The 2020 Honda Grom is an inexpensive, compact, fuel-efficient commuter with shrunken sport bike flair. You probably wouldn’t want this as your only motorcycle, but as an around-town bop it’s hard to beat.
(Full Disclosure: Honda asked if I might like to ride something from its current motorcycle lineup. We settled on this Grom and a CB650R for a couple of months of Hondified fun. Both bikes were delivered to my door full of gasoline. I have since emptied and refilled both tanks numerous times. I returned both bikes in the same condition they were in when I took delivery.)
(Testing Conditions: I used this Grom as though it were my own for two months of northern Nevada summer riding. I’ve ridden it around town, to run errands, up a mountain, out into the desert and on a short daily commute.)
Introduced in 2014, the Honda Grom kicked off a new era of mini-moto enthusiasm that has bred variants on the theme in the form of the Monkey, Super Cub and Trail 125. With a 125cc air-cooled, four-stroke, single-cylinder
engine producing a whopping 10 horsepower, it tops out at 56 miles per hour, unless you’ve got a downhill grade and a tailwind.
You can pick one up for $3,399, and it delivers an astonishing 134 miles per gallon, making this an incredibly frugal machine. The base model comes in four great colors, including this delightful Halloween Orange. Or, you can opt for a Grom with antilock brakes for an additional $200, but it comes only in red.
Where I live, at around 4,000 feet above sea level, the already-taxed engine is producing only around 8.5 horsepower. Since I’m a rider of substantial size, the Grom is frustratingly slow with me on board. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun.
OK, it’s slow, you get it. That would be super disappointing if this bike weren’t such a lightweight, nimble machine. With a short wheelbase and tiny 12-inch wheels, this bike can dig into corners like a scaled-down sport bike. At 229 pounds packed full of fuel, the Grom is hilariously huckable-chuckable.
More often than not, when hopping down to the grocery store a couple of blocks over, I’d take the Grom instead of getting in the car. Why would you want to take a 4,000 pound luxury wagon to get a 12 pack of Diet Coke when you could toss on a backpack and straddle this little mule? Even when I needed to bring a package to the post office, I loved pushing the Grom into service for something it was definitely not designed to do.
Speaking of stuff it’s not meant to do, I decided to take the Grom up the face of a nearby mountain — the incredible Mt. Rose Highway route, for those who know it. With about 4,500 feet of elevation gain in 24 miles of road, the Grom was seriously struggling on the way up. Luckily, it was a light traffic, middle-of-the-day ride, and I was able to keep the bike at full throttle, keeping mid-corner momentum up as much as possible. It felt like a moped on the straights and miniature MotoGP in the corners.
Needless to say, the route back down was a lot more fun. Using gravity to provide more forward momentum than the 125 engine could, I was positively hauling ass with a huge smile on my face. The only way you won’t have fun on a Grom is if you take yourself too seriously.
The little Honda’s ergonomics seriously impressed me. At 6-foot-2 and just under three bills, I expected to be scrunched up. While the foot pegs are a little tighter than most motorcycles I ride, they weren’t too uncomfortable, even for long stints in the saddle. I did a couple of rides longer than 90 minutes, which is pretty difficult to do on a Grom, and felt fresh as a daisy when I finished. The handlebars and seat are placed well enough for an upright riding position, even for somebody my size. It’s something like a compact dirt bike.
Fuel economy is so good that riding this thing is almost free. The average car in the U.S. gets around 25 miles per gallon, and the average commute is around 12.5 miles. Let’s say in a car you burn one gallon per day on your way to and from work. If you replaced your car commute with a commute on a Grom, you’d save almost $500 a year in fuel alone.
I complained about the monochrome digital readout on the CB650R, so it’s only fair that I do so on the Grom as well. For the not-insignificant price of the Grom, I would like either a full-color dash or a traditional sweeping needle.
The Grom doesn’t offer a gear indicator, so until you get to know the bike, you might not know what gear you’re in straight away. Then again, there are only four gears in the transmission, so you’re never very far off by guessing.
Otherwise, it could be hard to justify the Grom’s existence on paper. It’s just a little too underpowered to be useful every day as a motorcycle, and it has too many cubic centimeters to be ridden without a motorcycle endorsement on your license. It needs maybe five more horsepower to be a truly great thing. Or maybe I need to drop a hundred pounds. Or both.
Oh, yeah, nothing about this is safe. With the Grom’s small size and nimble handling you might be able to avoid an accident, but the one I tested didn’t even have ABS.
Get it in Incredible Green. Don’t bother with ABS, because it’s so fun to back it into every stop sign and stoppies are incredibly easy to accomplish and modulate. This is a bike for low-speed hooligans.
Kawasaki would be more than happy to sell you a Z125 Pro for $200 less than a Grom, and it comes with the gear-position indicator and analog tachometer that I was just looking for on the Grom. It’s a little more powerful, but reviews indicate it’s not as comfortable and doesn’t brake as well as the Honda.
Or, if you can find a distributor here in the U.S., then perhaps the German-designed and China-built Sachs MadAss 125 is for you? It doesn’t look nearly as enticing as the Honda or the Kawasaki, but it’s more powerful and has a ridiculous name.
The Grom is pure dumb fun. Given the choice, I’m happy to take one anywhere in town. I’m winding out every gear to max rpm and taking every corner with as much lean angle as possible. Yeah, I probably look like a gorilla riding a tricycle, but it’s just so much ridiculous fun that I positively do not care. Buy one, have a blast, and save a shitload of money on fuel in the process.