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Woody's Halcyon 450 Test Trip
By Woody Shoemaker
Full disclosure – I’m a Janus employee. Consequently, I may be somewhat biased in my experience with a Janus motorcycle. I’ll own that from the outset. And as a semi-retired employee who does occasional delivery and service work for the Janus team, I seem to have a bit of spare time on my hands. Which may be what prompted Richard and Grant to ask if I’d be interested in putting some miles on one of the pre-production 450s in the interest of testing its roadability and providing any accompanying feedback. The need to ponder such a request could be measured in milliseconds.
My hope was to rack up something on the order of 1,000 miles. Instead, I surpassed 1,300 miles while covering five states. It seems I just couldn’t stop. Additionally, my planned route was within a several hour range of a Janus or family member’s truck or van in the event anything went awry. I’m pleased to report that there was no going awry. Aside from snugging up a few bolts, it performed flawlessly.
The pre-dawn launch from Goshen was in rain and fog as I was under a deadline to honor my reservation on the Lake Express high speed ferry from Muskegon, Michigan to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I arrived in plenty of time to board and lash down the 450 in one of the twelve accommodations for motorcycles. The 450 was one of only two bikes traversing that day. And to the envy and admiring eyes of all the cage drivers, I was ushered to the front of the line for boarding with my bike. Tie-downs are provided and passenger accommodations are wonderful. I’ll confess, I slept for more than an hour on the trip to Milwaukee. And at 40 mph, it’s one fast catamaran. For anyone interested, motorcycles travel free in the off-season. However, standard fare still applies to its rider.
Upon arriving in Milwaukee, lunch was had at the motorcycle-themed Fuel Cafe. It’s a very short ride from the ferry and houses some delightful motorcycle memorabilia to enjoy with your meal. Parking in front is reserved for motorcycles and if riding a Janus, as many of you already know, be prepared to answer questions. Many of them!
The Fuel Cafe lurks in the shadows of the famed Harley Davidson Museum. It’s a matter of a few blocks. At the front of the museum is a section of the parking lot reserved for bikes that was populated with all manner of v-twins fresh from a dip in the chrome tank.. Having visited the museum in the past, I didn’t feel the need to stop again. But, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to expose those in the parking lot to the allure of the Halcyon 450. I suppose you could argue it bordered on taunting. But, I’m not above taunting. I somehow felt justified in doing so, as owning a 1956 FLH gave me license, if not the responsibility to taunt. I chugged through at just above idle to get the full effect of the thumping big single while feigning interest in the range of bikes present. It was as though for a moment, time stood still. All movement ceased. Conversations stopped mid-sentence. Arm gestures remained suspended mid-gesture. No one pointed. It was like that picture on the wall where the eyes follow you around the room. I tarried only long enough to snap a pic. And then I was gone.
The next two days were spent riding the unglaciated “driftless” portion of southwestern Wisconsin. It’s a riders dream. Miles of winding roads through hills and valleys where both the 250 and 450 are in their element. We all know that moment where the sounds of the wind and the engine fade, the mind clears and you become one with the bike. Riding the 450 through the driftless brought that mystical experience to me once again.
A ride through that portion of Wisconsin is not complete without stops in places such as Spring Green, to admire the contributions of Frank Lloyd Wright as I’ve done numerous times in the past. Another stop was the marvelous old mining town of Mineral Point, settled by Welsh miners in the 1800s. It was where as a young man we would fly our tired old workhorses into a remote gravel duster strip in the hills outside of Mineral Point for their 100 hour inspections. The grizzled old WWII veteran who operated the strip possessed a vast knowledge of Pratt and Whitney aircraft engines that was exceeded only by his repertoire of profanities. It was always an education in the idiosyncrasies of some particular engine system coupled with a curious reference to a recalcitrant magneto with verbiage never to be found in the Merriam-Webster. But, the highlight was lunch in downtown Mineral Point, which allowed me to wander the street taking in the marvelous cut stone structures that are to this day, an architectural treasure trove.
I sat out some rain squalls under awnings in eastern Iowa before making Anamosa, Iowa for a visit to the National Motorcycle Museum. I had visited it previously when it was “downtown”, as the staff refer to its former location. It’s now on the outskirts of Anamosa, which is perhaps a few blocks from “downtown.” Anamosa is small. Noteworthy is a delightful collection of Broughs and Vincents. And as the Halcyon is, in no small measure, a tip of the hat to both of those legends, a visit while riding the 450 was indeed a highlight. For the record, the NMM is reserving a spot for examples of both the 250 and the 450 Janus. As they should.
After crossing the Mississippi at Muscatine, Iowa, the remainder of the ride was across the faceless fields of corn and soybeans of central Illinois and Indiana. However, it included a mix of two-lane and interstate riding to sample the range of behaviors of the 450. While it’s quite capable of running with the big dogs on the four-lane, my personal favorite was on a leisurely two-lane road at about 62 miles an hour. Fuel consumption was a consistent 60 mpg. Wind resistance is minimal at that speed and allowed me to ride all day long with little fatigue. And at that speed, there’s still a fist full of throttle available if circumstances require it. Or if you just want to do it. But, next to the wonderfully sprung rear suspension, the biggest contributor to a full day of fatigue-free riding is the Sargent seat. I can only describe it as saying that after 10 hours in the saddle, I stepped off with a happy butt. That experience is evident on my face in the pic below from the corn fields of Illinois while all leathered up in full vintage regalia.
After 1300 miles over five states I had little to report back to the Janus team. A few minor squawks that were already being addressed by Richard and the team. And that’s about it. Otherwise, I can only report that I thoroughly enjoyed myself on that sweet bike. And I now may need to take my wife’s advice to simply sell all my other bikes and get a 450 Halcyon. Because research confirms that marriages work best if you listen to your significant other. And who am I to argue?