2X2 Motorcycle: 1969 Rokon Trail-Breaker Mark III

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It might be hard to believe that a company that made what many consider the most-rugged off-road motorcycle of all time, was once owned by a cosmetics company. Merle Norman Cosmetics owner, J.B. Nethercutt – yes, the same one with the incredible Nethercutt Museum in Sylmar, California (there’s a lot of money in makeup!) – once owned this unique 2×2 motorcycle company.

This 1969 Rokon Trail-Breaker Mark III looks like a good deal, especially given that the 2024 pricing of vintage vehicles seems to be off the charts lately. You can see the wrinkled gas tank and that’s unfortunate, but the Rokon community looks after their own and someone should have a nice replacement. The front LED light is a nice touch. My similar but 1971 Rokon has a regular front headlight but I like the LED idea. The company is still in business today, making much more-refined four-stroke 2×2 motorcycles with electric start and other features that riders in 1969 could have only dreamed about.

The company was founded by Charlie Fehn in the late 1950s, and after three tries with the U.S. Patent Office beginning in 1959, they finally approved his 1963 plan for a “Motorcycle having two driven wheels” and it became a real thing. In typical government fashion, it took three years to receive the approved patent, by which time the 2×2 motorcycle had already been produced with some success in Vermont. Enter the Nethercutt family.

The legend goes that J.B., hoping to keep his two sons out of Vietnam, bought the company and put them to work. We don’t know the full story, but it may have just been an entrepreneurial opportunity for the company. Mr. Nethercutt sold the company (after his boys exceeded the draft age) to Mr. Orla Larson, his top Rokon dealer who happened to be in Vermont. The name Rokon, by the way, has been said to be related to Mr. Larson’s Vermont ski lodge named On The Rocks – so Rock-On = Rokon, but there doesn’t seem to be any solid history on that. Most people, including me, pronounce it Row-Con.

Sadly, the internet Gods (i.e., Google) seem to have taken down the incredible YouTube video of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom “Motorcycle Roundup” where Jim Fowler rides a Rokon around. It’s very cool but my saved link is dead and I can’t even find a photo of it let alone a video. In its place, here’s another interesting and very old set of videos. Bonus points for anyone who can dig up “Motorcycle Roundup” anywhere on the internet. I’ve spent a long time looking for even a single photo of it and it all seems to have been scrubbed for some reason.

We’ve seen a few Rokons in the past and most of you probably remember all of that history. This particular example seems to be in really nice condition given how hard a lot of these motorcycles were treated – basically like a piece of work equipment. I love the starting system, being either pull-start or kick-start. Although this one doesn’t seem to have a kickstarter and I’d want to get one ASAP. I start mine that way 99% of the time. Two or three kicks, and you’re off, at up to around 15 mph, but it’ll go almost anywhere. The hollow wheels will carry 4.5 gallons of liquid (gas, water, Tang, etc.) each, in case you’re really getting back in the woods.

The tires look almost great with just some sidewall cracking. These are the original Goodyear tractor-like tires and they’re almost impossible to find anymore. I’d buy this one for the tires alone. The engine should be a West Bend 134-cc two-stroke single with 7 horsepower. It sends power through a three-speed manual transmission with an automatic clutch (you can stop while it’s in gear and there’s no hand clutch) to an interesting system of “miter boxes” and an internal shaft that runs through the frame to and transfers power to the front wheel as well as the back. The seller has this one listed here on eBay in Miami, Florida and they’re asking $3,800 or you can make an offer. This is not a bad price, in my opinion, if it runs as well as it looks. The gas tank appears to be the biggest cosmetic flaw but I’m guessing it still holds mixed gas and oil to power this beast. Happy Father’s Day!

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Comments

  1. Aussie Dave Aussie DaveMember

    Extremely useful if your a fisherman and had to transverse sand dunes. Hey that’s me, lol

    Like 4
  2. Matt H.Member

    Here you go Scotty!
    Courtesy of https://yandex.com/
    what is google?

    https://archive.org/details/Mutual.of.Omahas.Wild.Kingdom/Mutual.of.Omahas.Wild.Kingdom.(1963-1984).PART.15.WEBRip.x264-tdt/Motorcycle.Roundup.WEBRip.x264-tdt.mkv

    Like 3
    • PRA4SNW PRA4SNWMember

      I was just going to say – check out archive.org “The Wayback Machine” has most everything ever put on the “Net”.

      Like 2
      • Scotty GilbertsonAuthor

        Thanks for the website tip, PRA4SNW!

        Like 2
    • PRA4SNW PRA4SNWMember

      Very interesting video. Nice to see the 2 wheeled footage, but also the 4 legged footage.

      Like 2
    • Scotty GilbertsonAuthor

      Matt, you are THEE best! Thanks, sir!

      Like 3
  3. Howard A. HoAMember

    I think by now, we can pretty much rest assured who posts these kinds of things. While these seem like a good idea, they are incredibly unstable over rough terrain. The wheels are too big. When encountering rough going, agility is needed, and these are anything but agile, as the author could agree. I couldn’t imagine the handling with added weight of the front tire filled with anything. I heard of owners disconnecting the front drive altogether. And, of course, power. I’d have to think you’ll be pushing this thing up steep grades. You think a 3 wheeler was dangerous, at least they had a shred of stability. Rick Harrison of Pawn Stars, always wanted one, finally found one, had it restored to the 9s, and when done, riding it he was not impressed. They require riding skills many may not have, and will be on the ground more than upright, it’s bumps and scars may be a testament to that. I think for certain applications, these work well, but it was clear, 4 wheels in an off road setting just works the best.

    Like 9
    • Scotty GilbertsonAuthor

      HoA: You’re right on about them being weird, clunky, not really fun to ride, slow, loud, smoky… er.. wait, where was I going with this again? Oh yeah, just that I’m all about those things in a vehicle, especially the weird part. I don’t use mine for any major off-road antics, but I think it would go over pretty well at a vintage motorcycle show. That’s more my speed.

      Like 4
      • Howard A. HoAMember

        I don’t mean to rip on your scoot, pal, ANYTHING with 2 wheels has fun written all over it. To back peddle some, we have to remember, when ATV was in it’s infancy, there was nothing to go by, these were the pioneers and they worked, in a slow setting. Getting one stuck was a story for the grandkids to hear, if any. Something about the front and rear gearing is just a little different, or it wouldn’t turn? Make no mistake, these took folks where no , um, person had gone before, and we went from here. I always wondered how one would get gas from the rims into the tank?
        And thanks for the Fathers Day wish.

        Like 1
      • Scotty GilbertsonAuthor

        HoA, no way, you weren’t ripping on them at all. You’re right, if I had a nickel for every time my right foot slipped off the kickstarter I’d be living on a private island. That tiny engine has a lot of compression. I can’t imagine going through rivers and climbing over logs as they always show on videos, I’d have to wear my chainsaw “chaps”, my shins would be a mess. A four-wheel ATV is like a Rolls-Royce compared to a Rokon, but there’s something cool about them, as unwieldy as they are.

        Like 1
  4. LCL

    Take it to Antiques Road Show and the gas tank wrinkles will become patina.
    They’ll say “It shows good wear”.

    Like 2
  5. ablediver

    Ayuh, they were novel ideas back in the day, but…..then came ATV’s with more power, stability, and load carrying capacity. My ’04 Honda Rubicon Foreman with less than 400 miles would be a better value.

    Like 1
  6. Matt H.Member

    “Sadly, the internet Gods (i.e., Google)”

    Newsflash: Google is the internet Devil. They’ve long abandoned their original motto of “Don’t be evil.”

    I found and posted a link to the video Scotty requested but, according to the Barn Finds website, is “awaiting moderation”.

    Like 1
  7. chrlsful

    love the co.’s history. Real can do merica. Seen the russian copy do some amazing no trail sprints. There’s more here than expected. Wanna try one but not interested in rippin up stream banks and virgin wilderness. It’s already too assaulted~

    Like 3
  8. jwaltb

    Chasing rhinos on a bike seems like a recipe for a short life!

    Like 2
    • Scotty GilbertsonAuthor

      Ha, yeah, that got a little too close for me there, good grief. And wearing shorts? I can see no helmets but those tough weeds and branches sure seem like they’d do a number on your bare legs.

      Like 0
  9. Scotty GilbertsonAuthor

    Auction update: this one ended with no takers at $3,800, the seller relisted it, and accepted the best offer, whatever that was…

    Like 0

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