The Little Ankle-Biter That Could

Introduced in 2014, the Grom from Honda is a compact bike with sportbike styling, two-up capabilities if you don’t mind having to Fred-Flintstone the take-off, has amazing fuel economy, and offers a little something more for folks who might consider a scooter in this size-range. Marketed in other countries as the MSX125, the Motrac M3, and the Skyteam M3, the Grom is a spunky little — little being the operative word here — motorcycle, good for folks new to two wheels or for anyone else who wants a fun ride. It’s not fast, but that’s not the point.

Continue reading for my review of the Honda Grom.

  • 2017 - 2018 Honda Grom
  • Year:
    2017- 2018
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    inline-1
  • Displacement:
    125 cc
  • Price:
    3199
  • Price:

Design

2017 - 2018 Honda Grom
- image 679120

I know folks call this a monkey bike. I don’t share that opinion. The original monkey bikes were Honda’s Z-series bikes: small, almost toy-like, minibikes from the ’70s and ’80s. They had 50 cc engines, fat five-inch tires and a seat height of about 22 inches. With handlebars that pulled the rider forward and the low seat that splayed the knees out at comical angles, riders were said to look like monkeys atop the little bikes.

The thick tires of the Grom might be reminiscent of the old Z-series bikes, but that’s about where the resemblance stops. Twelve-inch tires, while still small for a motorcycle, are a lot bigger than the Z-series tires and a 30-inch seat height isn’t going to splay anyone’s knees unless you’re really tall. The Grom is more like an in-between that crosses a scooter into motorcycle territory, like a street-legal pit bike; or you can call it a minibike on steroids. In either case, I wouldn’t call it a monkey bike. That being said, Honda has dressed up their little Grom in 2017, giving it more aggressive styling and a new LED headlight that was carried over to 2018.

The Grom gets phenomenal gas mileage, but before you run out to get one as a commuter, know that even at top speed, you won’t be heading on the interstate and you might not be safe on a busy highway. Sure, around town is great, but the light weight and low power could get you sucked under a truck the first time you get caught in the slipstream. I’m not saying don’t get one as a commuter; I’m just saying be realistic and look at your planned route to work.

Being a small, lightweight bike has its pros and cons. Pro: it’s easy to find a place to park. It’s so small it tucks in just about anywhere. Con: it’s so small and light, you almost have to treat it like a bicycle and chain it to a pole lest someone come along and toss it in the back of a pickup and steal it while you’re out of sight. Yes, it’s that light.

If you’re considering a Grom instead of a scooter, keep in mind that the only storage you have on the Grom is whatever you can bungee to the pillion or carry in a backpack. A scooter usually has ample storage, but the Grom will handle better at speed. You decide which is more important.

Chassis

2017 - 2018 Honda Grom
- image 679119

Given the small size of the Grom, it’s not surprising that it comes built around a frame that has been pared down to the bare minimum. The steel frame is of a mono-backbone construction that uses the engine as a stressed member, and a yoke-type, box-section swingarm articulates for the rear suspension action. That’s right, a proper swingarm, not the swing-mount motor unit we see on scooters.

A center-mount monoshock springs off the swingarm with four inches of travel at the axle, enough to make many full-sized rides jealous. The steering head is set to hold the 31 mm, inverted front forks at 25 degrees for 3.18 inches of trail and a 47.2-inch wheelbase. “Nimble” doesn’t even begin to describe the handling one can expect from this setup, and I shouldn’t have to point out how rare it is to find usd forks on a bike this small.

Unlike the original monkey bikes, the Grom rolls on 10-spoke, cast rims capped by 12-inch hoops with a 120/70 profile up front and a 130/70 in the back. At 229 pounds wet, there really isn’t much energy here to keep under control, but bless Honda for shunning the drum brakes in favor of hydraulic discs. A twin-pot caliper binds a 220 mm front disc, with a single-pot caliper to pinch the 190 mm rear. No ABS or linked-brake system, just straight-up, honest brakes. These are features and components that are rarely seen on machines this size, and it speaks to the purpose behind the design; in short, Honda built this thing to be “seriously fun,” if you will pardon the contradiction.

Drivetrain

2017 - 2018 Honda Grom
- image 679128

While I am loathe to borrow directly from Honda’s sales prose, the factory does raise a valid point; inexpensive and disposable are not necessarily synonymous, nor should they be. To that end, Honda stuffed a reliable little thumper into the Grom. Officially billed as a 125, the 52.4 mm bore and 57.9 mm stroke actually adds up to 124.8 cc with a relatively low, 9.3-to-1 compression ratio that should prevent the mill from beating the bearings out of itself over time like hotter machines are prone to do.

The decision to go with air cooling keeps the engine simple, and the rest of the bike clean, with no big, ugly and vulnerable radiator hanging off it. A single, overhead cam actuates dual poppets in the head via rocker arms that ride on roller bearings instead of the cheaper, but less-durable, bushing-type system. An offset-cylinder arrangement moves the center of the jug off the center of the crankshaft, a feature that Honda claims further reduces inherent friction in the system, and will make the bore and piston last longer. All good stuff for a mill designed to last well past the expiration of the warranty.

Honda’s Programmed Fuel Injection (PGM-FI) manages the induction like a boss, and keeps the emissions within current EPA and CARB standards while delivering an astonishing 134 mpg. Granted, this is based on bench tests for emissions purposes and not actual riding conditions, but it’s better than many small bikes or scooters currently available on the market today.

A four-speed, manual transmixxer and chain drive make the final connection to the rear wheel with an honest-to-goodness clutch — none of the automatic-shifting, CVT units associated with scooters to be found here.

Pricing

2017 - 2018 Honda Grom
- image 679118

MSRP on the 2018 Grom is yet to be determined as of this writing, but I imagine it’ll be close to last year’s price of $3,199 — same as it was last year — and comes in your choice of Matte Gray Metallic, Pearl Red, Pearl White, or Bright Yellow. Honda gives you a one-year unlimited-mileage limited warranty on your new Grom.

Competitors

2013 - 2018 KYMCO K-PIPE 125
- image 679367
2017 - 2018 Kawasaki Z125 PRO
- image 679366

Honda sort of created a niche for itself with the original Grom in 2014 when it combined big-bike features with scooter-like proportions. Since then, Honda’s worthy competitors have been scrambling to catch up. Do I go with the K-Pipe 125 from KYMCO or the Z125 Pro from Kawasaki? The K-Pipe seems a bit naked — not a bad thing, but the Kawasaki seems to fit the bill perfectly. So without further ado, let’s see how they stack up.

Kawasaki lists the Z125 as a “standard,” which is really a stretch if you ask me. Although both bikes are capable of carrying adult riders, they come off looking like the runt of the litter with truncated features you can find on up the sportbike range. Body panels certainly fit within industry norms, and lend both rides a kind of streetfighter-larvae panache, though the K125 carries a chin spoiler that gives the bike a slightly more substantial look.

Inverted front forks and a rear monoshock tend to the suspension duties across the board with the same range-of-motion; 3.9 inches of travel at the front axle, and 4.1 inches at the rear. Both roll on 12-inch rims, with all-around, hydraulic disc brakes to keep it under control. Kudos to both manufacturers here for leaving drum brakes where they belong — in the history books.

Honda provides the lowest seat height at an even 30-inches tall, while the Z125 bumps that up to 31.7 inches, and both machines leave the rider perched on top in the jockey position. Really tall riders will cut a figure similar to the monkey bikes of old, but the saving grace is the long seat that allows room to move your butt back so as not to ride with your knees at your ears.

Propulsion duties fall to very similar plants, with both air-cooled thumpers measuring outright at 125 cc. Fuel injection and electronic ignition is consistent across the board, though Honda runs an oversquare mill at 52.4 mm x 57.9 mm versus the shortstroke, 56 mm x 50.6 mm layout on the Kawasaki. The Z125 is also a little hotter with a 9.8-to-1 compression over the 9.3-to-1 Grom.

Whether you plan to use it as a hooligan bike, suburb commuter, trainer or some combination thereof, pricing is very reasonable and very competitive. Honda enjoys “first in” status with the Grom, and commands a slightly higher price at $3,199. The “Johnny-come-lately” Z125 sneaks in just under the bar at $2,999, and I expect to see Honda start jockeying for position as more manufacturers enter this heretofore niche market.

He Said

My husband and fellow motorcycle writer, TJ Hinton, says, “Once again, I find myself envious of the “toys” available today. There was a time that if you wanted a bike like this, oh wait, there were no bikes like this! About the closest you could get was a Briggs-powered minibike with a centrifugal clutch and rigid suspension. (Historical note: the original monkey bikes were little more than amusement park transportation units, and they certainly weren’t street legal.) Just looking at a Grom makes what’s left of my inner-child squeal with glee, and judging by sales and this revised version by Honda, I am not alone in this. Good job Honda, now let’s see some sort of official race bracket for these little sleds.”

She Said

“What can I say that I haven’t already said? It’s slow, but fun and small enough that you might get pulled over if the cops don’t believe it’s really street legal. Expect smiles — maybe some pointing and laughing — but know that you’re getting amazing fuel mileage. If you are thinking about two wheels but never took the plunge, the Grom might be your initiation. If you’re an experienced rider, the Grom could be your I-just-want-to-have-fun weekender. It’s very inexpensive and low maintenance. And let’s face it; it’s a lot more fun to go fast on a slow bike than it is to go slow on a fast bike, yeah?”

Specifications

ENGINE:
Engine Type: 124.9cc air-cooled single-cylinder four-stroke
Bore And Stroke: 52.4mm x 57.9mm
Compression Ratio: 9.3:1
Induction: PGM-FI with automatic enrichment
Ignition: Electronic
Valve Train: SOHC; two valves per cylinder
DRIVE TRAIN:
Transmission: Four-speed
Final Drive: Chain
CHASSIS / SUSPENSION / BRAKES:
Front Suspension: 31mm inverted fork; 3.9 inches travel
Rear Suspension: Single shock with steel box-section swingarm; 4.1 inches travel
Front Brake: Single 220mm disc with hydraulic dual-piston caliper (ABS: w/ ABS)
Rear Brake: Single 190mm disc with hydraulic single piston caliper (ABS: w/ ABS)
Front Tire: 120/70-12
Rear Tire: 130/70-12
DIMENSIONS:
Rake: 25°
Trail: 81mm (3.2 inches)
Wheelbase: 47.2 inches
Seat Height: 30 inches
Fuel Capacity: 1.45 gallons
Curb Weight: 229 pounds (ABS: 234 lbs)
Miles Per Gallon: 134 MPG
DETAILS:
Model Id: Grom125
Emissions: Meets current EPA standards. Models sold in California meet current CARB standards and may differ slightly due to emissions equipment.
Warranty: One Year Unlimited-mileage limited warranty; extended coverage available with a Honda
Protection Plan.
Available Colors: Matte Gray Metallic, Pearl Red, Pearl White, Bright Yellow (ABS: Matte Gray Metallic, Pearl Red)
Price: $3,199

All images featured on this website are copyrighted to their respective rightful owners. No infringement is intended. Image Source: powersports.honda.com, kymcousa.com, kawasaki.com

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