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2×2 Brute: 1971 Rokon Trail-Breaker MK4

It’s hard to believe that one of the toughest, most-rugged motorcycles ever, one that even goes so far as to have both wheels providing power, is related to the owner of a women’s makeup empire. No, really. The seller has this particular 1971 Rokon Trail-Breaker MK4 listed here on eBay in Running Springs, California and the bids are at $1,000 but, of course, the reserve isn’t met yet.

We have gone over the history of Rokon here on past stories about these super-interesting motorcycles but it’s always interesting to hear about this company. Or, for me it is. I have yet to own a Rokon which is crazy given the range of oddball things that I have owned over the years. In the late-1950s, a gentleman named Charlie Fenn came up with the idea for a 2-wheel-drive motorcycle and by the early-1960s he received a patent for it.

J. B. Nethercutt, who owned Merle Norman Cosmetics, looked at these bikes as an investment, but speculation is also that he was trying to keep his sons out of the military by involving them in the company. By early-1964, the Nethercutts sold the company to their top dealer who had a company called Rokon to sell the Nethercutt Trail-Breaker, and they then became the famous Rokon Trail-Breaker. That’s an over-simplification but it’s basically how these interesting bikes came about.

We don’t see red Rokons too often, they’re usually the classic Rokon yellow, but in 1970 they introduced four new colors, including red. Rokon is still in business and you can get a rainbow of colors today on a new Trail-Breaker. At around 20 mph on a vintage Rokon you aren’t going to win too many races but you should be able to go just about anywhere, including across water. Not riding it across water but the wheels are designed to hold fluid – gas, water, gin, maple syrup, whatever – or if left hollow they can be floatation devices to float the Trail-Breaker across a pond if need be.

The engine should be a West Bend 134 CC single, technically a Chrysler engine as Chrysler Marine bought West Bend in the mid-1960s. The seller says that this one runs and stops well. It sure looks good. Are there any Rokon fans out there?


  1. Torqueandrecoil Member

    Not the only cosmetics and motorsports connection. Famous racer Peter Revson was heir to Revlon cosmetics.

    Like 6
  2. Nevada1/2rack Nevadahalfrack Member

    For what these were purposed to be, they’re perfect. The concept worked so well that Yamaha (motorcycle, not piano) used it for a dirt bike in the early 2000’s. Used to see deer hunters going to the mountains with a Rokon strapped on the truck somewhere back in the day..

    Like 4
    • Tony Primo

      If I ever see the deer hunters with pianos strapped to their trucks,I would make a quick u turn and head the other way!

      Like 6
      • Nevada1/2rack Nevadahalfrack Member

        True, but better the piano than the ones with banjos! 😆

        Like 13
  3. Bigcat Member

    And of course there is The Nethercutt Collection assembled by JBN , over 130 of the finest classic cars in the world. Open to the public in Sylmar CA, north of LA. I’ve seen the Dusie 20 Grand, was shown and won BoS at Amelia. Definitely on my bucket list.

    Like 4
    • cyclemikey

      The Nethercutt is fabulous, it really is. The cars are stunning, and I was maybe even more taken with their collection of giant orchestrions upstairs. The cars impressed the hell out of me and made for a memorable day, but those orchestrions really stirred something in me. I was lucky to be there on a day when there was someone to operate them.

      Like 3
    • vintagehotrods

      Great find! I didn’t know they still made them. I worked in motorcycle shops in the 1970’s and we used to call them “rice paddy rangers”, probably because of the Vietnam war, that affected everyone of us of that young age at that time. Pretty neat machine but slower than hell, but it was mostly just for hunters anyway. I had no idea of its connection to the Nethercutts.

      In 2007, I attended the week long 75th Anniversary of the Deuce (1932 Ford) and the Nethercutts were major sponsors of the event at the Peterson Museum. I met Jack Nethercutt and his wife Helen, who were at the all the activities (even the concert with Jeff Beck, Michael Anthony, Jimmie Vaughan and Billy F. Gibbons) and led everyone on a tour of their museum and their restoration facility (which is usually closed to tours). Their unbelievable collection of Concours winning cars and an equally impressive facility was something I’ll never forget, plus they were very nice people, especially Helen. She is a real car gal and told me she spent most of her time “working with the guys” on their cars in the shop. It turns out Jack was a pretty good racer with his Ferrari Testa Rossa and finished 3rd at the 1960 12 Hours of Sebring with Pete Lovely and 3rd at the 1960 USAC Road Racing Championship, behind Carroll Shelby and Ken Miles. He even built his own race car, the “Mirage”. The car was known for its strikingly beautiful but late design and was test driven by Ken Miles. If the Mirage was built just a couple of years earlier, it would have been internationally competitive. They are quite a car family!

      Like 3
  4. JukeOfEarl

    My grandfather used to take me to outdoorsmen shows in the 60s. We used to see these being ridden up and over logs in demonstrations.

    Like 4
  5. Howard A Member

    Well, I hate to be the wet blanket here( again) but these are poor machines, made for a time when ATV’s were non-existent, and all kinds of crazy ideas were tried. 1st, and foremost, these are horribly underpowered. That motor powered everything from ground pounders to canoes, but as an off road motor, it fell horribly short. It’s unstable, I heard of owners disconnecting the front drive, because it was too squirley. It’s a complicated system of shafts and u-joints and the tires, wheels, actually, are hollow, and could hold water for ballast, ( or gas,,,GASP), further complicating handling. Rick from Pawn Stars always wanted one, had one restored, and was unhappy with it. Sorry, but what we have here is another, “oh, it looks cool, therefore it must be” item, and it’s just not. We’ve come a long way in ATV’s than these antiques.

    Like 0
    • JukeOfEarl

      <Well, I hate to be the wet blanket here( again) but these are poor machines, made for a time when ATV’s were non-existent, and all kinds of crazy ideas were tried. 1st, and foremost, these are horribly underpowered.

      Leno seemed to like it:

      Like 3
    • Nevada1/2rack Nevadahalfrack Member

      Good points, all, Howard, but everything has a start whether a crude beginning like this or many others.
      A friend of mine worked on a strange machine back in the late ‘40’s/early ‘50’s that encompassed 4 city blocks, initially comprised of vacuum tubes and resistors as I recall him saying. He went on to say that when their team managed to compute 2+2=4 inside of a 4 minute time frame the team went nuts, knowing it was a tremendous breakthrough; the machine was called UNIVAC and as the first digital computer became a game changer, I.e., its first big media splash was when one of the news moguls used it to predict a U.S. presidential election winner.
      My current SxS puts this Rokon to shame performance-wise, but then again it wasn’t built in the ‘60’s.

      Like 2
    • Mark

      Well if Rick from pawn stars didn’t like it must be junk !!! Please

      Like 2
  6. Barry McCallan

    As a long term owner of a yellow 1971 Rokon and having simultaneously owned ATV’s I need to add my perspective:
    ATV’s are by far more functional and safer to ride BUT the Rokon is much more fun and will always go where an ATV can and much more.
    They are slow, for sure, but geared to crawl over most anything. Will go straight up a tree — then fall over.

    Like 2
  7. chrlsful

    I like the history of ’em too Scotty. Esp the east visit/ manafacturing period.
    I see they make em in Russia now too (not same guys, copy). Hope they don’t ruin the terrain like a serp…

    Like 2

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