Honda sold millions of little monkey bikes to young buyers (and their parents) in the ‘70s and ‘80s, for tooling around at the cottage, or in your back 40. When the Grom first burst on the scene last January with its small size and motor, many folks pegged it as the natural descendant of those machines.
Since then, Honda’s been plugging the little bike as hard as they can. There was some doubt as to whether or not the bike would come into Canada, but last summer, Honda confirmed that Canada would have it and it’s already in dealers nationwide.
Other than the motor (borrowed from the Honda Wave scooter), this bike is pretty much all new and boasts some pretty decent tech, with fuel injection (on a 125 air-cooled single!), USD forks and disc brakes front and back.
Let me start by saying this – for all the people waiting for the next great monkey bike – I’m sorry, but this ain’t it.
There are some bikes that, when you see them, you know they were built for extra-legal hooligan action. Think of a V-Max, any supermotard, or a Triumph Speed Triple. I’d like to add the Grom to that mix.
I picked up our test unit from Toys For Big Boys in Moncton (thanks again, Larry and crew), and about a hundred feet down the street, I was wearing a big smile. But no, it wasn’t one of those “meet the nicest people on a Honda” smiles. It was the smirk of a person about to get himself into a lot of trouble …
The afternoon’s plan was to assault Moncton and unleash the Grom’s nine horsepower. Dear reader, let me assure you, this mission was carried out successfully. With the wild laugh of a madman, I cut my way through the city’s doddering SUV drivers with ease.
Rush hour (such as it is in Moncton) was no challenge. Want to lane split? Yes, please. Want to ride up the shoulder and cut into that 18-inch space in front of the car at the front of the line? Yes, please. Want to then leave everyone in your dust when the light changes, with balls-to-the-wall throttle action and some flirting with the redline? Yes, please. Want to lock up the rear wheel for a spectacular slide at the next stopline? Go right ahead!
The beauty is, because the Grom looks like it does, you’re not pegged as a dangerous biker by Tim Hortons-sipping soccer moms and a whole host of shenanigans can be completed without the local SWAT team being called out on you.
By now, you’re thinking I’m exaggerating – there’s no way this little bike can be that fun to ride. But, it is. If it can transform a mild-mannered, socially responsible motorist like me into a fire-breathing rebel without a cause, imagine what it would do to someone with a serious two-wheeled chip on their shoulder?
Just ask ‘Arris. Two minutes after he got on the thing, he was doing stoppies down Main Street in Sackville, NB …
It’s not just us, either. When we picked up the machine, it had a broken taillight thanks to an “indiscretion” by someone at Toys for Big Boys. It looked suspiciously like a wheelie gone wrong. When I talked to employees at the dealership who’d ridden the bike, I heard the same thing everywhere: “That bike is a blast.”
Of course, not everyone wants a hooligan machine – some people just want a sensible runaround, and the Grom can fill this role as well. As long as you don’t head out on the highway, you should be able to navigate back roads and city traffic just fine.
I didn’t once feel intimidated on secondary roads with only 125 cc, although I was somewhat exposed when I tried a short stint of the Trans-Canada. Despite a full tuck, the Grom can only achieve an indicated 106 km/h downhill, with a cruising speed of around 80 km/h. It’s a thumper, so it’s going to be buzzy if you ride it for long periods of time, but for shorter stints, it’ll work.
But even at legal speeds, be prepared to attract attention with the Grom. Everywhere I parked, people stopped to ogle the mini-monster. Everyone from middle-aged men to highschoolers on lunch break gave me the thumbs up when I was riding, or lustfully ogled the bike while it was parked.
In fact, the only people I didn’t see checking out the bike were the jaded students who attend Mount Allison University. Apparently, text messages are more cool to the educated youth than a motorcycle.
Of course, part of the reason for all that attention might have been my appearance. Clad in my black leather Aerostich, I looked like some sort of naked circus bear escaping on its unicycle.
It’s small, but can accommodate the lanky types like myself and ‘Arris. I would have liked the handlebars to be a little higher, but that didn’t look like an easy tweak – there’s not enough free play in the control cables to significantly raise the bars.
The suspension works for civilized use, but if you’re on the bigger size and you want to jump curbs at speed, get ready for a bump.
The transmission could also use a bit of refinement. To cut costs, or maybe to keep weight down, Honda only put a four-speed gearbox in the Grom. I would have preferred a five-speed with closer ratios, as there were a couple times on downshifting I thought the stretch between gears was a bit excessive, particularly between first, second and third. This is something that most riders will likely grow accustomed to with time, though.
If you want to hoon around like a madman, but do it on a budget, this machine could be your ticket. Not only does it come with a low price tag (it currently has a $3,199 MSRP on Honda’s site – a few hundred bucks down on the old CBR125), but it’s also going to be cheap to insure, thanks to its small motor.
And, it’s not going to cost you much to run, either. My very rough fuel economy guesstimate put the gas mileage around 35 km/l, or about 100 mpg – and a lot of that was full throttle mid-city madness.
Where the CBR125 tried to bring sportbikes down to 125 cc levels, the Grom uses the small motor to maximum potential by putting it in a chassis that just makes riding it all so much fun.
However, for most people, this bike will be a toy; in an age where teens want iPhones and Playstations, will the Grom be able to catch their attention? If it can, I think Honda has a winner here.
If sales do take off, it will be very interesting to see what the future holds. Yamaha toyed with the idea of building a factory stunt bike (which is essentially what the Grom is, in my opinion), with their Cage6 concept bike last year.
If Honda proves small-bore hooliganism can be fun, will the other manufacturers follow with similar models? It’s hard to say, but for now Honda will have the market to themselves, as long as they can persuade people that small is fun.
Check out all the pics that go with this story! Click on the main sized pic to transition to the next or just press play to show in a slideshow.
|2013 Honda Grom
|Air-cooled single cylinder four-stroke, SOHC
|Single 220 mm disc, two-piston caliper
|Single 190 mm disc, single-piston caliper
|One year, unlimited distance