Review: 2023 Janus Halcyon 250
Awash in unending spectacle, it takes something special to command the attention of the average passerby in Venice Beach, the unofficial ogling capital of California. The Janus motorcycle I was riding had no problem drawing gazes, though.
Maybe it was because two Janus models were puttering around the beach town together—me aboard the Halcyon 250, and RoadRUNNER editor-at-large, Jeff Buchanan, piloting the Halcyon 450.
Devoid of any attention-grabbing, loud exhaust, and with little doubt Jeff or I would be mistaken for an astray Hollywood elite, it’s assuredly the uniqueness of the Janus bikes creating the broad appeal. When resting, we were constantly fielding questions about the bikes to motorcyclists and non-motorcyclists, tourists, and transients alike. While in motion, the waves and thumbs up we received from other motorists and pedestrians had us feeling like we were a parade of two.
If not already obvious, anyone considering purchasing a Janus best be prepared to hold court whenever stopped. Janus president, Richard Worsham, refers to the inundation of attention as the “Janus effect.”
A common refrain will be explaining that the Janus is not a vintage collector’s piece, but a new motorcycle available to anyone with an internet connection. Even after showing someone the Janus website, it might take further convincing that Janus motorcycles are currently in production and not restored artifacts of a bygone era.
In the frame, fuel tank, and fenders, the Halcyon 250 and 450 are visually similar. Both are also outfitted with leading link front suspension.
Upon further inspection, you’ll notice a very different engine powering each model, and that the 450 has Vincent Black Shadow-inspired rear suspension. Yet the Halcyon concept is not predicated on any single model of yore, but on a variety of classic design elements.
Inspiration for the fuel tank comes from the very 1930s Brough Superior, the front suspension from the BMW R60/2, and the frame has a bit of Norton featherbed in it. The result is a new motorcycle with a retro look and feel unique to Janus.
New, Not Modern
The digital LCD instrument cluster is about as modern as the Halcyon 250 gets. With full-color TFT displays trickling down from Panigales to more affordable commuters, though, even that tech will soon be considered vintage.
There’s a single disc brake front and rear, as well as electric starting. But these technologies have been ubiquitous on motorcycles for decades and have become standard equipment.
The air-cooled, overhead valve (OHV) single-cylinder engine is outfitted with a kick-starter and a carburetor. The kick-starter is nice to have around for dead-battery emergencies but is otherwise ornamental—unless you’re showing folks how easy it is to kick over a 229cc engine with a compression ratio of only 9.2:1.
If you’re unaccustomed to chokes and petcocks, you had better do your homework. Not only does the petcock have on, off, and reserve positioning but, when cold-starting the 250, the choke will also need to be fully engaged. Once running, the choke can be eased off until the engine is warm enough to function properly.
Do not think, though, that you can simply fire up the Halcyon 250 and leave it to idle up to temperature as you walk away to get your helmet and gloves. It demands your attention with minor throttle inputs—otherwise the engine will stop and you’ll have to start the process again.
The Vintage Experience
Once underway, the diminutive Halcyon performs as you’d expect, accelerating and stopping with the ferocity of an actual vintage machine. At 263 pounds sans fluids, the Halcyon’s claimed output of 14 horsepower at 7,000 rpm, and 11.65 lb-ft of torque at 5,500 rpm propel the bike and rider forward in an asthmatic fashion, while the non-brand name brake calipers squeeze the discs with arthritic strength.
The leading link front suspension does a commendable job absorbing road irregularities, while out back, the rigid rear bangs its way around with only seat springs cushioning the rider from the road. Adding the optional pillion seat and passenger pegs ($225), as well as a passenger, might be asking a bit much of both the engine and the brakes.
If regular two-up riding is a big part of your motorcycling aspirations, the sprung pillion seat ($300) shouldn’t be considered optional. This is a rigid bike, after all. For actual two-up riding performance and comfort, the Halcyon 450 would be a better choice.
How the Halcyon 250 performs, however, is most likely an afterthought to anyone interested in purchasing such a motorcycle. Owning a Janus is about style and the experience the bike delivers.
I was trying to draw some comparisons to other two-wheelers in the same price range, but there’s nothing to match what Janus provides. Royal Enfield comes to mind, as do Ducati’s Scramblers or Triumph’s lineup of Modern Classics, but none of these models are direct comparisons to the Janus Halcyon, especially when it comes to factory customization.
The base model Halcyon 250 retails at $8,800 and the price goes up from there. The bike I was riding included saddlebags ($450), an LED headlight ($225), double pinstripe ($325), tank logo highlights/outline ($65), a second mirror ($65), highway bars ($195), and a book rack ($225). The grand total MSRP came to $10,350.
And the fun doesn’t stop there. From an engraved fuel cap to fishtail exhaust tips, the customizations keep coming. About the only restriction is your own imagination and/or budget.
While the upfront costs may seem a little steep, keep in mind that this motorcycle is a home mechanics' dream. Its every aspect is simplicity personified. There’s no going to a dealership and paying $100 per hour, saving the Halcyon owner big money in the long run. Insurance and registration costs also can’t be that expensive.
So, maybe the Janus Halcyon 250’s unique appeal is that it’s a deal you can’t afford to pass up.
+unique, simple, curiously fun
-pricey, questionable resale value, perhaps too old-fashioned performance
Distributor: Janus Motorcycles
MSRP: $8,800 base; $10,350 as tested
Engine: Air-cooled, 4-stroke, OHV single-cylinder
Power: 14hp @7,000 rpm (claimed); 11.65lb-ft @5,500 rpm (claimed)
Transmission: 5-speed, chain final drive
Weight (Dry): 263lbs (claimed)
Seat Height: 31in
Fuel Capacity: 1.94gal
Colors: 13 options