Honda DN-01 Review - Introduction - Initial impressions

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Original post: 20 February 2011
Last Updated : 04 July 2013

Welcome to my complete in-depth and long term Honda DN-01 review. Otherwise known as Dream New Concept 1. As usual the site will contain everything related to the DN-01, specifications, accessories, prices, and of course the long term review. So if you can't find what you are looking for visit again later. 

First of all, I wasn't going to bother doing this review since I do have a life outside the internet. What compelled me to actually post my review was that there where very few original or complete reviews and generally the lack of anything useful to a potential and long term owner. I'm sure you are tired of reworded press releases and essentially the same review often copied and vague superficial and 'how did they come to that conclusion' opinions about the DN-01. Hopefully Honda will learn that it is the independent websites that offer what potential riders really want. 

Second, I love high powered motorcycles that have are unique to look (but preferably have an anime style to them) and offer something different. It is the first thing that attracts me to a new motorcycle. Eg. the Hayabusa. The DN-01 meets my expectation perfectly in this regard. The design is a combination of sports bike and cruiser.

Choosing to buy the DN-01 was initially never going to happen because of the lack of reliable information but then I remembered my own motto is that you shouldn't believe everything you read especially on the internet. Why? it is opinion based even from and especially from websites and people who claim otherwise ie. aren't opinion based. Since I've never been completely convinced by the mainstream internet press for automotive reviews hence I bought the DN-01 to prove a point to see what is real and what isn't.

Aside from that I chose the DN-01 for its design and technical package. It is a unique styled motorcycle and a combination of unique technology for a motorcycle. Of course the latest VFR1200 now as the same technology but it designed in a more conventional motorcycle shape. The DN-01 is very different and looks good - I have not had anyone say its 'ugly'. The main purpose though and technical talking point for the DN-01 was to introduce new Honda's HFT transmission to the world. Some say its a glorified automatic, some compare it to a CVT.  I say it is a combination of both in the way it works as they say in a predictable human friendly way. After using the HFT I can conclude that it has the benefits of manual, automatic and CVT gearbox without the glaring disadvantages of any of them. More to the point though is that the HFT doesn't introduce any new characteristics. 

If the looks don't get you in then the DN-01's mechanical package may convince you. Honda has packaged the DN-01 with a combination of a reliable V-Twin, Electronic fuel injection, ABS brakes with its CBS Combined Braking System, single sided swing arm with shaft drive and of course the 1st generation HFT transmission and massive 190 series rear tyre. The build quality is very good with nothing out of place. Unfortunately the DN-01's price is high despite being what will probably be a one off model. Priced initially at $18,000 AUD on the road there won't be too many around. Take $5000 off and you will have many more buyers.

Well enough introduction, here's my initial DN-01 ride review.

DN-01 ride comfort: The seating position is low, anyone of average leg height will be able to plant both feet firmly on the ground. The handle bars cruiser height and are a comfortable reach for those with long or shortish arms. The padding on rider and pillion seat are more than generous and the size is massive. Cruiser riders will be instantly comfortable while regular motorcycle riders will have to get used to the new location for the forward foot boards and not pegs. Comfort rating by time: 30 mins perfect - 60 minutes feeling fine - 90 minutes - need to shift feet and adjust butt - 2 hours (petrol stop) still good but need a little stretch before moving on. Just remember to take the bulging wallet out of your back pocket otherwise you will be uncomfortable. If still uncomfortable as indicated and repeated by other publications you need to see a chiropractor immediately.

The suspension setup is firm yet soft capable of soaking up big bumps without unsettling the bike - I was surprised. Any motorcycle rider will appreciate the very comfortable ride. You can adjust the rear suspension but there is nothing you can do for the front. The brakes are as expected and work very well. I did not notice the combined brakes working until realising that there is a minimal front end dive using the combined brakes. I haven't activated the ABS brakes yet so can't tell you how well that ultimately works but I presume  - very effectively. The brakes like the road feel is isolates you from the hard work the various systems are under more so than every motorcycle I've ridden.  It is very civilised.

Around town and suburb commute the DN-01 handling overall is just about perfect. It will go where you point it but with a detached or minimal feeling which will be concerning for anyone who is used to sportsbike feedback. The DN-01 is amazingly flickable left or right compared to just about any motorcycle you can buy including any Ducati. The DN-01's weight is hidden by the HFT and design - namely weight centralised and low. The only issue is the the lack the razor sharp feel of said motorcycles.

The DN will corner as fast as you want and there is enough ground clearance although it is still dead easy to scape the boards. Cornering is also as precise as you are capable of but it does require your attention until you learn to trust the bike. Once trusted the DN-01 is probably the easiest bike I've ridden. The fairing at these speeds is excellent no wind blast and enough air circulation to keep legs cool. 

I deliberately kept the DN-01's engine and transmission review last - because it will take some time to explain. The DN-01's engine is based on the the Deauville tourer and the Transalp trail tourer so it is reliable and long lasting. It is reasonably powerful engine that can clearly be modded to produce even more. The engine does not produce vibes of note apart from some through the foot boards. Honda does not usually release engine power statistics so everyone assumes that it will produce about the same as the related models. In the real world there is plenty of power and smoothness for commuting and winning traffic light drag races with bigger bikes. Unfortunately thanks to the transmission there is none of the drama associated with speed. I will elaborate further in the next series of pages...

Honda's HFT gearbox is a fascinating piece of work. The HFT is completely smooth and very smart. It changes up or down or even maintains a single 'gear' in it's essentially infinite ratios and goes in or out of neutral all by itself and at the right time. It has a sports and normal mode. In sports mode it always chooses gear ratios without less regard for fuel economy and keeps the engine in the spinning higher in the engine's power band. You can always select manual mode with 6 gears if you like to do it yourself and it does feel more like a normal motorcycle. Changing modes and gears on the fly works instantly. More information in the next series of pages,

Conclusion so far: It is very clear that Honda did a lot work on getting the DN-01 perfected even at the admittedly high cost, it is an enjoyable and useful motorcycle. The completely honest appraisal I can give so far is that it is a cruiser that actually handles with a sportsbike fairing. As with all Honda's these days it isn't a dud. Next report will be on how the transmission works with the engine, open road and in traffic manoeuvrability.

Page 2   -   Honda DN-01 Review: Specifications   -   Honda DN-01: Comparisons
 




 




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