2 Wheels

Why Is the Tiny Honda Grom so Popular?

Honda makes some incredibly quick motorcycles, on- and off-road. You can even buy a fairly-close reproduction of the bike that helped an American win Paris-Dakar for the first time. But the company is arguably better known for its smaller, more fuel-efficient and affordable bikes. And one bike, in particular, has been a surprising sales success: the 125cc Honda Grom. But in the US, surrounded by bikes like Harley-Davidson’s cruisers, how has the Grom done so well?

The Honda Grom and its stablemates

2020 Honda Grom
2020 Honda Grom | Honda

Today, the Honda Grom is one of 3 bikes that Honda sells with a 125cc engine. There’s also the Monkey and Super Cub, both modern versions of classic Honda bikes. The Grom is like a mini sports-bike, while the Super Cub is closer to a scooter. And the Monkey apes the tiny dual sport/moto bike from the 60s—and, as Motor Trend demonstrated by riding Monkeys through Baja, the bike can go off-road.

These Hondas all use the same four-speed transmission. The Super Cub’s, though, like the original, uses a centrifugal clutch. To shift, you just let go of the throttle and move the left-foot shift lever up or down.

2020 Honda Super Cub C125
2020 Honda Super Cub C125 | Honda

Powering each bike is the same 125cc air-cooled single-cylinder; in the Grom, Cycle World found it produced 9 hp and 8 lb-ft. That doesn’t seem like much, compared to something like the 94-hp Africa Twin. But these bikes are very light, even for motorcycles. The Honda Grom weighs 229 lbs, the Super Cub 240 lbs, and the Monkey 232 lbs. And adding ABS to the Grom and Monkey (the Cub has it standard) only adds 4-5 lbs.

2020 Honda Monkey
2020 Honda Monkey | Honda

So, although Bloomberg reports the Grom’s top speed is only 56 mph, Motorcyclist found the tiny sports-bike to be more than capable of overtaking cars in the city. However, USA Today notes the bike’s small engine and top speed make it unsuited for highways, if not straight-up illegal in some places.

And yet, Cycle World reports that by the end of 2018, Honda had sold over 40,000 Groms in the US. Motorcyclist reports several companies make aftermarket Grom performance parts, while Jalopnik reports Groms are often used as racing team support bikes. What makes it so popular?

What makes the Grom appealing?

Economic efficiency is a plus. Although it only has a 1.45-gallon fuel tank, Cycle World claims some owners see over 100 mpg. And with the Grom only costing $3,599 with ABS, it’s one of the cheapest motorcycles available.

And cheap transportation is only part of the bigger appeal. The Honda Grom is shaping up to be a great way to get into motorcycling. Reviewers claim that the small sports-bike has a lot to offer for both beginner and veteran riders. And after sitting on one at Chicago’s Progressive International Motorcycle Show, I’m inclined to agree.

2020 Honda Grom with 2020 Honda Super Cub
2020 Honda Grom with 2020 Honda Super Cub | Matthew Skwarczek

Similar to a standard or cruiser, the Grom’s seat is close to the ground, making it easy to put a foot down. The seating position also places your legs directly beneath you, and comfortably around the fuel tank, further enhancing stability and control. The Grom’s low weight adds to the sense of confidence.

Then there’s the Honda Grom’s speed. Men’s Journal reports veteran riders are also buying into the tiny bike precisely because it isn’t terribly fast. They can push the bike’s limits and enjoy themselves at road-legal speeds without risking a dangerous high-speed crash. To quote Jalopnik, “The only objective of the Grom is to be fun.”

There are some downsides to the Honda Grom. USA Today notes the bike has no storage space. In addition, some reviews report the seat is a little hard for extended riding. The Grom can carry two people, but its small engine means performance suffers. And if your commute requires freeway riding, a larger-capacity bike, like the CB300F or CBR500R, is a better choice.

That being said, if you’re a beginning rider with little to no motorcycle experience at all, the Grom is a good place to start.

Should you buy one?

2020 Honda Monkey front
2020 Honda Monkey front | Matthew Skwarczek

As is the Honda Monkey. I was actually slightly more comfortable on the Monkey than on the Grom. The former felt almost like a giant mountain bike. And although a Honda spokesperson at IMS confirmed the Grom is the better-selling bike, it’s also been on sale for longer. The Monkey was quite popular with the IMS crowd, and Motorcyclist and Cycle World also report strong public interest (and nostalgia) for it. The Monkey is slightly more expensive, though; it starts at $3999.

The Honda Super Cub 125, although the successor to one of the best-selling motor vehicles ever, is more scooter than a motorcycle. Its engine is also behind the rider, which can be a bit disconcerting, and makes the Cub feel heavier and more ponderous than the Cub or Monkey. But, the lack of a clutch lever might make this more attractive to beginning riders. The Honda Cub also has under-seat storage, unlike the Grom, and Motorcyclist reports Honda offers an optional rear storage rack. The Cub starts at $3,599.

The Grom’s closest competitor, though, is the Kawasaki Z125 Pro. It’s slightly cheaper than the Grom, starting at $2,999. It’s also slightly faster: both Men’s Journal and Motorcyclist were able to get the Z125 over 60 mph. Motorcycle.com reports the Kawasaki’s transmission is also geared lower, which makes it feel faster. However, sitting on it at IMS, I felt more cramped than on the Grom.

The Honda Grom may not be perfect. But it’s a ton of fun wrapped in an easy-to-park package.

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