Honda’s 2009 DN-01 isn’t just unique, it could be a sign of things to come. As America’s motorcyclists age—and motorcycle sales decline—motorcycle manufacturers are introducing models that are easier to ride, meant to appeal to aging riders and new customers who are intimidated by balancing and shifting. Can-Am came out with its Spyder three-wheeler, Harley introduced its first factory trike recently, and now Honda offers this unique “crossover” vehicle, the DN-01, first unveiled at the 2007 Tokyo Motor Show. The new model is something designers have been dreaming of for years, combining the sporty styling and performance of a sportbike with the comfort and ease-of-use of a scooter.
The engine is a four-valve, 680cc, liquid-cooled, fuel-injected, 52-degree V-Twin derived from the Euro-market Deauville 700. Instead of a gearbox and clutch, or a CVT’s pulley-and-belt transmission, it uses Honda’s “Human-Friendly Transmission” (HFT). The HFT is a compact—and complex—piece of engineering that uses a system of hydraulic pumps and motors instead of a belt to deliver infinitely variable gear ratios. Three different drive modes—Economy, Sport and a six-speed “Manual”—offer riders some control and a varying exhaust note. With about 60 horsepower pushing the claimed 595 pounds of wet weight around, the motor won’t exactly break the land-speed record, but as our European Correspondent Bruno dePrato showed us in his comparison of the Aprilia Mana and Shiver, an automatic transmission keeps the motor right in its peak-performance sweet spot.
To take full advantage of that, the DN-01 offers sportbike-like chassis elements. It uses 17-inch radial tires, a 41mm fork and a single-sided, monoshock-equipped rear wheel. Dual three-piston calipers with ABS are linked to the rear brake, and the whole thing is wrapped up in sporty bodywork. But the bike also has shaft drive, a low 27.2-inch seat, a long 63.2-inch wheelbase and a cruiser-ish riding position complete with floorboards. At $14,599 it’s more expensive than most scooters or middleweight sportbikes. Technically, it’s not a scooter, as the motor/drive unit is not part of the rear swingarm, and the 4-gallon fuel tank is located in front of the rider. It’s a…well, Honda calls it a “crossover.”