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This is the very first Mugen bike sold in the US. In early
1980 at a CMC Golden State series race at Indian Dunes, Johnny
O'Mara was racing a bike just like this. I was watching
practice and around comes Johnny on this white bike that looked
like it was from twenty years into the future. Being
water-cooled in the air-cooled era it even sounded different as
he motored around the track. As he left the track I
followed him to his van. There I met Al Baker and Hirotoshi
Honda. After much staring and asking many questions, Hiro
told me that they were going to be selling identical bikes like
the one Johnny was riding starting the following Monday but the price was going to be $4000.00! Considering that an
average 125 was about $950.00 this was a lot of money.
This was the first and only time that a company would be
offering a works bike to the general public. Mugen sold them by special order and
to reserve one you had to give them a
$1000.00 deposit. I had about $1025.00 in the bank and did
not hesitate to send my $1000.00 deposit that Monday. They
were custom made to order and I
was supposed to take delivery in about three months. There
were many delays in production and I must have called the Mugen secretary
about the status of my bike a thousand times, but
after about six months the people at Mugen USA called me and told me it
shipped and would arrive soon. A couple of weeks later I got another call and was told
that the bike had arrived in the states, but there was one small
problem. The Mugen shipment was lost somewhere in the
shipyards in Long Beach! After about
another two weeks I got yet another call.... "it's finally here,
I'm staring at it right now!" the secretary said. I left
work immediately, went to my bank, withdrew nearly every
penny I had saved and drove straight to Al Bakers shop in
Hesperia California. When I got there, I walked through
the front door and there
it was, sitting near the reception desk BRAND NEW and mine!
That same day, I took the Mugen and my 1980 YZ125G to
Mockingbird Canyon in Riverside. This was a place in the middle
of an orange grove that had a couple of practice tracks and
sometimes the factories would go out there to test. One of the
tracks was real challenging and very rough. This would be the
perfect place to test the Mugen and see how it compared to what
I thought was the best production 125 at the time, the Yamaha
YZ125G. First I rode a 30 minute moto on the
Yamaha and then I switched to the Mugen. The difference
between the two bikes was absolutely unbelievable! Much
more than I thought it would be. For six months I wondered
just how good the Mugen would be. I had never ridden a bike
that did everything perfect the way the Mugen did, it was
overwhelming. The bike was real fast and the forks were
super plush, absorbing any and all bumps like they weren't even
there. When landing from jumps, I kept waiting for the impact
thud that any other bike would deliver and it never came. By the
time you realized there wasn't going to be this huge thud, you
were onto the next obstacle. The frame geometry seemed perfect and the bike turned like it was on rails.
If there was any fault it was the rear end (which was better than
anything in the day) as it would kick just a little.
Adding Ohlins shocks (recommended by Mugen) cured this very minor problem.
The bike was truly a works bike that anyone could own. It
was designed by Horotoshi Honda himself and years later Hiro
told me that the ME125 W1 was one of his greatest achievements.
Johnny O'Mara later told me that his 1980 Mugen was actually a
better bike than his 1981 RC125M works Honda. I raced the bike
at Saddleback, DeAnza and a local night race. I was then
involved in a auto accident and would never ride it again.
It is un-restored and has about five hours on it.
There were a total of five Mugens sold in the US, at least one
of them went to Europe. Mine was the only one sold in
Southern California. One went to the San Jose area to a
kid for his 16th birthday. Another went to Texas and
the others went back east. Today there are more Mugens
than were ever built. Most are built out of parts, some
even having fake frames.
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