First Ride Review
If you’re wondering what the heck a “grom” is, you’re not alone. Honda’s latest effort at winning over the young—and the young at heart—is called the MX125 in Europe and elsewhere, but that name was already trademarked in the United States and Japan. So the folks at American Honda, which is based in Torrance, California, not far from famous surf breaks like Redondo Beach, came up with Grom, a slang term for an exceptionally talented young surfer, as in “that grom is one rad ‘lil ripper!”
Groms typically ride skateboards or BMX bikes to the beach, but Honda is hoping that when they turn 16, they’ll beg Mom and Dad for one of these street-legal 125cc motorcycles. And adults who want to get reacquainted with their inner child can drink from the fountain of youth for just $2,999. Two friends of mine, brothers in their 40s who work in the motorcycle industry and love anything on two wheels, put down deposits on identical red Groms the day they were announced, and they picked them up the day they arrived at their local Honda dealership. After bombing around the streets of Austin, with boyish enthusiasm they immediately started making mods—removing restrictors from the air box, figuring out ways to shed weight and add a custom look.
With android-like styling and chubby tires on 12-inch wheels, the Grom looks downright playful. A friendly, unintimidating appearance is important for many new riders who are already scared witless trying to coordinate throttling, shifting, braking and leaning. I spent a few hours on a Grom, and even though I’m 6-foot, 2-inches and 200 pounds, it didn’t feel like I was riding a minibike (Honda Trail 70, anyone?). The 30.1-inch seat height exceeds that of many cruisers by several inches, and the seat-bars-pegs triangle is spacious enough to accommodate a wide variety of riders. The narrow, hard dirtbike-style seat is one of the least forgiving saddles I’ve sat on in a long time, but for the short hops and rough-n-tumble riding most Groms will be used for, it makes sense. There’s a grab strap and pegs for a passenger, but there isn’t much extra room and load capacity is only about 300 pounds.
With a feather-light clutch pull, the Grom’s 4-speed transmission shifts easily. Honda makes no horsepower claims for the air-cooled, fuel-injected 125cc single, which has a single overhead cam, two valves and chain final drive, but it ain’t much, so keeping the throttle pinned and shifting near the 9,250 rpm redline is essential when riding in traffic on city streets. The highest indicated speed I was able to squeeze out was 54 mph—and that was downhill—but cruising along at 45 mph is easy. And 45 mph on a Grom feels about like 75 mph on a larger bike, so don’t worry about this thing having a stunted fun factor.
Suspension-wise, the Grom has a 31mm male-slider fork and a single shock with 3.9/4.1 inches of front/rear travel and no adjustability. The ride is OK on smooth surfaces, but sharp-edged bumps at speed can be pretty brutal, sending shock waves up your arms and spine and amplifying the stiffness of the seat. On the other hand, the single 220mm front disc with 2-piston caliper and single 190mm rear disc with 1-piston caliper provide remarkably good stopping power. Locking up either end isn’t particularly easy to do, but that’s a good thing for less experienced riders who tend to grab/stomp the brakes in dicey situations.
With a stubby 47.4-inch wheelbase, small wheels with grippy tires and a claimed curb weight of just 225 pounds, the Grom is easy to toss around. And if it falls over, your grandma with her bad back could pick it up one-handed. Tall, adjustable mirrors make it easy to see if any go-karts, Big Wheels or surf punks are hot on your tail, and the fully digital instrument panel is packed with data (bar graph tach, numeric speedo, fuel gauge, dual trip/odometer and clock). Like a lot of new Hondas, the huge horn button is in the wrong place—above the turn indicator—so you’ll probably beep to go left and blink-blink at offensive drivers until you adjust.
The all-new 2014 Honda Grom 125 is a fun little machine. Its steel backbone frame and box-section steel swingarm are rock-solid, and it’s absolutely effortless to ride. No doubt, like the cultish Ruckus, customizers will soon take the Grom in all sorts of unexpected directions, but for now you’re likely to see them plastered with stickers for Sex Wax, Billabong and Quicksilver. Cowabunga, dudes!