Scotty G’s Garage: 1971 Rokon Trail-Breaker

I haven’t done a “Scotty G’s Garage” edition in quite a while, a couple of years I think. It would take a while to catch up on these since I’ve been in a motorcycle buying phase over the last couple of years rather than cars. They’re much easier to cram into storage units – as in all of the ones shown above! Just kidding, I wish. No, I only have two of them but I’ve accumulated a few cool little bikes over the last couple of years, even a Sno Runner which I forgot to drag out for this photo. I also have a couple of Yamahas stored elsewhere, and two rare EV mini bikes. Let’s check out this 2×2 1971 Rokon Trail-Breaker Mark III Explorer, another contender for the longest vehicle name title.

This example is really nice, having been restored by a previous owner and I think they took a couple of liberties with it, such as the silver frame rather than classic Rokon yellow. That really made it stand out to me, not to mention that it was really nicely restored overall and it runs like a top. Or, like two tops spinning at the same time while climbing a tree. The footrests are individually hinged so they’ll move up when you ride over anything and then go back down again, pretty cool. You can see the opening for the hollow wheels in the front wheel – or a close-up view here. The gent who restored it put on a headlight and taillight and a little battery box under the rear of the seat, I have to get that all connected so I can have working lights.

The other thing they did is to paint that Rokon tread sort-of trademark on the top of the gas tank. I really like that, too. I’m normally a keep-things-bone-stock-original-spec guy when it comes to restorations but I don’t mind these two changes from stock at all. The Rokon goes back to the late-1950s and the original design isn’t much different than how this particular bike works today. The tires are five decades old now and are showing some heavy cracking but they’re such thick rubber, basically tractor tires. They’re original 1971 Goodyear Sure Grip 6.70-15 tires with new tubes and this thing doesn’t go much faster than 15 mph really, so I’d rather leave them original for now. New ones are a couple’a hundred bucks each.

There’s a shaft that runs through the upper frame area and deadends into the “miter box” under the front luggage rack. It allows the front wheel to be driven by a chain and yet be able to be turned with tiny u-joints and a little magic. Ok, this thing is mostly big, hairy-knuckle American-made gears and u-joints and things like that, not much magic but it sure seems like magic. I just rode this thing about three hours ago and even at 10-15 mph, it’s fun as hell.

The engine is a tiny, beautifully smokey two-stroke 134 cc West Bend that doesn’t have much power but it runs like a charm and this whole bike only weighs around 180 pounds so it’s more than enough. It’s not made for speed, it’s made to climb Mt. Everest or maybe just driving on gravel trails. Although, if you do a quick search for Rokon on YouTube you’ll undoubtedly run across video after video of people driving them over logs. I don’t understand that, but hey, to each his/her own. I want to use this thing in the woods but I don’t want to beat it to death in the process.

 

Yes, the rumor is true, the wheels are hollow and can be filled with gas, water, Tanqueray gin, or any other liquid. The photo above shows the transition from the miter box to the sprocket that drives the front wheel. You can sort of see the hand shifter in the photo above, or in the photo here when the seller delivered it to me. Third or high gear is down and one up from that is neutral so that’s where you want to be when you start it. It usually starts on the third kick, two with the choke on after turning on the petcock, and then on the third kick, it comes to life. You can probably use 3rd gear 90% of the time unless you’re doing some serious off-roading. 2nd gear is above neutral, and 1st or low gear is at the top. You can walk faster than riding it in 1st gear so that’s your tree-climbing gear.

This one came with the original passenger seat which sits on the rear luggage rack and has a strap that goes around it – I didn’t put that on for the photo. The chain that you see in the back is so the hitch doesn’t bend if you go over oh… say, a log or something, it hinges up and then the chains allow it to fall back down into place. I also got a cool Rokon hat and complete service manual and the seller delivered it for $50 and even put a new seal in the miter box. It still has a drip coming from somewhere that I have to tackle but for now it’s just fun to ride it. Have any of you owned or ridden a Rokon?

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Comments

  1. Howard A Member

    To be clear, it’s “what’s in Scotty’s storage units”, as his long awaited garage is finally nearing completion. I suspect an “add-on” is already planned. If you know Scotty, like I do, this stuff is right up his alley, always adhering to the road less traveled, even though he puts on more miles a year than a Swift driver.
    He doesn’t go into the history much, perhaps because it’s not for sale, I don’t think, by 1971, the Trailbreaker had run it’s course, and better units could be had, even though it’s still made today in basically the same form, only Kohler powered. I read, it’s was introduced in 1960, when off road was unheard of, save for a Jeep. The 3 wheelers and dirt bikes had their limits, and only a Trailbreaker could literally go, where no man has gone before,,,They were clumsy, heavy, and you think a 3 wheeler will give you some tense rides, try one of these. The front drive, a complicated setup, with different gearing front and back, ( otherwise it wouldn’t turn, according to Rick Harrison, who bought one, and quite frankly, after it was restored, he didn’t care for it) Many disconnected the front chain, and it made for a more stable ride, but got stuck easy, defeating the whole purpose. As with all these things, like the things Scotty happens to have, are all underpowered, by today’s standards, but adequate for the time. Heck, modern 4 wheelers put out more hp than my Jeep, which isn’t saying much, but we’ve come a long ways in off road, and this little bugger started it all. SnoRunner for winter, Trailbreaker for all other times, Scotty sure has it covered, oddball-wise.

    Like 9
    • Scotty Gilbertson Staff

      Thanks, Howard! Most of these oddballs are just for the weirdo fun factor, and the experience of owning them. I’ll probably sell the Rokon eventually as well as a couple of the others at least.

      Like 3
  2. Todd Fitch Staff

    Sweet unique bike, and some gems in your write-up as always. Maybe storing gin in the tires would make gin taste… better? Some high school friends of mine wouldn’t have missed that opportunity. “Why are you sucking on the tire valve, Jimmy?” If anything could climb a tree, this is it. Enjoy it!

    Like 2
    • Scotty Gilbertson Staff

      Ha, thanks, Todd! Gin rolling around in an al-you-mini-um rim for two hours can’t hurt the taste for sure.

      Like 2
  3. Rocco B.

    What is the pull start for, if you snag the kick start off of it on a trail?

    Like 4
    • Scotty Gilbertson Staff

      I think it’s just a belt and suspenders sort of thing, Rocco. Or, maybe it’s because those engines were used in a few other applications, like on my Sno Runner which was the only pull start vehicle that I had before getting the Rokon.

      Like 4
  4. leiniedude leiniedude Member

    Cool stuff Scotty! Keep up the good work. I love the track on the tank!

    Like 4
    • Scotty Gilbertson Staff

      Thanks, Mike!

      Like 1
  5. Mike61

    Always been curious about how these things performed? Never actually seen one in person or watched any YouTube videos. I am partial to the Yamaha “Fat Cat” that is no longer made. Folks want an arm and a leg for those too.

    Like 2
    • Scotty Gilbertson Staff

      Mike, I’ve written about a couple of Honda Fat Cats and Yamaha BW200s here, I’d like to have one of each eventually.

      • Howard A Member

        An EX-friend ( due to fanatical political views) bought a BW 200, and was very disappointed. Not enough power for the rough stuff and a lousy street bike.

        Like 1
  6. Charles Phillips

    I owned a Big wheel but this was always on my radar to actually buy

    Like 1
  7. bobhess bobhess Member

    Got to give them credit just for being able to design the running gear. Should have taken a bunch of time and beer.

    Like 3
  8. Bellingham Fred

    Depending on how comfortable the ride ride is on a long haul, you could give this thing the nickname “Tail Breaker”.

    Like 2
    • Terrry

      at 15 mph you’ll be on the thing a long time before you get anywhere..But it’s thing is “fun”, not long hours in the saddle.

      Like 2
  9. Carmine

    I had a 1971 Rokon dirt bike, it had a 340cc Rotax snowmobile engine and centrifugal clutch. It was an awesome ride. It had mag wheels, chrome mollly frame, and disk breaks.

    Like 1
    • Scotty Gilbertson Staff

      Carmine, those things are super rare, I’d love to find one!
      https://barnfinds.com/really-rare-rokon-1976-rokon-rt340-ii/

      Like 2
    • Howard A Member

      Hi Carmine, back in my MX/dirt bike dayze, late 70’s, I had a Suzuki TS 400 for on/off and a Bultaco 200 Pursang for MX, did okay, I could keep up with most 250’s, but there was some guy with a 340 Rokon automatic, cleaned up on EVERYONE! While we were formulating our 2nd gear holeshots, this guy cracked the throttle and was gone. I believe they used Sachs motors, which were just the best for the time.

      Like 1
  10. Tom jackson

    Scotty, great article on the Rokon. I have a 1972 Trailbreaker (since new) and it is all original. The frame was silver from the factory. I have taken my bike into places one would have a hard time walking. They are not fast but then when you are going through the bush fast it means sure death.
    Thanks for the memory,
    Tom Jackson

    Like 3
    • Scotty Gilbertson Staff

      Thanks, Tom! No doubt on for sure 1st gear being low and slow. Yours had a silver frame? That’s what the guy who restored this one said, I guess, that it was silver so he restored it back to that color. That’s good to know, thanks for the info.

      Like 1
  11. chrlsful

    these things havea great history (company moved cross country, coast to coast, several iterations, great on engineering and american can doism, decades worth of models). Even copied (improved? stolen? by “the Russians”). One thing we can see is: for every automotive Q there has been an application, bikes – no different).

    How can an off road bike B a 4 wheeler w/only 2 wheels? This one !
    Thanks Scotty – for in the sno, upa steep trail, swamp, no trail, nother one of ur odd balls…

    Like 2
    • Scotty Gilbertson Staff

      Thanks, chrlsful! It’s a very slow beast and you know it’s comin’ because of the blue smoke and the sound (the same with the Sno Runner) but the average person (or, bear?) could probably outrun the Rokon, at least in 1st or 2nd gear.

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