The world’s biggest motorcycle company seems determined to be the world’s busiest as well.
Over the past few years, Honda has bombarded the market with a barrage of new models to fill any perceived gaps in the lineup.
Most of the new bikes have been midsize or smaller. And while they hold some appeal for a few downsizers from a dwindling boomer market, most of these new products have been specifically designed to entice entry-level newbies from a next generation of riders.
This new millennial generation—the ‘Dek Neaw’ of Thailand, the ‘Street-Kei’ of Japan or ‘Generation Y’ here in Canada—shares an Internet-influenced culture of borderless, fast-paced style and fashion.
They are looking for something fun, something new, something different.
And they are not going to be won over solely by scooters.
Enter the 2014 Grom, Honda’s latest little bike with big bike attitude.
A ‘grom’ or ‘grommet’ comes from surf/snowboard speak. It’s a slang name for kids with enough abilities to rip up the waves or downhill ski slopes alongside their adult counterparts.
And like those miniature athletes, the Grom boasts the attitude of a pint-sized performer. It is part mini-bike, part motorcycle. It blends a smallish patented frame and 12-inch wheels with full-fledged motorcycle parts for an oddly appealing dwarfish style accented with a tough urban edge.
The Grom, also marketed outside North America as the MSX125 (“Mini Street X-treme 125”), carries on a tradition that we can trace back to some of the original, small-wheeled bikes built by Honda in the past, starting in 1963 with the iconic Monkey, and followed up with the Dax and Ape.
As hinted at by the MSX125 name, the Grom is powered by a 125 cc two-valve, air-cooled single-cylinder engine. The motor is based on one of Honda’s well-proven power units, recently employed in the Wave 125i with nearly a million sales globally. It has earned international kudos and praise over the last decade for fuel efficiency, ease of use and longevity.
Although Honda has not released fuel economy numbers, modern fuel injection and further tweaks in low-friction technology should result in very thrifty averages.
The 28.6mm diameter bore exhaust pipe encourages power output in the mid- and upper-rpm ranges and the muffler uses a dual-layer construction with a resin outer shield.
The Grom translates the estimated 10 hp and 8 lb/ft of torque through a traditionally motorcycle-style clutch-operated four-speed gearbox designed to blend a balance of lively around-town response and easy top gear travel.
Complementing the powerplant, a compact chassis features a sturdy mono-backbone steel frame, inverted front fork, monoshock rear suspension, hydraulic disc brakes front and rear, and lightweight 12-inch cast aluminum wheels sporting wide, low profile tires.
Honda has applied for four patents based on the innovative split structure tank cover and frame, proof of just how serious they are about this new global small bike.
The frame architecture has also enabled efficient storage of PGM-FI-related components and electrical parts inside the tank cover without reducing fuel capacity (5.5 litres). The wheelbase is a snug 1200 mm and the curb weight should work out to just over 100 kg.
But while the Grom is small enough to be nimble and manageable, it comes with a surprising selection of standard sized motorcycle parts and big bike features.
The Grom mounts a combined projector headlight, probably the most prominent styling feature of this bug-eyed bike, while a bright LED taillight marks the rear of the bike’s stubby silhouette. Riders look down on a compact and modern LCD digital dash complete with speedometer, twin trip meters, fuel gauge and clock. And the low 765mm scooter-like seat height makes the Grom manageable for any size rider.
With its small size and portability, all kinds of customers will be checking out the Grom, as either a perfect pit bike, motorhome accessory or urban runabout.
But small as it may be this is no out-of-a-box department store minibike. Honda components, quality and reliability will add reassurance to a new way to add fun and independence to a young and vital lifestyle. Yeah, with accent on the “young”.
You get some idea of how young a target market Honda is looking for when you watch promotional videos featuring wheelies, stoppies and just a lot of general hooning around going on.
To quote the Honda U.S.A. site “with your own wheels, you can bag the bus and forget about having to beg for rides from your friends or—shudder—your Mom.”
Honda Canada will be releasing prices and more details soon.
And while I usually end these preview stories with promises of a future road test, I might have to leave the 2014 Honda Grom test ride up to some young “grommet”.
Honda Grom 2014
Engine: 124.9 cc SOHC air-cooled single-cylinder four-stroke
Fuel Delivery: PGM-FI with auto enrichment
Transmission: Four-speed with chain final drive
Suspension: Front: 31mm inverted fork; 99 mm (3.9 in.) travel Rear: Single shock with steel box-section swingarm; 103 mm (4.1 in.) travel
Brakes: Front: Single 220mmdisc with hydraulic dual piston caliper Rear: Single 190 mm disc with hydraulic single piston caliper
Tires: Front 120/70-12; Rear 130/70-12
Wheelbase: 1204 mm (47.4 in.)
Curb Weight: 101.7 kg (225 lb)
Seat Height: 765 mm (29.7”)
Fuel Capacity: 5.5 litres