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Old 06-19-2011, 12:12 AM   #1
ObiJohn OP
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Joined: Jul 2010
Location: Seattle suburbia
Oddometer: 457
Bringing a new bike home...

I've only been riding as an adult for about a year, but I've already purchased three motorcycles (plus one for my son). This is the story of how I bought my latest bike, and how I brought it home.

After test-riding various Harley Sportster-based bikes, plus a few Yamahas, Kawasakis and Suzukis, I decided what I didn’t want: anything super-high performance, anything that made me lean forward, anything that made it easy to lift the front wheel off the ground with some injudicious use of the throttle and/or clutch, anything with a high saddle height, anything that made its horsepower well up in the RPM range. That pretty much ruled out most of the sport bikes, and a lot of the ‘adventure’ bikes like the V-Strom, the KLR650, and the big Beemers. I found that I liked everything about the Harleys except for the fact they were Harleys: a fine motorcycle but I definitely do not fit the demographic of the typical Harley rider. That was when I stumbled across an article about Honda’s DN-01, a concept bike that was Honda’s modern interpretation of a sports/cruiser combination that had been brought into production. Honda calls it a ‘crossover.’

The DN-01 is a different beast. Unlike sport bikes it has a fairly long wheelbase (62” versus the mid-50” range), is heavy (595 lbs versus mid-400 lb range), and has a low saddle (28” versus 31” or thereabouts for most street bikes). It also has a 680cc V-twin engine, a great design for a cruiser that pulls well at low revs, unlike the typical high-revving inline-4 crotch rocket engines. Perhaps the biggest difference: there’s no clutch. The DN-01 uses Honda’s HFT (Human-Friendly Transmission) hydraulic automatic transmission that is much more like a car’s transmission than the typical CVT found in motor scooters. However like a CVT the gear ranges are infinite. The combination of electronics and mechanical wizardry in the HFT allows for 100% lockup for maximum efficiency yet the transmission ratios can be continually adjusted to provide the best combination of engine RPM for a given speed and power demand. The result is an incredibly smooth riding experience… just twist it and go.

I test-rode a DN-01 down in Oregon a month ago while on business, and decided to buy it after the dealer made me an offer I couldn’t refuse (about half the original MSRP). The DN-01 has sold well in Europe, but not so well here in the US, probably due to the fact that it was introduced during the middle of our Great Recession and at a fairly high factory MSRP. At any rate, the few that are left at dealerships are often priced very aggressively. A week ago I returned to Oregon on business, planning ahead by arranging a one-way car rental and bringing only soft luggage and a Giant Loop Coyote bag to cart everything home in.



While I was at the dealership I also picked up a new Shoei Hornet dual-sport helmet, as I knew my offroad helmet and goggles would be insufficient to multi-hour interstate trips. The Hornet is touted as a true dual-sport helmet, as it can be used on the street with a clear shield, or the shield can be easily removed and the rider can used goggles. However, the one drawback of the Hornet is that you must remove the visor before riding at high speeds, otherwise the wind resistance is so great that your head is pulled back. Don’t ask me how I know this! At any rate, I returned to the dealership before heading off to Seattle, removed the visor and stowed it in my computer backpack, bought a new Joe Rocket Ballistic 7.0 jacket as well to augment my inexpensive nylon mesh jacket, and after cramming the old jacket into the coyote bag, lashing the bag to the back of the DN-01, and then lashing my backpack on top of it, hit the road. Of course, by then it was almost 8 pm. No way to get home before dark, so I figured I’d head north and stop for the night when the twilight faded.

After a quick discussion with a few folks who were hanging out at the shop, I decided against heading northwest on Oregon Hwy 30 to Rainier Oregon and then hopping over the Columbia River on the Longview Bridge. I’ve driven this route several times, and ridden it on a bicycle several times also as it is the last 50 miles of the Seattle-to-Portland double century ride, but riding west into the sun on a two-lane road didn’t seem like all that good of an idea. Instead, I hopped on Hwy 26 back east 10 miles to Portland, and then got on I-5 and headed north.

At first I was very nervous, not having any experience riding on a controlled-access highway at high speed and on a new motorcycle, but that soon faded. Wind blast was an issue also; I was not used to the tremendous air resistance encountered at highway speeds, and the occasional gusts caused by semis. And, as I crossed the I-5 bridge across Columbia River north of Portland, the 20 mph wind coming through the Gorge from the Pacific to the eastern Oregon deserts had me leaning to the left just to keep the bike going straight. The temperature dropped as the sun set and by the time I hit Woodland, about 25 miles north of Portland, I was starting to shiver, so I pulled into a McDonald’s for dinner, a Quarter Pounder with Cheese and a medium hot chocolate. It took me a while to warm up, even sitting inside a warm restaurant and drinking hot chocolate, so I decided to ride for another 10 or so miles, and then spend the night in Kelso. I made it to the Red Lion before it got completely dark, and only realized after I had taken my helmet off to check in how many small bugs were stuck to my visor!



After a good night’s sleep, and a little sleeping in, I was a little worried about the remaining trip. Riding a motorcycle at highway speeds requires one’s full concentration, and is very fatiguing. Certainly this is something that can’t be done for several hundred miles without taking stops every hour or two… and I wanted to be in Seattle by 2:30 to make a phone call to the East Coast. I got everything packed up and headed north around 11 am, stopping to get gas and then deciding to eat just after noon in Centralia, about 100 miles and 2 hours from Seattle. Getting some food inside made me feel a lot more energetic and optimistic, so after taking a picture of myself in the window, and a picture of my loaded motorcycle, it was time to move on.



The last part of my trip went without incident. By now I was used to how the bike handled, and the wind blast. Running at 75 mph, the bike really ate up the miles, and the warmer daytime temperature was very comfortable. I made it back to Bellevue and up to my office with a minute to spare. As I rode the couple of miles to home on surface streets after the call, I already missed the exhilaration of leaning into the wind, and into the turns, of looking over my shoulder, signaling, and then accelerating into a lane change. Of being alone with my thoughts while being completely in the moment, of not consciously thinking anymore about maneuvering and countersteering but just doing, of being one with the motorcycle. That is my latest addiction, and I think I’ll need another fix very soon.

ObiJohn screwed with this post 06-19-2011 at 12:31 AM
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