To summarize: a back-to-stock Grom was only marginally slower than the race winner… Tells you how much good a pile of expensive aftermarket parts do.. Think twice before you modify your bike.. It’s unlikely you’re more qualified than 100 Japanese engineers..

– DickRuble

Regular readers of MO are probably well familiar with one of our harshest critics, who goes by the handle DickRuble. The reply above was in response to our 24 Hours of Grom story, in which Team MOrons attempted to race a modified Grom for a day, only to discover our modified bike was downright frightening to ride.

Keeping a motorcycle as original as possible has its merits. We chose to ignore them when building our Grom, and dammit, we will be vindicated one day!

Keeping a motorcycle as original as possible has its merits. We chose to ignore them when building our Grom, and dammit, we will be vindicated one day!

It’s not often that I agree with Dick, but in this particular case I have to admit he has a point. Sort of. I took on the challenge of upgrading our Honda Grom because, despite its small stature and beginner-bike status, it has a wealth of untapped potential. However, the key to realizing that potential is the vital component we didn’t have before our 24-hour race: the opportunity to test and tune.

Top 10 Honda Grom Modifications

It’d be crazy to think any professional racing team simply installs a new part onto their bike and waits for a race to see if it works. They put in the time behind the scenes to ensure a new part works the way it’s supposed to. If it doesn’t, they investigate why and make corrections. In our case, we debuted a bike that was stricken with a bent fork from a pre-race tumble, scrambled to make everything work as best we could, and wrote about it after the fact mostly because it made for a good story. Admit it, our adventure racing a Grom for 24 hours would be a little stale if everything had gone according to plan. Although, admittedly, the chance at snagging a win in our class would have been nice…

There are reasons why Yoshimura is as successful as it is, and you can be sure testing is an important part.

There are reasons why Yoshimura is as successful as it is, and you can be sure testing is an important part.

That being said, Dick has a point. The engineers who build these bikes are extremely intelligent people, with massive resources at their disposal. Even when confronted with price limitations to contend with, as is especially the case with the budget-priced Grom, they are still able to design one hell of a motorcycle. However, as good as today’s motorcycles are, there’s always room for improvement somewhere, and to me, the journey of tapping into this potential brings its own satisfaction. Sure there lies the distinct possibility that an “improvement” isn’t one after all. Then again, when a change results in more power, better handling, quicker lap times, or even greater comfort (for those non-racing situations), it can validate the effort and expense it took to get there.

Building A Honda Grom Roadracer

If nothing else, modifying a motorcycle is personalizing a motorcycle, and personalization entails forming a bond with your bike, and the more you modify, the better you understand its inner workings. So, even though it was obvious the suspension on the Grom was in need of major help, when I was consistently having trouble shifting during my graveyard stint in the race, I knew I hadn’t forgotten how to shift, but that the Grom’s vibrations were enough to loosen the shift knob, even with a hefty amount of Loctite. So, I wasn’t surprised when I looked down and found exactly that, and I was prepared to tell our ace mechanic, John Ryti, the allen keys needed to fix it.

This is just another Kawasaki KZ1300 relaxing at the Barber museum, right? Wrong. This, in fact, is a wildly modified KZ1300 in which British builder Allan Millyard grafted another set of six cylinders, creating the Z2600 V12. Millyard’s goal was to leave the motorcycle looking as standard as possible, while a peek in the engine bay will reveal the Z26 is an absolute monster. What are proponents of leaving a bike stock supposed to think about this?!

This is just another Kawasaki KZ1300 relaxing at the Barber museum, right? Wrong. This, in fact, is a wildly modified KZ1300 in which British builder Allan Millyard grafted another set of six cylinders, creating the Z2600 V12. Millyard’s goal was to leave the motorcycle looking as standard as possible, while a peek in the engine bay will reveal the Z26 is an absolute monster. What are proponents of leaving a bike stock supposed to think about this?!

In hindsight, it boggles my mind how good the Honda Grom is right out of the box. By extension, I also can’t believe how impressive today’s motorcycles are in general. Whether you’re racing or cruising, exploring the path less traveled or attacking the next set of triples, there’s a bike out there that can do it, and do it well, right from the showroom floor.

But does that mean I’ll never modify another bike again? Hell no. There are so many motorcycles out there I want the opportunity to make worse before making better.

  • Craig Hoffman

    Interesting article. A big part of the modding process for me is to make the bike “mine”. My bikes are in part fantasy, and how does one fantasize if their bike is bone stock?

    Another factor to consider is what the engineers want to deliver and what the EPA allows and what the Legal Department can live with (in the case of high performance bikes) are different things. ECU programming in high powered models is now the electronic equivalent of an ass gasket – it is clearly sanitized for our protection.

    If I am buying a new R1 or ZX, etc, I want it all. Do I need it all? Hell no, but I want it anyway :) My current bike is an ’06 FZ1, hardly a front line machine, but it is quite a different animal than stock once it’s it’s brain was erased and re-flashed with fun code instead of EPA code or “safe” code. That was one mod that was without reservation worth making 😉

  • Old MOron

    For everyday use, those brilliant engineers with near-infinite resources design reliability and durability into a bike. Yes, that’s what I like, reliability and durability. Maybe they could sacrifice a little reliability for the sake of easier wheelies or longer darkies, but I’ve never had a boring bike.

    Sure, if I were racing, and if I had a big budget, I’d want every bit of performance I could get. I’d have to rebuild the bike frequently, but that’s what the big budget is for.

    For my street bike, commuter, canyon carver, stock is just fine. I don’t want to wrench. I want to ride.

  • Chris

    Phenomenally good stuff, right off the showroom floor…Mod it! Those same brilliant engineers are designing for the masses and they’re regulated by all kinds of policy and red tape. For (pretty) simple money, I can make the bike feel, look, and sound better (To me, of course.). Is it much faster or quicker in the grand scheme of things? Nah. Is it much slower? Nah. Does it handle better? Probably notably so. Is it lighter? Yeh (For the record only, maybe.).

    Is it worth the money and time? All up to the rider/owner. Ya’ gotta’ at least have an exhaust for looks and sound (and weight. And, again, for me.). I’m not racing anybody. If I like it better, for whatever reason(s), it’s worth it. Is it really “better”? If I like it better, it’s better (Though maybe not really faster.).

    If none of that makes good sense to you, cool. Leave it just like it is, save your money, and enjoy. That’s way cheaper, easier…and safer.

  • JMDonald

    I try to get the upgrades from the factory if possible. The Grom project looked like a lot of fun. It’s the journey. If you get somewhere so much the better.

  • Hiro

    Could anyone tell me what “attacking the next set of triples” means? I always enjoy MO’s articles and videos, but I’m Japanese, and sometimes have difficulty understanding a part of an article. Thank you in advance.

    • Campisi

      A “set of triples” is a course obstacle in motocross riding involving a set of three large bumps in quick succession, not usually large enough to qualify as jumps but usually too large to simply ride right over. Getting over and past them quickly is a difficult skill to master.

      • James Stewart

        And when you don’t *quite* clear ALL of them in a single jump… well it can end badly for you. But on the positive side, lots of orthopedic surgeons have bought nice Porsches from the doctor bills that follow…

        • Hiro

          Thank you all, now I fully understood. I hope I will not help doctors get richer in the future. Thanks again, and I’m happy to share my thoughts with like-minded people!

    • TroySiahaan

      Your English is much better than my Japanese! Anyway, Campisi’s explanation below is perfect. Thanks for reading.

  • http://www.motou.info Gabe Ets-Hokin

    All I would add to Trizzle’s story is this: try to narrow down the one thing that changing would benefit your laptimes the most, and then change that thing and that thing only. If the modification makes you go faster, than move to the next thing, keeping the above rule in mind. Repeat until the bike is perfect or people stop talking to you.

    • TroySiahaan

      In a perfect world, yes, that’s a great approach. But this is MO. We ain’t got time for that! We change everything at once then scratch our heads wondering which direction to go next! 😉

  • john burns

    Well. At least you didn’t break anything putting the new stuff on. That used to be my specialty, trying to get header bolts and things loose on crusty old air-cooled heads, wrench, wrench, snap! The old phrase was, “tuned ourselves to a standstill…”

    • DickRuble

      Tune-up to an 85 mins break is more like what they did…

  • James Stewart

    That suspension balance stuff is tricky – and you found out just how bad it can be. Fix those Forks, install the heavy springs and find a stiff rear shock that doesn’t jack up the back of the bike. And you haven’t even gone inside the engine yet – do the rules let you port the head, change the cam, or install a big bore kit? Now we’re talking…

  • Nathan Heitzinger

    Many of the gains to be had my modifying a bike are found in tampering with anything emissions related, whether it be removing the catalytic converter or changing the fuel mapping…which of course is illegal, albeit rarely enforced.

  • DickRuble

    Has someone figured out the cause of the drop in torque? I have a hypothesis to the main culprit..