RideApart Review: 2014 Honda Grom 125

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A monkey bike for the 21st century, this new Honda Grom promises small bike fun combined with real motorcycle practicality. We spent yesterday riding it around Los Angeles, then raced it against pro riders.

Photos: Kevin Wing

What’s New
Known as the MSX125 in Asian markets, the Grom is based around Honda’s existing, four-stroke, two-valve, 125cc motor. Rather than the Continuously Variable Transmission (which operates like an automatic) of scooters, the Grom is fitted with a four-speed manual transmission and traditional clutch.

That motor is housed in a steel backbone frame supported at the front by 31mm, nonadjustable, USD forks with a big bike-like 3.9 inches of travel and, at the rear, by a monoshock with an, again impressive, 4.1 inches of travel.

12-inch wheels with wide tires and disc brakes front and rear round out an impressively high spec mechanical package that’s then wrapped in swoopy, stylish plastic. That big seat can carry two people and there’s passenger foot rests.

The Grom’s motor delivers a respectable 9bhp, which is good for an indicated 56mph top speed and, wait for it…130mpg fuel economy. The dinky little bike weighs just 225lbs with its 1.45 gallon tank filled.

The idea here is a fun, stylish motorcycle that’s accessible for new, young riders looking for something to carry them around a city or college campus, or experienced riders looking for a pit bike, play bike or just something silly to scoot around town on.

The Ride
I picked up the Grom at American Honda’s Torrance, CA headquarters yesterday morning, stopped by Newport Beach for some photos, then rode down to Long Beach along the Pacific Coast Highway so Sean could take it for a spin. Afterwards, it was back to Honda HQ for an afternoon of gymkhana racing.

I put about 50 street miles on the Grom during the morning. While it’s too slow to get on the highway, it keeps up with surface street traffic just fine. Thanks to that four-speed manual gearbox, it’s got enough shove to beat pretty much any car away from a set of traffic lights and the tiny proportions see it lane splitting without a care.

Surprisingly, the Grom doesn’t feel that tiny out on the road around cars. The upright riding position, spacious ergonomics, 29.7 inch seat and stable chassis make you forget you’re riding something with a proportions of a scooter.

Unfortunately, you’re reminded you’re riding something with the performance of a scooter anytime you nee to climb a steep hill. If you’re climbing one, the Grom begins to run out of steam above about 40mph.

On a flat though, the engine is surprisingly punchy and fun to use. It accelerates with authority up to about 40mph, before settling into more a more gentle increase in speed up to its 56mph top speed.

Perhaps thanks to that relatively tall seat, vision remains very good.

Two solid hours on the bike revealed one weak point — the narrow, hard seat puts pressure directly on your coccyx, a particularly weak area for me and something that will lead to discomfort for most. Still, most people won’t be sitting on the Grom for that long a time, all in one go.

The same clocks and controls as Honda’s 500 range deliver a robust amount of information — speed, revs, fuel economy, fuel level etc — clearly, and the Grom is fitted with the same indicator switches and other controls as those larger bikes too.

Another weak point comes from the mirrors; the bars have a lot of rise in them and sweep back closely to your body, making the bar-mounted mirrors difficult to catch in your peripheral vision and, when you do, they reveal mostly elbow.

Still, this isn’t a bike anyone’s going to struggle to ride in real world traffic. It’s more than fast enough to keep up on surface streets and handles train tracks, potholes, bridges and any other obstacle with confidence and stability.

It was the parking lot race track that really highlighted how fun the Grom can be though. 60 racers or so — including top-tier pros like Justin Barcia and Melissa Paris — flogged the piss out of the bikes all afternoon with zero mechanical issues and only three crashes. Neither bike nor rider were hurt in any of them.

Wheelies, stoppies and burnouts were constant in the paddock, while out on track virtually everyone was backing the bike into corners, bouncing off the 9,250rpm limiter and just generally having a grand time.

Rather than the discomfiting flop most scooters exhibit when asked to lean way over, the Grom handles like a much larger motorcycle, confidently dragging pegs and levers without threatening to leverage the wheels off the ground. Steering is as fast as you’d expect it to be from such a small bike and, with so little weight carried so low, you can really use your body weight to make it even faster. Justin developed a quickly emulated tactic of standing up, then bouncing on either peg to rapidly steer the Grom through the course’s tight slalom sections.

Even very large riders like the 6’ 4” Alonzo Bodden fit well on the Grom and were able to wring full performance out of it. And, the Grom even managed to put a smile under the moustache of LAPD Chief Charlie Beck, who was racing alongside the rest of us.

What’s Good
All the stability, adult-sized ergonomics and on-road confidence of a real motorcycle in a fun-sized package.

Potholes, train tracks, bridge grates or other obstacles don’t upset the bike at all.

Surprisingly strong acceleration from the little 125cc motor.

That motor is pulled from Southeast Asia’s Wave scooter, one of the best selling vehicles in the world. It’s simple, proven and absolutely bulletproof.

Totally unique looks combine with diminutive proportions to draw smiles and approval wherever you go.

Excellent handling combines with solid feel to create a confident rider. You can wring maximum performance out of this thing after only 15 minutes in the saddle.

First gear wheelies are easy and consequence free.

You feel like a hooligan, then start wondering why cars are passing you and look down to realize you’re only going 20mph.

130mpg!

Much higher quality components, feel and just a way more complete package than you’d expect for $2,999. It feels as slickly executed as any other bike in the Honda range.

What’s Bad
The hydraulic disc rear brake sounds good on paper (you’d expect a drum or mechanical caliper), but doesn’t deliver much power. It’s way harder to lock the rear brake than you’d expect.

The seat isn’t comfortable enough for long periods in the saddle.

Mirrors are too close to your body to sit in your peripheral vision and, when you look down to use them, they only show your elbows.

The Price
At $2,999 the Grom is only $350 more than the 50cc Ruckus scooter, but delivers so much more. It’s a real motorcycle that can keep up with traffic, is a blast to ride anywhere and looks totally unique, because it is.

The Verdict
The Grom won’t be for everyone. It can’t go on the highway, you obviously won’t want to use it for long trips, it does require a motorcycle license. You’ll know it if you want one and, if you do, the Grom rewards you by exceeding your expectations. It’s silly good fun.

RideApart Rating: 8/10

Gear
Helmet: Icon Airmada Rubatone ($190, Highly Recommended)
Jacket: Dainese Super Speed ($350, Highly Recommended
Jeans: Levi’s 511 Commuter ($80, Highly Recommended)
Gloves: Racer Mickey ($116, Highly Recommended)
Boots: Dainese Café ($260, Highly Recommended)

  • Scott Sweeney

    This bike, plus GMR (or the top half of 39) on a crisp, deserted morning. :) :) :)

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      10 of these bikes, 10 of your friends, plus GMR (or the top half of 39, which has coffee and banana bread) on a crisp, deserted morning :) :) :)

      • http://metabomber.com/ Jesse

        In like Flynn for that ride.

      • Scott Pargett

        our own version of motley crue’d mario kart.

  • Zachary Church

    Gosh it looks like so much fun!

  • Zachary Church

    You forgot to mention that its fuel injected ;)

  • Curtis Caulfield

    I need to rationalize purchasing one of these right now.

  • Jonathan Berndt

    this is absolutely the coolest thing Honda has done in a loooong time!

  • Apple

    Dinky is the word of the week guys. Make sure to use it at least five times at home this weekend

  • grahluk

    Oh! where are the videos? Was hoping to see the fun of the parking lot GP. Reminds me of the old YSR50 days. Tipping it in on it’s nose, dragging elbows, and wheelieing out of corners while still leaned over at all of 20mph. My only quandry is what would be more fun this or a CRF150 converted to mini sumo?

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      This was yesterday. Videos take a while.

      • dirk

        I just want to see one person drag a peg or lever as stated in the write up. Its a lie. You’d have to lay the bike on it’s side to drag anything. I guarantee you there won’t be video dragging anything unless someone is crashing. I know, I have a Grom.

    • mikki sixx

      Awful quality video at the Alpinestars twitter and Insta.

  • http://ericrshelton.com/ Eric R. Shelton

    I’ve been looking at pit bikes and scooters just for something tiny and silly and fun since about May. Then I learned about the Grom coming out and I’ve been anxiously awaiting it’s arrival. Glad to hear it reviewed so well. I’m going to check it out tomorrow and hope it’ll wind up being my next play toy and a good practice bike for my wife to try for her MSF again.

  • Frick

    I’m sure big bore kits are readily available for this motor already. The highway is just a kit away!

  • Dan

    Sounds like everything I was hoping this bike would be.

    NJminiGP is talking about making a spec race class for these. I hope they do!

  • imprezive

    There was a guy on one in the Malibu canyons last weekend. He looked like he was having a stupid amount of fun and he was hustling pretty good. Kinda made me want one.

  • travellin

    Such a cool little bike. Can anyone confirm if this thing is highway-legal here in California? I’m pretty sure there’s a 150cc requirement – in the Bay Area that would mean it wouldn’t be legal to cross the Golden Gate or Bay bridges. If it’s not legal, what’s the fine? ;)

    • David

      The speed limit on the Golden Gate Bridge is only 45 MPH, so I’m sure no one would give you a hard time.

      • travellin

        Yeah, I just wonder if the automated license plate cameras at the toll plaza are smart enough to look at the vehicle type or anything else like that. I’m guessing not, but where there’s revenue, there’s a way.

  • Mark D

    This would be the perfect vacation vehicle. I can see buzzing the tourists on Martha’s Vineyard on this thing.

    • http://metabomber.com/ Jesse

      Way better than the rental scooter crowd that take up the lane and then some.

  • Christopher Murdock

    Saw one at the local dealership, hit the sales floor and was sold in 30 minutes. Can’t wait to get one to play with and then to pass onto my daughter later.

  • 200 Fathoms

    Great to see a good alternative for people who are considering scooters. (Though how will they feel about the manual transmission?)

    • C.Stevens

      A scooter still has better storage capacity though.

      • Tuscan Foodie

        Why would anyone downvote a statement like this is a mystery to me. Unless the person in question believes this statement to be untrue?

      • Davidabl2

        But just Imagine the thing with panniers bigger than the damn bike..heh,heh.

        • http://metabomber.com/ Jesse

          Step 1) Pack the bike up in it’s own panniers.
          Step 2) Universe unravels. Good job.

    • Ryan

      I have a scooter for around town transportation, and it’s great. I would get a grom in a heart beat, but our single option government insurance doesn’t like bikes and wants to charge $1800 a year to insure it while my scooter is $300. The CB500X is only $1200 to insure. /rant

      I like this bike but I know it’ll never make sense to own one.

      • Chris Winkler

        May I ask what country are you in?

        • Ryan

          Canada, Winnipeg Manitoba to be specific.

  • Linda

    THis looks ridiculously fun.

  • C.Stevens

    See lots of similar street legal Chinese pitbikes (SSR, Pisterpro, etc) roaming the roads out in the more motorsport-friendly places like San Bernandino and Simi Valley. Glad to see Honda returning to a market that they pretty much invented. I imagine the quality is 100% better than just about anything else.

    • Davidabl2

      Derbi?

  • dirk

    Learn how to adjust the mirror stalks. The mirrors work just fine on this bike. Next time bring a wrench. I know, I have a Grom.

  • Beale

    What do you mean “you obviously won’t want to use it for long trips”? Small bike trips are the REAL adventure touring!

  • TheBoatDude

    OK, two things:

    1) Cool!
    2) Is there a trend towards smaller bikes as of late? Or does it just seem that way because I’ve been paying more attention?

    • Keith Lamb

      1. Yes it is.
      2. There does seem to be a trend of manufacturers noticing the smaller bikes lately. Honda in particular has been focused heavily, but others as well.

    • Stuki

      Looks more like bifurcation to me, The big gets bigger (K1600, “Middlewight” 899 Ducs) and the small smaller. While the middle (600-750 non car engines) are left to die on the wine.

  • Dog

    Bars too close to you…
    Undo the clamps and move them forward.
    First thing I did when I got mine.
    AND as Beale said further down here.
    Small bike trips are the real Adventure Touring.
    Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it :)

    Dog

  • lennard schuurmans

    check this stunt video. :)
    http://youtu.be/0M9iMWPHpcg

  • Brian

    I personally see this being a better commuter bike than most of the available electric bikes, at least here on the east coast anyway.

    As far as that 125 motor, I wonder if it is possible to slip in a CRF150F motor into it to get a lil more pep. I am sure there are other power mods available that can be had as well. Let the modding begin!!!

    • Stephen Mears

      There is already a japanese company called yuminashi putting out 150, 180 and 200 kits -and they have an importer!

      • Khali

        Thats awesome!! Micro-tuning hahaha

        Id love to see a 250cc version with the CBR250R engine. I would buy one in a blink!

  • Damo Von Vinland

    Recently bought an Icon Airmada Rubatone and after being a Shoei and Arai loyalist forever, I can’t believe how much I love my new Icon.

    It is comfortable, great air flow, doesn’t fog (still have to test run it in the winter) and it is light. The shield release system still isn’t so hot, but it’s manageable.

    Nice write up Wes, I can’t wait to test ride one of these little monsters at a local Honda event.

    (P.S. Those jeans are haggard)

  • Kr Tong

    Some may say this bike has too much power.

    http://vimeo.com/73412246

    • roma258

      These would be awesome for mini racing actually. Proper components, plenty of parts, decent seat height for adults….I can see a spec class forming as soon as next year.

  • grindz145

    The world needs a few more bikes like this. Gateway drugs to remind the general public why motorcycles are fantastic, and get a whole bunch more people riding hopefully!

  • John

    A Grom dual purpose bike with big rims and more suspension would be even cooler.

  • Rob

    Did you guys notice the forks being undersprung at all? I’ve heard that complaint from guys overseas on the grom forum. Also, what were you able to actually get for mpg on your 50 mile stint? I’m curious how much wringing the bike’s neck affects the mileage.

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      They’re definitely soft. But this is a $3k play bike…

      • akaaccount

        Spring rate always seems to be what is insufficient on every bike I ride with cheap suspension. Makes no sense to me, adjustable damping is expensive but how much would it add to the cost of the bike to go 0.05 kg/mm heavier on the springs?

  • Tuscan Foodie

    It looks too much like a normal motorcycle to be interesting enough. If I wanted something to fool around in town I would get a ruckus (http://powersports.honda.com/2013/ruckus.aspx) or an old Monkey. This looks like a waste of money. (the others are waste of money too, obviously, but at least they are different ways to waste your money).

  • zombarian

    I wish they’d bring in a cbr 125/150 while they’re at it.

    • liberty

      They do make CBR 150′s, I have seen them in Thailand

  • Stephen Mears

    My wife is picking one of these up this week!

  • OOG

    I am picking mine this week. I can’t wait!

  • http://statesofmotion.blogspot.com/ FastPanda

    Is the Sachs MadAss still available? Comparison test time!

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      Did they ever sell that in the US?

      • Campisi

        They did, for at least a couple of years.

      • http://statesofmotion.blogspot.com/ FastPanda

        I’ve seen at least one in real life here in NYC before. Apparently available from a few shops in Brooklyn when I checked out of pure curiosity some time ago. No idea about current availability, but worth a phone call or two?

      • travellin

        I’ve seen a handful of them in Portland and at least one in San Francisco. And there’s a place in Milwaukee that sells them and all kinds of performance parts including bigger-bore engines.

    • Alex Kelley

      They have them in Dallas and Austin.

  • Khali

    How high is the handlebar? does it pass under cars’ mirrors?

    At 75cm it is not super thin, tough.

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      Definitely under most cars’ mirrors.

  • Barry Ervin

    This is super cool! The Monkey Bike lives!

  • FTW

    Small Bikes indeed are just fine for long trips, and create a unique experience. I just rode my vintage 1979 Puch Magnum from Maine to Key West in the 1st annual Pinball Run vintage moped endurance race this summer. Thats 1,800 miles on a 50cc 2-stroke blast from the past! I bet this new Honda can be tricked out to deliver much more speed. (for race info go to: http://www.pinball-run.com)