Janus Halcyon 250: Modern Classic Motorcycling in All the Right Ways

2022 Janus Halcyon 250 article highlights:

  • The Janus Halcyon 250 is designed around classic motorcycle principles, but it’s built according to modern standards
  • It doesn’t have much equipment, but its refreshing simplicity and vintage style is what makes the Halcyon 250 so appealing
  • It’s not cheap, but the price and beginner-friendly, fun experience are worth it

‘What’s the best bike for a beginner?’ It’s a question every motorcycle rider has asked or been asked at some point. Most often, the response is some small-capacity machine, such as a Ninja 400 or one of Honda’s miniMOTOs. Yet bikes like these are popular with experienced riders, too, for a similar reason: accessible, uncomplicated fun for all. But I think this list needs one more member. After riding around Janus Motorcycles’ headquarters, I think this list, and the riding community, need the Halcyon 250.

Neo-classic: the Janus Halcyon 250 is motorcycling stripped down to the basics

The rear 3/4 view of a red-and-chrome 2022 Janus Halcyon 250 on a forest path
2022 Janus Halcyon 250 rear 3/4 | Matthew Skwarczek, MotorBiscuit
2022 Janus Halcyon 250
Engine229cc air-cooled carbureted single-cylinder
Horsepower14 hp
Torque12 lb-ft
TransmissionFive-speed manual
Front suspensionLeading-link fork with dual preload-adjustable Ikon shocks
Rear suspensionHardtail
Seat height31″
Dry weight263 lbs
Starting price$8400

You’d be forgiven for thinking that the Janus Halcyon 250 is a classic motorcycle at first glance. After all, that’s the Goshen, Indiana-based company’s intent and main influence. Janus co-founders Richard Worsham and Devin Biek drew inspiration from mopeds—which they’d previously wrenched on—and vintage board-track racers to create their first four-stroke motorcycle. That bike was the Halcyon 250, which is still the Janus lineup’s main seller. At least, in its carbureted lineup, because there’s now a fuel-injected Janus, the Halcyon 450.

You read correctly. It’s 2021, and the Janus Halcyon 250, like the Phoenix café racer and Gryffin scrambler that share its engine, has a carburetor. However, don’t get the wrong impression: it’s a deliberate choice. Worsham and Biek weren’t only inspired by classic motorcycles’ looks, but by their simplicity, too. And that notion carries over into the Janus Halcyon 250, albeit with modern benefits.

Sticking with the engine, it’s emissions-certified by the EPA and CARB. Also, although it originates from a 1970s Honda design, it’s a modern-built powerplant. But that 1970s Honda design, the CG125, was engineered specifically for places where motorcycles received virtually no maintenance, RevZilla explains. For example, the Amazon jungle. So, not only is it built tough, but it’s built with today’s quality standards. Furthermore, because it’s a carbureted, air-cooled, single-cylinder engine, you can easily wrench on it with simple hand tools.

And this mix of vintage and modern continues throughout the rest of the Janus Halcyon 250.

The Janus Halcyon 250 has vintage style with modern, hand-assembled quality

Firstly, the Janus Halcyon 250, like the rest of the company’s motorcycles, isn’t just hand-assembled. Apart from the powertrain, shocks, tires, and some of the lighting and electrical components, all the parts are made in the US. And apart from the spoked wheels, the US parts are made within about 20 miles of the Janus HQ, RevZilla says.

By ‘made,’ I mean handmade. The Halcyon 250’s tubular-steel frame is hand-welded by Amish craftspeople. They also handmake the aluminum fuel tank as well as the leather seats and saddlebags. The EPA-required carburetor components are made by a local machinist that also makes aerospace and medical parts. And not only do Janus Motorcycles employees hand-assemble the bikes, but they hand-paint them, too, pinstriping and all. They’re also starting to hand-roll the steel fenders—more on this in a moment.

The modern touches go beyond materials standards, though. For example, while the carbureted Janus motorcycles have kickstarters, they have electric starters, too. They also have hydraulic discs, rather than cable-operated drums. And no need to worry about ignition points: the Janus Halcyon 250 has a modern CDI system.

Also, while it looks like a classic, the Janus Halcyon 250 has evolved over the years. Much like Brough-Superior and the other vintage British bikes that inspired it, Janus has made some running changes. Last year, for example, it modified the front-rear brake balance, introduced an optional LED headlight, and fitted new switchgear and a speedometer with a digital display.

And, as noted earlier, although Janus still relies on suppliers to manufacture parts to its specs, the company is taking more things in-house, such as the fenders. Also, during my recent visit, Worsham told me that Janus plans to switch to automotive paint rather than powder-coating for its motorcycle body panels. Both decisions, he says, were motivated by supplier quality concerns.

Janus tried to make this bike accessible to all—and I’d say that it succeeded

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However, these qualities are arguably secondary to the main reason why the Janus Halcyon 250 looks the way it does—accessibility. “Our mission,” Worsham told me, “is to make a motorcycle that is…approachable. Accessible to people, that doesn’t have any barrier of black leather and tassels or black leather and knee-sliders.” In other words, a motorcycle that doesn’t feel intimidating to own or ride.

To be clear, I rode a Janus Halcyon 250 before in 2018. But at that point, I’d only had my motorcycle license for a few months. So, it was difficult for me to draw any real conclusions about it. But after riding the latest model through the chill November drizzle on Goshen’s country (and somewhat hilly) roads, I can confidently say that Janus nailed its goal.

Outside of a Honda miniMOTO, the Halcyon 250 is perhaps the most beginner-friendly motorcycle you can buy today. And it’s certainly the most approachable bike I’ve ever ridden, period.

This might be the easiest way to experience motorcycle riding’s joys

A close-up side view of a red-and-chrome 2022 Janus Halcyon 250's leading-link fork and front disc brake
2022 Janus Halcyon 250 fork closeup | Matthew Skwarczek, MotorBiscuit

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Don’t worry about the hardtail frame; this isn’t an antique Harley-Davidson. Apart from some mild vibration at highway-like speeds, I genuinely forgot that I didn’t have rear suspension. As cyclists say, ‘steel is real.’ And that’s how I’d describe riding the Janus Halcyon 250: like being on a big, motorized bicycle. Note, I mean that in the best possible way.

While most motorcycle manufacturers have abandoned leading-link forks for telescopic ones, Janus isn’t the only stickler. Sidecar-happy Ural, for example, still uses them. And Honda adapted the design for the Gold Wing and Valkyrie Rune. But again, the Janus Halycon 250 doesn’t use it purely for style purposes. The design eliminates brake dive and helps the bike deal with off-center impacts better than even an inverted telescopic fork. Hence why, although railroad crossings require you to rise slightly because of the hardtail, the fork isn’t bothered by them.

The net result of all these features is a motorcycle that feels stable yet nimble, agile, narrow, and oh-so-light. Even the Nighthawk 250s I rode in the MSF course didn’t feel this light. And the riding position, with its mid-mounted foot controls and wide handlebar, is comfortable for short- and long-distance rides. If you can ride a bicycle, you can ride and enjoy a Janus Halcyon 250.

While the 229cc engine’s, erm, modest output means downshifting for hills, there’s a certain wild joy about constantly having the throttle wide open. The engine takes on a deeper bark when you do. And with how the Halcyon 250 looks, that reinforces the notion that you’re riding a vintage bike. I’m not Lawrence of Arabia, but I felt like it belting down those Indiana roads. And you can, too.

Is the Janus Halcyon 250 worth the price?

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Admittedly, the Halcyon 250 has some issues. The clutch, for example, could use more feedback, though it is forgiving. Also, the brakes, while reassuringly strong, benefit from some heat, feedback-wise. Though to be fair, I was riding on a cold November day.

Speaking of the cold, you’ll have to get used to letting the carbureted engine warm-up on chilly days. Plus, though the riding position braces you well against the wind, you’ll want a windscreen for freeway rides. However, while Janus claims that the Halcyon 250 can do 70 mph, and owners—including Worsham—have ridden these bikes at highway speeds, this isn’t a high-speed cruiser. It’s more of an urban commuter/back-country-road weekend machine.

Finally, there’s the price. Due in part to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, Janus has raised the 250 models’ starting prices to $8400. And that’s before options and accessories. You can almost get a Ducati Scrambler for that. Janus does have a four-year warranty, though, and regularly posts how-to videos.

However, think about it this way. The Janus Halcyon 250 is a hand-built motorcycle made (for the most part) in the US that’s simple enough to wrench on in your garage. It’s also more beginner-friendly than anything Indian or Harley-Davidson currently makes. And while both of those brands make some vintage-inspired bikes, the Halcyon 250 has the more authentic classic vibe.

So, is it worth putting down $8400 for a 14-hp bike? Honestly, yes. The Janus Halcyon 250 doesn’t have ABS or fuel injection or even a fuel gauge. But it captures the classic motorcycle spirit without the headaches that come with it. It’s a refreshingly simple bike, and it comes with refreshingly simple joys.

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