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by Mark Zweig

Of all the bikes I’ve owned over the last 53 years—that’s 300 plus—three of my top 10 motorcycles are 250s. The truth is that for 90-95 percent of the riding I do (or will ever do) at this point, a good-running 250 does everything I want it to do.

The first of these 250s I want to talk about was my 1975 Kawasaki S1C. I bought it from a guy named Dave Stanowski for $450 in 1977. It was so beautiful—it was love at first sight for me in its two-tone blue with white stripe color scheme—and three zoomie pipes! For those who don’t know, these bikes were oil-injected, three-cylinder two-strokes, with 28-30 horsepower and absolutely no torque below about 6000 rpm. But once it came on the pipe, it was a little screamer, and would get up to 90-95 mph. That thing had to be run hard all of the time or it would foul plugs, so of course, as a 19 year old male, I obliged!

I made the mistake of trading this bike off to my best friend, Scott, who really wanted it. He gave me a ‘72 Triumph Trophy Trail 250 that looked nearly new, along with an army green, 1960 V8-powered 4-door Studebaker Lark for it. While the Studebaker turned out to be a decent car, that Triumph holds the title of the single worst motorcycle I have ever owned. Thanks to its Lucas Electrics (the singular reason the British got into the habit of drinking their beer warm), it was notoriously unreliable. Sometimes, it would one-kick start right off the bat, and other times you could drag it from a rope behind a truck and it wouldn’t do a thing. Plus, the headlight fell out, and I had to tape a flashlight to the handlebars to ride at night. I found the best use for it was as ballast in the bed of the matching red-orange ‘65 Chevy pickup I had at that time so I could drive it in the winter. Eventually, I sold it for $65.

Another of my favorite bikes was my white and orange 1975 Yamaha RD250. This two-stroke twin had a front disc brake and a 6-speed transmission with no more than 1000 miles on it. I got it in the late 90s as part of a five-2bike package I bought sight-unseen from a guy in Iowa who took them in on trade for a racing car he sold. After I got it running perfectly with a little recommissioning, the next thing I did was take off the chrome front fender and toss it in the garbage. Then I pulled the pipes and put on a set of black expansion chambers from Moto Carrera. I bought a small bullet fairing for it and a new fiberglass front fender, and had them painted to match the tank. Then I put on some new rear shocks, steel footpegs, superbike bars, and new dunlops. What a fun bike! There’s nothing like riding a multi-cylinder two stroke with chambers on it. The smells and sounds, along with a two-stroke powerband are addicting. I loved that bike, but when I sold my business to a private equity firm in 2004 and decided to move from Boston to Fayetteville, Arkansas, I sold all of my bikes—including that RD250–except for an almost new orange Goldwing and an FZR1000 that I owned. And when the guy I sold the RD to came to pick it up, he had on a set of all white vintage leathers with a matching all white full-coverage helmet.

That brings me to the last of my favorite 250s—my current bike—an olive green, gold-pinstriped Janus Halcyon 250 with a brown leather seat and battery box. I wanted one for a couple years before I finally pulled the trigger and ordered one in my spec. Besides the way it looks like it came out of the 1920s—and the fact that I feel like T.E. Lawrence when I ride it—a couple other things I really enjoy about this bike are its ultra light weight and its ergonomics. It’s super comfortable for me and doesn’t cramp me up like a lot of other bigger bikes have. I don’t like being jammed up against the tank when I ride a motorcycle!

Recently, I installed an aftermarket pipe and tweaked the carb a little, and then took my stock “buckhorn” handlebars and flipped them upside down—something that I probably won’t leave like that forever but really gives the bike an early 20th century board tracker feel. The factory bars work surprisingly well in that position, and I think the resulting weight distribution change really works with the Janus leading link front end.

Another one of the best aspects of the Janus is its reliability. My bike is more than two and half years old and still has its original battery that I have never had to charge. That just doesn’t happen on a motorcycle for me! Ethanol-free fuel is available less than a mile from my house so it always gets that. And talk about attention! I can’t ride it anywhere without people asking me what it is and where it came from. It happened to me today at lunch. Of course, that gives me a chance to tell the Janus story and how each bike is built to order and hand-assembled on a stand by a single individual—something people cannot believe when they hear the price is as low as it is. There just isn’t anything you can buy in the way of a motorcycle today that looks like a Janus and has the quality of materials and craftsmanship. And I know if I ever get too old to ride it, it will look good drained of its fuel and parked in the library of our Victorian-era house. I’m getting a little tired of the ‘66 Benelli 250 we have sitting in there now—and a new Black with gold pinstripes Janus Halcyon 450 sure would be a nice upgrade for my daily rider!