Just when you think you have a clear understanding of what a motorcycle is supposed to be, along comes a machine that messes with everything.
-By Bill Heald
Honda has been a bit leery when it comes to letting form overcome function, and yet their devotion to technical innovation sometimes creates a different and quite striking style. Shoot, these guys have actually built dancing robots! Can a really bizarre motor cycle for the masses (that would make a dancing robot really hot) be far behind?
Apparently not. Take a look at what Honda is calling their first real crossover motorcycle, freshly launched with the unlikely name of DN-01. Honda defines this crossover as the melding of sporting performance, a fully automatic transmission, low seat height, and exceptional style. I think the riding position is a sort of hybrid between a laid-back cruiser and a riding lawnmower, and it’s the kind of dramatic ergonomic position a rider will either love or hate, depending on their physiology. But, hey, this is a very different kind of motorcycle, and there’s little here that’s not unorthodox. One exception is the engine, which is a typically smooth 680-cc Honda V-twin mill with liquid cooling, four-valve heads, and programmed fuel injection. From there you get to a very unusual transmission that offers fully automatic operation (including drive and sport modes) or a push-button, six-speed manual mode called HFT—a continuously variable “hydromechanical” design that has scooter roots, such as no clutch lever and no scheduled maintenance. There is also a neutral button, so you can rev the engine at stoplights to impress the babe in the Jetta next to you (although if her radio is on, she probably won’t hear you).
Engine type Liquid-cooled,
Final drive is via shaft and incorporated in a slick single-sided rear swing arm. The suspension features 41-mm front forks and a preload-adjustable single rear shock, all supported by a steel twin-cradle frame. What is a bit more interesting are the DN-01’s brakes, which Honda calls Combined ABS. This takes antilock brake technology and integrates it with a linked brake design, which is actually very sophisticated, yet primarily aimed at less-experienced riders. When you grab the front brake lever, it activates all the pistons of the twin calipers. That’s normal, as this is how motorcycle front brakes are usually set up. But when you apply your boot to the rear brake pedal, it applies the rear caliper pistons and the center piston of the front left caliper. This provides a smoother overall braking effect, especially for riders who tend to rely too much on the rear brake alone.
As intriguing as all the mechanical goodies are, though, it’s the futuristic form of this very unusual ride that grabs the most attention. This is one radically bold statement that looks like a movie prop for a twenty-second-century action hero, or perhaps a bike for a supercop from Mars. Kudos to Honda for thinking way outside the box.