Riding (and racing) a bike of a different kind and an interview with Brian Lopes
According to a recent quick poll on our site, 46% of Mtbr readers already own a motorcycle or are thinking of buying a motorcycle. The majority of current motorcycle owners who responded own street bikes vs. dirt bikes by about 2 to 1. I have ridden motorcycle longer than I have been riding mountain bikes but I enjoy both a ton. There is a similar sense of “getting your flow on”, whether it be through sweet, twisty singletrack in the Santa Cruz mountains or hitting the double apex just right in turn 2 at Laguna Seca Raceway.
It was with this similar sense of fun that I got an invitation from Honda Powersports to come down to their headquarters in Torrance, CA to ride their new mini bike called the Grom. Mountain bikers will recognize the term “Grom” as a young rider who rips on the downhills but since this product launch was in the heart of SoCal and not BC, it was pointed out that the term arose from the surf/skate scene. A variety of riders was assembled including motocross/supercross racers, AMA road racers, mountain bike racers, surfers, BMX riders and members of the press within those categories to gather and compete against one another. The event was also attended by comedians/TV stars Alonzo Bodden and Hal Sparks and Incubus band members José Pasillas and Chris Kilmore.
(check out this highlight video courtesy of SickLines.com)
Honda feels (and rightly so) that this bike will appeal to a broader audience than their normal motorcycle and the two main reasons for this are the Grom’s size and fun. Bigger than a scooter but smaller than a full size motorcycle, the Grom has a low seat height (29.7 inches), low weight (225 lbs, wet weight), small wheels (12″)and a low price of admission ($2999). To be sure, it is a real motorcycle with a 125cc 4-stroke motor with 4 speeds and manual (clutch) shifting and it will require you to have a motorcycle license to run it on the street. Yet, it is very easy to ride and not intimidating in the least. The clutch is very forgiving and shifting is smooth (a perpetual Honda strong point). Top speed is about 60 mph but it does not have enough brake horse power to make it freeway legal (which is probably a good thing, given how difficult it is for drivers to see full size motorcycle at speed during rush hour).
I got to experience firsthand just how fun the Grom is during the inaugural running of the Honda “Grom Prix”. Teamed up with none other than Brian Lopes and surfing legend Sunny Garcia, we dubbed ourselves the “Grom Dawgs” and raced against the likes of Jeremy McGrath, Justin Barcia, Trey Canard and Cole Seeley as well as the previously mentioned celebrities and members of the press. Son of mountain bike legend John Tomac, Eli Tomac was invited but was a last minute scratch. It was nice to see another mountain biker and familiar face in the form of Jason Nixon from SickLines.com.
The contest itself pitted 15 teams of 3 against each other to see who could come the closest to matching the predetermined laps times for experts (57 seconds), intermediates (1:05) and novice (1:15) on a closed course set out in the Honda employee parking lot with colored cones. Given the experience of my team mates, I had no problem representing the slow guys. Points were awarded based on how close each rider on the team comes to the set times, with a bigger penalty for going too fast, rather than too slow. After 3 warm-up laps for each of us, we headed to the finals with another 2 laps. I kept going just a bit too fast on each of my first 4 laps. By the final I was able to come close enough (with a 1:14.94) to have a somewhat respectable time. Unfortunately a scoring mix-up during our last run (we didn’t go out in the same order for round 2 of the finals that we did in round 1) meant no trophy swag for us but, congrats to Jason from SickLines on his second place finish! Of course, first place was taken by Jeremy McGrath’s team.
The one word used over and over again to describe the Grom is FUN. Small, inexpensive, easy to ride = serious fun. If ever there was a perfect beginner’s bike, this is it. And if you want to do a bit of hoonin’, the Grom will do wheelies, stoppies and burnouts just fine (Lopes was more than willing to demonstrate this)! The Grom reminds me a lot of my first “real” motorcycle which happened to be a small, red Honda, too. In 1982, I had a Honda MB5, a 50cc 2-stroke with kickstart and 5 speed manual shifting. I learned how to ride (and crash) on that thing for a couple of years before I passed it on to another first time rider. The Grom is a serious alternative to electric bicycles and would make an excellent grocery getter. Yes, the M1 license will be prohibitive to some and I would never recommend a motorcycle as a replacement to pedaling. But with the low buy-in, why not have both?
Continue to next page for more specs and info and an interview with Brian Lopes.