Janus Halcyon: a 1920s style 50cc two-stroke

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The first product of a new bike manufacturer from Indiana, this Janus Halcyon was designed to look like a record-breaker from the 1920s or 30s, but powered by a 50cc two-stroke, is light and legally accessible to first time riders.

In his own words, the bike’s creator, Richard Worsham, tells us all about it: “Janus Motorcycles is an American manufacturer of hand-made, small-displacement bikes that harken back to iconic eras of motorcycling history. Our goal has been to produce a line of simple, stylish, easy-to-ride and light-weight motorcycles that will appeal to a new generation of male and female riders.”

“We design and build our motorcycles by hand here in our home-town of Goshen, Indiana, including the frames, fuel tanks, exhaust systems, leather seats and saddlebags, handlebars, pin-striping, wiring harnesses, and all the additional brackets and components that make up the complete motorcycle. We import rims and brakes manufactured to our specifications, EBR hydraulic forks, and a great Spanish-designed 2-stroke motor. The highly upgradable engine is a water-cooled 6-speed unit based on the Derbi Senda that produces almost 9hp in stock form.”

“Every bike comes with both kick and electric start as well as an oil injection system. Turn indicators, high and low beam headlight, speedometer, and mirrors combine a top speed of up to 55mph to insure safe operation on all but limited access highways. We are a federally licensed vehicle manufacturer and each of our bikes comes with a VIN number and is titled and road-legal. Although the stock Halcyon is 50cc it does require a motorcycle permit and registration in most states, as it uses a manual transmission and exceeds the horse power output for regular 50cc mopeds or scooters.”

“My co-founder, Devin Biek and I got into motorcycles through mopeds: Puchs, Motobecanes, Kreidlers, Garellis, etc., all with 50cc engines and pedals. I worked at Devin’s shop, Motion Left Mopeds while in grad school, restoring, repairing, and customized vintage small displacement motorcycles and mo-peds locally and for clients in Chicago, Austin, New York, and the West Coast. We both have a passion for historic motorcycles, especially flashy 20’s record breakers and 60′s and 70′s 50cc Grande Prix bikes, so we tried to work those aesthetics into our builds. The business was good; Devin developed his own successful line of expansion chambers and performance parts capable of getting single-speed mo-ped engines from the 1970′s up to over 70mph. Motion Left is now the leading hand-made performance parts manufacturer for mo-peds in the country. It’s definitely a niche market, but it’s a very exciting one.”

“Gradually we started noticing that one of the main reasons many of our customers were so fascinated by vintage mopeds, especially top-tank models like the Puch Magnum, was because they were essentially very small, very fun, very DIY motorcycles. There is a strong demand among young urban professionals for a small, sleek, and practical motorcycle for commuting and short excursions. Unfortunately, there isn’t anything other than scooters, or older mo-peds and Japanese bikes in that class available here in the States. American consumers don’t really have any options if they’re looking for a stylish new light-weight motorcycle.”

“Graduating in the spring of 2011 only to discover that there weren’t as many jobs as when I went into school in 2007 was really the turning point. We thought- what’s keeping us from doing something extraordinary? Let’s start a production motorcycle company and build the bikes that we and our customers really want. Through our experience manufacturing performance parts including handlebars, exhaust systems, intakes, clutch upgrades, sprockets, seats, and fuel tanks, we had built up a healthy network of local craftsmen and suppliers here in the heart of American manufacturing.”

“We lost the pedals and opted for a 50cc 6-speed motorcycle engine. We joke that we
are reinventing the motorcycle starting a 70 years ago as we add water-cooling, electronic ignition, and hydraulic forks to our small-displacement bikes.”

“We’re starting with our interpretation of a vintage record-breaker, and are introducing a more ‘60s British- inspired model next year, and finally a ‘70s Grande Prix-inspired bike.”

“The idea is to take all the best things we love about motorcycles and add some new technology and provide it to the public. Our bikes aren’t replicas; we haven’t designed them to exactly emulate a period from history. They are contemporary, practical machines that celebrate some of our favorite aspects of motorcycle design over the last century. Of course taste is a knife’s edge, and I am sure that a smaller, lighter, low-tech, motorcycle with our aesthetics and a 50cc 2T motor won’t appeal to everyone, but we hope that it is a step toward building a younger, broader generation of American riders, and ideally, a new American motorcycle company making bikes ranging from 125 to 250ccs.”

Janus Motorcycles

  • Scott-jay

    Neato!

    What’s the suffix to operate gallery for impaired and logged-in subscribers?

  • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler
  • JTB

    Steam punks rejoice;) I think its very cool looking little bike. Would be perfect for my daughter. Price?

    • TreMoto_Eddie

      Ok I’ steampunk curious too but bikes without disk brakes are dangerous. Digging the shallow expansion chamber and liquid cooling though!

      • Richard Worsham

        Thanks! You may not be able to throw yourself over the handle bars, but these drums are designed for a 125. They’re more than strong enough to bring you to a squealing halt.

      • Campisi

        Think of the drums as old-school ABS.

  • Cockroach

    I’m curious… How can a two stroke be legal? Also, will this be CARB compliant? But such a cool bike, my wife has been looking for something to putt about on. This might fit.

    • moshaholic2

      under a certain displacement 2 strokes are still legal. (might be 50cc max)

  • HammSammich

    Very cool. Any indication on the MSRP? Given the displacement, I might expect to see these at bicycle shops rather than Motorcycle Dealers – I’ve been seeing a lot of scooters and mini-choppers for sale at local Bicycle shops…

  • Joel

    “this Janus Halcyon was designed to look like a record-breaker from the 1920s or 30s”…

    …”will appeal to a new generation of male and female riders.”
    …or a really really old generation of riders?

    don’t mean to get all heady, but why is it that we all just want things to be like they were 40, 50, 80, 10,000 years ago?

    Otherwise, I love the bike, it would be perfect for my metro commute.

    • http://hivelosangeles.com Sean Smith

      Why? I think think this, this, this and this explain a lot.

      • http://vtbmwmov.org Eben

        Hmm. This, this, this and this seem to suggest that things haven’t actually changed much. People one hundred years ago where probably pining for push-bikes.

        • http://hivelosangeles.com Sean Smith

          History repeats itself.

        • tpnewsk

          Ha!

      • Glenngineer

        I expected bike links. I am lol.

        • http://hivelosangeles.com Sean Smith

          I am here for teh lolz.

    • http://greatjoballweek.blogspot.com/ Case

      RE: Why want things like they were 40, 50, 80 or whatever years ago?

      This is a relevant question. There is a nostalgia attached to whatever motorcycle/car you first imprinted on. So people tend to circle back to designs that remind of them of that initial experience, even if the designs themselves are shit. I don’t mean to imply that this design is bad, only that the imprinting (and I use that word intentionally) has nothing to do with your conscious brain and gets right down to your id. It’s why motorcycles are awesome.

      Also, modern designs are usually a design-by-committee muddle or watered down by cost-cutting or an attempt for ‘broad appeal’. So mass-production modern vehicle designs combine the worst type of everything-for-everybody and cheapness. It’s enough to make an individualist-manque weep. It’s also why HD makes so much money putting junk parts on junk bikes; there’s a lot of margin in ‘individuality’, and you can roll it into your monthly financing.

      But wait there’s more: Generic, functional boring designs tend to sell well (see: Toyota). Companies are in business to make money so they aim squarely for mediocrity. When they opt to do something interesting it’s big news (Toyota FR-S is a notable example).

      So it’s a combination of things. I’m not a fan of this retro-style because I think most motorcycle design elements from 80 years ago should be consigned to history. However, I appreciate that the build takes a lot of care, and that the bike is made to ride.

      • Richard Worsham

        Thanks for the thoughtful comment.

        I’d have to say I agree with a lot of what you’re saying. Devin and I intentionally didn’t approached this as a replica because we are not interested in copying something from the past. We believe that there is an evolving language, or grammar of motorcycle design that can be developed and continued over time, and that therefore the past does have things to teach us. Perhaps critics will say that the motorcycle industry is already working on just such an evolutionary principle, discarding outdated designs as it progresses toward the perfect motorcycle, but I mean it more in the sense of a conscious effort on the part of designers to look back and excavate from the history of motorcycle design some of the great lessons that from time to time elevated a certain model to that status of perfection that we recognize in many greatest motorcycles. I believe that to relegate these bikes “to history” is a mistake. Many of these things are still being ridden for a reason.

        Obviously, a motorcycle is about a lot more than a practical means of putting a motor between two wheels and ensuring that it operates in a (somewhat) safe manner. A motorcycle is in our eyes, first and foremost, about an experience; and is therefore, the perfect design challenge. What other artifact is so much about form and function at the same time? Half of a really great motorcycle is looking like it goes faster than it does, even if it goes 200mph. So what I’m saying is when it comes to the design and aesthetics and manner in which the bike is used there really is a lot to be learned from the past as well as the present. There’s a lot to be said for a an increased panache factor.

        As I mentioned in the story, our goal was to create a bike that works within the language of, and learns from, the really great designs of the past, while remaining a modern and practical motorcycle with contemporary features. We are far more tied to the idea of a simple, light-weight stylish and practical bike than we are of making a motorcycle that looks old. It’s just that a lot of those old designs really worked… especially on a bike like the Halcyon. That being said, we have nothing against disc brakes, or rear suspension, or any number of other great advances in motorcycle design. Stay tuned…

        • http://greatjoballweek.blogspot.com/ Case

          I think I see what you’re getting at and I appreciate the explanation. You should be proud of how well you executed your design vision with this bike. I’m looking forward to seeing the other models.

          • Scott-jay

            Let’s see new models!
            Subject bike looks right, locally grown, and exudes that certain bespoken air. : )

      • http://www.cdavisdesigns.com Chris Davis

        New products from big manufacturers are made using modern methods that often rely on mass production for their efficiencies. Start ups have different constraints. Those constraints can affect design and materials. In small scales older techniques are more economically viable. You can fight against your constraints or you can embrace them.

    • Ryan

      Because the stuff was much simpler, and we could wrap our heads around it without having to be experts in that field.

      Perfection is boring, and the older stuff has a better sense of style. There was a sense of joy and warmth in the styling that modern stuff lacks. Everything is so serious and passionless or ornate and overwrought.

  • kidchampion

    The custom bicycles on Cycle Exif are often priced between $5,000 and $15,000. I don’t expect the Janus to be priced like a Sachs Madass.

  • paulo

    Great looking little bike! (It’s a shame but I just know some kids going to put silver duct tape over the ‘J’ when one of these is parked up at the local cafe)

  • Braden (Griso 8V, SV650)

    So awesome, I guess their isn’t much word availability or dealer networks yet. Looking forward to hearing more.

  • Good Thomas

    how much?

  • Coreyvwc

    Very cool alternative to a Vespa (for those with the cash). The idea of 50cc water cooled 2T engine sounds a little strange to me though. I just assumed something that tiny would be aircooled… Very cool none the less.

  • http://www.cdavisdesigns.com Chris Davis

    Nicely designed and very ambitious. I hope that ambition is rewarded by the market.
    Two small opportunities; 1) the various cables, hoses, and wires clutter up the negative space below the tank, and 2) consider dropping the headlight down so it flows with the lines created by the seat and tank in profile view.
    Looks like a fun ride. Good luck, Richard.

    • Richard Worsham

      Good points. Thanks for the kind words.

  • http://www.BrewSmith.com.au dux [87 CBR600, 95 XR600R]

    Man, hipsters would be all over that like BBQ sauce on ribs.

    Bring ‘em to Melbourne!

    (Oh, and great looking bike BTW)

    • paulo

      Not just hipsters it is a great looking alternative to a scooter,I agree with Chris (above ) about a lower headlight making a better line. The skyace125 (honda dream copy) is probably in the same market. Good looking small fun transport that hopefully wont break the bank. I wish them all the best.

  • Mykola

    Featherweight 50cc two-stroke? That bike will be a ball to bomb around town on.

  • randry

    I think this bike would have a more fitting look with the tank dropped down over the frame, close up that gaping hole. I’ve been telling my buddys for a couple years; someone needs to build a board tracker style scooter. Love the idea and look. What are the possibilties of doing a lean burn diesel?

  • Keith

    I’ll take one!

  • jaski_sm

    I had Derbi Senda (SM X-treme 50) for some time. Unfortunately I think it’s easier to start a motorcycle from 1920 than new Derbi Senda engine in stock form! It was a nightmare. This engine is so bad it’s almost funny…

  • stackhousehouse

    “Perhaps the problem is that we stopped believing both in a better future and in design’s ability to further it.”
    http://imprint.printmag.com/branding/toxic-nostalgia/

    Great little article about all this old fashioney looking stuff.

  • karlInSanDiego

    Sorry, I need a late pass. Wes, is this thing actually legal in 50 states? Can’t remember the last time a 2 stroke was allowed for a road vehicle, but I’m pretty sure a 2 stroke was not the best choice for a modern bike.

    I ride a smoker (’73 GT550) so I watch for others out there.

    • http://rideapart.com Wes Siler

      IIRC, the size-limit for two-strokes here is 50cc, so this is legal. Might want to check in CA, but I think it’d be fine.

  • DisqusThis

    i can see enjoying it for a week or two then looking for a cr500 engine to install

  • Michael T Lyster

    Well done, gentlemen! Hope you sell them like hotcakes.