Life on bikes

My name is Jock and I’m a Grom addict

In part 1: I am Grom, Jock tries to rationalise why a grown man would buy the modern era’s version of the Monkey Bike. Here in part 2, like a junkie trying to explain the loveliness of smack to his mum, he fills us in on the addiction.

First time sat astride my very own Grom, fixed running lights reflecting a subtle orange glow onto the front windows next to my garage, I could see the stupidity of a grown man, 74 times too big for the bike, staring straight back at me.

And this was an image I wanted to buy into. The look on the face of my other half was one of ‘you dick’. Plus 200 points there.
Then my neighbour, forever wishing to get back on two wheels, came over and gave that smile you know shows appreciation and respect. Or maybe just manners at the sheer ridiculous nature of what his neighbour had bought into. That he later turned down the offer from his wife, ‘why don’t you get one of those rather than that Hayabusa thing you keep talking about’ added to the point that even permission from the household treasurer may not be enough for some people to buy into a Grom. I suspect Simon’s sights are set a little higher. Maybe even if only by a few centimetres and around 185bhp.

Then I rode mine properly for the first time, leading around 20 members from the London Motorcycle Riders Club around Kentish rural roads. Ah…………., perhaps some adjustments were in order.
This isn’t a pedigree race bike, that much is clear from the looks and sales pitch.

Certainly, the standard suspension isn’t like the Ohlins on my Street Triple 765RS. Or the brakes anything like the Brembos that bike carries either. Comfort wasn’t particularly comfortable, but then to be fair, I was doing around 100-odd country miles in one hit.

Power wise, in town, no drama. On the open roads overtakes are back to very few and very far between, as they used to be when I was learning. But hooning around like a circus bear on a clown bike, no matter the quality of the simple stuff, was flipping funny as feck. This bike draws attention where a generic superbike doesn’t. Raises smiles more than Billy Connelly in his big banana feet. The potential to be a little bit better was easy to spot.

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A fool and his money…

Ben Harman, from Bens Bikes Racing and the Honda MSX125 Owners Club on Facebook (23,000 members no less!!) became a font of knowledge for me. Yes, there are the usual ‘youngsters’ caning their bikes to death, as is their want. But fuck me there is some serious wedge being spent on Groms. You want to change it, improve it, it can be done and Ben and the more informed members of the FB group are there to come up with an answer. A good mix of stupidity and genuine insight, just like the Grom, is easily found online.

I went to see Ben of Ben’s Bike Racing in Belvedere, London, with a list of improvements that needed doing. Nothing crazy, just a smidgen of extra power, suspension and brakes. You know, the usual suspects to get breathed on, as with any bike.

Honda Grom addict
© Ben’s Racing Bikes | You are looking at £10,000 worth of upgrades….

A fist full of Sterling rather than a second mortgage saw me out the door with a large bag of goodies. I tempered my other half’s sarcastic snort of ‘Cheap bike eh?’ with ‘If this was for one of the big bikes you could times that price by ten, and anyway how much did your last pair of boots cost you? Oh, 60 quid….cup of tea dearest……?’

An evening of ‘You really have no idea how much money you can spend on these Groms!’ was met with, ‘You really have no idea how much I don’t care’. So it’s back to sneaking parts into the garage, like all the other bikes.

Next stop was to see Lee at MotoWorks, Kent for what turned out to be an extraordinary amount of piss-taking masquerading as ‘servicing and upgrades’. Grom unveiled from the back of the van with as much pomp and ceremony that I could muster was met with snorts of laughter. He got a C U Next Tuesday back.

However, once the goodies and the plan of better performance for less than a nearly affordable 500 squid were revealed, he was on board. Throwing into the mix a set of Anlas Winter Grip 2’s just to see what difference they make, I left with all the bits Ben supplied and Lee’s fettling together providing better grip, better braking, stiffer, more held up suspension and a slightly easier pull, if still from the standard engine.

Cheap ‘performance’ mods

First things first, (after the wash and polish of course) an oil change and spinner cleaned (no oil filter). One tooth down on the front sprocket and a quick action throttle help pull my (Ed: ever expanding) bulk closer to the redline, where all the magic happens on these bikes. Some new, heavier K Tech fork springs and fresh oil produces less dive on the brakes or deflection over bumpy roads. A very stiff Kitaco rear shock gives little damping but a lot of suspending, which is hugely better than standard for a circus bear like me.

Honda Grom Addict
© Jock McJock | Jock’s Honda Grom undergoing serious farkle treatment at Motoworks

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Honda Grom Addict
© Jock McJock | A circus bear and his money are easily parted

 

Oversized EBC front brake disc, wavy EBS rear disc, with EBC HH pads all round, plus Hel stainless steel brake lines now give one finger braking, rather than aiming for the pavement for extra braking performance/exit strategy.

Tail tidy does the tidying bit, air filter does the placebo engine breathing better effect (it probably does, but I’m damned if I can notice it on a sub 10bhp bike). New seat 2nd hand from eBay as the one on it was cut away and uncomfortable. Lower bars to get a more racy, urban, everyone has different bars anyway look. Winter Grip 2 tyres by Anlas (more on these another time) fitted in all their winter chunkiness glory. Oh and heated grips for the old duffer’s hands.

Fit for a circus bear

So here we are. Around 500 quid down but more than 500 quid up in smiles. Each of the bits recommended by Ben and the Grom FB page has worked a treat. The suspension, service and brake fettling by Lee at MotoWorks has spruced up the bits that needed a service and stiffened the bike into an attack mode corner muncher, if not big mile muncher. Yes, the bike still has a circus bear on top of it, so anything over 60mph is a downhill bonus, but for sure the bike feels a lot different, and that’s one of the great things about this bike. For a few quid, you get a real noticeable difference, for a lot of quid you’ll likely get a night and day bike.

So back on the roads and the fresher Grom still looks like a clowns bike, ridden by a circus bear. I like that image, and slowly my friends are becoming less embarrassed, more accepting. Some have bought their own Grom; a couple are looking for the right one 2nd hand. It’s an infectious little minky.

Now chasing after unsuspecting big bikes ridden by people not noticing the lunatic circus bear on the clown bike in their mirrors, very slowly creeping up on them has become the new ‘racing on the road’ game for me. My targets are those riders who can’t be arsed overtaking traffic in front, just happy to bimble behind slow cars. The shallow victory of catching up a bike with a sleeping rider on 150-odd bhp may be a shallow victory, but in my small circus bear’s mind, it’s still a victory.

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Add to the mix the greatest thing I have ever discovered in biking; my intercom connects to my mate’s intercom. ‘No shit Sherlock’ I hear you mumble, but then my mate and I really are IT retards. More him than me you understand.

Wired for sound, he’s now on his daughter’s never used 100cc scooter, and the future of winter rides was formed right there. That future has become weekend rides simply chasing your 60 yr old mate on a yellow scooter, adorned with the sort of cheap top box you’d more likely see in a Tupperware catalogue, at speeds barely touching rural speed limits, screaming obscenities at each other over the intercoms. Like a scene far removed from Biker Boyz, this blazing blur of slow crazy has been all too often reality checked with a quick view in the mirrors. A degree of perspective is brought about when you spot the bored car driver drumming their fingers on the steering wheels, staring unbelievingly at what appears at face value to be two deranged teenagers drafting each other down the A20. Head back down again, mirrors hidden from view and the alternative reality of two blokes misbehaving under the speed limit becomes the new 160mph of years gone by.

And this is where the addiction, the appeal lies I guess. Sure, come the summer the big bikes will likely come out again for bigger miles than the current local lunacy. But at reasonable road speeds, those bikes are boring and no one gives them a second glance. And let’s be honest, plenty of us ride around, looking at ourselves in shop windows, clocking the admiring views, feeling like an outlaw, riding like a vicar. At those subdued speeds, the little Grom provides a challenge never to be found on a bike shod with Ohlins, Brembo, 160plus bhp.

Bring on the clowns

I like that on the Grom you’re treading a fine line between stability and instability. It keeps you a touch more focused, keeps those instincts ticking over during the months where reruns of MotoGP is as close as many riders get to handlebars and gear levers. Sure 60mph tumbles will hurt more than a hangover and bacon butty watching the reruns, but therein lies the challenge with any motorbike, even silly looking, fun-drenched clown bikes.

I can’t describe the joy found in other’s amusement when they spot a Grom on the road. Ride one and you’ll soon see what I’m talking about.

So what plans have I for the Grom now? Well, the 250cc 2 stroke idea was mulled over and pretty much binned. That’s not a Grom, that’s an evil monster creation which with my sensible head on is the cost of a summers riding. Nope, I think for now local riding and praying for clean dry roads is as much as I can expect til the Spring. That and humping that damn stupid yellow scooter on the back roads near home.

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The Author

Jock McJock

Jock McJock

Jock would describe himself as a world child, though a child with a greying beard and ever-receding hairline.

Gaining his bike licence over 30 years ago, from the roads of Perth, Scotland, to the dirt roads of Perth, Australia, he stopped counting the miles as the half million mark easily came and went, barely noticed. Emotive, sarcastic, direct, as happy to bimble and take in the view as he is to drag a kneeslider and ignore the view.

His biking CV is an eclectic mix, from racer to tourer, track instructor to ride leader, he has ridden all over the globe, describing the journey as ‘in progress’, never ready to sit back and settle for the biking memories he has. Rather than just going from A to B, Jock makes sure A to B has a story in it to tell.

Jock revels in the analytical side of riding and product testing. His passion spills out into helping everyone from newcomers to aspiring racers, providing guidance to those riders who may lack confidence on their bikes, through lectures and riding analysis.

So buy him a donut and a coffee and settle in for a roller coaster ride of biking emotions.