Trizzle's Take – All That Glitters Is Not Gold

Troy Siahaan
by Troy Siahaan

The case for a bone-stock motorcycle

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!

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.

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?!

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.

Troy Siahaan
Troy Siahaan

Troy's been riding motorcycles and writing about them since 2006, getting his start at Rider Magazine. From there, he moved to Sport Rider Magazine before finally landing at in 2011. A lifelong gearhead who didn't fully immerse himself in motorcycles until his teenage years, Troy's interests have always been in technology, performance, and going fast. Naturally, racing was the perfect avenue to combine all three. Troy has been racing nearly as long as he's been riding and has competed at the AMA national level. He's also won multiple club races throughout the country, culminating in a Utah Sport Bike Association championship in 2011. He has been invited as a guest instructor for the Yamaha Champions Riding School, and when he's not out riding, he's either wrenching on bikes or watching MotoGP.

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2 of 15 comments
  • Nathan Heitzinger Nathan Heitzinger on Oct 13, 2015

    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 DickRuble on Oct 13, 2015

    Has anyone figured out the cause of the drop in torque? Based on the top 10 mods, the likely culprits are the exhaust and the air filter, in that order...