Remember Honda’s DN-01: the bike that wasn’t?
It was a cruiser, or a scooter, or a ‘something’ but it had looks that were all its own. In fact, we kinda liked the looks of it. It almost looked a million dollars, which was handy as it almost cost a million dollars… well, OK then, more about £10,551 in 2011 when the last ones left the showroom, just three years after launch.
Things never seemed to bode well for the machine. It was launched in 2008 around the stunning scenery of Lake Como, but it bucketed it down… On the launch the cheeky British journalists were nicknaming it the ‘DN-no-one’ as they just couldn’t pigeon-hole this weird breed of bike. If it even was a bike…
It seemed the Japanese and Honda Europe staff felt the same, as they bombarded the journalists with many questionnaires with questions including asking who the journalists felt the machine was targeted at. Surely Honda’s R&D and Marketing departments would have sussed that out way before the first piece of metal was cut?
So let’s talk about the metal: we’ve said it looks stunning, the design was certainly fresh and it had many innovations under its quirky flanks, the best of which was HFT or Honda’s ‘Human Friendly Transmission.’ This works excellently, giving smooth power delivery in all three modes: ‘Drive’ does what it says on the tin, so you’d get scooter-style simplicity,‘Sport’ is auto with attitude as the motor hangs onto each gear for longer giving that little bit of extra oomph while ‘Manual’ is accessible by hitting the up/down gear selection buttons on the left-hand bar after you’ve selected the mode on the right bar.
This meant that you don’t have a clutch or a gear lever, so your left side gets a bit bored. The brakes worked brilliantly, too as Honda’s CBS-ABS was very well-suited to this sort of machine. Handling, was pretty decent too – for something so long, low and lardy it was confidence-inspiring in the downpour of the launch. It may not have been scooter nippy, but the lazy and self-assured handling kinda fitted with the comfy, laid-back cruiser seating position.
The big issue on a bike costing so much back then was the motor itself. Many felt that Honda hamstrung their vision of the future with the Deauville/Transalp motor. Yes it’s bulletproof, yes it does the job, but something this exciting looking should have another 20 or 30bhp: why couldn’t they have plopped a Varadero/FireStorm motor in it? Or a Hornet 600/900 four? As punchy as the DN-01 could feel, the motor overall just lacked charisma and excitement while going about its job.
The motor lacked character and guts to be a performance cruiser, the tiny tank meant it was no tourer and the lack of practical carrying ability means it was no urban maxi-scooter either. As a steed for a middle-aged returnee to biking, it may have just cut it. In fact the best Honda could do PR-wise was spin a yarn about Ruby Wax’s other half buying one… Who cared?
Today it’s still in motorcycling’s no-man’s land, but they are a little cheaper. CB-Net has seen ‘em for as little £4500 rising to £11,000 for a never-used zero miler…
Honda DN-01 Specs;
- Price: £9134 (Aug 2008)
- Engine: 680cc, liquid-cooled, SOHC, 8-valve four-stroke V-twin
- Power: 60bhp @ 7500rpm. Torque: 47lb.ft @ 6000rpm
- Front suspension: 41mm telescopic fork.
- Rear suspension: Monoshock, with seven-step adjustable preload.
- Front brake: 2 X 296mm discs, combined three-piston caliper
- Rear brake: 276mm disc, dual-piston caliper
- Kerb weight: 270kg (claimed)
- Seat height: 690mm
- Fuel capacity: 15.1litres.
- Top Speed: 115mph (est)
- Colours: Pearl Amethyst Purple, Graphite Black
More DN-01 Pictures;