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Test Ride: Janus Motorcycles Review

City Center on Janus Motorcycles

During a time when massive brands are stamping out countless clones, common are big marketing efforts trying to sell individuality. Then, these guys enter the fray. Janus Motorcycles is a small team of hands-on Hoosiers who are building, promoting, selling and orchestrating their network of skilled craftsmen to create authentic machines. Even better, they’re passionately delivering a motorcycling experience that’s extremely unique these days. Here’s how…

The fit and finish of a Janus motorcycle will lure you in and command your attention. The hardtail Halcyon 250 and fully-suspended Phoenix 250 each have exotic silhouettes, even to motorcycle fanatics who’ve seen it all. Their origin: a small garage in Goshen, Indiana, less than three hours north of Indianapolis.

Janus Motorcycles Phoenix 250
The Janus Motorcycles Phoenix 250, their sporty cafe racer-inspired option with full suspension.

After a few years of monitoring the company via social media and online moto-features, the buzz was positive, but I had yet to experience the bikes from behind the bars. With polite confidence, the guys at Janus offered up a test ride; an opportunity for my brother and I to assess how well the two bikes stack up against the hype.

Janus Motorcycles Phoenix 250
Corey Wilkinson dives into a roundabout on the Phoenix 250 in the Carmel Arts & Design District.

We logged quite a bit of time zipping around roundabouts, passing through urban retail districts and using the highway to leapfrog congested side streets. Having ridden all genres of bikes, we’d categorize both Janus models as very capable urban commuters. That’s not to say we wouldn’t employ them as backroad explorers in places where concepts like “top speed” don’t enter the conscience. You’re probably curious about how long their legs are; we are told the bikes will reach 70mph, but we only needed 60-65 on the highway for this test. The little 250s were wound up, but moved us right along smoothly.

Dipping and diving into tight turns with ease, the proprietary leading-link suspension and 18-inch wheels soaked up the cracks and undulations just fine. If you wanted to take your significant other on a date to the theater, the upright seating position and wide handlebars of the Halcyon would be ideal. Of course, you’ll need to order a rack, passenger seat and pegs (approx $300 extra). The Phoenix, with its narrow bars and more aggressive stance, would be great if you want to swiftly filter through traffic and dice it up a bit.

Janus Motorcycles Halcyon 250
The Halcyon 250 looking right at home outside the Palladium at the Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel, IN.

With all the painstaking, locally-sourced craftsmanship and original key components, the engine origin is an oft-discussed topic. We’re of the mindset that the power plant must be chosen for the following reasons: It needs to be dialed-in and dependable. From a manufacturing standpoint, it can’t drive the cost sky-high either. All that said, the proven 229cc Lifan engine performs well and looks great. It’s simply ludicrous to demand that a company, however talented, enter into the quagmire of engine R&D.

We’re certain these guys immersed themselves in research for what would complement their ‘baby’ and landed on a solution that properly propels their artfully-composed machine.


Cruising through City Center on Janus Motorcycles

You can jump off the line pretty quickly by really wringing the throttle, but short-shifting the 5-speed engine provided smooth take-offs that keep you moving with traffic. I’m sure other reviews will focus more on data, maybe even show charts n’ graphs and talk about torque curves; we just let go and enjoyed the ride. Weighing in at 265lbs (120kg), you can whip these bikes around effortlessly. And don’t mistake their small-displacement status as scooter-types; with a 53-inch wheelbase and 31-inch seat height, it feels like you’re piloting a proper motorcycle.

Janus Motorcycles Test Ride
Sitting outside the Good Spark Garage HQ, the Wilkinson Bros compare notes.

After the test, I realized how much these attractively simple bikes would compel me to choose them over other bikes for lunch-runs or quick trips. Their light weight, non-intimidating stance and show-off good looks would definitely liven up mundane workday errands.

Though the tech specs check out, style and nostalgia take center stage and the audience we encountered gave it rave reviews.

To me, a bike that conjures up the joy of motorcycling isn’t the sharply-aerodynamic, grossly-overpowered modern motorcycle; it’s a bike like the pared-down Halcyon or Phoenix that creates an experience for the rider, an evocation of a simpler time. Using hand-formed aluminum tanks, stainless steel instead of chrome, and full-grain leather to complement this experience is intentional. I imagine the Janus artisans and skilled craftsmen carefully running their hands over seams and stitches and welds until they are pleased with their work.

 Janus Motorcycles Phoenix 250

With mentions of the above finery built into a Janus motorcycle, it’s no surprise that the price becomes a polarizing topic. With an approximate 6-thousand dollar investment (plus or minus), audiences react in one of a few ways: Some folks will tip their cap in awe and appreciation, then walk away. Some will get fussy and publicly lambast these guys for pricing a product above their opinionated appraisal (a common occurrence when a thing o’ beauty gets a lot of attention). But, there is a certain number of people that will flat out WANT a Janus and the price will be a mere formality as they reach for the keys. I’ll just say this: if someone decides to purchase a Janus bike for how good it’d look parked outside of an urban office, or because they’d enjoy prompting smiles and waves from onlookers, or to encourage themselves to stop and smell the roses in style, then they will get their money’s worth on Day One.

This is a good illustration of the differences in stance between the two Janus bikes.

“Bravo! Very nice!” a guy said from his car, holding an applause out his window toward our test bikes. One onlooker multitasked, taking iPhone pics with one hand and fist-pumping with the other. Another driver stopped traffic to set up a quick pic. “Beautiful, guys!” he said before he resumed his commute. This kind of public affirmation proved our hypothesis that these are bikes you’d be proud to be seen on.

Their appearance oozes an approachably cool persona that transfers to its rider; surely you must have good taste if you ride a Janus motorcycle.

Janus Motorcycles
What a classy duo of motorcycles; these things turned heads everywhere we went.

Founders Richard Worsham and Devin Biek have carefully breathed life into their hand-crafted American motorcycles. They’ve achieved their goal and made their mark in motorcycle history. Sure, anyone can start a motorcycle company by sourcing parts and slapping a logo on a gas tank, but this Janus thing, up in Goshen, is much different. It is born out of a hardworking spirit and backed by believers and supporters of good intentions brought to fruition. People who purchase a Janus Motorcycle will no doubt be taking home the embodiment of Worsham and Biek’s genuinely passionate effort to realize their dream.

Urban Test Ride on the Janus Halcyon 250
Casey Wilkinson feeling for the lean-limit on the Halcyon 250.

Janus Motorcycles Phoenix 250

Janus Motorcycles Halcyon 250  Janus Phoenix and Halcyon 250s

The helmets we’re wearing in the photos are by Nexx Helmets. Thanks for stopping by GSG; if you know someone who is interested or curious about what it’s like to ride a Janus motorcycle, send them a link to this ride review or share it on your social media channels.

Words by Corey Wilkinson of Good Spark Garage. Photography by Grant Longenbaugh.

This Post Has 22 Comments
  1. Interesting review. Curious as to your collective thoughts as to model differences and, what, if any, preference, either of you two have towards each model. As to the Halcyon, did either of you ride “two up,” and, if you did, how did the Halcyon perform? Each are gorgeous motorcycles – – I remain intrigued.

    1. Thanks for stopping by GSG, Ryan. If we had to pick one of these bikes over the other, it’d be a tough choice! We have a leaning toward the Halcyon because of its respectful, but unique homage to the early days of motorcycling; it also has some nice complimentary accessories that enhance the vintage vibe even more. Of course, the black-with-gold accents on the Phoenix created some buzz with bystanders; folks liked its sporty stance. We did not ride two-up on the Halcyon, so we won’t be able to speak to its performance in that respect. Biggest difference in how one ‘feels’ over the other: it comes down to the handlebar position and what you prefer there. There are days we like a forward-leaning position, and some days we like to sit up and relax; more often than not, the upright seating position seems to be the most practical. Hope this helps! 😉

  2. What do you think of the bikes’ pricing? Do you see the bikes has a possible investment with potential for appreciation?

    1. Hi, Lewis. We’ve just updated the article to reflect their recent change in pricing (now closer to the $6K range in July 2016). For such a unique bike with such an American effort behind it, we think whomever ponies up for a Janus will have in their possession a ‘keeper.’ As for potential appreciation, only time will tell! -Corey at GSG

  3. Hey guys! Nice write up and great pics! I was wondering if you could comment a little more on the comfort of the Halcyon suspension… or lack thereof. I really like the look, but I’m not so sure about a hardtail. And if you carry a passenger, there’s no suspension for them at all! How would you say it felt in comparison to the Phoenix?

    1. Thanks, Cliff. Riding the Halcyon around town, the sprung seat and front suspension soaked up the bumps well. It wasn’t a teeth-chattering experience at all and the Phoenix did well enough that its full-suspension wasn’t on the conscience (felt like proper suspension). Since we haven’t tested what the experience was like for a passenger on the Halcyon, we too would have to speculate. If you emailed the guys there, I bet they’d shed light on that topic for you. Thanks for tuning in to GSG! -corey

  4. I like anything American made. Design is old style, which is ok for the younger crowd. Us Senior Folks would like the Seat Thing to be a little more comfortable. Looks like a really well build machine. Keep up the Great Work and send me more information and pricing.


    Ron Fisher +

  5. Corey,

    This is Scott Journigan from the Christian Sport Bike Association. Nice write up! It’s been several years, since Why They Ride and it’s great to run across this article. I will keep closer tabs on GSG and certainly check in on the progress with these bikes from Janus. Take care, stay upright and God Bless the Hard Working Brothers!

    1. Hi, Scott; it’s been awhile! Thanks for dropping a line and for the well wishes. We appreciate your help back in the Why They Ride days and it’s good to have you along for the ride at GSG. Yes, keep an eye on the Janus guys, they’re good people. Take care! -Corey @ GSG

  6. Thanks for in depth review, well done!
    The FB advert nearly jumped off the screen when I first saw it. I immediately took a look at the Janus page, perused the different models. I am still intrigued and, for the first time in many years, hungry to ride again. You see, I am nearly 70. I first rode in the canyons and high desert of SoCal back in the late ’60’s. The Janus Gryffin reminds me of my first moto love; a 250 Greeves “Challenger.” The Gryffin is similar in geometry and suspension and configuration. The similarities end there. The Greeves had no electronics except for the spark firing the Villiers 2-stroke. Its cast aluminum front frame incorporating steering and engine / tranny mount was unconventional.
    For me, that makes the retro look and hand-built revival of the Janus line of motos is a breath of fresh air. Joining Scott in sending prayers and good thoughts to this American heartland company!

  7. Wow! Came across the Janus story today. I will be researching further but first impression has me excited. In my mid 50’s been riding since age 10. My wife is interested in riding (beginner) this may be the bike to make it happen.

    1. Hi, Norman. Thanks for stopping by our blog. The Janus bikes would be a nice option for her regarding a manageable amount of power wrapped in a classy and unique set of tins. Look ’em up, they’re great people. ––Corey @ GSG

    1. Not sure but I do know when I contacted them regarding shipping to my island home in Hawai’i they indicated that they had shipped them all over the world, even the Isle of Man. Pretty sure they would work in Canada. Drop them a line, they are fairly quick to respond. Looking forward to my Gryffin! Hope this help you.

  8. I didn’t note what was being used for an engine and tranny, and am also interested if this might be available north of the border. If the engine and tranny came from a (donor) motorcycle that was approved to sell in Canada, then there is a possibility that the bike could be brought across the border as a “used” vehicle, under the VIN on the engine, and be licensed for the road here. What engine is being used?

  9. Yes..very curious on how the hardtail Halcyon rides?
    I will own a Janus motorcycle someday.
    Some how.
    Love it.

    1. Rides great. No complaints from us. It’s kind of nice to have a firm and predictable suspension when dicing through urban areas. Between the front suspension and the suspended rider’s seat, it soaks up quite a bit. Now the rear pillion pad accessory may be a different story. –GSG

  10. It would be nice if we could see the options that are offered, stock verses the upgrade options, is it paint ?

  11. From the cornering photo of the Halcyon it appears that the peg would hit the pavement without considerable lean. Do you know the maximum lean angle, and are there shorter pegs available, or can the pegs be mounted higher up or have offset pegs? I realize these are not a racing bikes, but sometimes you need to be able to corner more aggressively.
    Thank you,

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