By ROGER SCHNEIDER
THE GOSHEN NEWS
Everybody who sees a Janus motorcycle stops what they are doing and takes a second look. And they should.
The motorcycle is a visual feast, sporting a glossy black frame, graciously curved fenders, a simple leather saddle and swept handlebars that reach back over the bike’s signature stretched gasoline tank. It looks like a sport bike from the 1920s.
The creation of Richard Worsham and Devin Biek of Goshen, the lightweight, retro-look motorcycle built with modern electronics, brakes and suspension, is leaving the prototype stage and will go into production in early 2013.
“We really like the way it looks,” Worsham said as he and Biek showed off a prototype in their cluttered workshop in the back of a former dry cleaners on South Fifth Street.
It’s the same workshop where Biek operates a separate business, Motion Left, a shop that customizes mo-peds, turning a normal sidestreet cruiser into a machine with spunk.
Biek also races vintage mo-peds on a competitive circuit with like-minded mo-ped enthusiasts.
Motion Left has also morphed into a mo-ped parts manufacturer.
“There is a community of young people who are active in mo-peds,” Worsham said. “There are clubs all over the country and that is sort of where Motion Left got started, supplying parts for that community and supplying bikes to that community.”
“We realized people were paying an obnoxious amount of money for us to turn these mo-peds into small motorcycles,” Biek added.
“These young people were looking for a lightweight motorcycle and there is nothing on the market,” Worsham said.”So, we found the middle ground of lightweight, practicality of a mo-ped and the fun and modern reliability of a motorcycle, and that is what Janus is.”
The initial target market for Janus is people who want to ride a motorcycle, but not a sport bike or a big highway bike.
The initial offering in the bike will be a motorcycle powered by an Italian 49cc motor (about 10 horsepower). But, Biek said that it only takes a couple of hours for him to upgrade the standard bike with about double the horsepower. The initial production run will offer five colors: cream, British racing green, French racing blue, black and a maroon-red tint similar to that used on early Indian motorcycles.
To make the motorcycle, Janus has contracted with an Amish-owned fabricating shop near Nappanee. There the tubing for the frames is bent and welded up and the motorcycles are built up, mostly from parts sourced locally.
Biek and Worsham proudly showed off a row of custom-made fenders and a rack of tires for vintage racing motorcycles that will be added to future Janus machines.
“We are set up for the next 50 bikes,” he said.
Besides the Italian engine, the motorcycle’s front hydraulic-dampened fork is also from Italy.
Using the combination of imported and locally-produced parts, Biek and Worsham want to concentrate on design style and manufacturing details, which they likened to the style of early British motorcycle manufacturer Brough Superior.
“We kind of take pride in that tradition,” Worsham said. “The small, kind of cottage manufacturing.”
“We want to make sure there is pride in craftsmanship, not just mindless manufacturing.”
Biek and Worsham were full of ideas about how they wanted their motorcycle to look and ride and be manufactured, but they were short of money to take their ideas from computer schematics to the production floor. So they shopped for cash.
They utilized Elevate Ventures, an organization that promotes entrepreneurship in Michiana. That organization put them in touch with a private investors group in South Bend that provided seed funding in February. They also spent the summer making presentations to capital venture groups. Now they have the money they need to move ahead with production.
“It has been very rewarding,” Biek said. “We can now say we own a motorcycle manufacturing company in Goshen, Ind.”