Photos by Jacob Black and Kanishka Sonnadara
There is no vehicle on two wheels more fun than a Honda Grom. None. Not one. And I’ve been riding litre bikes for about 15 years. I’m an evangelical advocate for head-down, bum-up, 0-100 in 3.0 second sport bikes. The Grom, is easily as much fun as any of them.
The Grom is essentially a road-legal minibike. It’s named for “grommets”, a semi-derisive term for rookie surfers and or skateboarders. Honda knows that grommets typically infuriate more seasoned surfers with their wild antics. Honda knows riders of this bike will do the same thing.
If it wasn’t so small, it would be one of the toughest-looking bikes on the road. Ready to ride, it is 102 kg and 125cc of pure gold. The seat height is a miniscule 76.5 cm, but feels far lower. The wheelbase, a puny 1,204 mm. Take the mirrors off, and the Grom will fit it the back of most large SUVs or small minivans – including a Mazda5. It’s got electric start, a four-speed sequential manual gearbox, fuel injection and a digital dash.
A 220 mm front disc makes short work of stopping distances and has no trouble throwing the back wheel skyward for a crowd-pleasing stoppie. Wheelies require a little clutch, a little revs and a little lean back. Burnouts are hilariously simple – more so when people give you their derisive and inaccurate opinion of the bike, “That thing probably couldn’t even do a burnout!” – LOL. Yes it can.
Have you ever bunny-hopped a pushbike off a kerb and chuckled about it? Now imagine doing that on a motorbike, in full leathers. It’s hilarious.
To ride a Grom is to grin. Maniacally. Constantly. I was thankful for my tinted visor, because nobody who saw the look on my face as I pootled along would think I was sane.
The Grom has two top speeds (at least it did in my care) – 112 km/h tucked in, 105 km/h sitting up. I’ve never enjoyed sitting in the right lane of the highway so much. Wind buffeting is pretty terrible, and side winds definitely affect your trajectory but honestly I didn’t mind. Everybody whizzing past would look, some would grin, many would give me the thumbs up. Some shook their heads in disdain – those people probably think Mission Brown is a good colour for an accent wall.
Those top speeds I mentioned are also the speeds you can attack almost any off ramp at. The 12-inch wheels and compact frame make the Grom superbly nimble. The riding position takes some getting used to, but once you are the Grom inspires confidence. Even the 31 mm inverted fork soaks up bumps with aplomb and the rear shock is compliant – I expected wild bump steer and histrionics over rough surfaces mid-corner but the Grom is more secure than you would ever imagine. It seems that forgiving Honda nature even extends into their tiniest of rigs.
Honda even brought the Grom out for their Rock the Red Gymkhana competition. Rock the Red is a festival of all things Honda, held out in Markham at the Honda campus annually. It involves parades, displays, test rides of the Honda line up and kids’ riding sessions. It’s Honda’s way of giving back to the motorcycling community and is a genuinely impressive event. Centrepiece to the event is a Gymkhana competition.
I was enrolled in the Grom class, with a few professionals, some very talented amateurs and a handful of idiot journalists. My performance was less than stellar, but the Grom was a dream. In amongst the tight cones the Grom’s agility was thoroughly tested, and we need to make mention that some of the harder chargers found it lacking in ground clearance. Most of us though found the Grom a joy. The engine response is fantastic in low gears and many of us made the rev limiter on the longest of the straights.
Because it’s such a simple machine, maintenance is relatively straightforward, with an exposed spark plug and an accessible oil drain plug. Tensioning the chain is easy enough on the side stand. The only potential issue is the lack of an external oil filter. There is an oil screen which requires the engine cover to be removed for access, but thankfully that only needs service at 7,500 km. Even that job is about a 30-minute job and can be done at home with the right tools.
If you measure practicality by ease of use and ease of maintenance, the Grom is a winner. If you measure it by storage space/features, the Grom falls short. There is no storage space at all.
But who cares? This is a joy machine. Pure and simple. I even have a Grom song.
This is also the perfect bike for a city commuter. Even wringing its neck everywhere I went I averaged 2.3 L/100 km over my week with the Grom. 2.3L! In traffic, there is nothing more capable of scything through gaps and clearing congestion – and the hilarious sight of you on board your tiny little pocket rocket will cure the road rage of your fellow travellers. So really, riding a Grom is a public service.
Despite its size this little Honda is ergonomically excellent, making it easy to modulate the rear brake, throttle and clutch to maintain stability and momentum even at walking pace. And at $3,199 this might be the perfect bike on which to teach a brand new rider.
Scratch that. This is the perfect bike on which to teach a new rider. In fact, it’s the perfect bike for any rider. If my lotto ticket comes in this week you’ll find one of these, a litre bike and a couple of cars in my garage. I’ll never be happier.