Cheap, efficient, and fun: I can only imagine those were the three things in Honda’s design brief for the original Grom. By those metrics, the Grom was a smash success, delivering miles per gallon and laugh-out-loud moments in equal number in a compact and inexpensive package. Honda didn’t really expect the Grom to be a smash here in the U.S. but it sure as heck was. And following its second revamp, the third-gen Grom is better than it has ever been.
If you can’t have fun on a Grom, see a doctor about your brain chemistry imbalance.
(Full Disclosure: Honda invited me to hot and muggy Birmingham, Alabama to ride its newly updated third-generation Grom mini-moto and attend the Barber Small Bore festival. Honda paid for my flight and accommodations and fed me delicious food. I was also afforded access to the Barber Motorsports Museum on their dime.)
Honda launched the original Grom way back in 2014, and it became an instant success. Piggybacking on the Grom, Honda subsequently launched three additional mini-moto products in the new Cub, Monkey, and Trail 125. It’s a little bike that is packed with fun and style.
The Grom is styled as though it were a seven-eighths scale upright naked sport bike, and that works incredibly well in context. The new visual redesign gives the bike a more hardcore urban appeal that looks shockingly good in the gold-accented race-livery SP model I spent time with. All Groms have a blacked-out look now with the engine, exhaust, and swingarm painted dark as night. I very much like this look.
Honda knows that people love to modify their Groms, so it made this new model much easier to do just that with three-bolt-removable plastics and factory upgrade options. The down pipe and muffler are now two pieces for easy replacement when you want to bolt on a hot Yoshimura piece.
For 2022 the Grom’s engine redesign came with a new bore and stroke and a compression bump good for 9.8 horses up from 9.5. Honda says the new engine has more low-down torque for easier riding, but I wouldn’t really know anything about that, because in my experience this bike doesn’t exist below 7,000 rpm. Yes, technically the shift light comes on at 7,000, and the redline is at 8,200, but you’ll really want to just rev it out to nine. It’s better that way. It’s not exactly a fast bike, but it’s an incredibly fun bike.
A little more power, a little better gearing, a little more fuel in the tank, a little cooler to look at; New Grom has all of the things I loved about the Old Grom, but none of the (admittedly minor) things I disliked about it. If you’re looking for a cheap way to get to work every day with a smile on your face, it’s hard to beat the Grom.
As a taller rider, the Grom’s new seat is a huge improvement in comfort and ergonomics. The earlier seat was more sport-bike with a dip forward to the tank. The new seat has a flatter profile, thicker padding, and an approachable 30" seat height. Honda says 30 percent of Grom buyers are first time motorcycle buyers, and 26 percent of Grom buyers are women. In Alabama I went on a several-hour ride on the little G and that new seat was great.
Another thing Honda changed with the new Grom is related to maintenance. The older models had a little basket that spun with the crank to capture oil debris which had to periodically be removed and cleaned. It was not an easy job, and some people truly hated it. This new 125 has a proper cartridge filter which can be replaced by pretty much any DIYer. It’s held in with two bolts, and can be swapped in minutes.
The fuel tank holds an extra 0.14 gallons, up to 1.59 in the new bike. With fuel economy easily into the 100 mpg range, that’s an extra dozen or more miles of fun.
The new LCD display, which of course I forgot to get a photograph of, is big and bold. It finally features a gear position indicator, which Honda says is particularly helpful for newer riders. Even as a veteran, I still prefer to have a gear indicator on the dash. My brain always likes that extra level of reassurance.
This is a bike for everyone. I honestly can’t think of any bike I’ve ever ridden which provided the same level of happiness. Every gear is a 9,000 rpm rip. Every corner is taken at maximum attack to maintain momentum. Every stop light is a drag strip run. Every straightaway just begs you to get into a full elbows-on-knees aero tuck to try to eke out that last mile per hour. And no matter what you do, you’re doing it under the speed limit.
This is an awesome little machine that will do everything a new rider needs it to. It won’t go on the highway, but that’s probably for the best for a while if you’re a new rider. And honestly, when was the last time you enjoyed yourself on the highway on a motorcycle? The Grom is an excuse to take the fun roads, the back roads, the lost roads. This bike is a get-back-to-basics riding experience that can’t really be found on anything else.
Yes, technically it is a great bike for beginners. A lot of people complain about beginners bikes, because they say they quickly grow bored with how slow they are. They’re just plain wrong. I’d argue you should start with something like a Grom and then when you’re more comfortable with your riding skills, keep it as a second arrow in your quiver. That way when you get bored riding at 1/10th the capabilities of your shiny new liter bike, you can always swing a leg over the Grom and rediscover how fun riding actually can be.
For newer two wheeled friends, I might recommend getting the ABS-equipped Grom. The anti-lock is only on the front wheel, and it isn’t cornering-sensitive, but it does work with an IMU to make it anti-stoppie. Braking is the one point of the Grom which might be intimidating for newer riders. The 12-inch tires are very prone to lockup under hard braking, and because the bike is so small and light, rider weight is a much higher percentage of the overall package, so if you don’t know how to shift your weight under braking, you could potentially end up over the top of the handlebars.
Rural Alabama, it turns out, is a totally awesome place to ride. Traffic is practically non-existent, the roads follow natural terrain curves, and hills are plentiful. Maybe the roads aren’t as good as the greatest California or the Carolinas have to offer, but they’re pretty damn fine. Especially for a little momentum bike like this Grom.
In the morning we took to the streets like a 7/8ths scale motorcycle gang. The Grom enticed me to ride more aggressively than I normally would on anything with, you know, actual power. I was constantly at WOT, shifting at 9, scraping pegs, and drafting. I was caning the shit out of the bike, perpetually asking it for more. It always shouted back that it was giving me all she’s got, captain.
I’ve got probably 50 to 80 pounds on everyone else on this ride, so keeping up the same speeds as them was pretty much impossible as soon as the road had more than a degree of incline. No amount of rider skill can make up for a big corn-fed Midwesterner on a 10 horsepower bike. I was never more than a few seconds behind, but it was definitely something worth keeping in mind. Now, this didn’t mean I had less fun than the others, I might have had more in fact.
When we returned from the ride and settled into a nice late lunch back at Barber Motorsports Park, the mini-moto fever was setting in. Rubbing elbows with the enthusiasts that drive this small bore market was eye opening. These people are properly jazzed about their low and slow machines. Alright, let’s have a laugh and see just what kind of performance these things offer.
The small bore drag strip was little more than some barrier-lined parking lot, but it was still a totally fun run. I lined up against Jason Marker of RideApart for a best two-of-three competition heads up, and while I got him on the first run, he pipped me to the line on the second two attempts. My second run I just didn’t get the revs up at the line, and my third run was a botched shift. In any case, your fastest run is going to come with a hefty foot-shove away from a stop. I think I ran a 5.5 in the 16th mile. Hah! What fun!
Little did I know that drag racing a Grom would be only a fraction of the fun I’d be having that day. At the end of the day, the folks at Barber Motorsports Park cleared the track and paced a field of at least 300 small bore motorcycles for three laps of the big track. With the pace vehicle being a Lotus 2-eleven even a slow lap for that car was basically flat out for me on a Grom. Track day!
There are pretty much only two braking zones for a Grom at Barber Motorsports Park. I had to get hard on the binders in turn five for the downhill track out to 6. I also had to lightly touch the brakes for the 7a/7b complex. Aside from that most corners required light breathing off the throttle to negotiate. This experience has convinced me I need a track-prepped Grom immediately. I get it.
The Grom is like the NA Miata of the bike world. It’s a bit slower, obviously, but it provides an even more engaging experience than any four-wheeled anything can. Momentum is even more important on a Grom than it is in a Miata. Yes. If you like driving Miatas, you’ll love Gromming.
Groms are cheap as chips, with a starting price of just $3,399 brand new. The base model is available in either Queen Bee Yellow (a good choice) or Matte Black Metallic (a less good choice). Used Groms are currently trading hands for more money than Honda wants for these new ones. Clearly there is a pent up demand for mini motos, and it’s in your best interest to buy a brand new one as soon as they arrive.
If you’re a brand new rider, stick with the ABS model, which is only available in blue, but it’s a gorgeous blue. Anti-lock brakes is a $200 premium over the standard model at $3,599.
I personally fell in love with the style of the $3,499 SP model. With unique GROM graphics, special pearl white paint, and gold calipers, wheels, and forks, it just looks badass. BUT! I would take it a few steps farther. A set of BST carbon wheels with racing slicks, Vance and Hines’ new Hooligan pipe, a drilled airbox, and this totally rad Throttle Jockey HRC livery kit available from your local dealer for $129.95 (below). Let’s GO!
I honestly have nothing negative to say about the Grom. Sure, it could be cheaper or a little faster, but neither of those things are deal breakers. I loved the old four-speed model, and this one just takes things up a notch. It’s a better bike in pretty much every way, but still familiarly awesome fun to ride. If everyone rode Groms, the world would be a happier place. It just might be the key to world peace.