Batman lent us his low-rider !
When he is not called in urgently to rescue the widow and the orphan, Batman enjoys cruising the streets of Gotham City on the handlebars of his Honda DN-01 … Party to chastise the Joker, he had the kindness to entrust it to us for a week. Test !
Presented as a concept at the Tokyo Motor Show in 2005, the first prototype of Honda DN-01 was greeted with circumspection by the public, astonished by these ultra futuristic lines and bewildered by the definition of the machine….
The world’s leading manufacturer has in fact not hesitated to mix genres by defining its DN-01 as a "Automatic Sports Cruiser Concept"… So we are promised the automation of a scooter, the handling of a sports car and the pleasure of a cruiser? Food and drink !
Also, what was our surprise when Honda confirmed to us in Tokyo the release for spring 2008 of its DN-01 (read), barely modified compared to the prototype…
Automation in tune with the times
The winged manufacturer could not afford to see (re) start the train of automatic motorcycles without getting into them, arriving after Yamaha and its FJR 1300 AS (read our), and especially Aprilia and its famous 850 Mana (read our)…
In addition, maxiscooters continue to take market share from traditional motorcycles, proof that automation is on the rise..
Honda has therefore chosen a very unique setting to house its new continuously variable transmission "HFT" (Human Friendly Transmission", nothing less!). The machine is propelled by proven and well-known mechanics, which is none other than the 680 cc V-twin from Deauville.
Lovers of discretion and tranquility: go your way! The DN-01 intrigues, challenges, fascinates, even annoys … but it leaves no one indifferent! You can’t stop at a traffic light or park on a sidewalk without being bombarded with questions: "is it a scooter or a motorbike? is it available for sale or is it a prototype? how much is it worth ?", etc.
Long and very low, the Honda DN-01 is unlike any other motorcycle. With its taut lines and shark’s mouth, the front contrasts with the rear which, for its part, recalls the latest GT scooters. This disproportionate bow and this futuristic "low rider" side are reminiscent of the almost marine sensations one can experience on the handlebars of a Honda 1800 Rune … for the lucky few who have had the privilege of trying it !
We just regret the choice of too dark colors (black and plum) which do not highlight the lines of the machine. Why not a beautiful burgundy, or an English green with beige upholstery ?
Long, long rider
The driver’s position on the DN-01 is very custom-made: the ultra-low 690 mm seat will reassure the smallest riders, and reversing in the saddle is only a formality. Fortunately, because the maneuvers with the engine off while pushing the motorcycle are not easy, given the weight of the machine (270 kg in running order) and the fairly low handlebars. You have to go far ahead of the footrest plates with your legs, while the handlebars fall naturally under the hands.
The dashboard is pushed back very far from the pilot’s eyes, sheltered under its smoked windshield: another point in common with the Rune. Naturally, the controls on the left disappear, as do the clutch handle and the selector.
On the right, we find the brake controls, in particular with a large, not very ergonomic pedal. The novelty comes from the commodos, which are enhanced by the controls of the three-mode automatic transmission.
Despite its look of a spaceship, the Honda DN-01 offers basic services to say the least. Honda has abandoned the very high-tech dashboard of the salon prototype to keep only the minimum union. No GPS (except optional, as well as the alarm), nor even on-board computer: it will be necessary to be satisfied with the basic functions of any current motorcycle.
The very enveloping fairing and the false scooter airs of the DN-01 augur well for a good storage space … but it is not! You can just fit the brand-specific U-lock under the passenger seat. Fortunately, the motorcycle is equipped with the HISS coded key immobilizer.
In addition, it is very difficult to attach a bag to the back without scratching the passenger handles and impossible to carry a magnetic bag on the plastic covered tank … The DN-01 is not cut for travel ! Automatic transmission requires, there is a parking brake to the right of the engine, with light reminder on the dashboard so as not to forget it.
HFT: how it works ?
Before leaving, it is necessary to familiarize yourself with the HFT transmission, which is the main innovation of the DN-01. It is piloted using three stems: two on the right and one on the left of the handlebars. On the right, there is a double button to switch from neutral to gear (Neutral and Drive).
There is also, like the headlight trigger on the left, the Mode button which allows you to switch from the automatic gearbox to sequential mode. But it is above all the double vertical button on the left stalk that is used the most with the thumb: in automatic mode, it allows to switch from mode D (Drive) to mode S (Sport) while in sequential, it allows to up and down gears using the "+" and "-" keys.
The particularly well-studied ergonomics allow you to quickly feel at ease with the operation of this system. And no need to return to neutral or stop, all modes are selectable while driving.
In town: more motorcycle than scooter
In town, of course, we opt for one of the two automatic modes: the continuously variable transmission is the guarantee of starters canon, because the clutch no longer "waxes" like on a scooter and the Honda immediately sets off..
If you want to adopt a cool driving style, in the rain or with a passenger for example, we will choose D (Drive) mode. Thus, the motorbike is gentle and accommodating.
If you want to have a little fun – or if you are in a hurry -, you will quickly switch to S (Sport) mode: you instantly feel the gearbox drop into a gear and you therefore benefit from more engine braking and best covers.
Apart from a slightly excessive width (92 cm) at the level of the mirrors – very effective but at the height of those of the sedans -, the DN-01 is very pleasant in town. The engine from the Deauville is flexible and strong enough to drive at a good pace. Despite the wheelbase and substantial weight and the 190mm rear tire, the bike is manoeuvrable and light to swing..
Once you have assimilated its generous proportions, you sneak around like any other motorcycle … But less well than with a scooter! In the traffic jams of Paris Plage, we also plague against the seat at the level of the daisies which makes it difficult to see and be seen !
(s) Low rider
As a good self-respecting low rider, the DN-01 is appreciated above all on small roads at a pace of ride, feet forward and nose to the wind. The auto gearbox is also very suitable for this use. The driving is intuitive, natural and the course holding seems unshakable. We quickly get caught up in the game of "cruising" while enjoying the very correct saddle comfort.
You can also stroll for two, because the capacity of the DN-01 to the duo is remarkable. The passenger seat is wide and soft and the handles are practical and well positioned. There is hardly that the rear shock absorber which one could find a little too dry. In addition, the little protection provided by the tiny nose screen does little to encourage high speeds. The rider’s entire upper body offers enormous wind resistance, while the legs pushed forward are subjected to significant turbulence..
Anyway, the small 15-liter tank will force you to take regular breaks before weariness and fatigue are too much to feel (the average range before reserve is around 190 km).
When riding with other biker friends, you will inevitably be tempted to titillate the DN-01 a little. To do this, we switch to sequential mode to play the gearbox. Fast and "intelligent", the transmission shines with its driving pleasure and is more successful than that of the Aprilia Mana. It corrects all the pilot’s approximations by returning for example by herself in first if you stop at a traffic light in sixth.
If it allows to pull the reports to the switch, it will however categorically refuse the big downshifts of savage! It allows to adopt a piloting if not sporty, at least fast. This, of course, within the limits of the machine … And first of all its power, which remains modest with its 61 hp, or 4 less than on the Deauville 700.
The Honda still makes it possible to barely reach the 200 km / h counter on German highways. In addition, we quickly flirt with the limits of ground clearance and the large footrest plates rub the asphalt quite quickly. Nothing to worry about, but don’t overdo it either !
It is all the more frustrating as the DN-01 shows a very healthy and intuitive behavior. Fortunately, it also brakes very well from the front as from the rear, due to its very long wheelbase. Coupled front / rear (CBS) and equipped with ABS, the braking offers great power and a very appreciable feeling.
The DNA of a new species
If it suffers from crippling faults for some – limited sporting skills, modest power, questionable design – and lack of practical aspects for others – compared to its initial concept – the DN-01 manages to be nevertheless very endearing and the 1000 kilometers traveled on his handlebars during our test only confirmed this feeling !
In addition, it is perfectly in tune with the times, combining driving pleasure and safety without risking too much license points. If the Honda constitutes an original and relevant offer, it must also be considered as the first of a new breed of machines..
But it charges dearly for its status as a pioneer: at nearly 12,000 euros, this price seems too high in relation to its engine capacity and its services….
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