Share this post

At Janus Motorcycles we catch a lot of flack.

A lot of modern consumers believe that engine size is directly proportional to value. In this view the biggest engine should be the most expensive and the smallest the cheapest (we’ve been hearing this argument since we launched our handmade 50cc two stroke over a decade ago). Comment threads on articles about Janus (like the recent piece featuring our new Gryffin 450 on BikeEXIF are great illustrations of this.

For the most part, I can see and appreciate the point. If power is how we choose to measure a bike’s value (or how we’ve been told to measure it), then those with less power should be budget bikes. Many rider’s primary goal with their motorcycles is to go fast (or be able to go fast), to ride in extreme comfort, to have the latest technology, or to achieve a particular look. How well their motorcycle fits these metrics is a relatively straightforward means of establishing its value. Popular YouTuber, Yammie Noob, did a hilarious video on Janus last year that sums up this argument perfectly. Check out his video if you want a gloss of the major criticisms of our models.

The problem with this argument isn’t with the logic, it’s with the underlying assumption. Is bigger or faster or more technologically avant garde necessarily better when it comes to a motorcycle? It’s hard to deny the validity of this approach these days when it comes to planes, trains, and the practical automobile. However, I argue that for the purposes of distilling the sensation of riding a motorcycle, bigger or faster or more advanced is, in fact, not better. The real question that we have to ask is, “why do we ride motorcycles in the first place?” What inspires us to sally forth on two wheels into modern traffic, or onto rutted trails, both full of looming hazards and the very real risk of serious injury or death (as the owners manuals are keen to remind us)? It certainly wouldn’t make sense to claim that it’s safety, efficiency, or comfort.

Perhaps for some who regularly take their motorcycles above the proverbial “ton” (100mph), there is a need for considerable power and speed. For others, armrests and a cupholders, whips, programable ride modes, skulls, carbon fiber, or 8-inch wide rear tires are a necessity. Yet again, however, I argue that all these artifacts are at a certain remove—are a paler version of the vivid, visceral sensation that calls to us to don helmet and gloves and lose ourselves in the sensation of simply riding a motorcycle. Motorcycles have a strange power because they are one of the few machines that we can engage with as humans and which can provide transformational experiences.

To the consternation of many, we have spared no expense in making low-displacement, slow motorcycles that have an extraordinary level of fit, finish, quality, and reliability that we feel they deserve. We do so because we believe that that elusive and transformative experience of piloting ourselves through the world, with full power over our movements and responsibility for our actions, is one of the best sensations available to us. This is what we believe the motorcycle was made for. This is the purpose of the motorcycle. It certainly isn’t to get you to your job safely and on time.

Small, reliable (yes they are bullet-proof), easy-to-maintain engines with incredible parts availability that are perfectly suited to our kind of riding form the Janus power plant. Add to that the details of hand-formed fenders, exhausts, hand formed aluminum fuel tanks, hand-made chassis, hand pinstriping, handmade leather seats and luggage, top-of-the-line instrumentation, brakes, wheels, exhaust, etc., and you have a line of motorcycles that we believe live up to the transformative experience that the motorcycle is uniquely able to provide.

If viewed in this light, the specifications of the typical Janus model will describe a motorcycle whose specifications are built, not around abstract conceptions of speed or power—features we believe are tangential to the real experience of riding—but rather those which we believe are at it’s core and which serve to heighten it. What engine will reliably allow us to explore every revolution per minute of its capability and offer straightforward and simple maintenance? What materials are the most beautiful, appropriate for their task, and long lasting? What designs are the most timeless and best channel this ineffable experience of riding? And what level of craftsmanship, refinement, and detail is demanded of a machine capable of transporting us into such proximity with existence?

Is it everyone’s cup of tea? No. We could have made S&S powered heavy, faster bikes with the same or inferior levels of fit and finish and easily charged a lot more by the modern market’s standards. We get it. After all, we live right in HD’s backyard. There are a lot of great options out there if you want to have a cheap bike, or go fast, or have the latest technology, or be more efficient/comfortable, or make a lot of noise, etc.

In the meantime, tell me, why do you ride? What is it about these strange, two-wheeled machines that can’t even stay upright without our the rider’s careful balance and engagement? What draws you back to riding your motorcycle? What do you think? Are Janus motorcycles overpriced for what goes into them and what you will get out of them? What would you do with one if you had one? Have you visited our website? Check out our YouTube library of how we hand build them, read about the awesome history of the engines we have selected, or of course you could just give us flack in the comments!


-Richard Worsham