There’s something odd about this picture. I’m motoring along the backstreets of Venice, CA, on a motorcycle that is somewhat deficient in terms of power. There’s engine vibration ebbing up through the chassis into the handlebar and a pronounced sound of chain lash and road noise.
Yet, I’m having a great time. I’m riding the Halcyon 450, the newest offering from Janus Motorcycles.
A traditional review would be somewhat pointless, as the Janus machines aren’t really about comparisons. Instead, they are unique rolling anomalies—conversation pieces when parked and sentimental return to days of motorcycling gone by in motion.
Put simply, Janus motorcycles are new metal creations that conjure the pronounced vintage mystique of such vaunted brands as Brough and Vincent—although on a smaller scale. They will not set any speed records or awe with performance, but they weren’t meant to.
Janus motorcycles represent a different kind of riding experience. It’s about feeling the road and organically absorbing the environment. The visceral act of operating these quirky bikes allows you to drink in your surroundings.
In other words, you can get back to the basic pleasures of riding—and in the case of Janus, with unapologetic panache.
Multiple Thumbs Up
Janus Motorcycles had its genesis in 2011 in Goshen, IN, when several friends got together with the somewhat quixotic notion of forming a motorcycle company. After some initial bumps and missteps, they now enjoy steady growth and you’re able to boast a Janus in every state.
It’s definitely a niche market. A Janus will not appeal to everyone—actually, that’s kind of their mantra. But for those with a certain eccentricity—and the funds—Janus ownership welcomes them into an exclusive group of motorcycle enthusiasts.
As a testament to the Halcyan 450’s character, I received a thumbs up within a minute of getting underway on it. Immediately following that, I got a compliment from a pedestrian. And that’s the way the ride went.
In fact, the Janus received more pleasant feedback than anything I’ve ever ridden. They are conversation starters, so allow for some time to talk in your ride plans.
The Janus Halcyon is as simple as it gets. The 450 is fitted with a fuel-injected SWM SOHC 445cc single-cylinder four-stroke engine with four valves and twin exhaust ports feeding dual exhaust pipes. The engine produces a claimed 30 hp at 7,500 rpm.
The bike weighs in at just 345 pounds dry, which helps the small engine push it along. Single Brembo calipers and master cylinders front and rear are mated with 280mm and 220mm rotors, respectively, and fitted with Spiegler stainless steel lines.
Reinforcing the vintage aesthetics, the Janus sports a Brough-themed two-gallon fuel tank), attractive spoke wheels, and stylish hand-formed steel fenders with hand pin-striping. The front fender is fitted with an old-school number plate, which were coined “pedestrian splitters” back in the day.
The contoured seat, which sits at just 30 inches, is crafted by hand from fine leather and has spring mounts. Also made of leather are the optional saddlebags, which are individually handcrafted by an Amish artisan.
The 450 is fully suspended, with a leading link front fork fitted with twin IKON shocks and another two units under seat handling a cantilever rear arm.
The Novelty of it All
Certainly, anyone seriously looking to acquire one of these machines understands what they’re getting into. The Janus motorcycles are a deliberate detour into the past with their looks, simplicity, and bespoke build nature.
With that comes an abandonment of many of the creature comforts and technological wizardry that most modern motorcycles possess. Call it polite rebellion or perhaps a retreat to a simpler time, but being a little rough around the edges is this bike’s inherent characteristic. That’s the Janus appeal.
The creators behind these motorcycles embrace this distinct trait. Perhaps the most appropriate way to sum up the Janus experience is to say that to ride them is a novelty.
Regarding performance, there’s no question you’re barking up the wrong tree if you’re looking for adrenaline. The engine is small and without effort to extract horsepower. Therefore, when you turn the throttle, there’s a bit of lag time before the engine starts building revs.
Instead, play the part, get moving, keep the revs up, slowly build speed, and enjoy the lovely sounds of the internals beneath you, feeling the rush of air in your face.
With the Halcyon 450’s base MSRP of $14,995, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. And they shouldn’t be. That’s what sets them apart.
They are niche motorcycles reserved for those who can afford the whimsy of owning a piece of indulgence. Addressing the price point of the bikes, one could argue that Janus’ modern vintage nature serves as an affordable alternative to acquiring an original Brough Superior.
The Janus line of motorcycles presents as a very specific product, appealing to a very specific kind of moto enthusiast. They are whimsical, breathing a little bit of nostalgia into the modern world.
Presently, there are no Janus dealerships (not yet anyway). Therefore, the company decided to create reliable machines, with consideration given to the reality that owners would have to (and most seem eager to) work on their bikes themselves. The Halcyon 450 is intentionally simple enough that virtually any motorcycle dealership should be able to address potential issues.
Riding the Janus Halcyon 450 changes your frame of mind. By removing the mind-boggling nature of modern motorcycles and replacing it with a more tactile riding sensation, you’ll discover a new sense of awareness of your environment.
At times, I was transported back to when I was 13 and rode my first clutched motorcycle—the immediacy of focusing on the throttle, clutch, and finding the next gear, delivering a raw, quirky, and very illuminating riding experience.
+a unique two-wheel experience, attracts a lot of attention
–performance is not paramount, rough around the edges
Distributor: Janus Motorcycles
MSRP: $14,995 (base)
Engine: Air/oil-cooled, 4-stroke, single cylinder, 4-valve
Power: 30hp @7,500rpm
Transmission: 5-speed, wet multi-plate clutch
Weight: 345lbs (dry)
Seat Height: 30in
Fuel Capacity: 2gal
Colors: 13 base color options with pinstripes