Honda introduced the Grom for the 2014 model year and gave it a cosmetic update for ’17. Over the last seven years, the made-in-Thailand minibike has exceeded expectations, selling more than 750,000 units worldwide. Now the company has improved on a bestseller with a major revision that includes an all-new motor with a revised bore and stroke and a fifth gear.
American Honda let us ride the 2022 Grom at Barber Motorsports Park’s “Smallbore” minibike festival; the event was sponsored by MNNTHBX — a Tennessee company that produces minibike parts and accessories for a thriving and diverse rider community. (Or is it a cult?)
Smallbore brought together thousands of those riders from all over the Southeast for a swap meet, 1/16th-mile drag races, hillclimbs, and an endurance race on a go-kart scale track laid out on the Barber Proving Ground. Imagine drag-racing or hillclimbing a minibike and you will probably conclude that Smallbore placed a big emphasis on a kind of fun that Southerners, in particular, take seriously.
American Honda Motor Company’s Colin Miller gave a few journalists a quick rundown on the Grom’s model history and its role as the star of a line AHM calls “miniMOTO” street bikes. The origin story began in the early 2000s when Honda introduced the Ruckus 50 cc scooter. The company was a bit surprised by the response to that model, which developed its own “scene” amongst Millenials.
The ruckus over the Ruckus inspired Honda to create the 125 cc Grom as a step up. Honda managed to trademark a surfing term that, when used charitably, describes an enthusiastic beginner. It was an immediate hit, too. American Honda sold 8,000 to 10,000 Groms per year — enough to make the Grom Honda’s best-selling street bike.
Over the last few years, Honda has used variants of the Grom motor in three retros: the Monkey, Super Cub and Trail 125. Those bikes cannibalized Grom sales to a degree and prompted Honda to give the Grom its first significant update.
What’s new for ’22?
The Grom has a new 125 cc motor all to itself (for now.) The basic fuel-injected, two-valve, overhead-cam architecture is unchanged, as is the displacement. But Honda got there by lengthening the stroke and decreasing the bore. The compression ratio was also raised quite significantly. Honda didn’t share horsepower or torque figures, but Grom tuners at Smallbore report that previously, stock Groms produced eight to 10 horsepower. I’d expect the new one to be at the upper end of that range with a tad more torque at lower rpm.
The other big changes in the motor include the addition of a fifth gear that allowed Honda to lower the first four ratios. The countershaft sprocket jumped four teeth to offset lower internal ratios. The motor should also be easier to maintain; Honda’s now added a small internal oil filter that can simply be changed, whereas the previous Grom used an oil-spinner system that was a little fussier to clean out. The motorcycle also has a larger airbox and air filter that should last longer.
The cycle parts and chassis dimensions are little changed, but the new model’s been restyled and the ergonomics have been changed. The body panels are now easier to remove — a change that will make it easier to customize — and while the seat height is nominally unchanged at 30 inches, the new seat is flatter, which allows taller riders to slide back for a more comfortable rider triangle.
On the road
On throwing a leg over that 30-inch seat, my first impression was that the new seat was firm. Although I could easily flat-foot it, it felt like a small motorcycle, not a toy.
There’s a digital dash that now features a gear indicator, a feature American Honda’s people cited as beginner-friendly. And it is, but it's convenient for all of us, too. Generally speaking, the user experience is old school. Ride modes? We don’t need no stinkin’ ride modes.
The clutch pull is as light as you’d expect, given the slight demands placed on it. It took a few minutes to get used to the 12-inch wheels, which have far less gyro effect than larger motorcycle wheels. The Grom weighs only 227 pounds, so the slow-speed handling is scooterey. If you’re used to full-sized motorcycles, you’ll adapt by toning down your steering inputs.
Alabama’s hardly known for its mountains, but American Honda’s Ryan Dudek led us on a 56-mile loop that included a fun ridge road and some narrow, winding bottomland lanes. We were never in any traffic to speak of, but I’m confident that the Grom would make an excellent urban runabout and a decent suburban one, if your commute doesn’t include freeways.
The Grom reaches 50 miles an hour pretty quickly on level ground. If you’re on your own, the next few mph come slowly. I saw 65 on the speedo when drafting, at which point the shift light was on in top gear. The red line is about 8,250 rpm, but after 7,500, torque’s definitely falling off.
With those limitations noted, it’s definitely possible to have fun on a sufficiently technical bit of road. The tires are made by Vee Rubber Corp., which is a big player in the Southeast Asian market. They provide plenty of grip to drag the pegs and also offer acceptable damp grip. (I did not have the occasion to experience full wet grip.)
The new five-speed box worked well for me. It was always easy to find neutral and I had no trouble with clutchless shifts in either direction when chasing or being chased.
The front brake is a twin-piston, floating caliper Nissin; rear is a single-piston. There’s a version with front-wheel ABS. For 2022, the ABS has been upgraded with an IMU that detects and mitigates rear-wheel lift, so it’s safe to say that front brake is strong enough.
One of the least enjoyable aspects of group rides on motorcycle launches is that photo passes always entail a seemingly endless series of U-turns on photogenic (read: winding, narrow) roads. The very first time I ever did a magazine road test, Motorcyclist’s then-art director, Todd Westover, told me matter-of-factly, “You’ll probably fall making a U-turn. Don’t worry, everyone does.” I don’t think I dropped it on that first test, but I certainly have done so a few times since.
This, however, was one launch where U-turns were a doddle. The Grom’s ample steering lock and scooter-like slow-speed maneuverability would make a terrific choice for any rider-training fleet. (Honda told us that about 30 percent of Grom buyers are making their first motorcycle purchase.)
By the time we’d worked our way back to Barber for a lunch break, we’d been on the Groms almost continuously for about three hours. I pretty much never feel cramped but I didn’t hear any of the taller testers complain about feeling cramped either, so the revised ergos seem to have worked. Even though much of the ride we had the little bikes wide open, my fuel gauge still showed the 1.59-gallon tank being three-fourths full. Honda’s not exaggerating when they cite fuel mileage of well over 100 mpg.
Track test on the Grom
I opted out of the afternoon’s events so that I could spend that time on an impromptu go-kart track that Sportbike Track Time had coned-off on Barber’s Proving Ground. I was curious to see whether the Grom could fill another role as a low-cost, low-risk training tool.
It’s been ages since I was last on a track of any kind, but I soon found myself picking out entry points and apex markers, experimenting with shift points and calculating whether sacrificing speed in one spot would be paid back with interest somewhere else.
As you’d expect from such a tiny bike, even small adjustments — such as where you carry your head weight — can be felt in the handling. It won’t come as any surprise, either, to learn that getting a decent lap out of a Grom is all about conserving momentum on wide, flowing lines. I’m convinced that I’d have fun and improve my skills even on a stock, street-legal Grom on a tight go-kart track or just doing cone drills in a parking lot somewhere. But a few minimal mods would improve it.
The Sportbike Track Time crew had laid out a course more suited to race-tuned minibikes, so there were a few spots where I had to wait a bit too long for the Grom to build revs. Although I didn’t really reach the limit in terms of corner speed, I felt the Vee Rubber tires sliding in some long corners. There are a lot of great options when it comes to sticky tires in Grom sizes, but since I was already dragging my toes, I’d need to match them with rearsets for track use.
The tach was completely below my line of sight and I found myself wishing that I could hear the exhaust note a little better to choose shift points. Quite a few of the other minibikes on track were set up for racing and if they were anywhere near me, I couldn’t hear my stock Grom at all. A race can might solve that problem and free up half a horsepower.
An hour spent walking around the Smallbore festival and my track sessions proved that there are some very trick and deceptively fast Groms out there. You could obviously go farther with the platform — and you’d have to, to race one competitively. But it would not take much to make a decent training tool that you could ride to practice and ride home; no truck or trailer required.
Summing up the 2022 Honda Grom
All in all, my afternoon reconfirmed the old expression, “It’s more fun to ride a slow bike fast than it is to ride a fast bike slow.”
If you want to test that axiom by buying a slow bike of your own, the 2022 Grom seems to be a meaningful improvement over its predecessor. The base model that I rode carries an MSRP of $3,399. I was impressed with the build quality and general fit and finish at that price. Even the ABS version is only $3,599. (According to Honda, you might cover that upcharge with savings on insurance in the first year.)
Some of the other bikes in Honda’s miniMOTO line have semi-automatic transmissions; they might be even more beginner-friendly. But the Grom is a perfect first bike for anyone who aspires to graduate to a full-sized ICE motorcycle and thus needs to learn how a clutch and gearshift works.
If there’s one thing U.S. motorcycling needs, it’s more groms. If the Grom helps to create them, Honda’s doing all the OEMs a big favor.
|2022 Honda Grom|
|Price (MSRP)||$3,399 base, $3,599 with ABS|
|Engine||123.9 cc, air-cooled, two-valve, single cylinder|
|Front suspension||31 mm fork; 4.3 inches of travel|
|Rear suspension||Single shock; 4.1 inches of travel|
|Front brake||Single two-piston caliper, 220 mm disc, ABS optional|
|Rear brake||Single one-piston caliper, 190 mm disc, ABS optional|
|Rake, trail||25 degrees, 3.31 inches|
|Seat height||30.0 inches|
|Fuel capacity||1.59 gallons|
|Tires||Vee Rubber, 120/70-12 front, 130/70-12 rear|
|Claimed weight||227 pounds, 231 pounds with ABS|