Grom: A grom (or grommet) is a young surfer, usually under the age of 15. Most of the time people that are called groms are youngins who are good. – Urban Dictionary
A natural first question when looking at the 2014 Honda Grom is, “what the heck is a Grom?” Besides being euphemism for a young surfing phenom, Grom is also the name of Honda’s latest fun machine. Why the weird name? Called the MSX 125 in other markets, copyright issues prevented Honda from using that name in America. But, since Honda is clearly targeting the youth — and the young at heart markets, the name is a great fit.
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The Grom is clearly a diminutive little motorcycle, but that doesn’t take away from its fun quotient, as we discovered during its press intro in surfer-laden Southern California. It’s perfect for new riders looking for a great learning tool, or the experienced pilot looking for a good time.
At 29.7 inches, the seat height sounds more intimidating than it really is; the Grom’s narrow seat allows even relatively inexperienced riders the confidence to place both feet on the ground with ease. And don’t worry tall riders, the six-footers in our group reported being comfortable thanks to the low pegs and tall bars.
Powering the Grom is a fuel-injected, 125cc air-cooled Single Honda has produced almost a million of for its various worldwide products. It’s a SOHC, with an offset cylinder and a roller rocker arm for reduced mechanical losses. Despite the little engine and small stature, the Grom does its best to emulate its big-bike kin.
For starters, the 125 is mated to a standard four-speed trans with a real clutch. From there, an inverted fork, twin discs brakes, minimal, dirt-inspired bodywork and the 12-inch wheels with a CBR-style 10-spoke design give the Grom a much more upscale, “urban commuter” profile. Despite what you might make of its looks from pictures, you really have to see the Grom in person to appreciate it. I think it looks rather cool.
The Grom is the latest in Honda’s push to introduce fun, efficient, reliable, and most of all, affordable motorcycles to attract new riders or bring back former ones. Thanks to the economics of building a motorcycle in Thailand, the Grom can be taken from dealers right now for a measly $2999.
And what an entertaining way to spend three large. It didn’t take long in the saddle before the smile on my face from the affordable price grew even larger from all the fun. The little bike scoots off the line with relative gusto (for a 125 anyway), though clutch engagement was rather far and the thumper doesn’t pick up revs with much urgency.
Each gear is spaced far enough for practical usage around town, with a tall first gear providing push all the way to its 8250-rpm redline. The next two gears have a wide, usable range, while the single cylinder struggled to reach 60 mph in fourth gear — the fastest speed I was able to reach with the available space. Downhill with a tailwind could probably net another five mph, tops. Still, there’s enough power to evade four-wheelers around the city. Or campus police.
But maximum velocity isn’t the Grom’s strong suit. It’s about cruising around town and getting into trouble without ever breaking the speed limit. It handles surprisingly well, with a significant amount of lean angle required before hard parts start touching down. Front travel from the 31mm fork is 3.9 inches, while the shock gives 4.1 inches. For such a little bike, the suspension felt compliant while carrying all 155-pounds of me, never bottoming and providing a comfortable ride on SoCal’s crappy roads.
Braking duties for the 225-lb. Grom are handled by a single 220mm disc with a twin-piston caliper up front and a 190mm unit out back mated to a single-piston clamper. Braking performance obviously pales in comparison to a CBR, but it provides decent power and feel, strong enough for the more daring journos to pull stoppies at red lights. Were it mine, a switch to steel-braided lines would be in order as the lever feel could be more positive.
The “Grom Prix,” a gymkhana-style race set up in Honda’s parking lot, was the ultimate demonstration of the bike’s smile-inducing capabilities. Celebrity guests like X-Games star Jamie Bestwick, current AMA Motocross racer Justin Barcia, supercross legend Jeremy McGrath and current AMA Pro road racers Melissa Paris and Benny Solis, all took to the Grom to show off what they could do.
It was here where the peg-dragging, rear-wheel sliding antics really showed off the Grom’s impressive handling. Each rider, including the pros, couldn’t stop laughing after their stints. In the end, the team consisting of Jeremy McGrath and Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck(!) took top honors. My group finished well down the order.
Honda hasn’t yet released fuel mileage numbers, but the fuel gauge on the easy-to-read LCD gauge cluster didn’t budge at all after my 30-something-mile ride. In fact, some members of our sister site, the Grom Forum, are getting over 100 mpg from the 1.45-gallon tank!
The Grom’s toy-like feel and around-town practicality was appreciated by the less-experienced riders in attendance – it’s a motorcycle that isn’t the least bit intimidating. More aggressive journos, myself included, enjoyed the grin factor brought about by man-handling the affordable little bike.
Wherever we went, admirers and onlookers alike couldn’t stop pointing in amusement. We weren’t sure if they were laughing with us or at us, but either way, smiling is a natural reaction whenever you see one. It’s a similar reaction from the saddle.