Motorcycles are kind of an odd religion in and of themselves. But as with any group, you periodically get confusing subsects, like the Marcionites (early Christians who urged celibacy even among married couples; I wonder why that didn’t catch on) or Honda Grom riders.
The ways of these groups can be baffling to outsiders, but they usually see themselves as the chosen few who have cast aside all outside judgement in order to embrace the real truth.
I decided to sample the old time religion these Honda Grom owners practice on their tiny little micro-bikes, and while I can’t say I’m saved, I do think they’re onto something.
For those of you who don’t know, a Honda Grom looks like what would happen if you reduced my Suzuki SV650 to half scale. It is tiny, tiny motorcycle with a 125cc single cylinder engine and a four-speed transmission. If a Ducati Panigale is a thoroughbred racehorse, and a Harley Streetglide is a hardworking Clydesdale, the Grom is a cantankerous little pony. Think of it as sitting somewhere between those little pocket bikes and a full-scale bike.
Riding a Grom is so removed from everything that the biker mentality values that it’s almost difficult to process. When you think of a biker, you think of a few metric tons of Milwaukee steel doing its best impression of an A-10 Warthog on a strafing run. Just a slab of metal and noise and violence. Compared to that, a Grom is a Cessna, delivering the mail. But goddamn, do I love it.
Also, I know nothing about planes, so I’m really hoping those analogies work.
Even though any photo of a rider on a Grom looks like a lazy Photoshop job, the actual experience is surprisingly comfortable. In fact, the seat height of thirty inches is really not that much lower than that of many full-size bikes.
That tiny engine is good for about nine horsepower. Nine. Single digit. That may not dazzle your forum friends, but when it’s propelling a machine that weighs less than 250 pounds, it feels like plenty. Ok, maybe not “plenty.” Adequate. At least for a claimed top speed of around 62 mph. But that is dependent on weight, wind resistance, barometric pressure, and your current fiber intake.
In an effort to understand the Grom Dividians, and in an attempt to utilize my woefully ignored minor in Sociology, I set about infiltrating their faction. This was not easy. It was important to blend in, and not draw attention to myself. This was done by telling obscene jokes and reciting Bloodhound Gang lyrics at full volume.
Once I had managed to inject myself into this circle and gained their trust, I asked one owner, Brother Phillip, why he had become a follower of Grom’s Gate. He responded, “I say to thee, as it was said unto me: ‘It’s what the cool kids were buying.’”
Could this be it? Was the entire movement about just trying to fit in? Were the misguided miscreants just looking for acceptance in this digital world, full of contradicting disconnection and connection? Surely there has to be a family that could adopt these wayward youths, that didn’t involve looking like a bear trying to fuck a Big Wheel. For Brother Phillip was secretly an automotive journalist, and therefore surely ignorant of anything worthwhile.
In search of deeper truth, I continued my quest. Through various coincidences and poor judgment calls, I wound up meeting a semi-professional racer and puppy enthusiast named Wil. Wil has built some of the most laughably overpowered cars I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching, and has also raced motorcycles up Pikes Peak.
So this is a man who understands speed, yet still prostrated himself at the temple of Grom. When I asked him why, he simply responded that his feet reached the ground on one. Oh.
Well, that’s certainly a practical reason, but isn’t exactly the most poetic thing in the world. Motorcycle racers. The leather suits do something weird to their brains.
Then there’s Chad, who has been aggressively pushing the Grom life on me like a handsy prom date. “Just try it. You’ll love it, I swear. It’ll be so much fun.” That eventually wound up with the two of us snuggled up on a Grom together somewhere in southern Louisiana.
This is a man that owns a wide variety of motorcycles, and regularly takes dirt bike trips through the wilds of Colorado. He had joined the Church of the Rising Grom because it offered all the practicality of a scooter, but “didn’t suck.”
He uses Groms as pit bikes and support vehicles for the race team he manages, because they make the perfect runaround while still offering a clutch lever. I’m assuming that is a bonus solely for the wheelie potential.
Speaking of which, the kind of things that you can get away with on a tiny bike would get you thrown in handcuffs on anything else.
I spent two days straight weaving through cordoned off areas, riding down sidewalks, and cutting across the grass. And not a single person was upset. I saw a man do a wheelie for a hundred yards on a Grom, and people just laughed.
Riding a Grom is the two-wheeled equivalent of driving a clown car. It’s slow, a little ridiculous, and a sheer joy to pedestrians.
But it was finally a local boy, Perry, who summed up best what this tiny bike was all about. He told me he’d bought one because, “it was small, fun, and different. I didn’t need a big bike to prove anything.”
A Grom is for your own amusement, not to win bragging rights on a forum or to impress kids at bike night. Leaving behind all the posturing and peacocking makes for a delightfully liberating experience.
There’s no inherent malice or preconceived notions when it comes to Groms. If your grandma sees a leather-clad Harley rider, she might think he’s some sort of scofflaw, out to rape and pillage. If she sees a would-be Power Ranger on a sportbike, she might think he’s off to do wheelies in traffic and get in police chases. But a man on a Grom? She’ll just laugh at him, and tell him to be careful.
There’s something to be said for riding something with absolutely no pretensions of grandeur. Everyone else is faster or has a better pedigree. But it simply doesn’t matter. The only objective of the Grom is to be fun. Not fast, not loud, not well handling, just fun.
Oh sure, you can bolt on everything from Ohlins suspension, to Akropovic exhausts, to full turbo kits, but that almost makes it funnier. It’s like throwing racing slicks and a big wing on a Smart Fortwo. Utterly pointless, but in the best way possible.
While we all want to belong to something, we also want to be perceived as unique. That’s why we form cliques and insulate ourselves from the unwashed masses with bulwarks of dogma and jargon. Because our group is better than you and smarter than you. It’s why athletes look down on nerds for having no physical or social graces, and why nerds look down on athletes for not understanding what a THACO score is (Dungeons and Dragons second edition, motherfuckers.)
So the Grom owners are the weird little offshoot of motorcyclists. Their ways are mysterious and inexplicable until you join in. The password is Ketchup. Tell them Fails sent you.