Rock On: 1969 Rokon Trail-Breaker MK3

080716 Barn Finds - 1969 Rokon Trailbreaker- 1

See that tree over there? Watch this.. This is a 1969 Rokon Trail-Breaker MK3 and it’s in Colusa, Illinois. This rugged climber is listed on eBay with a current bid price of under $1,000 and there are four days left on the auction. But, the reserve isn’t met. I wonder what this one will go for?

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I recently wrote about a Yamaha BW200 that had more than one reader comparing it to the famous/infamous Rokon Trail-Breaker. This is the real deal. The Yamaha was rear wheel drive, as you’d expect for a motorcycle, the Rokon Trail-Breaker grabs traction from both wheels! The Rokon is actually more similar to the Arctic Cat Cub that Barn Finds writer, David, wrote about back in early-March. The one that I missed out on by a $50 sniper-bidder in the last few seconds of the auction.. not that I’m still bitter.. The Rokon story starts way back in 1959 when Charles Fehn invented a “Motorcycle for slow cross-country travel over obstructions and in mountainous regions, and over snow and soft ground.” On his third try, in 1963, he was finally awarded a patent for his “Motorcycle having driven two wheels”, as seen in this patent drawing.

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Most of us have seen a certain pawn shop tv reality show episode where the owner of said pawn shop has a Rokon Trail-Breaker restored by yet another tv reality show that specializes in restoring anything and everything. At the end we get to see how slow the Trail-Breaker really is; they’re not fast, 20-25 mph, tops. Being a lover of all things vintage, I’d almost always rather have something old than something new. That being said, Rokon is still around and they still make a new version of the Trail-Breaker, in case anyone was wondering, at a price of $7,350. I’d rather have a three+ decade old Trail-Breaker any day of the week, but that’s just me. Another interesting aspect of the Trail-Breaker is that J.B. Nethercutt, the founder of Merle Normal Cosmetics and founder of the Nethercutt Museum in Sylmar, California, one of the world’s premier transportation museums, was an early backer of the company, and the Nethercutt Trail-Breaker was the name until 1963.

Mr. Nethercutt eventually lost interest and sold the company to their top distributor, Orla Larsen, who owned a Nethercutt Trail-Breaker sales company in Vermont called Rokon. The Rokon name comes from Mr. Larsen’s ski lodge in Vermont, “On The Rocks”, so the Rokon name may actually be pronounced “Rock On” instead of “Row Con”, as most of us have pronounced it for decades. The company moved to a bigger facility in New Hampshire in 1969 and they’re still headquartered in that state. Pretty interesting, eh? School is out, let’s get back to this Rokon Trail-Breaker for sale here!

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This one is all original and the seller says that it wasn’t ridden too often as it was his dad’s bike, but that it “runs good, everything works.” Apparently, the “only thing missing was the swing out kick lever”, so they made one to fit. It looks like the tires have some cracking and here is a YouTube video showing you how to change the tires. It would be nice to be able to find some OEM-type tires, I haven’t looked too extensively, I’m guessing that they’re out there. They don’t mention which engine this is, and Rokon used several two-stroke engines, so if they’re not smokin’, they’re broken! I’ve always wanted a Rokon Trail-Breaker. Have any of you ridden one, or better yet, have any of you ever owned one? Let us know your thoughts on the Trail-Breaker!

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Comments

  1. Rock On Member

    Rock On? I like it!!!

  2. NotaNova

    If it’s Chrysler powered it’s exactly what I’ve been looking for.

    Ugh. I hate being broke

  3. Badnikl

    Rock On is how I remember it. Also aluminum drum wheel that can hold 4.5 gal of water or gas if you need it, maybe Something else? A friend got one of these and sold it too quickly, never got to ride it.

  4. Dave Wright

    I have owned several of these and my brother has several right now. I think his new one has Honda power. One of my motocross racing sons rode it last year. It is a tough ride. You can’t lean like a motorcycle, so imagine square corners and even with the new Honda power they are slow. The novelty wears off pretty fast. I bought several from the USFS and resold them. They said the same thing. In the units that had them there seemed to be one guy that liked and used them, most everyone else wanted something different. The older ones were noisy, smokey and temperamental. The tires on this one look like orignal equipment to me……..it is like all of them we have seen and owned have been equipped. I saw a brand new one on display at Cabelas last month.

  5. Howard A Member

    Thanks Scotty. We can always depend on you for some interesting stuff. I’m sure your contributions bolster the BF ratings ( editors take note) For once, I agree with Dave,,,just kidding, I think you’re pretty sharp, these were a great idea, just a little rough around the edges. The front-assist is a wonderful option, as anybody that’s pushed something through the mud would know. I think they needed more oomph, or at least a 4 cycle for more low end power, but still a novel idea. I always wondered how you would get the gas from the wheel to the tank, and just driving around on gas filled wheels is a little unsettling. Yeah, that Pawn Stars thing was silly. I think that Rick found out they aren’t that much fun. Pretty cool how the front assist works, a double u-joint driveshaft, which, I think you can disengage. ATV’s were much more civilized, and good-bye Rokon ( pronounced Row Con in da’ Badger) I’d think they’d be a pain to ride. Keep the oddballs comin’ Scotty!

    • Dave Wright

      Howard, the wheels are just tanks, you have to pour the gas out of them to use in the main tank.

  6. starsailing

    One of these was on the Pawn shop show….had it fully restored by Rick’s Restoration other TV show….Was a hoot to see it run.

    Like 1
  7. leiniedude leiniedude Member

    I used to ice race and do some moto-x with a Penton, six day enduro. It seems to me Rokon had some very good dirt bikes back in the day. The Penton was pretty good till the Honda Elsinors came along. I still have a fuel tank if someone needs one.

  8. Alan Brase

    That’s a West Bend motor. They were big go kart motors in the 1960’s. 610 and 820. 6.1 and 8.2 Cu In. respectively. Originally built for chain saws, I think. Loop scavenged and reed valves, I think. Pretty good power, just not quite up to the Macs. and later the imports. Perhaps Chrysler bought it later.
    Al

    • Dave Wright

      I think you are correct. Chrysler built a bunch of weird small engines for the military. As well. Many were mil-spec engines supposedly designed by the military…….all were junk. They had interesting design but were poorly executed. Some were interesting looking engines similar to a flat 4 aircraft engine. In the technical manual it stated to change the entire engine out every 600 hrs but most didn’t survive 200.

  9. T. Buyan

    I have a base model Row Con Ranger. Identical to the Trailbreaker except welded spoke wheels instead of the tankers. Like mine, this early one has a simple centrifugal clutch/belt primary drive to a 3-speed manual transmission. Note the horizontal hand shift lever below the tank on the left side. Later models got a Salisbury torque converter primary drive – BIG improvement!

    BTW, full time 2WD; no provision for disengaging the front wheel. A single mechanical disc brake on the front wheel bevel gearbox (sorta visible in the 1st & 3rd photos) is all you get – and all you need because the wheels are linked together by chains, sprockets, bevel gears and a driveshaft in the backbone.

    Maybe a description of the drive system is in order:
    Crankshaft to centrifugal clutch to v-belt to 3-speed gearbox to sprocket & chain up to the rear bevel gearbox (behind seat); then it splits: chain & sprocket to rear wheel and drive shaft with a u-joint in the steering head to front bevel gearbox and sprocket & chain to the front wheel. Whew!

  10. Jim

    I had one exactly like this in the mid 70’s. It was only a few years old. The motor was a chrysler 8 hp. motor. I got it for nothing from a family friend. Wished i still had kept it. It was a lot of fun to ride in the trails near our home.

  11. Douglas

    I once owned one of these bikes only mine had NO kick start option. I can tell you this….the engine WAS originally made by West Bend, and then was sold to Chrysler Industrial, and when I overhauled the engine prior to selling it, that is where I had to get the engine parts. Yes….the engine was a 2 cycle and had 8 horsepower. And if you had a way to hang on and control it……….it would go up the side of building or a tree. The wheels were hollow with filll plugs on the side and you could keep water for drinking, or gas for extra range!!! The machine looks like it would be clumsy and awkward, but is super easy to ride.

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