Common Tread

The Honda NM4: Will this be another DN-01?

Apr 02, 2014

The Honda NM4 is coming to the United States.

I literally groaned as I typed that.

The concept bike was revealed at the Osaka Motorcycle Show and, upon seeing it, my subconscious waved its hand and said, “Nothing to see here, move along.” Now it can't be dismissed.

The Honda NM4. Honda photo.

A little context

The Honda NM4 scootercycle will be powered by the NC700X’s 670cc twin mated to the company's automatic dual-clutch transmission. It will weigh 540 pounds, come stock with ABS and be available this June, retailing for $10,999.

The Honda NM4 instrument panel. Honda photo.
Honda seems to be aiming the NM4 at new riders. It has a super-low, 25.6-inch seat height and the pillion seat can also be flipped up and used as a backrest for a car-like riding position. Honda is making a big deal about the lighting on the bike, with LEDs front and rear and a meter display with 25 different color options. The press release says things like, “The instrument panel was designed to provide clear readability and the fun [sic] riding, as if the rider was experiencing part of a movie scene” and "The NM4 Vultus, with its LED lights, future-shock style and stealth bomber silhouette presents a look that will not have been seen in any cityscape this side of an anime movie."

So you were saying…

The Honda NM4 backrest/pillion seat. Honda photo.
It isn’t that I hate the Honda NM4. I’m a fan of any bike that brings more people into motorcycling. Bikes that push their segment and their competitors to create better products. After doing this long enough, I’ve realized it really doesn’t matter whether something is in my wheelhouse or I’m excited about it or not. What I’m concerned about is the possibility of no one liking the NM4.

Honda prides itself on innovation and the past few years have included some new products we've come to know and love, such as the NC700X and the CB500s. Then there was the disaster known as the Honda DN-01. Or, as it was known by dealers, the “Do Not Order 1.”

Research and development of new motorcycles is a huge undertaking. It’s also incredibly expensive. Failure costs a lot, both to reputation and bank account.

A face only a mother could love. Honda photo.
Hopefully, I'm wrong. Hopefully a group somewhere will love the NM4, Honda will sell enough to consider it a success and will be encouraged to keep giving their designers the freedom to get weird. Hell, hopefully people love it and they sell out and they force everyone else to come out with one. More sales mean more confidence and more money to keep trying to make awesome motorcycles.

In this case, Honda is like my teen brother or a dorky friend who’s decided to go hit on a pretty girl in the cafeteria. I’m pretty sure she’s not going to say "yes," and I’m scared of how much she’ll embarrass him and the effect that will have on his future attempts with other girls. A guy’s confidence can only take so much before he decides to give up and play it safe.