Janus Halcyon 450: Vintage Soul Meets Modern Motorcycle Spirit

2021 Janus Halcyon 450 article highlights:

  • Though it bears similar vintage styling to the company’s carbureted models, the Janus Halcyon 450 differs in more ways than just its fuel-injected engine
  • It’s a bit heavier than the Halcyon 250, but the Janus Halcyon 450 is just as approchable and beginner-friendly, not to mention improved in several areas
  • The Halcyon 450 isn’t cheap, and other similarly-priced motorcycles have more features and power, but its hand-built nature and easygoing classic vibes justify its price tag

Nostalgic vibes alone aren’t why retro bikes sell in large numbers. It’s also because these motorcycles look classic but are actually modern underneath. But there’s another way to do this: the way Janus Motorcycles does things. That way involves reincarnating the designs and techniques of the past with today’s tools to make bikes that are more than simple throwbacks. And while it differs significantly from the company’s previous products, the new Janus Halcyon 450 might be one of the best distillations of its ethos.

Survey says owners wanted the classic style with “more highway ability”—so Janus made the Halcyon 450

A white-and-gold pre-production 2021 Janus Halcyon 450 on a rainy forest path
Pre-production 2021 Janus Halcyon 450 | Matthew Skwarczek, MotorBiscuit

At first glance, the Halcyon 450 doesn’t look dissimilar to the other Janus motorcycles. And in terms of the riding position, overall ergonomics, and general mission statement, it’s not, at least to the regular Halcyon 250. However, once you look closer it’s apparent that the new bike is fundamentally different in several areas.

For one, the Halcyon 450 is Janus’s first-ever fuel-injected motorcycle. In addition, though it still has a single-cylinder engine, that engine is almost twice as big. It’s also air- and oil-cooled, rather than just air-cooled. Plus, it breathes out of two exhaust pipes, rather than one.

Using those twin pipes meant Janus had to redesign the Norton featherbed-inspired tubular-steel frame, CEO and co-founder Richard Worsham told me. However, the redesign wasn’t just because of the exhaust. It’s also because of the extra performance, weight, and the engine’s origins. But we’ll get to that shortly.

Before we do, though, why did Janus build a motorcycle like the Halcyon 450? Owner feedback, Worsham says. “We did a survey a couple of years ago of our owners,” he explains, “and we realized there was an interest in a bike that could do highway speeds capably.” However, the owners had “absolutely no interest in losing any of the aesthetics,” Worsham notes. Basically, Janus owners wanted a more powerful version of the bikes they already owned.

Worsham, though, didn’t want this new motorcycle to be “a big, fast, heavy power bike.” Nor did he want the Halcyon 450 to deviate from Janus’s approachability mission or be too complicated. Also, he’s “a big KLR guy;” even with fuel injection, the revived KLR650 only makes about 35 rear-wheel horsepower, Dirt Rider reports. And speaking of fuel injection, Worsham didn’t want to try to emissions-certify another carbureted engine.

The Janus Halcyon 450 is a classic motorcycle modernized

The rear 3/4 view of a white-gold Pre-production 2021 Janus Halcyon 450 in a parking lot
Pre-production 2021 Janus Halcyon 450 left rear 3/4 view | Matthew Skwarczek, MotorBiscuit
2021 Janus Halcyon 450
Engine445cc air/oil-cooled fuel-injected single-cylinder
Horsepower30 hp
Torque26 lb-ft (based on SWM Six Days 440, MCN)
TransmissionFive-speed manual
Top speed90 mph
Front suspensionLeading-link fork with preload-adjustable Ikon shocks
Rear suspensionCantilever transom with preload-adjustable Ikon shocks
Seat height30″
Dry weight345 lbs
Price$13,500

Like the 250 models, the Janus Halcyon 450’s engine is based on a Honda design. Specifically, an enlarged oil-cooled version of the Honda XR400’s engine from Italian supplier SWM.

If that seems like an odd choice, it’s not. For one, a variety of Chinese and European bikes, including CCM’s machines, use SWM engines, which are often modernized versions of classic motors. Secondly, the XR single-cylinder is a stalwart powerplant. Honda still uses its basic design in the modern XR650L. The GB500 café racer used an XR-derived engine, too.

Also, because it’s air/oil-cooled, the Janus Halcyon 450 doesn’t need a big, heavy, complicated-to-service radiator. Furthermore, its 30-hp output means the bike can easily exceed US highway speed limits. And during testing, some riders allegedly saw triple digits.

Like the carbureted models, the Halcyon 450 uses a Janus-designed leading-link fork for extra rigidity and anti-brake-dive reasons. But its frame is as much XR400 as Norton due to the XR400-derived engine. Except for the back, though.

Worsham is a big fan of Brough-Superior and Vincent HRD. And the Janus Halcyon 450 has a very Vincent-like feature: its rear suspension. Although the Halcyon 450 has a sprung seat like the 250, it’s not a hardtail. Instead, it uses a similar rear setup as the proto mono-shock/swingarm created by Vincent HRD in the 1930s, RideApart says. It’s like what the Triumph Bonneville Bobber and Harley-Davidson Softails use, except with two shocks instead of one.

In addition, while the Halcyon 450 has as many hand-built and hand-assembled elements as the 250 models, Janus upgraded more than the performance. For example, while it lacks a kickstarter, it does have a modern side-stand ignition interlock. Also, the 450 has both a tachometer and a speedometer; the latter has an LCD element. Finally, it has Brembo disc brakes.

Riding an early Janus Halcyon 450 build around Goshen

The right side view of a white-and-gold pre-production 2021 Janus Halcyon 450 next to Janus's HQ
Pre-production 2021 Janus Halcyon 450 right side view | Matthew Skwarczek, MotorBiscuit

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Full disclosure: the Halcyon 450 Janus let me ride was a pre-production tester. The production versions have a leather cover over the battery box; a previous rider lost the one on my test bike. Also, due to supply chain issues, Janus had to install a two-piston caliper in the rear rather than a single-piston one. So, the version customers get will have slightly less touchy rear brakes.

None of that mattered once I hit the winding, hilly country roads outside of Goshen, on a drizzly, chill November afternoon, though. Having just ridden the Halcyon 250, I knew that the 450 would be more powerful and a bit heavier. And I was expecting it to feel different than its smaller carbureted sibling. But that’s not quite what happened.

It lets you ride like it’s the 1930s and live like it’s 2021

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Yes, the Halcyon 450 feels slightly heavier than the 250. Yet it’s still light enough that Worsham could lean it against himself while demonstrating the side-stand ignition interlock. I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing that on my own Street Triple, even though it’s only about 60 pounds heavier. And once you got moving, the 450 delivered that same joyous feeling of riding a big bicycle as the 250.

Yes, the Janus Halcyon 450 is more powerful and faster than the 250. But because it only has 30 horsepower, it’s not intimidating. I would unreservedly recommend this bike to a beginner. And with a windshield, I could easily see this being a highway cruiser.

In addition, this might be Janus’s first-ever fuel-injected motorcycle, but you couldn’t tell by how smooth and responsive the throttle is. And while the 250’s carburetor isn’t that difficult to live with, pushing a button and heading out is easier still. Also, the Halcyon 450 doesn’t suffer from the same somewhat vague clutch as the 250. Plus, while the biting point is more pronounced, the clutch itself is just as forgiving.

The impromptu rear brake upgrade meant I had to be slightly careful with the pedal. Yet even taking that into account, the 450’s Brembos live up to their reputation. They’re both strong and easy to modulate even in the November chill. And I can confirm that the leading-link fork resists brake dive with aplomb.

The new rear suspension is even better, though. Not only does the Janus Halcyon 450’s seat not vibrate slightly at high speeds like on the 250, but the ride is even comfier. Also, the bike feels even more stable and composed over bumps and leaning into corners. And the fuel tank doesn’t dig into your legs slightly like the 250’s tank.

Is the Janus Halcyon 450 worth its cost?

A red-and-silver 2022 Triumph Bonneville T120
2022 Triumph Bonneville T120 | Triumph

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In short, the Janus Halcyon 450 isn’t merely an exercise in retro design. It takes everything that the company learned in making the 250 and improves it. So, to Worsham I have to say, mission accomplished.

But the Janus Halcyon 450 has one problem: its price. It’s $1200 more expensive than a brand-new Triumph Bonneville T120, which is more powerful and has more tech features. And for $1500 more, you can get a Harley-Davidson Sportster S, which has even more power and features.

However, both of those bikes are significantly heavier and more complicated to work on than the 450. And neither are hand-built and hand-assembled to the same extent as the Halcyon. Nor can you personalize them as much from the factory. Furthermore, neither the T120 nor the Sportster S is as beginner-friendly as the Janus.

So, yes, the Janus Halcyon 450 is expensive compared to motorcycles with similar power. But you honestly get what you pay for. And what you get is a classic motorcycle that’s no more difficult to ride or live with than a Grom. Not to mention a brand-new bike that wouldn’t look out of place at the Goodwood Revival. I’d pay $13,500 for that.

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