Honda DN-01

Last Updated. 02 July 2012

Welcome to the next part of my very lengthy in-depth Honda DN-01 review.

Continuing on from the last page the DN-01’s HFT gearbox is the key to character of the DN-01. (1st Generation HFT transmission review) Combined with the engine’s ECU, the gearbox keeps the engine spinning at its most fuel efficient and power output levels. HFT doesn’t automatically redline the engine because there’s not need to. You have to manually override the HFT to reach the red line and for the accompanying sound effects and acceleration.

Besides by the time you reach the red line you’ll be over the speed limit.

The DN-01 HFT gearbox is utterly smooth when left alone and obviously very efficient. Unfortunately if you are a regular motorcycle rider you will not know about how fast you are accelerating because it is utterly smooth without the dramatic push in the back feel. Of course smoothness doesn’t mean boring so select manual and have a great time.

I love the sound of a screaming engine with the matching sensation of G-forces at work but the DN-01 does not do that round town and isn’t about that. When moving the engine noise is not heard and only gives off a strangled Harley Davidson putt putt sound. Only looking in the rear mirror will you realise just how fast the DN-01 really is.

It is literally a magic carpet ride. I pity the deluded driver who actually tried to take me on I could hear the clearly screaming V8 behind me – I wasn’t even trying – just a regular efficient take off from the lights. I stopped accelerating at the 60 speed limit.

Many car drivers have no idea that a motorcycle rider is easily the most emotionally controlled road user out there.

DN-01 performance: The DN-01’s 0-60 kph will take about 3 seconds every single time without any effort. It is just as quick or quicker than any other motorcycle. The 0-100kph is probably around the 6 second mark which is slow in sports bike terms but excellent in cruiser terms. Around town you’ll probably win all the traffic light drags.

The main reason why it is so quick is due to the HFTs engaging from neutral in next to no time, infinite gears and it’s ability via the momentum of the shaft drive and the engine to spin independently. Lots of power in a deceptively smooth package even more so than the hyper-bikes a these speeds.

The town and suburb commute with the DN-01 will impress – no question. It will keep up with the Hayabusa or Gixxer 1000cc for example without any drama – as long as they’re being sensible of course otherwise the DN-01 doesn’t have a chance of keeping up. In traffic it will also leave any regular motorcycle rider with a manual gearbox with tired arms and looks of frustration. Only a maxi scooter will be as enjoyable in traffic.

The only issue I had was the location of the foot brake which is positioned too high. Otherwise the CBS system works effectively without being sudden. Using the front brakes only work the front so there is some dive when used in isolation but they do provide good feedback.

Although the DN-01 is a huge motorcycle there is only a minimal amount of under seat storage. There is only enough space for a U-lock and disc lock along with a tool kit. The area up front of the bike where the fuel tank is usually is empty – reserved for the optional sound system. The fuel tank is actually in the centre of the bike under the seat.

I wished Honda had simply inserted covered or lockable compartment upfront like other tourers would be much appreciated. That said its cruiser counterparts are equally lacking in storage space – a fact that everyone conveniently forgets.

In normal traffic conditions, presumably where it will spend most of its life, the DN-01 is joy on wheels! Concentrate on cutting up the traffic and let the magic HFT gearbox do its thing. Although the DN-01 has a relatively low seat height your still 68cm in the air which still makes you very visible on the road.

Besides who would not want to glance at your unique bike even if they don’t ride.

However once on the open road the DN-01 starts to show a few issues. You see the main problem is the DN-01’s fairing. While it looks great it does not seem to be very aerodynamic or conventionally wind deflecting. Travelling at the 110kph speed limit is perfectly fine and its only when you get to higher speeds (say above 140kph) does the fairing not provide the anticipated protection. There is much less wind issues than a normal cruiser or naked bike.

Again the DN slots between the different motorcycle classes.

Travelling higher speeds (Est. 140kph+) or if you encounter a strong head wind you will encounter enough wind resistance to make you want to hunch down behind the small wind shield. However as with a cruiser just relax and you will be fine. You see moving your body forward will only increase wind resistance unsettling the aerodynamics which I suspect all the usual testers do. So lean back a bit and I found that the wind doesn’t effect you as much.

The lack of speed based aerodynamics means less performance at speeds greater than say 120kph without using a lower ‘gear’.

Honda DN-01

When overtaking or merging with fast highway traffic (80-110kph) you should switch to sports mode for more for more urgent response it’s like a 600cc sports bike needing extras revs and your judgement. Larger engine bikes will easily leave the DN-01 behind in these situations. The DN-01 now becomes like a child needing your attention by poking the ‘S’ button or activating the manual gear selection.

Sure leaving the gearbox in automatic still works but it doesn’t have the urgency. Sometimes I think is a phycology thing – purely because the HFT is so smooth.

The engine finally makes itself felt after 6000rpm which is refreshing and at those revs there’s a new found power as the gearbox co-operates giving a satisfying urge forward with lively V-twin throbs. it’s very good for a mid-capacity V-twin. At those revs the DN sheds its compliant persona to reveal not say a body builder but a pro-footballer racing for the touch down.

When you finally reach your favourite road cornering destination the DN-01 will keep a 600cc sport bike honest. However you will need to work much harder on the to keep up. Sweeping corners are fine – it is the more technical and sharper corners that slow the DN down. These types of corners require the use of the manual gear selection because leaving it on auto is scary.

The suspension works perfectly though – firm and controlled but the long wheelbase, lack of side ground clearance and lack of cornering feel makes it a chore rather than entertaining. Thankfully its not a truck like cruiser.

The cornering method is different from the norm. If you sit back on the bike it will easily do the bends in an enjoyable fashion. However I still found the minimal feedback difficult to get used to after riding sporties for so long.

Try to shift your weight to the front and you will loose any road feel from your butt senses needed for knowing when to swap sides. It is very similar to a cruiser but much sportier and capable. Hence while good enough for the road, on the track will not be particularly fast.

Conclusion so far: The DN-01 definitely has a clearly defined niche in terms of best ability. It is definitely best at being a commuter and traffic light racer. Don’t be fooled by the go fast and tourer like fairing for high speed long distance travel but it is great for normal touring at legal speeds.

In speed restricted and enforced countries there won’t be any problems – which suits me perfectly. In the corners you’ll keep up with other sports bikes if you’re brave but will get left behind on the straights. The DN-01’s handling is best described as very good but not particularly sharp.

I think the the DN-01 is best at looking great zipping between cafes, shopping centres, middle distance touring or dealing with traffic to work and back in comfort. That said flick the HFT to manual mode and you have a responsive and fun motorcycle.

Next time: More HFT, fuel economy and direct Hayabusa comparison.

Honda DN-01
Honda DN-01
Honda DN-01
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