Harley-Davidson got its start when two guys decided to start building motorcycles in a shed. Janus Motorcycles got its start in very much the same way. Instead of a shed, they work out of a former dry cleaner shop. While Harley has become an absolute behemoth in the motorcycle industry, Janus is still working out of that same dry cleaner. Artrageous With Nate takes a closer look at this small manufacturer out of Goshen, Indiana.
Richard Worsham, co-founder and designer, is far from your typical biker dude. He got his start by drawing cars when he was a kid, just like many of us do. When he went to school to study art and literature, he bought a Garelli moped. Although he had no interest in Harleys, the two-wheel bug certainly bit him. He met Devin Blek, who ran a moped repair shop. They started first repairing, then customizing bikes together. Eventually, they decided that rather than customize someone else's design, they'd rather build their own bikes from scratch. Janus Motorcycles was born, named after the Roman god who looks into both the past and the future.
Since the beginning, Janus has made relatively simple bikes. People say they look "old skool," but Janus believes in building a good naked bike without a whole bunch of extra plastic all over it. The bikes look old because others don't make them like they used to, and Janus still does. They made just 40 bikes in 2011, powered by a 50cc moped engine, and styled to look like the board track racers from over 100 years before. Soon they moved onto bigger bikes formed around the classic 229cc single that Honda designed in 1972, and is still built and used around the world today.
Although the engine is from China, the rest of the bike is all-American. In fact, nearly all of it is built within 20 miles of Goshen, with a great deal of involvement by the Amish community. While it's against Amish beliefs to ride a motorcycle, there's nothing wrong with helping to build them. The Amish are fine craftsmen and have a long history of being blacksmiths and carriage builders since the dawn of the motor vehicle. They may not have gone to college, but you don't need a degree to be extremely good at making things and make an honorable, healthy living that way.
Janus may believe in riding motorcycles, unlike the Amish, but they're not too different in their philosophies. Janus isn't interested in the latest and greatest technology. They're more interested in the riding experience, and in building a quality product that looks good, if a bit retro. "We're not making anything new, but yet we've managed to make something so unique," says Worsham. I think he's right.