Honda’s DN-01: A stylish V-Twin automatic (or not) Crossover


First off, the DN-01 designation comes from “Dream New Concept 1”, and despite its Continuously Variable Transmission (which Honda refers to as a Human Friendly Transmission) with a six-speed manual mode and Sport automatic mode, and the fact that it sounds kind of like one; it’s definitely not a scooter.

Think of the DN-01 as a comfortable Sport Cruiser – there is no step through boarding as with a scooter, one throws a leg over on this non-traditional “Crossover”. It may well be a sport bike for the masses – that is to say, the non-traditional masses. The riding position is that of a comfortable cruiser, complete with rider floorboards – pegs are provided for the passenger, who will also benefit from molded in grab handles. Handlebars are swept back for an easy reach, and the aerodynamic fuel tank features sculpted insets for the rider’s knees to tuck into. The rider’s seat is really quite comfortable, with the passenger pillion section removable for very limited storage space – there’s room for a “U” lock, but that’s about it. The seat is very low  (27.2-inches) – great for vertically challenged riders

The DN-01 is futuristic in its overall appearance. Styling cues for the production bike remain faithful to the original concept bike, with full body work displaying graceful swoops, curves and character lines. The bike rides on 41mm telescopic front forks with 4.2-inches of travel up front and a Pro Arm single-side swingarm with single shock, seven-position preload adjustability and 4.7-inches of travel in the rear. Tires are 17-inch Bridgestone Battlax — 130/70 ZR17 radial – forward /  190/50 ZR17 radial – aft. Wheels are Graphite metallic-painted, 5-twin-spoke alloys at both ends, matching the handlebars with the same finish.

Power for the DN-01 is provided by a 680cc liquid-cooled 52-degree SOHC, 8-valve, V-Twin with programmed digital fuel injection featuring PGM-FI automatic enrichment circuit; 40mm throttle bodies and 12-hole injectors. Exhaust  exits via the right side. The quiet motor produces 45.6 horsepower @ 7,400 rpm, along with 35.8 pound feet of torque @ 5,800 rpm. Motive force is delivered to the rear wheel via a shaft final drive, with ratios controlled by the innovative HFT (“Human Friendly Transmission”) continuously variable hydromechanical two-mode automatic with six-speed manual mode. Bringing the DN-01 to a halt is taken care of by ABS and CBS with full-floating 296mm dual discs and three-piston calipers on the front wheel and ABS and CBS with single 276mm disc and three-piston caliper for the rear wheel.

The highly advanced hydromechanical automatic transmission (HFT) is what really sets the DN-01 apart from other motorcycles. It is not to be confused with conventional belt converter systems found on scoters or with semi-automatic transmissions that manually shift between conventional gears without utilizing a manual clutch. The HFT changes drive ratios automatically and seamlessly, delivering strong, smooth linear acceleration. There is no clutch lever associated with the left grip. Instead is a thumb toggle switch for manually shifting up and down when in the manual mode. The right grip carries controls for mode selection on the leading edge, and a Neutral/Drive toggle switch on the trailing side. Transferring back and forth between automatic and manual modes may be done on the fly. Manual shifts, by the way, are instantaneous up or down. There is a Sport automatic mode that holds gears longer for more aggressive riding styles that may be accessed automatically by pressing the (-) /Sport switch or returning to normal Drive by pressing the (+) switch.

Another worthwhile advancement is the (CBS) braking feature – it ahs nothing to do with the TV network – it’s Honda’s Combined Brake System, along with ABS. Applying the rear brake pedal also applies pressure to the center piston of the left-side front brake caliper, providing a measured balance of front brake control whenever the rear brake is applied. The remaining five pistons of the two front calipers are controlled conventionally by the front brake lever. There’s also a one-touch cable activated Parking Brake on the bike’s right hand side for added peace of mind.

Thanks in part to the Polycarbonate fenders and bodywork, which comes in two colors – Red metallic or Black, the DN-01 tips the scales at a manageable 595 pounds, aided in maneuverability by its low center of gravity.

My test 2009 Honda DN-01 came done in the Red metallic finish, highlighted by Graphite metallic handlebars and wheels. The base sticker read $14,599 with an estimated final figure of roughly $14,799, figuring dealer prep with no accessories added, and before sales tax and license.

SUMMARY: While the DN-01 may not appeal to the more traditional sportbike rider, it is likely to attract new riders to the Honda camp with its innovative features, great aerodynamic looks, comfortable riding position, and balanced handling characteristics and maneuverability making it an ideal first bike not withstanding its relatively high price when compared to competitors in the segment that also provide higher performance capabilities for less money. It certainly draws attention from admirers though, wherever it goes, along with favorable comments.

For those who like to ride aggressively, scraping boards, there are sacrificial bolt inserts on the board bottoms that offer notification of approaching the maximum lean angle without physical damage to the actual boards.

On the downside, for those who like to travel long distances, there is virtually no storage available. – only a very limited space beneath the passenger pillion. There is however, an optional tour pack available, as well as a passenger back rest. Also, the flyscreen angle is not intended for riders much over 6 ft – the same holds true with the seat and footboard arrangement. Despite the aforementioned issues, the DN-01 is basically comfortable and delivers a fun to ride quality along with all of its technological innovations. It should appeal to a whole new genre of riders.

Honda DN-01 – ‘09

Base Price: $14,599

Price as Tested:  $14,799. * Est.*

Engine Type and Size:  680cc liquid-cooled 52-degree SOHC, 8-valve,V-Twin with PGM-FI automatic enrichment circuit, 40mm throttle bodies and 12-hole injectors. Right side single exhaust.

Horsepower (bhp):  45.6    @ 7,400  rpm

Torque (ft./ lbs.):  35.8 @ 5,800  rpm

Transmission: HFT (“Human Friendly Transmission”) continuously variable hydromechanical two-mode automatic with six-speed manual mode.

Drive Train:  Final drive – Shaft.

Suspension:  Front – 41mm telescopic fork with 4.2-inches of travel
Rear  – Pro Arm single-side swingarm with single shock, seven-position preload adjustability and 4.7-inches of travel.

Brakes: Front – ABS and CBS with full-floating 296mm dual discs and three-piston calipers.
Rear – ABS and CBS with single 276mm disc and three-piston caliper.

Tires:  Bridgestone Battlax 130/70 ZR17 radial front / 190/50 ZR17 radial rear – mounted on 5-twin-spoke, Graphite metallic painted alloy wheels.
Wheelbase:  63.2  inches
Curb Weight dry:  595   lbs. (dry)
Fuel Capacity:  4.0   gallons with 0.8-gallon reserve.
Seat height:  27.2 inches.


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