Share this post
Janus 250 Motorcycle: Top Speed Thrill of the Roaring 20s!
By Tom Neel
With elbows splayed, body titled and head projection reminiscent of a stellar hood ornament, I make my way down through a serpentine country road. My spirited descent is enthusiastically met with reciprocating ascent, as I lean Halcyon JM-568 over at apex, carving another curve. Its speedo sits at 60mph. How can this motorcycle deliver more kid-like grins than the 35 or so other motorcycles I’ve owned, or the 100s I’ve ridden on roads and the racetrack?
Thrill is described as the sudden feeling of excitement and pleasure. Believe it or not, 229cc and a whopping 14 horsepower is enough to deliver a very thrilling ride. But there’s a formula at play here and “play” is the operative word. Speed is misunderstood. As a matter of fact, speed is likely the most misused characteristic of motorcycling. The novices who have yet to learn motorcycling dynamics, often use increased throttle and absurd horsepower to compensate for slow turn entry and exit. On a twisty road, consistent speed, with finite throttle modulation, and almost no use of braking, can make even 55mph a thrill. It’s not the drive out of the corner, it’s the drive through the corner that counts!
But there’s a partner in crime to this formula of fun, which is impossible to find with modern motorcycles. Weight, or the lack of it. Even the average modern small displacement motorcycle carries nearly 100 pounds more of beef to its bones than any Janus 250 model. Power to weight ratio is a wonderful attribute, and but nimbleness favors lightness over outright power. Next, ask yourself why motorcycle tires have grown so large? Is it to assist handling? Yes, but indirectly so. Larger tires and contact patches have come with increased horsepower and both actually hinder breaking the gyroscopic effects motorcyclists deal with during turn in. Counter-steer input must then be increased to compensate. The lack of weight and low horsepower allow a Janus 250 to run narrow tires which are smaller than the front tire alone on most modern motorcycles. Turning then becomes blissful and thrilling.
In a world filled with wonderful undulating country roads, all labeled with 45-55 mile per hour speed limit signs, threading a Janus 250 through turns near the top of its rev range dances just on the other side of the legal limit. However, its willingness to play and deliver loads of fun is quite intoxicating in the process. The Porsches that have been gracing my garage for years are like putting a nail into wood with a jack-hammer, and 100 horsepower plus motorcycles are the same. They don’t dance on the limit of laws, they trounce on them by having you either not using most of what you’ve purchased, over braking to tame the beast, or victimizing yourself with the blue light special. It is so gratifying to own something that you get to use everything you’ve paid for. I delight in it every time I ride my Halcyon 250.
Stepping back in time. Perhaps it was the passing of the Volstead Act in 1919, which banned the making and selling of booze, coinciding with an infusion of a new perfectly named music called jazz, that made the “Roaring 20s” roar. But we’d survived a devastating war and America was ripe with an enthusiasm for fun. Tell a kid not to touch and rest assured he or she will. Speakeasies were alive and so was ingenuity. The 1920s brought the continued popularity of the radio, electrical appliances, the automobile, and yes, motorcycles too!
This county’s first motorcycle was known as a steam-cycle, invented by American Sylvester Howard Roper in 1889. The development of the motorcycle continued with turn of the century cycles of the day looking more like bicycles. But by 1914 this country had 30 motorcycle manufactures. Something we certainly can’t say today, and another one of a Janus’ fine characteristics. The top speed of a 1920s Indian Scout was 55mph. Sure, there were faster motorcycles, but certainly not most, and the average automobile, like the 20 HP Ford Model T, only went 28mph! I can recall in the 70s, talking with an old-timer about his youthful days of going fast in old Fords. I asked how fast did you go? He said, “Oh, we were flying, like 35 miles per hour!” But his eyes were lit up like he was right back there doing it. The Halcyon replicates the tops speeds of its single cylinder counterparts of the early 1920s. Making it more than a novelty. It’s a purpose built time machine.
I was born in the 50s and started riding motorcycles in the 60s. The first Hondas I rode couldn’t come close to the 67mph I’ve experienced on my Halcyon, but it takes me right back to those first thrills of a hobby that has been joyously with me for over 50 years now. Honestly, like others, what attracted me to Janus wasn’t a need for speed. It was its days of old, literally crowd gathering good looks. Interestingly enough, when people talk to me about it, speed does come up. But when I tell them 65 or so is its top speed, all are pleasantly surprised. It’s always met with wow, that’s plenty enough. I’ve never once had an inquisitive person roll their eye as if to laugh at that number. Instead, all remove their phone from their pocket with peaked interest and ask if they can take a photo. Yes, by all means do!
Something must be said of the Janus 250 power plant. It is a very giving engine that need its first break-in miles and 1000 of them on the dial to begin to deliver its true character. A first test ride can fool you. But trust me, any test ride with me and you’d be returning kickin’ up your heels.
A last word. We all are different, different heights, weights, living in different places and regions, with different roads. It’s nice to know there is a Janus 250 creating smiles that cover all of the above. That said, sure, hills and highways create limitations for the 250, making the introduction of the Janus’ Halcyon 450 inviting. But I can share, even if a Halcyon 450 one day finds its way into my garage, there will be a Halcyon 250 beside, not being displaced by it. The 250 fits its mission of fun so perfectly that, history repeats itself and the “Roaring 2020s” are here!