The words ‘cool’ and ‘learner bike’ rarely appear in the same sentence, but there is one definite exception – Honda’s uber-cool MSX125.
Even so, you might never have heard of the MSX. Enthusiasts normally refer to it as a ‘Grom’, which is the name under which it is sold in North America, and the following it has is massive, which is why Insidebikes just had to go out and try one for ourselves.
The first thing you notice about the MSX is its size, or rather lack of it. The MSX (which stands for Mini Street X-treme) is described by Honda as part mini-bike and part motorcycle. It’s not knees-up-by-ears small like the original monkey bikes, but with a seat height of 765mm and ickle 12” wheels, it’s way smaller than the average bike.
That’s good. While many 125s look a bit weedy, the MSX has an aggressive stance to it. It’s also not pretending to be what it’s not. Where Suzuki’s GSX-R125 tips its hat toyishly to a GSX-R1000, the MSX isn’t pretending to be anything else. It is what it is, and what it ‘is’ is great fun.
The MSX125 is a hoot to ride around town. The four-stroke single, combined with a little over 100kg to haul around, leads to punchy enough acceleration, while the tyres and brakes are of sufficient quality for the performance of the bike.
Indeed, the little Honda has a roller skate like quality to it. The bike may be small, but the upright riding position at least means that you don’t feel vulnerable to the traffic. The air-cooled motor doesn’t make the full quota permitted under A1/learner regulations, putting out 9.6bhp against the 14.75bhp allowed, but it is peppy enough.
Honda has teased us with a new Monkey bike at the winter shows, using the venerable MSX125 motor, and the upcoming release of this will undoubtedly renew interest in these shrunken motorcycles. For their part, Honda gave the MSX125 a good makeover in 2016, improving up the streetfighter styling and introducing some bright new colours. The latest version has a decent spec that includes ABS brakes, a decent digital dashboard and sharp, stacked LED headlights.
A Honda MSX125 isn’t the latest or greatest motorcycle in the world, but it is the sheer essence of motorcycling. It appeals to everyone from teenagers getting their first set of wheels to experienced riders looking for a second, or third, bike upon which to have a bit of a laugh. At £3349, it’s not going to break the bank for many riders – and the strong demand on the second hand market means that they usually hold their value better than most 125s.
What’s also unusual is that the MSX125 is a truly classless bike. What you ride usually says a lot about you, but behind the bars of a Grom you will find all sorts. From learners to sportsbike riders out on their town bike, through to holiday makers enjoying the back roads a relaxed pace and bike shed tinkerers working on their ‘project’ the little Honda has something for everyone.
It’s no surprise that there’s a big customised scene for these little bikes and there are Grom clubs up and down the country. The MSX125 is one of the coolest bikes out there, without a shadow of a doubt.