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(Disclaimer: As indicated elsewhere, I've been absent dealing with legal stuff. With it mostly over I'm trying to hit motorcycling back, hard! Motorcycle and automotive writing is still a hobby, so I write these for fun, not profit!)

A couple weekends ago I spent a Saturday in the wonderful world of the Progressive International Motorcycle Show in Chicago. Thousands of two-wheel-curious people came out to see the latest in motorcycle tech, check out customs, or even learn how to ride. Like one of my teammates, I also learned how to wheelie on a brilliant Zero electric motorcycle. However, the highlight of the show for me was Janus Motorcycles, a little manufacturer from Goshen, Indiana, hidden in the two-wheeled madness.

Classic-styled bikes and vintage machines have seen a renaissance in recent years. Cafe builds are popular on social media, and big manufacturers now want a slice of the vintage pie. Even shows like IMS feature sizable vintage displays.


And yet, few of the modern vintage builds truly call back to a time when bikes were built by hand and the machines were unapologetically analogue. That is, until you set your eyes on a Janus. Like the name suggests, they’re one carburetor in the past and a tire in the future.

I was astonished that I hadn’t heard of them before, and as I explored their display I heard others express the same amazement.

Janus Motorcycles don’t just look the part. Like a Morgan, they employ old-school building techniques with dabs of modernity here and there. These bikes are built almost entirely by hand in Indiana, with much of the work carried out by Amish craftsmen. Most parts of every motorcycle they build are sourced and made right here in the United States.

Janus’ Three Catching Motorcycle Flavors
The Janus Motorcycles lineup is small thus far with only three models, Phoenix, Gryffin, and Halcyon.

The Halcyon looks ripped straight out of the pages of history with a hardtail style rear end, classic lines, and sprung seat. If you didn’t know any better, you would think this motorcycle was nearly 100 years old.



The Gryffin is a scrambler, set to challenge the wilderness and steal an off-roader’s heart doing it. This motorcycle is built to be taken “off the grid,” and it’s not afraid to be roughed up. Like the rest of the bikes here, it’s purposely simple, but tough. Like the scramblers of old, this bike should be so easily repaired you could probably get it home with zip ties, duct tape, and chewing gum if you needed to.



Rounding out the trio is the Phoenix. This motorcycle absolutely nails the timeless cafe look that so many riders are looking for today. These remind me a little of a classic Egli-Vincent or AJS cafe racer. All three bikes even come with little Easter eggs. The number plates actually indicate what serial number in the series you have, and each motorcycle has an outline of Indiana with the company’s location highlighted.



Powering every Janus is a carbureted 229cc single-cylinder engine, pumping out 14 bhp and 11.65 lb-ft of torque. Top speed is around 70 mph. I would probably avoid long stints on the Interstate, but weighing in around 265 pounds, these bikes should be plenty fun storming down a country road. The engine is simple with no surprises! As mentioned before, a core philosophy behind these bikes is simplicity. Janus wants the rider to be able to maintain and repair their cycle without an engineering degree.

The Heart of Janus Motorcycles
Some will be quick to point out that this engine comes from China and indeed, it does. This is no surprise to me. Building a machine from scratch is hard, with engines being a particularly expensive expenditure. A small outfit would not easily be able to engineer their own engine, unless they plan on pricing their vehicles into the stratosphere. Look no further than attempted car startups like Elio Motors to see how building your own engine can be a slow, expensive process. Even Tesla Motors got their foot in the door using systems and parts outsourced from elsewhere.



That said, these engines are design descendants of Honda and are used in bikes all over the world. They shopped around for an engine manufacturer with a good track record for durability and reliability. The company figures if these engines can survive the harsh environments around the world where repairs may be few and far between, they’ll be just fine in America. Janus is so confident in their reliability and quality, their co-founder rode one cross-country. They put these engines through a full gauntlet of testing. They challenge you to come try it at one of their Discovery Days.

All three Janus motorcycles do start on the higher end for their spec sheet ($6995 regardless of model). However, each motorcycle also has a laundry list of options, and you’ll be getting a hand-built motorcycle offering a fair amount of customization. These bikes aren’t supposed to compete with big brands and they aren’t supposed to win speed wars. Janus is selling a big-picture experience with these machines. It sounds like most Janus owners already own another motorcycle, if not entire collections. Other Janus owners were their first bikes and wanted something that turned heads. I actually really like that each variant has the same starting price!

 

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I read this story some time ago. I would love to see one in person. It looks very innovative but with a proven engine, which means a lot to me. Very beautiful Scoot:)
Sam
 

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On The Road Again!
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I've been following them for years now.
I love the old time styling of the Halcyon, but the hard tail turns me off.
I don't know if my back could stand riding that thing very long, especially
with the potholes we have in New Jersey.
If they added some sort of rear suspension to that thing, I'd love to
have one!

P.S. Last year, one of their people rode one coast to coast over
a period of several weeks to prove the reliability of the bikes.
 

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I suspect Janus may be using the same CPI Motor company sourced ~250cc engine that Cleveland Cyclewerks has been putting into their machines for the last ten years.


They weren't given very great reviews in the Cleveland machines.

I've seen both the Cleveland bikes and the Januses and liked the looks of both, but considering I can get one of these REs with a more advanced, refined, and reliable engine, for a couple of thousand dollars LESS, and have access to the large and reliable spare parts stream that I won't get with the US makers, I was not tempted.
 

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Moderator - Like a crazy cat lady but with bikes!
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Discussion Starter #6
Interesting you bring up Cleveland Cycle Werks (CCW). I'm not sure what's up with them, but I've not seen too many happy Cleveland customers. It sounds like their quality control is atrocious, from bad paint, shoddy wiring, breaking cables, and engines that are high maintenance/repair. Then again, CPI didn't just supply them the engines, CCW got mostly everything from CPI. CCW is going to bring manufacturing to the US this year so maybe things will change.

In my research for this, I did notice the Janus customers to be happier than the owners of other bikes with China-sourced engines. Janus says they have a pretty comprehensive quality control process so perhaps they've cracked how to get engines from China and not have them to be ticking bombs.

The build process of a Janus is worthy of its own article. Like, these bikes don't simply emulate how old bikes used to be, but much of the process is done very much like how it was done in the past. They don't have suppliers for frames, tanks, or anything like that. They're made in house, completely by hand without any automation. And since they're built in Amish country, they have to do everything as low tech as possible. Shoot, the welders are powered by a diesel generator out back. The engine and lights are only things that could be considered "high tech" about them. I think that's why they have that high base price. They could build the bikes more efficiently, but how they're built is part of the charm.

And I suppose that's their plan. They don't so much want to sell you a bike, but sell you an experience. They're definitely inspired by Harley in a way with their leveraging of lifestyle and with their merch.

Side note: Oh my!!! Royal Enfields are so cheap in my area. Holy depreciation! I think I'm going to have to buy a RE this year. :D
 

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Janus says they have a pretty comprehensive quality control process so perhaps they've cracked how to get engines from China and not have them to be ticking bombs.
Janus only switched to the China sourced engines in 2015, so maybe mileage and fatigue related issues haven't come out yet. I'd put the Janus machines in the same class as the REs in the sense that I think a lot of them are purchased as "time machines", by older folks, to elicit the joys of youth. As such, they don't get a lot of miles. It's not difficult at all to find a 10 year old Enfield (in the US that is, they get hard use in India) with less than 5000 miles on it.

Cleveland, on the other hand, built a bobber, a tracker and a café racer, styles which although retro are all youth oriented, and none of which are particularly nostalgia oriented. Along with the substantially lower price point of the Cleveland bikes, it makes sense to expect this marketing focus would attract more youthful owners, more and harder use, and with less maintenance from a younger owner.

If the engine is the same, I'd expect the same issues given the same usage. It may not be the same, it may be a Lifan or something else, but it looks quite a bit like the CPI to me. Janus is cagey about saying exactly what it is.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Janus only switched to the China sourced engines in 2015, so maybe mileage and fatigue related issues haven't come out yet. I'd put the Janus machines in the same class as the REs in the sense that I think a lot of them are purchased as "time machines", by older folks, to elicit the joys of youth. As such, they don't get a lot of miles. It's not difficult at all to find a 10 year old Enfield (in the US that is, they get hard use in India) with less than 5000 miles on it.

Cleveland, on the other hand, built a bobber, a tracker and a café racer, styles which although retro are all youth oriented, and none of which are particularly nostalgia oriented. Along with the substantially lower price point of the Cleveland bikes, it makes sense to expect this marketing focus would attract more youthful owners, more and harder use, and with less maintenance from a younger owner.

If the engine is the same, I'd expect the same issues given the same usage. It may not be the same, it may be a Lifan or something else, but it looks quite a bit like the CPI to me. Janus is cagey about saying exactly what it is.
Good points! And I take it CCW's issues with non-engine related stuff will be resolved when they're no longer ordering everything from China.

The handful of Janus owners I spoke to said they daily ride the bikes and report few or no issues. One of the guys bought a Halcyon 250 as his first bike and rides it around California. You're right on the money about the demographic, though. Most Janus owners do appear to be older and the Janus isn't their only bike. It's either a second bike or one in a collection. I mean, if I had one (I'd LOVE a Phoenix in a darker pink colour with black accents) it would join an already big stable!

Though, I'd try to volunteer to be their endurance tester and try to put high 5 digit miles on it. :)
 

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On further investigation, I see that there a numerous versions of the Honda CG250 design, and although they both may share many characteristics, the Janus and Cleveland engines are likely NOT coming from the same maker. I found something like 20 distinct versions on Alibaba.

Janus talks about the engine they selected here: https://www.janusmotorcycles.com/journal/2018/10/17/bulletproof-the-heritage-of-the-janus-250-engine

I think it might be this one? Air-cooled 167fmm Motorcycle Engine Cg250 With Balance Shaft - Buy 250cc Motorcycle Engine,Used Motorcycle Engines,Motorcycle Engine With Balance Shaft Product on Alibaba.com

Royal Enfields are so cheap in my area. Holy depreciation! I think I'm going to have to buy a RE this year. :D
I don't think it is depreciation. RE sells their bikes brand new in India for the equivalent of $2300 to $3800, depending on model, and bit less than double that in the US, with a 3 year warranty and roadside assistance. Some dealers are selling last years bikes for less than what folks want for nice used ones. This year may be the last to get the Classic 500 single though. They've already announced it's discontinuation.
 

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Retired twice: Navy and as a govt contractor
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Glad to see you back, I figured you were stuck in the mud on one of your gambler runs.
 

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The petcock on the Janus looks just like the one on my 1000 watt 2 stroke generator. The lever arm snapped. I use pliers to open and close it. Some Chinese stuff is just marginally okay. Some breaks and or does not work.
My Chinese diesel heater will not fire. New fuel pump, new glow plug, new other problem. The Chinese thermostat I bought for the XS400 is about 15 degrees off, and fogged up inside. The clock is working. Often used Japanese like my XS400, can be more reliable than new Chinese. Just my experience. Wait till I fire up my 1980 XS1100 Midnight Special. Going to run it in its rusty state.

UK
 

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I fully understand the trepidation over the Chinese engine; but I can also easily recall the days when "crap" was the operative word for anything Japanese-built -- anything. Also, Harley Davidsons have not always had the best reputation for reliability, either. But at least, like the early Harleys, these engines are simple and can be worked on by the average wrench-turner, unlike so many, many modern bikes.

I also understand the attraction for these bikes. Yeah, the price is a sticking point when compared to similar-sized Japanese or Indian bikes, but then I consider Harleys to be overpriced, while at the same time fully understand the attraction Harley-lovers feel for the brand. I'd love to own one myself -- but if I ever do it'll be well-used. I think the typical Janus buyer is probably looking for the American-designed-and- hand-built, custom quality of the machine, just as the average Harley buyer is drawn to the "All-American" aspect of their bikes -- even though, if you look at the increasing number of parts HD is outsourcing these days that character is not quite the same as in bygone days.

Certainly a Janus is not the motorcycle to buy if you're looking for the all-around light two-wheel machine, but if unique style and a big fun factor are primary motivations -- well, there's really nothing else like them on the market.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Nail on the head oldenslow! Janus bikes are definitely pricey and don't make sense on paper compared to other bikes. But then again, who else is making bikes that look straight out of the 1920s-40s and are pretty much built that way, too? The founders say they were inspired by Morgan Motor Company, another manufacturer that doesn't really compete with anyone and cater to a customer looking for a specific experience.

From what I gather from the Janus press folks, they're actually making some decent money on these, so they found themselves a bit of a niche. I could see them one day moving engine manufacturing elsewhere to ease the concerns of those not quite sold on the reliability of their engines.
 

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Don't know anything about Janus other than what I've seen on here, but I hope they're successful and they're able to grow and become a real competitor in the motorcycle market.
Competition is a good thing. :)
 

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I wanted one when I first heard about them a couple of years ago. But my primary reason was to ride that Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride. However, I don't think these would be allowed so I lost interest. I wonder if I'd get caught though on this puppy...
 

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Interesting bike, but as Jay Leno says in his video about this bike, with 14 hp it is underpowered. I think if I were interested in a classic type bike I would be looking at the British Enfields, which are powerful enough to take on the highway, and have a rear suspension instead of a hardtail.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Yeah, 14hp means it's best as a bike for around town or to rip down a country road on. You'll be redlining the poor thing trying to keep up with Interstate traffic.

It's progress, though! They started with a teeny tiny 50cc engine! :D
 

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Hard tail. 14 horsepower. Yet build a fancy front end. An old XR200 Honda makes 20 hp, and has suspension.
It is the looks that attracts I assume.

UK
 
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