It is hard to believe that it was only last November that Mugen started its electric motorcycle racing program, and drafted the first designs of the Mugen Shinden (神電) motorcycle. In four months, the Japanese tuning brand, known better for its four-wheeled efforts than its two-wheeled ones, was proving its concept at Motegi with John McGuinness on-board, and had subsequent rounds at Suzuka and Caldwell Park. Mugen had of course been on the Isle of Man for the 2011 SES TT Zero race, and took close notes of its competitors, namely MotoCzysz and Kingston University.
Admitting that both aerodynamics and stored energy were key factors in its design, Mugen has clearly put more emphasis on the prior. While the team is tight-lipped about how much energy will be available to its 122 hp motor, they have said the battery pack weighs over 100 kg (220 lbs), which means it accounts for nearly half of the bike’s weight (and likely much more than that).
While we have seen plenty of photos of the Mugen motorcycle testing on the track, this has been the first time anyone from the non-Japanese press has been able to get up-close with the God of Electricity. The initial impression one gets from the Mugen Shinden is very favorable. The Shinden is proof that the electric motorcycle racing scene is growing up from its grassroots origins, as the bike has a very polished look and refined build quality to it — make no mistake, this is a very serious and proper racing motorcycle.
Weight has clearly been a concern for the team, as virtually everything is made out of carbon fiber. The lighter the chassis of course, the more batteries Mugen can stuff onto the frame, and it is here that the team hopes to gain an advantage over its competitors. Carbon frame, carbon swingarm, carbon bodywork, Showa suspension (with what looks to be Honda’s Pro-Link design), six-pot Nissin brakes…if the physical size of the bike didn’t give it away, the electrical leads would surely tell you this is not a MotoGP machine, despite all evidence to the contrary.
When pressed about the rumors linking the Mugen Shinden to Honda’s nearly decade-old electric motorcycle project, the team is quick to dismiss the idea. Ironically enough though, Mugen is pitted in the main pit area, right across the walkway from the Honda TT Legends tent. Where European and American eyes would see some sort of conspiracy, there is something very Japanese about the arrangement that is likely lost in translation. They may not be with each other, but that certainly does not mean they’re against each other.