Honda DN-01 long-term update: Part 1

The DN-01 seems to the bike that motorcyclists love to hate. But that’s okay, because it’s not aimed at you! CMG starts the quest to find out just who it’s aimed at and why they might want one.

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Words: Costa Mouzouris/Editor ‘Arris. Photos: Costa, unless otherwise specified

 

SIDEBAR – WHY THE DN-01?

We agreed to pick up the DN-01 during the launch of the SH150 scooter in Montreal (thus saving a trip to Toronto), which had the added bonus of being able to chat with Honda Canada’s Warren Milner about the DN-01 concept.

First off it was made very clear that it is NOT a scooter. Fair enough, but then what is it and why even go there?

According the Milner it’s part sport bike (brakes/chassis) and part cruiser (floorboards, rider positioning) and was designed to try and attract a completely new rider to motorcycling – the techno early adapter who doesn’t currently ride. The idea being that these people want to be different, want the ‘out-there’ look and like all technology-abounding things.

With this in mind, the DN-01’s spec was to be fun, easy to ride and familiar to anyone who has driven a car. Thus the laid back seating position, floorboards instead of pegs, rear brake rubber-covered pedal (that operates front and rear brakes), dashboard, no real screen (Honda figured that car drivers would like to feel the wind) and lots of motorcycle in front of the rider.

Okay (scratching head), but why the big price tag of $17,622?

Milner cites the prestige angle but doesn’t think that Honda’s just inflated the price to try and get there. In fact, he ponders if indeed it may have been the other way around – realizing that the technology (essentially the trick automatic transmission) was going to be expensive, the prestige angle was worked into it.

The DN-01 has been in Europe for a year now and it’s sold a claimed 3,000 units (at roughly the same price), but Honda Canada’s taken it more cautiously with 180 units imported for 2010 (2009?). Milner admits that initial response at the Canadian motorcycle shows was not great with a general concern that it’s too small (the motor’s only a 680 cc V-twin) and too expensive to boot.

Right, a motorcycle that no one’s asked for, aimed at a group that may not actually want it, with no storage capacity and at a price tag that’s likely 50% more than it should be.

Sounds like the perfect CMG long termer!

Intro
by Editor ‘Arris

I was at a bit of a loss this year as to what we thought would make an ideal CMG long-termer. To grab reader interest a new model is generally a must, but that can limit your choice somewhat.

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The Spyder made the short list.
Photo: BRP 

I figured we’d done enough dual-sports in the last few years (even if they are mybike of choice these days) and I wasn’t ready for another scoot, especially since I’ve recently moved to New Brunswick and am yearning to have a bike that can explore the Atlantic provinces.

That pushed us back into the touring market. The Spyder was considered but then I didn’t want to be stuck on three wheels for the summer just in case it wasn’t for me. Then there was the Gladius … hmhh midrange displacement, proven motor, but just not quite interesting enough for long-term useage.

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What about the DN-01?
Photo: Honda 

Well, if interesting is on the criteria list, how about Honda’s DN-01?

It got a chunk of initial press during the launch earlier in the year, but as far as I was aware no one had tried to live with one for a while. Much like the FJR1300 automatic long-termer that we had a few years back, the DN-01 is nudging the concept of what a motorcycle is.

Yes, I think I could get around the east coast on that and have lots to report in the process (which is quite beneficial for a long-termer).

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Done deal.
Photo: Honda

An email to Honda to ask if this might be a possibility was replied with a “Yes,when can you pick it up?”

Ah, okay, let’s do it then. Trouble was, the summer kicked off rather chaotically for me with the birth of my second daughter, followed a few weeks later with the 2009 CMG Mad Bastard Scooter Rally and then the move out east.

There was no time to sleep, never mind ride.

Fortunately for me, Costa Mouzouris had agreed to do some work for CMG and happily took the reigns of the DN-01 while I kept myself busy with diapers, mad bastards and moving men.

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Costa took the DN-01 for a couple of months and fitted the Givi bits.
Photo: Honda Canada/Bill Petro

Now it’s early August, I’m clickety-clacking away on my Mac at the CMG summer residence in lovely Janeville, New Brunswick, and desperately missing a ride.

I haven’t ridden a bike since I left Montreal at the end of June (the trusty KLR is still there) but there’s a DN-01 needing pick up, a long return trip to Janeville and some east coast exploring to be put under its wheels.

Costa’s DN-01 jaunt is over, but he’s not been twiddling his thumbs. He’s been busy prepping it for my summer touring (god bless his cotton socks), so I’m going to hand you back to the man for our first update of the DN-01 2009 long-termer project …



LIFE WITH DN-01

by Costa Mouzouris

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It’s a bit of a tease.
Photo: Honda Canada/Bill Petro

I’ve had Honda’s futuristic DN-01 for a couple of months now as a CMG long-term tester, and it has been a tumultuous relationship. Despite its outlandish styling, the bike is quite a nice ride; however, every time I get on it, I’m reminded just how impractical a machine it is.

The thing teases you by providing a ride quality that encourages high-mileage tours, but despite all the plastic, there’s absolutely no storage space to do such touring (OK, there’s room under the seat for a two-piece tool kit and the owner’s manual, as well as a cut-out for a D-lock).

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HFT is convenient.
Photo: Honda Canada/Bill Petro

The machine’s automatic transmission (Honda calls it the Human Friendly Transmission — it’s not a CVT) also provides short-trip convenience, but take a trip to the grocery store and you’re left holding the bag — literally.

And if you think soft luggage is a possible solution; there’s no way to attach a tank bag (magnets don’t work — remember all that plastic?), and you just can’t sling a set of throw-over saddlebags atop that bulbous rear end. I tried strapping a sack to the rear of the machine, but that scuffed up the paint finish — not good.

And even if you do manage to get the luggage issue sorted, the lack of wind protection (the bike’s tiny, low-mounted windscreen is more of an instrument shield) combines with a hand-and-foot-forward seating position that fatigues you after less than an hour at highway speeds.

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Givi make matching bags.

Fortunately, a call to Dave Oakley at Importations Thibeault, the Canadian distributor of Givi products, provided a solution for all of our grievances.

THE GIVI FIX

Givi is best known for its motorcycle luggage systems, and to our surprise, the Italian bag maker has DN-01 specific luggage. Not only that, but Givi also makes a taller windscreen.

The company’s website provides a configuration tool that allows you to choose luggage for your bike. We selected the E300 Monolock top case and its mounting brackets (sold separately), and the V35 Monokey saddlebags and their mounting brackets (also sold separately).

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But the DN-01 requires some stripping in order to attach the mounts.

The windscreen is not yet on the Givi website, but our point man, Dave, sent one to us, possibly a European model (more on that later).

We couldn’t get our hands on the goods fast enough.

Once the items arrived, I prepared for the installation. It didn’t take long for me to realize that this is not a job to be tackled by an amateur mechanic. The DN-01 has lots of plastic panels that need to be removed for installation of both the luggage and the windscreen.

There were screws, bolts, plastic fasteners and body panels everywhere, so unless you’re a professional mechanic (or formerly professional like me), it’s a case of “don’t try this at home, kids.”

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Tail pieces shown here, but the screen requires removal of a lot of parts, too.

It took me about five hours to install everything, though I took my time — and I wasn’t familiar with the DN-01. A qualified shop should be able to do this in about three hours: one hour for the windscreen and two hours for the luggage.

Aside from all the plastic panel removal and installation, the Givi components mounted perfectly, and the instructions were comprehensive, though they do not tell you how to take apart the bike.

The windscreen differed from the original, not only in height, width and angle (taller, wider, more upright), but it was also slightly different at its leading edge. Where the stock screen finished to a point, the Givi screen stopped short (see images at the bottom of this article).

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The saddlebag brackets mount onto the top case brackets, which you need even if you don’t intend on installing a top case. It does, however double as a luggage rack.

Some research revealed that European DN-01s have a marker light mounted in the fairing, at the very bottom of the windscreen; North American machines don’t have this feature. I improvised with some aluminum tape and good-old duct tape to fill the gap.

We’re presently waiting for a reply as to Givi’s solution.

With everything mounted, I rolled the bike out of the garage to have a look at the big picture. I was impressed.

The Givi accessories give the DN-01 an entirely different presence. It now has the lines of a more conventionally styled sport-touring machine, which I think is just fine, and the luggage adds 98 litres of storage capacity (30 litres for the top case and 34 litres per saddlebag).

The windscreen looks odd in photos, but it actually flows quite well with the bike’s lines in the metal. A preliminary ride revealed that it works remarkably well; it has transformed the DN-01.

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Once it’s all done, the DN-01 is now tour-capable.

The screen is tall enough that I can see just above it, and it completely redirects the windblast. Where the previous screen gave the machine the feel and windblast of a naked bike, the new screen unloads the wind pressure from your chest and arms, and I suspect that longer rides will be much more accommodating.

We’ll let you know in a follow-up feature later this season.

I now want to ride the DN-01 more than ever. Unfortunately, after all that hard work, I’ve learned that Editor ’Arris will be claiming the bike shortly. He feels that with its newfound versatility, it will be the ideal machine on which to explore New Brunswick, his new home, and its surroundings.

Damn.

Hmm, let’s see, five hours at $50 per…

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Windscreen looks a little odd from certain angles Though it gives the rider much better wind protection. Top box can also hold a full face helmet.
Screen leaves odd hole at the bottom which Costa filled with duct and aluminum tape.

 


More Info

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Photo: Honda Canada/Bill Petro

To read more on the tech and spec of the DN-01 see the CMG 2009 NMBG entry. Steve Bond has also done an initial riding impression on the bike during its Florida launch, which can be seen here.

Sources

www.givi.ca

www.importationsthibault.com

Prices

Topcase: $109.99
Topcase mount: $219.99
Saddlebags: $619.99 (for both)
Saddlebag mounts: $209.99
Total for luggage: $1,159.96

Windscreen:$TBA

 

0 thoughts on “Honda DN-01 long-term update: Part 1”

  1. Bought my DN01 last week after trading in my SH150i honda scooter. Came complete with the Givi screen and saddle bags and top bag. Couldn’t be happier. using it mostly as a city commuter, but intend on taking it out on the highway as well. Lots of storage with the givi bags and I agree with the comments on the windscreen taking the pressure off the arms and chest. Like the ability to change to manual transmission on the fly. Low centre of gravity and not too heavy. i’m only 140 lbs and 5’5″ male but the bike is easy to handle and with the low seat height (27′)

  2. Oh my God, my eyes, my eyes! 😡 Did you text this piece to the server :grin or is there a contest for how many times you (both of you!) run two words together. I’m not bashing, that’s just funny as hell right there. But I’m gonna go back and count just in case there is really a contest. :eek

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