The Honda DN-01 is the strange, futuristic machine set to change the way we ride forever. Looking at the Honda DN-01 you question what it is. Is the Honda DN-01 a scooter, or is it a motorcycle? Is the Honda DN-01 a tourer, a cruiser, a fun motorcycle? No one is quite sure. Well, for the record, it's a motorcycle, but group does it fit in? Well, according to Honda, it shouldn't really be grouped and should be taken and indeed ridden for what is is, a new motorcycling concept.
At the heart of the Honda DN-01 is the familiar and friendly liquid-cooled, eight-valve, 680cc, V-twin engine used in the Honda Deauville and Honda Transalp, although it loses out on the power and torque figures slightly, offering 61 horsepower and 48.5 N·m respectively. That's all transferred through a conventional shaft at the rear wheel and in-between those a very clever infinitely variable, fully automatic HFT system.
Unlike a conventional CVT system, which uses belts and variable diameter pulleys, HFT employs a swash plate (a disc mounted centrally on the end of a shaft) to drive hydraulic pumps and motors to vary the speed and transfer the drive. It's clutch-less and features two fully auto modes – 'drive' and 'sport' – and a six-speed push button 'manual' mode, similar to that used on the Suzuki Burgman 650. It's certainly clever and certainly works well, taking up drive smoothly and pulling well from a standstill and at speed. In full auto it behaves just like a CVT system, you don't really have to think just twist the throttle and let it happen, but when the roads demand it a flick of the switch and you're into push button mode. Nothing revolutionary here, push one button for up and one for down. There's some kind of electric-trickery that prevents up and down changes, should the revs be inappropriate, so you're not 100 percent in control, but it does offer slight engine braking on the down-change when you need it and gives you the feeling that you are contributing to the proceedings in some way.
A plus point is that the Honda DN-01 steps into a kind of overdrive in top gear, to keep revs down and fuel economics up; you can't feel it happening, it just levels out and sits there. Neutral can be selected via another button, or if you can't be bothered doing that, simply switch the engine off and it'll select it automatically.
While testing the Honda DN-01, the trusty 680cc V-twin engine just does its job really good. With 61hp on tap and a dry weight of 270kg it's certainly no sport motorcycle, but it offers enough power to keep things moving and a few light trills should the mood take you.