Meet the E.Rex and Shinden Roku (神電 六) – the latter translates roughly as God of electricity six.
The company, best known for designing and distributing aftermarket performance parts for Honda vehicles, has for the past five years been building bikes to compete in the TT Zero: the world's premiere electric motorcycle roadracing event. It's won the last three, after coming in second place in its first two attempts. Team Mugen are the odds-on favorite this year as well, and with top-notch veterans John McGuinness and Guy Martin named as riders, are expected to again set a new record, surpassing the 120 mile-per-hour average speed mark they came so close to last year.
While there is no doubt this latest Shinden will be a monster on the Isle of Man Mountain Course, the other bike sharing its booth at the 44th Tokyo Motorcycle Show portends something quite huge: the active involvement of Honda in Mugen's battery-bike program and a possible shift in direction.
Built on the aluminum bones of a Honda CRF 250 with bodywork meant to evoke the prehistoric presence of a certain dinosaur, the E.Rex is more of a message than actual motorcycle – that exposed plastic fan probably wouldn't last a lap around a motocross track, for instance, and no technical specifications were released. Buried at the end of the official press release, however, is this statement: "MUGEN and Honda will proceed to work together to explore the future potential around the World for electric motocross machines."
This marks the official beginning of Honda's active involvement in the program, and seems to indicate that the manufacturing behemoth will take aim at the motocross segment of the market first. That's something of a departure from expectations after its previous electric efforts have been limited to scooters like the EV-Cub concept they've been teasing us with since 2009 (and which might, finally, make it to Japanese streets in 2018), or sportbikes like the RC-E from 2011. We can't help but wonder if there will be a Shinden Nana (seven), or if there is, whether it will be designed for track or trail.
What we do know is that this year's Shinden Roku is a mild evolution of last year's machine rather than the fresh-from-the-ground-up build Mugen have made in the past. While it does have some minor differences in the bodywork fore and aft and weighs in 4.5 pounds lighter at 248 kg (546.7 lbs), the motor appears to be the same unit used in 2016 with output – 120kW (160.9 horsepower) with 210 Nm (154.89 pound-feet) of torque – apparently unchanged.
What has changed, though, is the battery. In a Japanese-only recounting of February testing, mention is made of a new battery which seems to have performed as expected. This goes to support the notion that power output is not what's holding back a faster lap, but rather the energy available to make use of that power.
The TT Zero is scheduled for the 7th of June this year, though we hope to hear more about this year's machine once McGuinness and Martin have a chance to get acquainted with them in Japan on April 10. Of course, our ears will be pressed to the ground for word of further development of a Honda-Mugen motocross bike as well.