Is the Mugen Shinden just a disguised Honda RC-E?

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The bike you see here is the Mugen Shinden, a prototype electric race bike that will compete at this summer’s TT Zero, racing bikes like the MotoCzysz E1pc. Mugen is a japanese race team and tuning company that’s long existed as sort of a Skunk Works-like, external R&D company for Honda. There’s no public link between Honda and the Shinden. But, now that we see the bike, it’s evident that it does share some major parts with the Honda RC-E. Like that motor, which comes out of the Honda Insight hybrid car.

Here’s the Honda RC-E. A really nice-looking, retro-futuristic concept bike unveiled at the Tokyo Motor Show last November. It uses a modified version of the Insight’s DC brushless motor. No specifications for the RC-E have been given, but, in the Insight, the motor develops a seriously weak 13bhp and 58lb/ft of torque. That motor is used as a stressed member, connecting the aluminum frame to the aluminum swingarm, the latter pivoting on the motor’s center.

The Shinden, “Electric God,” uses what appears to be a very similar motor and locates it identically. This arrangement is unique to the Shinden and RC-E, other electric superbikes like the Mission R and MotoCzysz E1pc position the motor in a similar location, but don’t use it as the swingarm pivot. Having said that, the race bike develops a far healthier 121bhp and 162lb/ft. The Mugen also uses that motor to connect the swingarm to the twin-spar frame, with the swingarm pivoting on the motors center. But here, that frame and swingarm are carbon fiber. Bodywork and suspension are unique to the Mugen, but, extrapolating the motor’s size, the whole package appears to be in similar proportion to the Honda concept.

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Mugen has also announced that TT legend John McGuinness will be riding the Shinden in the TT Zero. That’s funny, because McGuinness is contracted to the Honda TT Legends team and will be competing aboard the company’s bikes at this year’s TT. In addition to the Mugen, that is.

If Honda is using Mugen as a front to enter the TT Zero, it does so with some precedent. Way back in 1954, Soichiro Honda announced his intention to enter the Isle of Man TT, thereby proving his company’s ability to compete with the world. Honda didn’t actually enter until 1959, when it knew it could win, campaigning in many smaller, regional races in order to build that expertise. Electric motorcycle racing is still in its fledgling stages, but Honda is entering the game after teams like MotoCzysz and Mission have established themselves. If the Shinden breaks down or fails to start or loses to MotoCzysz or other teams at this year’s race, it’ll be Mugen, not Honda that loses face. Whether a Honda-badged bike can eventually overcome that deficit will indicate the future of motorcycling over the next 58 years. Will it be Honda that, again, innovates and changes the world, or will it be some plucky upstart with big ambitions?

  • tomwito

    Sounds like an F1 car at a lower volume.

  • Corey

    Doesn’t appear to have the concentric swingarm like the RC-E.

    • Wes Siler

      There’s something odd going on on the drive side on both bikes. It appears concentric on the right, mounted to the rear of the output shaft on the left. Here’s the best pictures of the left side of the RC-E that exist:

      • Clark

        Take another look at the chain side of the Mugen. Definitely not concentric.

        But same concept of stressed motor case.

        • Wes Siler

          I think there’s some smoke and mirrors going on with covers and whatnot.

  • michael uhlarik

    Answer to the question asked in this article’s title: yes.

    It is not particularly well disguised at that.

    • fasterfaster

      Really? I know better than to say you’re wrong, but I’m curious where you’re seeing similarities that I’m not. The RC-E was an aircooled, concentric swingarm system. The Mugen is a vastly more powerful and energy dense water cooled motor, with the swingarm mounted to the motor case in a traditional position relative to countershaft for proper anti-squat behavior. The only commonality I see is use of direct drive, rather than a high speed motor with gear reduction.

      Aside from individual components being different, I’m not even seeing much of an architecture lineage. At most (as far as I can tell) they are about as similar as a Brammo Enertia is to an Empulse.

      • Wes Siler

        The RC-E is also a concept bike. Its swingarm doesn’t actually look like it’s concentric, just mounted to the cover of that motor so that it appears to be.

        What’s more likely? That Honda and Mugen, two companies with a history of R&D collaboration, independently arrived at identical looking motors and similar frame/swingarm solutions (a package which is novel in the sector) or that there is some crossover between the two bikes?

        • fasterfaster

          Crossover, sure. The question was “is it a disguised RC-E?” As far as I can see, no. Taking my analogy one step sharper, it’s like calling the Empulse RR a disguised version of the Enertia concept prototype. Different components, different purpose, probably mutual awareness and possibly a common philosophy.

          • michael uhlarik

            In OEM R&D, especially at the scale of a Honda or Yamaha, a single vehicle project often involves multiple frame solutions. In fact, it is almost required.

            The RC-E was a concept bike, true. But don’t be mistaken, this Mugen is likely the a second or third iteration of the real project that is at least a year and a half to two years out of the gate, while the RC-E was dressed up non-runner made for publicity purposes. When we did the MT-03, the concept bike came out first, but it was 85% based on the production bike design that was almost in pre-production.

            This is Honda we are talking about, not some start up. Lead time on new projects is 24-36 months, and the one of the most common methods of promoting said projects is to tart up one of the prototypes and sell it to the public as a concept. My point is, you are looking at this the wrong way around.

            Anyway, I am very happy to see Honda throwing its weight into this field, since it validates it beyond any shadow of a doubt. In th next three years we will see a lot of really slick electric models from major OEMs, which will inevitably lead to several corpses in the EV motorcycle brand landscape.


            • fasterfaster

              Ah, now I can see we are just arguing semantics. Believe me, I’m familiar with development projects at large companies. I wouldn’t have called prototypes from such different stages and purposes the same product in different clothes, even if they were from a common project. But we’re only disagreeing on the word “disguise” not what these two bikes are or what they represent.

  • Erok

    It looks sooo boring.

    • dux [87 CBR600, 95 XR600R]

      Agreed. I want to see REAL lightning bolts coming out of it.

  • contender

    Speaking of electric, are you guys going to be able to check out the updated Zero dual sport? Looks somewhat interesting…

    • Wes Siler

      Yeah, the company is fucking us around a little bit, but it’ll be on the way shortly.

  • Archer

    Lovely sound. And I sure wish Suzuka Circuit was still on the MotoGP calendar.

    Honda’s involvement in the development of this technology makes what’s been visionary into inevitability. For the first time I can see myself owning an electric bike in the next decade.

  • Steve

    Keep in mind that Honda had a KERS motor for their F1 car that was as state of the art as anything else in F1. It weighed about 16 pounds, made about 80 hp, and was claimed to be 99 percent efficient. An electric motor designer I know estimated it was a $50,000/piece design because of some of the exotic materials in it. Honda has the resources to blow away most of the competition in electric bike racing if they choose.

  • Brant

    It’s nice seeing a real reveal instead of months of teasing.

    Test rider couldn’t have had a better name.

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