2009 Honda DN-01

2009 Honda DN-01
Not a scooter and not a regular motorcycle, the groundbreaking DN-01 ("Dream New" Concept 1) demands a whole new classification - which Honda calls Crossover.

This futuristic machine combines cruiser and sportbike styling cues with a fully automatic transmission, low seat height and a very capable chassis. First shown to the public as a concept at the 2005 Tokyo Motor Show, the DN-01 was proclaimed production ready at the 2007 Show.

Engine

Designed for everyday commuting and spirited backroad riding, the DN-01 is powered by a 680cc, liquid-cooled SOHC V-twin engine with 52 degrees between the cylinders. The compact V-twin has a 10:1 compression ratio and is rated 61 horsepower at 7,500 rpm and 47.2 lb-ft of torque at 6,000 rpm at the crankshaft. Honda debuted this powerplant on the 2008 European DN-01 and the XL700V Transalp.

Honda's excellent PGM-FI fuel injection employs two 40mm throttle bodies and 12-hole injectors for complete fuel atomization. A closed-loop emission system uses an oxygen sensor and a catalyst to reduce emissions, while an auto-enrichment system eliminates the need for a choke. The bike starts instantly and provides quick throttle response and excellent drivability. Power is sufficient for everyday riding and highway touring, but it's not stunningly quick. There's very little vibration, and at speed it's so smooth and quiet it almost seems like an electric vehicle.

Transmission

What really sets the DN-01 apart is its hydro-mechanical automatic drive, dubbed the HFT (Human Friendly Transmission). Honda reports that current design constraints dictate that engines larger than 700cc require a transmission physically larger and heavier than a comparable manual transmission. Hence, a 680cc V-twin was designed to work with the HFT and the bike was basically built around the transmission.

Not to be confused with conventional belt-converter systems used in scooters or semi-automatic transmissions (which manually shift between conventional gears without a manual clutch), the HFT uses engine power to drive a fixed-angle swash plate to convert power from the rotating motion into reciprocating motion inside the hydraulic pump. The swash plate strokes pistons arranged in a circle in the cylinder body, causing them to pressurize the hydraulic fluid. This pressurized fluid is routed by a timed distributor valve to a second set of pistons located in the hydraulic motor, and these motor-side pistons push against another swash plate, the angle of which can be varied to provide changes in "ratio". A lockup mechanism is used to reduce power loss and improve efficiency, and a starter clutch provides a neutral for easy start and stop operation.

The HFT offers two fully automatic, continuously variable transmission modes: D (Drive) mode for ordinary riding and S (Sport) mode for brisker acceleration. Additionally, a push-button-selectable, six-speed manual mode gives the rider the option of shifting up and down with the simple operation of left-thumb-activated buttons. Unlike conventional belt-drive designs, the HFT requires no scheduled maintenance and the shaft final drive further reduces hassles.

In automatic modes it produces smooth, linear acceleration. The ECU-controlled HFT automatically "downshifts" when climbing grades to maintain optimum power. Neutral is automatically engaged whenever the engine is turned off, and drive must be engaged after startup. Since there is no "gear" when the engine is off, a cable-operated parking brake is provided, controlled by a lever on the right side of the bike.

Automatic clutch action is predictable and easy to modulate with throttle application. As you roll to a stop, you can feel the transmission disconnect at about nine mph. With a hydraulic drive, we were concerned that it would freewheel under deceleration, but in fact it provides a fair amount of engine braking off throttle, particularly if you select sport mode. The automatic modes work so well that we only used the manual mode on canyon roads, where you can hold a gear longer for a better drive out of corners, and to obtain more engine braking when needed. Even in manual mode the HFT won't allow you to select a ratio unless the road speed and engine rpm are compatible.

Chassis, Suspension, Handling

A sturdy double-cradle steel tube frame provides the main chassis. Up front, a non-adjustable fork with 41mm tubes offers up to 4.2 inches of travel. Out back, a single-sided swingarm suspended by an offset single shock with seven steps of preload adjustment provides 4.7 inches of wheel travel. Despite the lack of adjustable damping, the suspension delivers a well-controlled ride.

The cruiser-like 28.5-degree rake and 4.5 inches of trail, along with the long 63.5-inch wheelbase, aid straight-line stability. The bike feels quite neutral in corners and even with the conservative steering geometry, turn-in response is quite quick and precise. Cornering clearance is good, but in tight corners the footboards will scrape and fold up way before the bike's sporty cornering abilities are used up.

Tires, Wheels and Brakes

Handsome five-spoke alloy wheels are shod with 130/70ZR17 (front) and 190/50 ZR17 (rear) tires to supply sport-touring grip and feel. The new DN-01 has linked braking and ABS standard. In front, a pair of three-piston calipers grip 296mm rotors. At the rear, a single dual-piston caliper grabs a 276mm rotor.

The brake pedal activates the rear caliper and the center piston of the left-front caliper, while the front brake lever applies the other five front caliper pistons. Braking performance is excellent. You can trail brake without the bike standing up in the corner, and although the brakes feel somewhat numb, they stop effectively. The ABS also works well when needed, and without intervening too early.

Ergonomics and Features

The LCD instrument panel includes a multi-segment tachometer display and digital speedometer. They're surrounded by a dual-trip odometer and clock on the left, and a fuel gauge on the right, plus turn signal and indicator lights. There are no coolant- or ambient-temperature gauges, and the tripmeter buttons are difficult to reach and operate, especially with gloved hands.

That low, swept-back windscreen may look cool, but it directs the windblast at the rider's chest and with the leaned-back, feet-forward riding position, it makes highway speeds uncomfortable. A movable windscreen should be available.

The seats are comfy, but tall riders may feel crowded by the pullback handlebars and close floorboards. Passengers get a slightly higher pillion, grippy footpegs and excellent grab bars.

Fuel mileage averaged 44.2 mpg, and capacity is 4.0 gallons, which limits range between fill-ups. We'd like to see a larger tank and a few more amenities, such as standard heated grips (they're an option), GPS navigation, a radio, power ports and some useful storage space.

Parting Thoughts

Although it looks like a concept bike and lacks a few ergonomic items, the DN-01 is a fully functional machine capable of everyday riding and commuting. It displays the excellent fit and finish and attention to detail Honda motorcycles are known for, and at $ 15,599 list, this model should appeal to well-heeled collectors and early adopters. But since the DN-01 costs nearly the same as an ST1300 and more than the Kawasaki Concours 14, it's going to be a hard sell to the general public. We applaud Honda for this groundbreaking design and predict that it will become a collectible bike, but the timing of its market entrance, in this tough economy, is not the best.

Technical Specs

+ handling, groundbreaking styling and transmission

- wind blast on rider, riding position, power, cargo space

Distributor American Honda Motor Company, www.powersports.honda.com
MSRP $ 15,599
Engine SOHC, 4-valve per cylinder, 52° V-twin
Displacement 680cc
Bore and Stroke 81x66mm
Fuel System programmed fuel injection w/2 40mm throttle bodies
Power 61hp @7,500rpm & 47.2lb-ft @6,000rpm
Cooling liquid-cooled
Ignition digital transistorized with electronic advance
Transmission HFT continuously variable automatic with 6-speed manual mode
Frame steel double cradle
Front Suspension 41mm non-adjustable conventional fork, 4.2in travel
Rear Suspension single shock, 7-position preload; 4.7in travel
Rake/Trail 28.5°/114mm (4.5in)
Brakes Front/Rear ABS w/2 296mm discs, 3-piston calipers/ ABS w/1 276mm disc, and 3-piston caliper
Front Tire 130/70 ZR17
Rear Tire 190/50 ZR17
Curb Weight 595lbs (270kg)
Wheelbase 63.2in (1605mm)
Seat Height 27.2in (690.9mm)
Fuel Capacity 4gal (15l)
Fuel Consumption 44.2mpg
Colors Candy Dark Red, Black