- The Washington Times - Friday, July 10, 2009

Honda’s new DN-01 designation stands for “Dream New, Concept 1.” Despite its Continuously Variable Transmission (which Honda refers to as a Human-Friendly Transmission) with a six-speed manual mode and Sport automatic mode, it’s definitely not a scooter.

Think of the DN-01 as a comfortable Sport Cruiser. The riding position is that of a comfortable cruiser - complete with rider floorboards - and pegs are provided for the passenger, who also benefits 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.

The DN-01 is futuristic in its overall appearance. Styling cues display graceful swoops, curves and character lines. The bike rides on 41mm telescopic front forks and a Pro Arm single-sided swing arm with single shock, seven-position preload adjustability in the rear. Tires are Bridgestone Battlax and wheels are graphite metallic-painted, five-twin-spoke alloys.

Power for the DN-01 is provided by a 680cc liquid-cooled, 52-degree single overhead camshaft 8-valve V-Twin engine with programmed digital fuel injection featuring an automatic enrichment circuit, 40mm throttle bodies and 12-hole injectors. Exhaust exits via the right side.

The quiet motor produces 45.6 horsepower along with 35.8 lb.-ft. of torque. Motive force is delivered to the rear wheel via a shaft final drive, with ratios controlled by the innovative continuously variable hydro-mechanical two-mode automatic with six-speed manual mode.

The highly advanced hydro-mechanical automatic transmission is what really sets the DN-01 apart from other motorcycles. It is not to be confused with conventional belt converter systems found on scooters or with semi-automatic transmissions that manually shift between conventional gears without utilizing a manual clutch.

This transmission changes drive ratios automatically and seamlessly, delivering strong, smooth linear acceleration. There is no clutch lever associated with the left grip. Instead, there 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. There is a Sport automatic mode that holds gears longer for more aggressive riding styles.

Another worthwhile advancement is Honda’s Combined Brake System, along with antilock brakes. 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 righthand side for added peace of mind.

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 a single 276mm disc and three-piston calipers for the rear wheel.

My test 2009 Honda DN-01 came in the red metallic finish, highlighted by graphite metallic handlebars and wheels, with a base sticker of $14,599.

While the DN-01 may not appeal to the more traditional sport bike 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.

For those who like to ride aggressively, scraping boards, there are sacrificial bolt inserts on the board bottoms that notify the rider when 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 backrest. In addition, the flyscreen angle is not intended for riders much over 6 feet. But 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.

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