It Turns Out That They ’Do’ Build Them Like They Used To

Janus Motorcycles offers three models in their 250-series line that all come with healthy doses of what is certainly quintessential “vintage” styling. You hear it all the time; “they just don’t build them like they used to.” Usually, that’s a good thing since we’re safer and more comfortable on the road than ever before, but I’d argue that motoring has all but lost one very important quality: charm. That’s right, I said it, and I can back it up.

Janus Motorcycles Breaks The Mold

Janus Motorcycles Features Quintessential Vintage Styling in a Trio of 220 cc Bikes
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Once you disabuse yourself of the notion that a bike, 'any' bike, is going to make women want you and men want to be you, the selection of viable bikes suddenly increases manyfold.

Just look at how homogeneous the automotive and motorcycle industry has become. For the most part, it’s a cookie-cutter jungle out there where raw performance is frequently valued at a premium in spite of the fact that the vast majority lack the requisite skills to actually handle their machines at the top end. I won’t even start on the fact that pushing the envelope on public roads is a good way to get locked up, and a large part of the reason for all the homemade memorials you see on the side of the road at the scenes of fatal wrecks. If I’m honest, I’ve almost become one of those memorials more times than I care to recall, and for the same reason, I was riding to the machine’s capacity, not to my own or to the prevailing conditions.

Salient point is; most performance capacity is wasted, pure and simple. Oh, and then there’s vanity, but once you disabuse yourself of the notion that a bike, any bike, is going to make women want you and men want to be you, the selection of viable bikes suddenly increases manyfold. Plus, it’s important to remember that it’s more fun to ride a slow bike fast than a fast bike slowly, so there’s that.

Janus Motorcycles 250 Series: Halcyon, Phoenix, and Gryffin

Janus Motorcycles Features Quintessential Vintage Styling in a Trio of 220 cc Bikes
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All three look to bring us back to a time right after the world's first blush with viable powered two-wheeled transportation.

So, it is against that backdrop that I present to you Janus Motorcycles, a small U.S. motorcycle manufacturer based out of Goshen, Indiana. This burgeoning Midwestern builder has a trio of some of the most interesting rides I’ve had the pleasure to work with, and without exception, all three look to bring us back to a time right after the world’s first blush with viable powered two-wheeled transportation. Yeah, we’re talking about a time when the mile-a-minute airplane was a new thing under the sun, and they believed that if you went faster than 60 mph in a train, the slipstream would suck all the air out of the car and asphyxiate everyone aboard. No kidding.

Janus’ Halcyon, Gryffin and Phoenix (someone apparently has an interest in mythical birds over there) look much like any number of bikes you might have seen tooling around the U.S. circa 1920s or so, or even earlier, in the European Theater of the Great War. I’m talkin’ about the old “tank frame” style that carried its fuel in a long-and-low tank that either sat on top of, or just below, the bike’s backbone, and anything approaching what we would call “suspension” was still decades away. Yeah, I suppose a springer front end marginally qualifies as such, though I’d offer that the early springers were better than nothing, just barely. And no, I don’t consider a sprung seat to be proper suspension.

A number of good examples of that which I speak can be found in the Discovery Channel’s mini-series “Harley and the Davidsons” if you fancy a little trip through the rich history of American bike building. Back then, H-D was just one of many companies in the game, right alongside Flying Merkel, Henderson, Excelsior and the original Indian to name just a few. Spoiler alert: H-D goes on to be the lone victor with an unbroken lifespan from inception to modern day, though it looks like Indian is finally making a solid comeback under the Polaris umbrella.

Janus Halcyon

Janus Motorcycles Features Quintessential Vintage Styling in a Trio of 220 cc Bikes
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The Halcyon seems to be the most faithful to the bikes of old by virtue of its rigid rear end, classic geometry and sprung seat.

The stage is set, so now for the bikes themselves. At a glance, the Halcyon seems to be the most faithful to the bikes of old by virtue of its rigid rear end, classic geometry and sprung seat that marks the factory’s only attempt to protect your kidneys and giblets. This is a very simple and clean machine with a compact, 229 cc thumper and zero body panels so there is absolutely nothing left to the imagination.

There’s a 1.94-gallon fuel tank that seems disproportionately long by modern standards, but I reckon a lot of that is due to its long-and-low build and horizontal orientation. The front end uses a pair of preload-adjustable progressive shocks and a leading-link to soak up the jolts before they transfer to your upper body, and while it isn’t exactly “period,” I think we can all agree that it’s a good move on the part of the engineers.

For a (somewhat) modern comparison, check out Ural’s products; most run with a similar kind of setup that’s not unlike aircraft landing gear from the ’30s and ’40s. Janus didn’t stop there, it offers a line of period-appropriate accessories that include a numberplate for the front fender, luggage rack, pillion pad and saddlebags that look like they were torn from the pages of a history book.

Janus Phoenix & Gryffin

Janus Motorcycles Features Quintessential Vintage Styling in a Trio of 220 cc Bikes
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Janus Motorcycles Features Quintessential Vintage Styling in a Trio of 220 cc Bikes
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The Phoenix looks to connect to the old boardtrack racers with hints of the later café racers, and the Gryffin comes set up for off-road riding, ala scrambler style.

The Phoenix looks to connect to the old boardtrack racers with hints of the later café racers, the latter of which manifests itself in the seat shape that mimics the old tail fairings. Much of the rest of the bike is like the Halcyon, but instead of a rigid rear end, it rocks a proper swingarm with a pair of adjustable-preload shocks to float the back on a more-or-less modern setup. Same with the Griffin that comes set up for off-road riding with knobbies, a bash plate at the turn of the downtube/cradle section and a well-shielded shotgun pipe that holds itself well clear of the terrain.

Across the board, the instrumentation is limited to the absolute essentials with a round clock for the analog speedo and odometer. Turn-signal indicators and a neutral light finishes it off, and before you squawk, I’d point out that the old boys would have nearly killed to have such fandangled contraptions on their bikes, so count your technological blessings.

Janus 250-Series Engine & Drivetrain

Janus Motorcycles Features Quintessential Vintage Styling in a Trio of 220 cc Bikes
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The mill comes with a button-starter for convenience and a kicker for when you just want to look super-cool and sell the image just a bit more.

Now for the powerplant. It’s more-or-less a Honda design that is a popular choice of power for a number of applications. The air-cooled mill is nearly square with a 67 mm bore and 65 mm stroke, and it runs with a low-stress 9.2-to-1 compression ratio that will accept mid-grade pump gas quite happily. A good old-fashioned mechanical-slide carb meters the juice for the four-cycle mill, and though there ain’t a thing wrong with points in my professional opinion, it uses a capacitor discharge ignition to deliver the timed spark.

There’s a standard clutch to couple engine power to the five-speed transmission and I admit I’m surprised it comes with that many gears; they seriously could have been excused for using fewer, but instead, here we are. The mill also comes with a button-starter for convenience and a kicker for when you just want to look super-cool and sell the image just a bit more.

What does that get ya’? Well, at 7,000 rpm the plant generates a cool 14 horsepower with 11.65 pound-feet of torque at 5,500 rpm, and that’ll drive these three bikes to speeds up to 70 mph with an efficiency rating of 75-plus mpg. Now, I’m not sure I’d want to hit the interstate on one of these. But a state highway? You’d better believe it.

Engine:  Air-cooled, 4-stroke overhead valve single cylinder engine
Displacement:  229 cubic centimeters
Bore x Stroke:  67 x 65 millimeters
Maximum Power:  14 hp @ 7,000 rpm
Torque: 11.65 lb-ft @ 5,500 rpm
Compression ratio:  9.2:1
Carburation:  30 mm round slide with accelerator pump
Starting System:  Kick and electric
Ignition:  CDI
Final Drive:  Chain
Clutch:  Wet, multi-plate
Gearbox:  5-speed

Janus 250-Series Pricing

Janus Motorcycles Features Quintessential Vintage Styling in a Trio of 220 cc Bikes
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Prices start at $6,995 across the board, but what you're really paying for here is more of a big-picture-type of situation.

That’s about all the broad strokes on these machines, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t pulling for this small company and their hand-built machines, and am eagerly anticipating the next new (old?) design from them. Prices start at $6,995 across the board, and while that trends toward the high end of the range that I expected, I understand what you’re really paying for here, and it’s more of a big-picture-type of situation if you ask me.

Instrumentation: Analog speedometer, odometer, turn indicator, and neutral light
Colors: British Racing Green, Vintage Red, Aga Cream, Black, American Blue, Charcoal, Olive, Cardinal Red
Price: $6,995

Janus 250-Series Specifications

Engine & Transmission:
Engine:  Air-cooled, 4-stroke overhead valve single cylinder engine
Displacement:  229 cubic centimeters
Bore x Stroke:  67 x 65 millimeters
Maximum Power:  14 hp @ 7,000 rpm
Torque: 11.65 lb-ft @ 5,500 rpm
Compression ratio:  9.2:1
Carburation:  30 mm round slide with accelerator pump
Starting System:  Kick and electric
Ignition:  CDI
Final Drive:  Chain
Clutch:  Wet, multi-plate
Gearbox:  5-speed
Chassis:
Frame:  DOM tubular steel cradle
Wheels:  CNC machined aluminum hubs with alloy rims and 32 stainless steel spokes
Tires: 
└ Halcyon, Phoenix: Front 3.00 x 18, Back 3.50 x 18
└ Gryffin: Dual-Sport Front 3.00 x 18, Back 3.50 x 18
Front Suspension:  Proprietary dual progressive shock leading-link forks
Rear Suspensions:
└ Halcyon: hardtail with sprung seat
└ Phoenix, Gryffin: dual progressive shock swing-arm
Brakes: Front dual piston hydraulic disc and rear single hydraulic piston
Dimensions & Capacities:
Top Speed:  70 mph
Fuel Efficiency:  Estimated 75+ mpg
Length / Width: 80’’ / 31’’
Height without mirrors:  41 inches
Seat Height:  31 inches
Wheelbase:  53 inches
Fuel Capacity:
└ Halcyon: 1.94 gallons
└ Phoenix: 2.3 gallons
└ Gryffin: 2 gallons
Dry weight:  
└ Halcyon: 263 pounds
└ Phoenix: 267 pounds
└ Gryffin: 266 pounds
Details:
Instrumentation: Analog speedometer, odometer, turn indicator, and neutral light
Colors: British Racing Green, Vintage Red, Aga Cream, Black, American Blue, Charcoal, Olive, Cardinal Red
Price: $6,995

Further Reading

Ural M70

2019 Ural M70
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Read our review of the Ural M70.

Source: Janus Motorcycles

All images featured on this website are copyrighted to their respective rightful owners. No infringement is intended. Image Source: janusmotorcycles.com, imz-ural.com

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