God only knows what different path my life would’ve taken if I’d had one of these in 1973. Well, it would’ve been the same path at first: the trails that wound through the woods at the end of our street where all the cool bigger kids rode their Elsinores and Combat Wombats. We did manage to wrangle a second-hand Bronco 50 and knew how to mix oil with the gas, but nobody mentioned the gearbox oil; when the tranny seized up two weeks after the glorious acquisition, it was back to pedal power for the Burns brothers and collective arrested development. Meanwhile, the kids on the Mini Trail 50s just kept going, got their fill of riding at an early age, and went on to lead respectable lives.
The Grom brings it all right back home, but that fuel-injected 125cc single endows it with monstrous power (compared to a Z50). Pronating out atop the tank on level pavement at near sea level with minimal flappy clothing, I saw 61 mph on the digital dashboard. If I’d stopped to stuff pants into socks and tuck in my hoodie hood, 62 would’ve been within reach. Finally, here’s a bike I can keep pinned through the curves on Irvine Avenue, and it handles the bumps fine at top whack even on those little 12-inch wheels. With twice the rear-wheel travel of a Sportster—4.1 inches—the Grom maintains control and directional stability heeled over through the bumpy stuff. Not only is it cute, but it scoots.
That’s right, friends, 8.96 hp on the Cycle World dyno is close enough for us to call it 9, and that’s plenty to get the holeshot on unsuspecting Camrys. If you can get there without getting on a freeway, the Grom will take you—55 mph at 7,000 rpm in top cog (fourth) isn’t a bad place to be. Except for the seat, anyway; the dense foam Honda chose definitely came from the dirtbike department, and unless you’re heavy enough to really compress the rear spring (no names), the seat’s forward cant wants to give you a snuggie and slide you up against the tank. Aside from that, you really can’t complain about what your $2,999 buys (not that you’ll likely find a Grom for that, so quickly are buyers snapping them up, according to a local Honda dealer). In addition to the LCD instrument panel from the CBR500R/CB-F/CB-X (complete with bar-graph tach, gas gauge, clock, etc.), the Grom also shares footpegs, switchgear, master cylinders, levers, turn signals, and all sorts of components with the Thai-built twins—and all of it’s just as functional on the Grom. There aren’t many obvious economizers, but the use of a non-O-ring drive chain is one, complete with master link. And the high beam on our Grom’s headlight is nice and bright, but the low beam’s already burned out—unexpected behavior from a Japanese motorcycle. Might have been the skatepark duty!
Apart from those niggles, the Grom might very well be the gateway drug Honda should’ve never pulled from the shelves decades ago, every kid’s dream come true. Even better for Honda, all those kids are now middle-aged and don’t have to beg their parents to buy them a Grom or two. A dealer tells us the bulk of sales are to boomers looking to relive the ’70s. But maybe this bike will get their kids to glance up from the iPad and decide to go for a spin. If so, they’ll be hooked.
Just like the original Honda Mini Trail, there’s no better trainer. The Grom’s about as intimidating as a puppy, the seat’s lower than the specs indicate, and the whole experience slices decades off your age (if you have any spare decades). A dark faceshield is a good idea if you’re an old guy, so people will chalk up the way you’re riding to youthful exuberance instead of advanced immaturity. Hey, if you don’t like it, stay off the sidewalk, grandma! And the bike path. And the skatepark and front yard. We’re glad Honda’s having its second childhood. Perfect timing for some of us.
|ENGINE TYPE||sohc single|
|SEAT HEIGHT||29.7 in.|
|FUEL CAPACITY||1.4 gal.|
|CLAIMED DRY WEIGHT||225 lbs.|