Honda is keen on finding radical new approaches towards motorcycling and the 2009 DN-01 model is probably the best example of them all. Some people love it and others can certainly live without it, but despite the anticipation of critics, the DN-01 carries on being produced in 2009. Even more, it goes for the North American market and creates an entirely new category in the Japanese manufacturer’s lineup, something that tells us that there’s plenty where this came from as long as the market is positive and responsive about the first crossover motorcycle ever made.
This revolutionary motorcycle is the result of Honda continuously looking to expand their offering and because they’ve pretty much reached a dead end a few years ago, the idea of combining different styles soon came. Practically a stepped up scooter with a low seating position and aggressive design, the DN-01 stands as a combination between sport and cruiser bikes.
At its base sits the Deuxville 700-derived, 680cc, liquid-cooled, 52-degree V-Twin engine that is fuel-injected in order to maintain more than a fair share of potency both for commuting and more aggressive riding (even though the engine develops around 60 horsepower and the curb weight is 595 pounds), but the best of this bike and the reason why riders seriously take it in consideration, is the Human-Friendly Transmission featuring two automatic modes (Economy, Sport) and a six-speed Manual one with a push-button for a shifter and no clutch. The classic belt is now replaced by a system of hydraulic pumps and motors that deliver torque and power smoothly through the variable gear ratios of the innovative tranny.
Testimony of the fact that different riding categories are being blended in the form of the DN-01 gather under a series of key features such as the use of a sporty, light versatile chassis with all goodies included – the low seat height (27.2-inches), sport 17-inch wheels, 41mm telescopic fork and Pro Arm single-sided swingarm as well as both front and rear ABS brakes – and the presence of cruiser-characteristic floorboards indicating a laid back riding position.
Honda would have first presented the DN-01 as a concept at the 2005 Tokyo Motor Show. The ease of operating of the then all-new automatic sports cruiser concept destined both to experienced and inexperienced riders was the key point while the strange design gave the motorcycling press a hard time positioning the bike in a specific category and that is why it was, until now, considered a scooter.
Two years later, at the same motorcycle show, the Honda DN-01 was presented as ready to hit the streets and so it did starting March 7 2008.
The next logical step for Honda was to go for the U.S. market with their innovative and futuristic model and 2009 is the year for that to happen.
Because of Honda DN-01’s automatic transmission, people tend to compare it with the Aprilia 850 Mana Auto, but what’s there to compare apart from that? Indeed, Aprilia offers a CVT transmission with three auto settings (Touring, Sport and Rain) and a pseudo sequential seven speed manual set up, but that happens on a European naked motorcycle which can never be confused with a scooter, neither considered a crossover.
We give Aprilia all the credit for being the first manufacturer to come up with an “Auto” motorcycle, but Honda certainly didn’t aimed there.
Designing the DN-01, the Japanese manufacturer made an incursion into the future and brought a piece of it in the present days. They imagined a long (the wheelbase only is 63.2-inches), low and sleek piece of two-wheeled machinery that would accommodate the rider in complete comfort and simply built it around the V-twin engine and automatic transmission.
Clearly, the center of gravity was supposed to be low and that part turned out very good, but an aggressive design wasn’t out of the question either and that is how that great white shark nose ended up being a major distinctive feature of the DN-01 motorcycle. The aggressive look is enhanced by the integrated headlights, the almost too low positioned windshield and the wide fairing. The mirrors are fitted on the fairing, just like they were positioned on the front fenders of cars a few decades ago so it has a retro touch too.
Furthermore, the fairly small gas tank (4.0 gallons) is low positioned into the frame allowing the pulled-back handlebar bend to make the ride more comfortable for the biker which, from the 27.2-inches seat height and those nice, spacious floorboards, has no reproaches to bring in the comfort heading. Also, like on a veritable cruiser, the V-Twin engine is there for everybody to see and the passenger seat is flat and spacious, completing the overall tamped feel that is inculcated from the very first glance.
The straight-out exhaust positioned on the right rider side blends perfectly in with the lower fairing from around the engine in a note of harmony and compactness.
Colors available for 2009 are Candy Dark Red and Black.
Despite looking like nothing we’ve seen before, the Honda DN-01 isn’t as out of the ordinary as you’d reckon after checking out a few pictures with it. Except the lack of a clutch, the engine gets started like on every other bike, the very few special buttons on the handlebars being the “D” which gets you down to business and the “up” and “down” button on the left side of the handlebar for when you feel like shifting through the six gears of the manual mode.
The transmission is very smooth and values properly the engine’s 60 horsepower, making the new Honda adequate for beginners, but also feeling a little disappointing for the more experienced riders willing to get sport bike excitement out of the 680cc V-Twin engine. Quite frankly, the engine and tranny provide less than you’d expect from such a package, but at 55 mpg, you really have to take savings in consideration.
With a low center of gravity and a versatile chassis, the DN-01 is perfect for making your way through crowded cities. But what am I saying? The fact that you don’t have to hold a clutch is simply manna while the low seating position makes for a relaxing get away from stop signs and traffic jams. Aggressively approached curves will easily have the floorboards scrap the pavement, but the bike feels steady and secure during cornering and a slight release of the clutch will surely keep you on your trace.
Do you know how irritating a very strong exhaust note can be on the long haul? Well, in this case the irritating part is the fact that you don’t benefit of almost any exhaust note at all. In fact, you can easily hear the engine over the exhaust so going for an aftermarket silencer is the recommended solution if willing to hear those horses when accelerating out of corners.
But, if it doesn’t go like it shows, at least it’s comfortable. That’s what I said to myself after putting a good 200 miles on it and that’s also the opinion I’m sharing with you. At first you’ll have to get accustomed with looking a faired thing and practically riding a cruiser, but apparently this is the future and I like it.
Safety is also a crucial for Honda so even though this is not a performance motorcycle it comes fitted with combined ABS triple-disc brake. Due to the bike’s geometry, reliable suspension and great stability, the brakes would have been efficient no matter the type of wheels that Honda would have gone for, but these 17-inch ones dressed in road rubber are surely contributing to that safety feel every time you hit the brakes hard.
What would really set the DN-01 on a pedestal is a 100+ horsepower engine so let’s just hope that Honda is test riding us with this model and we’ll be soon witnessing a whole new entry in the crossover category.
But, as for 2009, we should be glad that the existing model is available to the North American market. And I guess that the $14,599 manufacturer’s suggested retail price isn’t quite pocket-ripping.
Some may love it, others may hate it, but what is worthy of appreciation in the case of the 2009 Honda DN-01 is the fact that it gets plenty of reactions and doesn’t pass unnoticed like a standard bike for example. Going through Honda’s lineup, you surely stop and smell the roses just before wanting to take one for a ride…and then home.
Engine and Transmission
Engine Type: liquid-cooled 52 degree V-Twin
Bore and Stroke: 81 x 66mm
Compression ratio: 10.0:1
Valve Train: SOHC; four valves per cylinder
Induction: PGM-FI with automatic enrichment circuit, 40mm throttle bodies and 12-hole injectors
Ignition: Digital transistorized with electronic advance
Transmission: HFT continuously variable, hydromechanical two-mode automatic with six-speed manual mode.
Final Drive: Shaft
Chassis and Dimensions
Suspension: Front: 41mm telescopic fork with 4.2 inches travel
Rear: Pro Arm single-side swingarm with single shock, seven-position spring preload adjustability; 4.7 inches travel
Brakes: Front: Combined ABS with dual full-floating 296mm discs and three-piston calipers
Rear: Combined ABS with single 276mm disc and three-piston caliper
Tires: Front: 130/70 ZR17 radial
Rear: 190/50 ZR17 radial
Wheelbase: 63.2 inches
Rake (Caster angle): 28.5o
Trail: 114mm (4.5 inches)
Seat Height: 27.2 inches
Fuel Capacity: 4.0 gallons, including 0.8-gallon reserve
Curb Weight: 595 pounds
Features & Benefits
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