Honda has rolled out a brand new motorcycle, and it's poised to become one of the most popular new motorcycle models of the last several years.
It's called the Grom and, as I reported Saturday, it's so popular Honda can't supply dealers with enough of them to meet demand.
Riding it, I kept hearing the words to that 1960s pop song -- written by the Beach Boys and made famous by them and The Hondells -- called "Little Honda."
"It's not a big motorcycle, just a groovy little motorbike."
The Grom looks and sits like a pit bike, or a retro minibike -- like the Honda CT-90 or MiniTrail of the 1960s and '70s, which were enormously successful for Honda.
It’s a small, lightweight thing, with a 30-inch-high seat, 12-inch wheels and a 125cc motor. Gassed up and ready to go it weighs only 225 pounds.
But it is built with modern, grown-up features, like fuel injection, electric start, disc brakes, four-speed transmission and inverted-fork front suspension. It travels smoothly on city streets -- though, at 125cc, it's too small to be legal on the freeway -- and is said to be capable of up to 55 and more than 100 mpg.
At first glance, I thought, “It’s cute, but what’s it for?”
Switching to the Grom felt like a circus act -- like I was supposed to do doughnuts until I ran into a Volkswagen full of clowns.
I kept an open mind, however, and rode it for a week.
And I began to like it. The Grom is perky, peppy, sparky and spunky. Like all Honda products, it's intelligently designed and smartly built. Once I got used to its small stature and figured out how to make the most of its limited power band, I found I liked it a lot.
It’s clear from the marketing materials that Honda is targeting young people. One promotional paragraph says, “With your own wheels, you can bag the bus and forget about having to beg for rides from your friends or -- shudder -- your Mom.” An accompanying photo shows a kid holding a skateboard.
It’s working. Dealers around the country are selling out faster than Honda can send them reinforcements. Several dealers report having waiting lists of 30 to 40 people, some willing to pay more than the $2,999 sticker price. (One dealer reported hearing of a buyer who paid $5500!)
Compared with the cost of most scooters, or even most electric bicycles, that's cheap.
Folks at Honda say the bike is selling as well with Gen Xers as with baby boomers. They say it’s doing well in overseas markets, too.
And everywhere I went I met people who said, “What is that?” and then, on closer inspection, “I’ve gotta get one!” They liked the styling, the price, the weight and the size. They liked the idea of zipping in and out of traffic and never worrying about finding a parking space.
As for that name …
The new design, built in Honda’s Thailand factories, was originally going to be called the MX125. But someone else had a trademark on that, Honda says. So the Honda people who name things dug deep and came up with Grom -- which is said to be a surfer term, interchangeable with “grommet,” for a newbie or beginner surfer. (The bike is being advertised as MSX 125 in Europe and the Far East.)
Being a Honda, the Grom is intelligently engineered. Everything from the clutch to the transmission to the turn signals feels solid and designed with the user in mind -- easy to ride, built to last.
At first, I thought they'd neglected to include a helmet lock on the Grom. But, no, there's a hook, for hanging your helmet under the locked seat.
So I can imagine legions of grommets and grommettes riding these little city-bikes, along with many of their land-locked counterparts. The Grom is going to be a hot seller. Too bad it doesn't have a peppy little Beach Boys song to go with it.
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