If you believe the conventional wisdom of our forum moto-trolls, a motorcycle must be full-sized, fast AF, have the range of a WWII Dornier 217 medium bomber and price tag of a 1980 Suzuki GS850 to have any hope of success, much less being a sales leader. Based on that, what model do you think Öhlins suspension, the high-end, race-focused Swedish company, likely sell the most cartridge kits and shocks for? The GSX-R? Ninjas? Ducati Superbikes?
Nope. It’s the lowly Honda Grom 125, according to an off-the-cuff and unverified comment made by Honda’s Colin Miller. And I believed him, because at the remarkably well-attended Barber Small Bore bike show in Leeds, Alabama, it seemed like every Grom there was outfitted with ümlautty, gold-anodized goodness. And why not? At just $850 for the cartridge kit and shock, it’s a little hint into why this pudgy little critter, with its 12-inch wheels and 10 horsepower, Kennedy-era engine, is so popular.
Since 2014, Honda has sold 750,000 Groms worldwide. It’s not surprising that over 50,000 are sold each year in Thailand (where the Grom is made), but when Colin told us US Honda dealers roll “eight to ten thousand” of these annually (making the US the number-two market), it got the journalists gathered in a conference room at Barber Motorsports Park to rouse themselves from their pulled-pork comas and even gasp a bit. Those are numbers that likely make the Grom one of the best-selling street motorcycles in America, which was “a little bit of a surprise” according to Miller.
In 2014, it was a success from the start, and much of that success is due to the enthusiastic community that’s grown around it. It’s not just a rich aftermarket – you can get anything for this bike, from race bodywork and aluminum swingarms to turbo (!) kits – but also a large and supportive community, with meetups and events year-round and just about everywhere in the US. That’s likely why Honda chose to unveil its updated 2022 model at the 2021 Barber Small Bore event. Honda wanted to show off this collection of Grom enthusiasts, but it also wanted to highlight the changes made to the 2022 model (it’s already been introduced in Europe for 2021).
Honda wanted to build on the bike’s best qualities: low operating (and purchase) cost, ease of maintenance and use for new riders and customizability. The motor is where the biggest changes are. It’s now an even longer-stroke motor, with a 50mm bore and 63.1mm stroke (from 52.4 by 57.9 mm) and zestier 10:1 compression ratio (from 9.3:1). The transmission gets a fifth gear so it can fully utilize the new 38-tooth rear sprocket and have a broader spread of power. And now, after many eons without one, there’s a cartridge-style oil filter so you don’t have to remove the side cover to clean the oil spinner, just in case you knew it even had an oil spinner. That should make it easier for new riders to learn simple maintenance tasks.
There are also changes to the styling, brakes, fuel tank and seat. The bodywork is now easier to remove, with six big screws on each side, and the gas tank gets an extra .14 gallons, for a 1.59-gallon capacity. Hey! No snickering! At roughly 100 mpg, that’s an extra 14 miles of range, and the seat is thicker and flatter to help you endure those extra miles. The suspension is unchanged, but the two-piston 220mm front brake now offers upgraded front ABS, complete with IMU that detects pitch to proportion braking when the rear wheel is light or off the ground. Also for the new riders is a gear-position indicator built into the new LCD display that also shows fuel level, fuel used, MPG and dual tripmeters.
I’ve made snide jokes about Alabama in these pages, and I regret it, especially after browsing through a bewilderingly vast 130-pump gas station and convenience store called Buc-Ees (that sells eight-gallon propane deep fryers in its foyer) and sampling moonshine with Barber Small-Bore organizers Kevin and Greg (from Grom parts retailer MNNTHBX) and eating enough pulled pork to de-kosher most of Tel Aviv. And that was just Friday. Saturday was looking like a good day.
And it was. Seriously, I’ve never had as much fun at a new-model launch, and I’ve been to about 60 of them. We started with a 50-mile street ride on mostly rural (and Alabama is rural) backroads. The 2022 was everything I remember from the 2014 Grom – quick handling (no surprise, as the bike’s claimed weight is 227 pounds wet), easy to ride and really, really slow. Getting to 45 is no problem, but after that it’s a chore to get to the straight-and-level top speed of 55 (indicated).
But that’s why it was so fun – I spent most of my time trying to keep the other journos from drafting me and then passing on long downhills, where I briefly saw over 70 mph on the speedometer. Who was first was determined by who was boldest with the brakes and smartest with wind management. I still don’t understand how a certain writer, who resembles Jemaine from Flight of the Conchords and presents more surface area as well as mass, was able to slipstream past me multiple times.
For street riding, especially at lower speeds, the Grom gives up little to larger bikes. Even though it’s non-adjustable, the front and rear shocks do the job and keep the wheels on the ground, and the bike didn’t feel wobbly or underdamped in even high-speed turns. I was surprised at the effectiveness of the brakes, but with just 227 pounds to slow, a single finger is fine for most jobs. And it is slow, but for city riding and quiet, two-lane roads, it’s enough to get the job done
Back at the event, held in the parking lot of a proving-ground track on the sprawling Barber Motorsports campus, there were plenty of ways to test the Grom’s mettle for the rest of the day. There was drag racing (where again Jemaine bested me in five out of seven runs), a Gymkhana event – if you can’t stoppie a Grom you aren’t really trying, and if you can’t do a clutch wheelie this is the bike to learn on, and don’t forget about smokey burnouts and hackeys, all made stupid easy with that comical 47.2-inch wheelbase – and a muddy, rutted hare scrambles sort of thing called the Creek Bottom Classic.
There was also a hill-climb event, all followed by several epic (and some may say overly aggressive) parade laps of the main Barber circuit with what looked like about 100 minimotos of all descriptions, including a stretched and lowered two-stroke scooter that looked like it was constantly crashing.
My favorite part of the day – maybe even the year – was the small roadrace course set up by Sportbike Tracktime. The track was big enough to really practice technique—there was even Daytona-style banking – but small enough that the motor’s paltry output wasn’t a bother, enough to keep me ahead of all the other journalists (suck it, Jemaine!) on the track and even ahead of many of the modded bikes. That’s where I found the bike’s limits, scraping both the footpeg feelers and exhaust in the tightest turns, but the Vee rubber tires and small-but-mighty brakes didn’t let me down. After dragging bits I looked for an adjuster on the shock – and that’s when I realized practically everyone at the event had Öhlins suspension.
“Groms are not cheap – they’re a giant money pit,” exclaimed not-small Grom owner Joshua Kelley. He’s put 14,000 miles on his 2020 model, sometimes riding 440 miles in a day. His bike was nicely worked over, with engine mods giving him a true 13 hp at the back wheel, allowing him to cruise at 65 mph all day long. Still, one rider’s money pit is another rider’s change found in the couch cushions; a complete 200cc big-bore kit, with ported head and high-compression piston can be had for about $1,500 and $1,700 gets you a turbocharger. But it all adds up, and I can easily see dropping $10,000 on my perfect Grom, at which time I’m hoping someone will stage an intervention and place me in a conservatorship.
I wound up putting about 120 miles on my Grom that day, including street, racetrack, dirt (what?) and dragstrip. Not a lot for a full-sized street bike, but they were quality miles that wanted for a dull moment. At a time when younger riders seem to be seeking a lower-cost, lower-tech, more fun motorcycling experience, the Grom – and its family of other minis – expertly delivers.
|2022 Honda Grom Specifications|
|MSRP||$3,399 (Matte Black, Queen Bee Yellow) |
$3,499 (Pearl White)
$3,599 (Candy Blue ABS)
|Engine Type||4-stroke, Single, OHC, 2-valve, air-cooled|
|Bore x Stroke||50.0 x 63.1mm|
|Fuel System||PGM-FI with automatic enrichment|
|Final Drive||Sealed chain|
|Frame Type||Tube Steel|
|Front Suspension||31mm telescopic inverted fork; 3.9 inches of travel, no adjustment|
|Rear Suspension||Single shock with steel box-section swingarm; 4.1 inches of travel, no adjustment|
|Front Brakes||Single 220mm disc with hydraulic dual-piston caliper, Available IMU-equipped ABS (Front only)|
|Rear Brakes||Single 190mm disc with hydraulic single piston caliper|
|Seat Height||32.9 in|
|Curb Weight||227 lb (claimed)|
|Fuel Capacity||1.59 gal|
|Special Features||Gear position indicator, passenger pegs, one free trip to salad bar (no pudding)|
|Color Choices||Pearl White / Matte Black /Queen Bee Yellow / Pearl White|
|Warranty||12 Month Unlimited Mileage Limited Warranty|
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