Sunday, March 22, 2009

Bikes I'd Like To Ride: Honda DN-01

Honda has a long and storied history as a manufacturer of landmark motorcycles like the Trail 90, the 305 Super Hawk, and the CB-750. The company has also produced some magnificent failures, including the CB-450, the CX-500 and CX-650 Turbos, and the CBX—all technically advanced but largely unloved by the motorcycle-buying public in their day.

These latter models exemplify Honda’s occasional urge to show off its technical chops by cramming a bike full of every leading-edge idea it's been sitting on for lack of someplace to try them out, not because it needs to but just because it can. That’s why I call this the Because We Can school of motorcycle design.

But just because you can do something is no reason to go ahead and do it. Like a chef who throws every spice in the kitchen into the soup, sometimes Honda just doesn’t know when to dial it back a notch.

The latest graduate from the BWC school is the DN-01, which looks like the aftermath of a high-speed collision of a sportbike, a scooter, and a cruiser. It has a dual-mode, automatic Human Friendly Transmission (really, that’s what they call it), linked brakes with ABS, shaft drive, a sporty fairing, and a laid-back seating position.

It also weighs nearly 600 pounds wet, has no storage space at all, is styled as if it suffers from a crippling identity crisis, and comes with an eyeball-popping MSRP of $14,599. (Update: the 2009 model is listed at $15,599.)

Why would I like to ride a DN-01? Because I had an ’82 CBX, a magnificent failure if ever there was one, and I enjoyed it. Because I have a soft spot for motorcycles that over-reach in the present in the pursuit of something worthwhile for the future.

And because 10 years from now, when the DN-01 will have either changed the face of motorcycling as we know it or vanished into well-deserved obscurity, it will be kind of cool to say I rode one of the first ones.

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Anonymous said...

Word on the street is that the dealers have nicknamed it "Do Not Order 1."

Jerry Smith said...

Can't say that surprises me. The lofty MSRP is bad enough; throw in the lousy economy and it's easy to see how Honda dealers might consider the DN-01 a toxic asset.