Who am I and why the hell should you care about reading my blog?

Avid motorcyclist & freelance writer, specializing in motorcycles & motorcycle related topics, with a healthy dose of good humor, good vibes & general advice on simply being a good person.

Sunday, August 28, 2022

Our Janus Experience, Chapter 1

Chapter 1, Finding Janus 

Before I shut down my socials, I would occasionally see ads for Janus Motorcycles. At first glance, I thought, “hey that’s pretty cool looking” but, being a “Harley guy” for over 10 years, once I noticed that they were small displacement bikes, I just sort of overlooked them and went on with my mindless scrolling (hence the reason for my signing off). I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was overlooking something that was, potentially, going to be a game changer for me.

So, you may be asking, if I kept overlooking Janus while I was on social media, then how did I end up finding it again, after I signed off? Well, the funny thing is, I was actually doing some research for one of my recent blog posts- A Star is Born. You see, I like to pretend that I’m a real writer, so I do as much research as I can before I start writing. Maybe I’m hoping that one day, some big executive at a major motorcycle rag or, even better, a motorcycle company, will stumble upon my blog and want to hire me as a full time writer after I retire from my current job. Who knows. Either way, I realized that I had been writing a lot of posts about making good choices and dealing with stress, and sort of dropped the ball on writing about actual motorcycle related topics

Before I settled on the piece on Star Motorcycles, I looked up all the different companies I could think of, just to see if there was anything new and exciting out, or about to be released. The results were pretty lackluster, so I went with the story on Star. During my research though, I had come across the Janus website and, after finishing the Star post, I went back to the Janus site to spend a little more time there. 

As I perused their website, I started playing with the bike builder with my wife and over the next couple of hours, we configured several different combinations. I read several reviews and we watched enough YouTube videos to make our eyes hurt. The more we watched, configured and read about them, the more excited my wife got about this little motorcycle from Indiana. So much so, that by the end of it all, she was telling me to put a deposit down on one that day!

This was different

My wife has always been very supportive about my moto-addiction. When we were dating, I spent a lot of time working on my car and she was right there with me, pumping brakes, handing me wrenches, or simply sitting there, just keeping me company. Early on, she recognized my passion for old cars and motorcycles and she has been there with me, every step of the way. 

Even though I started on metric bikes, over the years I gravitated toward Harley-Davidsons and, after a few years of being back in the saddle, my motorcycles began to grow bigger and bigger in displacement with each bike I got. Several years ago, we saw the film Why We Ride  (if you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it). I didn't know it at the time, but after seeing it, my wife became inspired. A few years later, she mentioned that she was interested in possibly getting her own bike, so off we went to the local Harley-Davidson dealership! After looking at a few bikes, mainly Sportsters, she became disenchanted with the idea. The primary reason being that they were loud, heavy and more powerful than she was prepared to handle. A couple of years later, I ended up getting a good deal on an 883 and I tried teaching her to ride it, but again... the weight, power and noise was a little too much and after she dumped it in the yard, she was done with the idea again. 

When we were looking at the Janus though, something was different. She was excited about the size and the simplicity of the Halcyon. Her excitement was electric and it didn't take long before the desire to have her own motorcycle was rekindled. Initially, she just wanted me to get one, but after seeing the Janus Experience video of Terry and Mark, she became inspired! 

If you're not inclined to click the link, I'll briefly tell you that Terry and Mark aren't your typical "biker" types. They are regular people that, through Janus Motorcycles, became motorcyclists. That, to me, is amazing! I love that there is a motorcycle company that can inspire and encourage the love of motorcycling in people that, ordinarily, wouldn't give a second thought to riding. Don't get me wrong, I love my Harleys and I don't plan on getting rid of them at all, but the machines (and the culture) can be intimidating for someone that isn't already all-in on the idea of riding. For my wife, seeing Terry and Mark tell their story, was just the inspiration she needed to get on the site and start building her own. We gave it a couple of weeks for the "whim" of it to wear off, just to make sure that we were ready to commit to it and, in that time, we both configured multiple combinations of the Halcyon 250, trying to decide on what we actually wanted. We never even considered the other bikes- the Halcyon 250 was the one, without a doubt, that we both wanted. 

Go Fast, Don't Die

Now, I would be remiss if I told this story without, at the very least, mentioning another little piece of the puzzle that helped in this overall decision. If you've never heard of the "lifestyle brand" Go Fast Don't Die, do yourself a favor and click the link. I love this brand. They are, in a lot of ways, much like the folks at Janus- they are a small operation that is run by people who are absolutely passionate about the motorcycling culture. To the folks at GFDD, it's not about what you ride, your age, your background, your social status or where you're at in your personal journey- it's all about living the life that you are meant to live. I have a small collection of their merchandise because I love what they're doing and I love why they're doing it. In one of their weekly newsletters, they shared a story from one of their events where they were racing around on little mini-bikes. One woman, who was probably closer in age to my wife and I than to our sons, was riding this little Coleman mini-bike around and having the time of her life. Basically, the point of sharing the story was to remind people that speed was just a number, but going fast was a feeling

That pretty much tied directly in with the Why do we ride motorcycles video that the folks at Janus put out. For those of us who have always had the passion for riding, when we started out, we didn't ride big, 800 pound motorcycles. We started out on small, lightweight machines, most of which had knobby tires and were basic enough that we could work on them ourselves. So why then, should we limit that experience based on our age, or station in life? Why do we think that, once we enter adulthood, we have to conform to some unspoken rule about riding motorcycles? Why do we think that we can't enter this lifestyle unless we have years of riding under our belts and have a big V-twin engine in our garage? When did we get conditioned to believe that being a motorcyclist meant that we had to become a "biker." And, most curiously, where did we get the notion that we had to hit a particular speed before we could have fun? The folks at GFDD hit the nail on the head- fast IS a feeling. It's not the number on the speedometer that exhilarates you, it's the feeling that you get as it relates to what you're doing. 

The small size of the Janus engine, and the top speed being 70 mph became less significant the more we both talked about it and realized how we were planning on using these machines. We are planning on riding them exactly as they were intended to be ridden- along the backroads and beachfront drives, through the twisting country roads and down to our favorite coffee spots. 

The next step

After everything, my wife and I made the decision to get in touch with Mitch McLane at Janus and start the process of Janus ownership. The only delays we've had so far have been on our part because we have both been extremely busy at our respective jobs. Mitch was awesome and got our orders processed quickly and easily, then sent our orders to Kate Snyder for processing. Last week, Kate sent us our respective build sheets to review and sign off on, and now we're just waiting to get our paperwork. That will bring us to the next step which is, according to this video, our orders being sent to the production team! 

Hopefully, we'll get that next week... stay tuned!

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Janus Motorcycles

The Roman God of Past and Future

At the very core of our fast paced, modern society, is the subtle reminders of our connections to our past- those ancient societies built on myths and legends, where life was both mysterious and simple. For example- the month between December and February is named for the Roman god of beginnings and endings, past and future and the duality of time in general. He is known as Janus. It only makes sense that the first month of the new year is named for him and, after seeing the offerings from newest American made motorcycle company, based in Goshen, Indiana, it only makes sense that Richard Worsham and Devin Biek named their company after him. After all, their bikes harken back to a time of simplicity, efficiency and functionality with just the right amount of beauty in their form while at the same time, offering modern conveniences and performance.

The elephant in the room

Now, right off the bat, I want to address the elephant in the room:

The Janus Motorcycle Company uses Chinese engines... 
and I simply do not care. 

Allow me to explain- I've been riding motorcycles since I was a kid. As an adult, I've owned a Kawasaki, a few Hondas, a Yamaha/Star, and several Harley-Davidsons and do you know what each of these motorcycles have in common? They ALL have Chinese parts. My die-hard Harley fans might be cringing at that statement, but it doesn't make it any less true and, let's be honest... there is a reason that China is making all these parts. It's because they can do it for a hell of a lot cheaper than any other country can or will, because they have a strong, non-unionized workforce, as well as, the facilities to get the parts built for pennies on the dollar compared to other countries. Is everything from China great? Of course not... but neither is everything from America or from our European counterparts. 

With all that said, however, I trust that Richard and Devin did their due diligence and chose the engines that would best represent their new company's high standards of reliability, power and simplicity and, if I can trust them enough to build a motorcycle that is safe to ride, then I should be able to trust them enough to put an engine on that bike that will have bulletproof reliability. These engines, which are made by Lifan, are simply parts of the motorcycles, much like a turn signal or a seat spring, rather than being the centerpieces of them, meaning that the motorcycle itself, as a whole, is the main attraction. For good reason, too- the rest of the motorcycle is a hand built work of art. 

Riding is the most important thing

Another elephant to address, is that the Janus Motorcycles are not, well... elephants. They aren't big. They aren't powerful. They aren't complex. They are simple, small, lightweight motorcycles designed for short trips on backroads. In other words- they are just like the bikes that many of us grew up on as kids. They are modern motorcycles with the souls of those simple machines that we had so much fun on when we were young. 

Richard and Devin decided to build a motorcycle that didn't focus on engine displacement, technology and performance, but rather... they chose to focus on the one thing that is so easy to overlook these days- they chose to focus on why we ride in the first place. Riding is the most important thing... not how big the bike is, or how fast it goes, or how loud a stereo is or how much technology can be crammed into the frame rails. They focused instead on the experience of being on a machine so simple, that it could almost not even be there. They chose to design machines that were easy to ride, light enough to maneuver by even the newest riders, and easy enough to work on that even the least mechanically inclined riders could maintain them. They don't just allow for their owners to work on the bikes themselves- they encourage it and make tutorial videos to show them how!

The Halcyon 250

Halcyon hal·cy·on /ˈhalsēən/ adjective, denoting a period of time in the past that was idyllically happy and peaceful. "the halcyon days of the first motorcycles"

A motorcycle with a 14 cubic inch engine that makes a whopping 14 horsepower and 11 foot pounds of torque isn't for everyone, but that's the beauty of it- it's not supposed to be. Neither are dirtbikes, sportbikes or cruisers for that matter, if we're being completely honest. Not all riders are going to be into all types of bikes and that's okay. The Halcyon 250 is one of those types of bikes that has styling that isn't for everyone. It has a hardtail frame, sprung solo seat, leading link front suspension, wide handlebars and a 1.94 gallon gas tank. It looks like something out of the motorcycle history books instead of a modern motorcycle built in the 21st century. The Halcyon would look more at home at a vintage motorcycle festival than at a bike night at a local diner and you will probably never see one buzzing down the interstate, since it only has a top speed of 70 mph. 

You may be asking then, that with such a small engine, little horsepower and a minimalist top speed, why am I spending so much time talking about it? The answer is simple- I'm buying one. Actually, that's not entirely true. The whole truth is, I'm buying TWO. My lovely wife, Mrs. MotoWriter, has decided to embark on this journey with me. She has always been there with me, it's just now... instead of being behind me, she's going to be beside me. You see, for me (as it probably is for many of you), motorcycling is so much more than the representation of a particular brand... it's a way of life. Motorcycling is an opportunity to journey through life unencumbered by the constraints of being in an enclosed vessel; a chance to experience the world around us in such a way that is interesting, exciting, fulfilling and memorable. 

I'm not interested in being a brand ambassador, but rather, a lifestyle ambassador. I'm more interested in sharing the essence of being a motorcycle enthusiast with the rest of the world and I can't think of a better way to do that, than with motorcycles that excite and exhilarate, as well as those that relax and reminisce. My Dyna is loud, fast and aggressive, my Road King is refined, large and powerful and our Janus Halcyons will, hopefully, be fun, exciting and memorable for us.

The Phoenix, the Gryffin and the Halcyon 450

I'll talk briefly, very briefly, about the whole Janus lineup, since they currently have a few different models. I'm not going to spend too terribly much time here, though, because this blog post isn't intended to be a full-on presser on the company, but rather, my humble opinions on them. 

In the 250 class lineup, Janus offers the Gryffin and the Phoenix (for a limited time) alongside the flagship, Halcyon. The Gryffin is their version of a dual-sport scrambler, while the Phoenix is their 250 classed Cafe' bike. Of these two bikes, if I were so inclined to do so, I would most likely add the Gryffin to the garage over the Phoenix. The main reason being that, while a 229cc, single cylinder thumper engine is right at home in the dirt, a cafe' racer (in my opinion, anyway) should have a bit more "oomph" to really fit the "racer" name. 

The guys responded to numerous requests for a larger displacement version of their immensely popular Halcyon, with the new Halcyon 450. The 450 is very similar in a lot of ways to it's little brother, however... there are some distinct differences. Two of which to note, are the hardtail look, but with a Softail rear suspension and the larger, 445cc single cylinder engine. The 450 is a really nice looking motorcycle and, if I didn't have any other bikes, I might consider it to be my only bike. 
*edit- I assumed the 450 was a twin, since it has dual exhaust, but after actually reading the specs, realized I got a little overzealous when writing this- so I corrected this to reflect the accurate information.

The Janus Experience

One thing that I've read about, heard about and seen on several different YouTube videos, is something called the "Janus Experience." Apparently, buying a Janus is quite a bit different than buying a motorcycle from any other manufacturer, because they don't have any kind of dealer network. You literally build the bike online, then buy it directly from the factory. From what I've seen so far, the folks at Janus take the concept of customer satisfaction very seriously. From the initial ordering phase, to the financing (if needed), to the build and to the delivery of the motorcycles- they apparently take a very personal approach to providing the customers with a memorable and pleasant experience. 

Mrs. MotoWriter and I just finally finished building our bikes online, choosing our options and are actually still figuring out the finer points of how this is all going to work out (she doesn't actually know how to ride after all... not yet, that is), but that didn't stop us from pulling the proverbial "trigger" as they say- today, I sent the fine folks at Janus the deposit on our bikes! 

As we continue along on this journey... I'll be posting updates here, to keep you folks in the loop as we undergo our own "Janus Motorcycles Experience" and I hope that you take a few minutes to read them.

While you're waiting for my next post- ride safe, make good choices and try to answer this question for yourself- why do you ride?