some Renthal CR high’s, a steering damper, and some carbon goodies. I love this thing. I taught a few friends to ride on it already, and one has gone out and bought his own Yamaha Star Bolt and another is looking at some bikes to buy. One of those guys didn’t want a bike, but quickly realized the fun that can be had (and now knows why I have 4 bikes).

    • todd says:

      The guy who bought the Bolt is now wondering why that little bike of yours was so much more fun.

      • Craigo298er says:

        He’s actually considering buying my old GS Adventure so I can get the new KTM 1190 Adv R…or the new Honda Africa Twin rumored for next spring(!!!)

  23. Mike B. says:

    I am a 60 year old guy who has one of these Groms. What a blast. I am currently encouraging my daughter and her friends to use this vehicle to get their motorcycle license. This is an excellent tool to practice The Total Control Advanced Rider exercises endorsed by Lee Parks (ie cornering, braking, heads up riding, etc.)
    Any parking lot is game. You get lots of smiles from the neighborhood kids, too.

  24. VLJ says:

    Great writing, Gabe. This line in particular might be the best thing I’ve ever read here at MD…

    “If this isn’t the bike that gets new, younger riders to stop photographing their genitalia…”

    And yes, what a perfect bike for the City dweller who simply needs an easy-to-ride, economical scoot to get around town and park. Or for the high school or college kid to get to and from classes. Or, yes, for the RV-er who would rather not unhitch the F-350 just to zip on down to the local market.

    Pure fun, and isn’t that what all this is supposed to be about?

  25. Roadrash says:

    Nice job, Gabe!
    These are the kind of stories I really enjoy reading.
    And in my mind, the Grom qualifies as a naked!

  26. David Duarte says:

    looks like a ton of fun to rip up the back roads with

  27. Nick D says:

    3199 is $3500-4000 Out The Door (Tax Tag Title Shipping and anything else the dealer can think of). That is a lot of $ for something that only has a screen to keep the oil clean.

    What is it’s piston speed in fpm at 45 mph?

  28. dave says:

    it should be a two stroke!

  29. thoppa says:

    Turbo version ? That might make this real fun !

  30. George Catt says:

    Put that motor in a new “Trail 90″ frame and I’m in. Oh, and the disc brakes, upside down forks, modern lighting,,,

    • MGNorge says:

      The Sachs Madass comes very close to a modern Trail 90. I think it’s about time Honda step up with their own. A CT200 (TRail 90) was my first bike and I might just need to put a modern day version in the garage before checkout!

  31. Norm G. says:

    re: “motorcycling is in a lot of trouble.”

    full stop.

    • MGNorge says:

      Please sir, explain that view.

      • Norm G. says:

        motorcyclists are either borne or bred. those who have it in them will seek it without any sort of external stimuli. price has never been a deterrent. they figure out a way. those who don’t… won’t.

        no amount of fancy product will turn a non-motorcyclist into a motorcyclist. the only thing fancy products get are impulse buys that then promptly convert themselves into low mileage examples sitting dust covered in garages.

        having staked out a nice comfy corner, they patiently await the day their non-motorcyclist owners get around to running an ad on ebay, craigslist, bike trader, etc. at which point, the bike comes full circle ending up in the hands of someone from the 3% minority who define motorcycling.

        • bikerrandy says:

          I got my 1st MC for economy & simplicity. That was over 50 years ago. Now I still have 7 bikes, scooters and ride them every chance I get including long distances. But I introduced my 2 sons to MCs and they never got the bug like me. 8^/

        • Blackcayman says:

          I learned the lesson from my first motorcycle buying experience in 1982. After that, I always bought very clean, low miles bikes from people who thought they wanted to be a motorcyclist.

        • Scotty says:

          only 3% norm? Is that just the US or do you think it applies world wide? Motorcycle culture is a bit broader than that here in the UK I think. In some ways…its everywhere.

  32. motowarrior says:

    I have been fortunate to own over 50 motorcycles in my life, and I’ve been riding them since I was 11 years old. The Grom may be a great entry bike, but it is also an absolute blast for an experienced motorcyclist to ride around town. You’ll be surprised how seldom you need to go over 60 mph in town, and how much fun it is to negotiate traffic on the bike. You easily get 100+ mpg, and you never lack for a parking space. Yes, other motorycles are better at other things, but for having fun on a daily basis, it’s hard to beat a Grom!

  33. ivan says:

    Well surely the tires and fenders say that it is not for climbing mountains. Just for kids to learn and try out a few things on. Kudos to Honda for re-inventing the entry level bike.

  34. skybullet says:

    One of the bikes I had the most fun on was a Honda Super 90. Isn’t that what it’s all about?

  35. Bob L. says:

    Well-written, Gabe. Personally, I hope Honda sells a ton of these, because that would mean new riders or experienced riders having fun, without mega horsepower or ego-stroking. That would be a good thing!

  36. Mike says:

    Pretty cool. I think you guys have to get a kitted 125 Sachs Maddass and do a head to head shootout though.

    • Gary says:

      That is a great idea. I live in a rural and hilly area, so bikes like the Grom and Maddass are just out of the question. But they do make me long for my ’70 CT-70H.

  37. MGNorge says:

    Back in the day it was Mini-Trail 50’s and 70’s and they were all of everything kids in that age wanted. The Grom at 125cc seems too good to be true. I lament the passing of good economical small trail/adventure type bikes. Remember all the trucks and RVs with Trail 90’s lashed to them? There hasn’t really been anything to replace them since. Now there is! So even if this doesn’t get the young off their a**es there are lots of RVer’s drooling once again. I’m starting to see the Honda of years ago and all I can say is keep it coming!

    • Bob L. says:

      I just noticed how “vulnerable” that exhaust pipe is…..not so sure about off-roading this thing!