Production dates: 2014 to 2021
In 2013, when Honda unveiled its new project, it was met with raised eyebrows and an undercurrent of bubbling excitement. No one could have predicted that the MSX125— affectionately nicknamed Grom—would quickly become one of Honda’s most popular motorcycles.
The Grom has gathered quite a cult-like following since its release, with owners groups popping up all around the world, custom builders using it as a base for their fantastical designs, and even a Grom race series starting in Japan.
Single-cylinder simplicity oozes from the little 125, evoking nostalgic thoughts of the 70s and 80s when small-capacity bikes ruled the streets.
Let’s take a look at the Honda Grom in more detail.
Honda updated the Grom in 2021 for the fourth time. The update included a few engine tweaks, a new five-speed transmission, and some styling changes.
What hasn’t changed since its inception is the bike’s minimalistic appearance, edgy design, and engaging motor—the winning combination for a joyful small-capacity machine.
Engine and Transmission
At the heart of everything is the 124 cc fuel-injected engine, a single-cylinder, air-cooled thumper that is surprisingly punchy.
In order to meet new emissions regulations, the latest engine differs from its predecessor with a redesigned exhaust and many new, low-friction parts.
The fuel-injected engine produces a reported 9.9 horsepower. Okay, admittedly, it isn’t going to set the world on fire, but let’s focus on the good bits first.
This small motor is happy to be ripped into all day long and then go again the next. For new riders, it’s forgiving, producing enough oomph when needed to keep you safe but not enough for you to get into too much trouble.
Around town is where the Grom thrives. You’ll have no trouble pulling away from traffic at stoplights, and you can rinse the first three gears to get you up to speed without the police troubling you for speeding.
Out on the back roads, the motor is engaging and there is enough power for you to throw yourself in and out of bends to your heart’s content.
It isn’t uncommon to see owners taking their MSX125 to the track in full leathers just for fun—similar to mini-bike racing, or indeed making a few mods and taking it off-road. The point is that the engine is capable of all those situations as long as you know it isn’t a CBR600RR and don’t expect that kind of sports performance.
The clutch is nice and light, the gear shifts couldn’t be easier, and slow-speed maneuvers are a breeze even for new riders. Shifting through the gears is smooth and clean and there are very few annoying vibrations.
The fuel economy is also excellent, though Honda claims 166 mpg, which might be a little optimistic. A more realistic estimate might be 115–120 mpg, depending on how you ride the bike.
When it comes to speed, 60 mph is really your limit—rather a downside. There are circumstances where 70 mph might show on your dash, for example, if you are tucked in on a downhill run with the wind blowing in your favor.
Read more about the Grom’s top speed.
The bike will sit in fifth gear all day, right up around the redline cruising at 60 mph, which is really why the addition of a fifth cog was a brilliant idea. However, you won’t get much more than that, which means highway runs or faster roads where overtakes might be needed are a little sketchy.
All it needs is a few more horsepower to make it a truly versatile street weapon.
Chassis, Suspension, Brakes
When it comes to the chassis, the MSX125 features a simple mono-backbone steel frame, inverted hydraulic forks on the front, and a hydraulic rear shock. Honda has used 12” wheels with wide tires and you have optional ABS brakes for controlled stopping power.
The chassis is compact, which aids the bike’s agility around town, as well as precise handling.
The suspension is pretty good, and the bike soaks up the bumps in the road with no real trouble. You’ll feel in control in all road scenarios.
You’ll notice a weakness with the suspension if you hit a rough patch. Dirt roads and rocky paths are not the bike’s friends, and your body will feel the full force of the road surface in these circumstances.
In terms of braking, the brakes do their job. They’re powerful enough to match the engine performance and slow you down.
If you’re a new rider, it wouldn’t hurt to opt for the ABS version of the brakes. The ABS will help you perform controlled stops even in less-than-ideal circumstances, such as wet roads.
For experienced riders, the ABS isn’t particularly intrusive. So if you’re planning to use the bike around town, ABS might be a good shout. Those who want to get their knee down or try some off-roading, however, may choose to forgo the ABS.
Handling, Comfort, Styling
The MSX125 handles very well. It has excellent agility, is so lightweight you can throw it around, and the steering is as precise as you need it to be in any situation.
You don’t need to worry about dropping the bike at a stop or during a slow-speed maneuver because you can simply drop your feet down and kick yourself back up straight.
For a bike that looks like it is a ¾ size replica of a real motorcycle, the Grom is surprisingly comfortable and accommodating. Wide handlebars, a wide seat, and slightly sporty footpegs mean that even taller riders won’t feel as cramped as you might expect.
Sure, taller riders aren’t going to want to be riding the bike for long periods of time, not without serious rest stops for stretching, but for the average commute or short blast, it shouldn’t be a problem.
If you’re a shorter rider, the MSX125 is quite possibly the perfect choice for you. A low seat height, light weight, and comfortable seating position where you can get both feet down make it a winner.
Honda even states the Grom has two-up capability. I’ve seen it done but probably wouldn’t recommend this because it’s so small that you begin to look like clowns in a circus. That aside, it simply isn’t comfortable or practical for two.
Edgy, unique, borderline aggressive, and sporty can all describe the Grom’s styling. It stands out among the masses while still nodding to its contemporary peers.
Currently, the non-ABS version is available in three paint schemes, black, red, and gray. The ABS model, on the other hand, tips its hat to Honda’s sporting success with racing-style livery. You can also buy multi-panel graphics sets in various Camo colors or the official HRC tri-color.
The beauty of the Grom, however, is the fact it is a blank canvas for you to customize, check out this article for some custom Honda Grom eye candy.
Engine and Transmission
- Engine: Single-cylinder, four-stroke
- Capacity: 124cc
- Bore x stroke: 50mm x 63.1mm
- Compression ratio: 10:1
- Cooling system: Air-cooled
- Starting: Electric
- Induction: PGM-FI
- Transmission: 5 speed
- Final drive: Chain
- Clutch: Wet multiplate
- Max power: 9.9 horsepower at 6,000rpm
- Max torque: 11.1 Nm at 6,000rpm
- Top speed: 60 mph
Chassis and Dimensions
- Frame: Steel mono-backbone
- Front suspension: 31 mm telescopic inverted fork; 3.9” of travel
- Rear suspension: Single shock with steel box-section swingarm; 4.1” of travel
- Front brakes: Single 220 mm disc with hydraulic dual-piston caliper
- Rear brakes: Single 190 mm disc with hydraulic single-piston caliper
- Rake: 25°
- Trail: 3.3”
- Wheelbase: 47.2”
- Seat height: 30”
- Curb weight: 223 lbs
- Fuel capacity: 1.6 US Gal
- MPG: Claimed 166.5 MPG
Buying One: What to Look Out For
A 2023 Honda MSX125 starts from $3,499 and the ABS version starts from $3,799.
Having been around since 2014, there are plenty of Groms on the used market to choose from, which can save you some money over buying a new model.
Here are some key things to consider and to look out for when buying a used Grom:
- Groms are built to have fun on, and they are so cheap that they won’t necessarily be looked after like a prized possession. Make sure the bike is in good mechanical condition.
- Look for signs of the bike being dropped and any leaks from the engine. Make sure the brakes feel right and you can smoothly shift through all the gears.
- The 2021 model onwards has a five-speed transmission, which is a great benefit to have. Prior to this, the bikes were four-speed.
- If the bike has been modified, ask for paperwork to make sure it was done professionally, and ask if the previous owner has the original parts.
- The bike is quite exposed, so a quick check for rust in the engine bay and under the fuel cap will give you a clear indication of how the bike has been looked after by the previous owner.
- Always ask for any service history and paperwork! Just because the Grom is thought of as a novelty item doesn’t mean it actually is. It’s a real motorcycle that needs looking after. Even with a top speed of 60 mph, a mechanical failure can be disastrous for the rider.
The Grom easily tops my list of favorite motorcycles. That is no easy feat, given I’m obsessed with pretty much all things two wheels.
The bike has bridged the gap between experienced and new riders. The nostalgia draws in the older generation, but the younger generation gets to taste the freedom and excitement that comes with riding for the first time.