Two-Wheeled Wonder: 1972 Rokon Trail-Breaker

Scotty GilbertsonBy Scotty Gilbertson

This two-wheeled wonder is a 1972 Rokon Trail-Breaker, and as most of you know, it’s two-wheel drive. This ground-grabber is listed on eBay with a current bid price of $2,000 and there are still five days left on the auction! This Rokon is located in Pinole, California.

When I started this post the bid was around $1,500 so someone must be trying to weed out the stragglers or at least the non-serious bidders. The Rokon Trail-Breaker is neither a straggler nor is it non-serious. Quite the contrary, it’s a serious trail machine as seen in this YouTube video. Land, sand, snow, or stream the Rokon Trail-Breaker is one tough machine (hey, I just made that up!).. (hello, where’d everyone go?)

Charles Fehn, the inventor of the Trail-Breaker, was issued a patent in 1966 after several modifications to his original concept, and after making these machines for several years with a patent-pending issued in 1963. The big idea for the Trail-Breaker was his “ball-bearing-on-ramp system” which was simplified in 1962 to a “one-way spring-on-collar” device which is basically the same over-ride spring assembly that is still used today. The idea was that it was for helping to allow the front wheel, which is also powered, to turn faster than the rear wheel but not the other way around, thus making it safe to ride without the rider being thrown to the ground in corners where the front wheel turns faster. Of course, if a rider traverses a particularly tricky trail they may be thrown to the ground but not because of the rear wheel speed overtaking the front wheel speed.

Speaking of speed, or lack thereof, 1973 and earlier Trail-Breakers usually used a West Bend single-cylinder two-stroke with 7 hp. 1974 and later models used a somewhat similar engine by Chrysler, US Marine, and others. The seller says that this one has a “strong two stroke Chrysler Power Bee motor 146cc and good shifting transmission.” Right around 25 mph was the top speed for a Trail-Breaker of this era, which is probably fast enough when you’re riding over land, sand, snow, or stream… Who here has ridden a Rokon Trail-Breaker? Better yet, who has owned one?

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  1. Howard A Member

    No “wonder” who sent this in. Again, the Rokon Trail-Breaker was one of those machines that looked good, but not the best in off road capabilities. ( although, the front drive system is pretty cool. I believe the rims were hollow, and extra gas could be stored in there ( or water for ballast) Not sure I’d want to be riding on gas cans, tho. And, horribly underpowered. Rick Harrison of Pawn Stars restored one ( had thousands into it) and when he took it for a test ride, even he didn’t seem too impressed. I’d pass, there’s better off road bikes, but a nice try. This motor, however was, and possibly still is made, very famous. It went into many things, like early Jaws of Life, construction equipment ( like motorized ground pounders) the Sno-Runner, and even a child’s snowmobile called the “Swinger” to name a few.

  2. JW

    Never seen one of these, what actually drives the wheels as I see no chain or shafts to propel them. My eyes are getting bad though. Please enlighten me.

    • redwagon

      chain driven front and back. if you look at figure 1 closely you can see the chain that drives the rear wheel on the right hand side from a small sprocket above the engine. that sprocket also engages something that runs inside the top frame tube – under the gas tank and through the front fork assembly. that, in turn, drives another sprocket that powers the front tire via a chain on the left hand side of the vehicle.

      pretty ingenious.

      • JW

        Thanks Redwagon, remarkable and cool.

      • JW

        Guess I should have went to the ebay listing as now I see the chain on the rear wheel, by looking at the pictures on here I didn’t see that, my flub !!!

  3. redwagon

    trail-breaker? or butt-breaker? perhaps back-breaker?

    with only springs on the seat the suspension is primitive to say the least. in some respects i consider this an idea in search of a problem to solve. when it was introduced there were not many (if any!) two-wheeled drive motorcycles and three wheeled atvs did not really show up in marketable numbers until 1969.

    if you look at the youtube video you can see a rokon being used in the woods. yes, it can climb over smaller downed logs and navigate through or over bumps, hummoks, pits, brush, fjord small streams, etc but it is not particularly well balanced nor very fast. it is definitely loud.

    in my mind the original intent was for it to be used on jeep trails or on hiking and horse trails which can be relatively narrow. with enough gas you can move along faster than you could by walking or riding a horse. recall when these were introduced in the mid-1960s few trails were designated ‘hiking only’ or ‘horses only’ and mountain bikes had not been invented yet. at the time, without laws to prohibit them, one could operate a motorized vehicle on such a trail.

    by the time this rokon was produced in 1972 honda had all but cornered the market with their three wheeled atv. these could go just about anywhere the rokon could, required less engineering, had a more stable (3 vs 2 wheeled) platform, could carry more stuff and were faster. of course they had their own balance issues (esp cornering at speed) but that is a story for a different day.

    no doubt this rokon is in great shape and for someone who collects them or admires the engineering ingenuity they are undoubtedly cool but there are reasons they never became popular.

  4. Tom

    Mine is a 68 runs as good today as day i got it no issuses ever these are a work horse when used right

  5. Keithk

    This was forever advertised in the back of Boys life magazine. I stared at it like mechanical porn every month. 35 years later my lust has still not been satisfied.

  6. Howard A Member

    During my motocross days, mid 70’s, I had a Bultaco Pursang 200, a friend had a Honda, and we’d go around play racing. There was a guy with a Rokon Cobra 340, automatic, cleaned up on everybody, no shifting.

    • Tony S

      I’ve often wondered why you can’t buy motorcycles equipped with CVT’s.

  7. Steve

    Still built today in Rochester NH, (home town) almost the same machine, with updated engine.

  8. Duane Boda

    Better yet….at 25 mph who would even bother….ugly and slow doesn’t work

  9. Francisco

    One of these was used to cross the Darian Gap between Panama and Columbia. It is one of the last true wildernesses in the world with no roads, only trails and streams. Many people die every year trying to make this crossing.

  10. Dan

    When I was a kid, neighbor had one of these, only one I have ever seen, but would go anywhere….still made today too..

  11. Kevin in Iowa

    About 15 years ago I owned a 1969 all original one. It ran just fine but was loud and vibrated. Pretty much became boring after 10 minutes of riding but visitors were astounded by it. I sold it to Sport Wheels, the largest motorcycle salvage in the US located in Jordan, MN….for a whopping $600. Over the years they’ve ended up with around 80 of my bikes, some I miss alot. I’ve owned some off the wall bikes and all I have is memories.

  12. Catherine in Canada

    My husband had one of these about 25 years ago. One night, on a whim, he took it with myself and our two young sons to visit friends. It was a short off-road trip with all four of us on board and when we got there he rode it up the steps onto their deck with all of us still on board. We still laugh about it. Thanks for bringing back a memory.

  13. John H

    I didn’t realize these were still made till Steve posted the link to Rokon’s site. They certainly haven’t changed much over the years, but man, are they dear! I don’t know prices on the current 4-wheel UTVs but would imagine you could get yourself into one of those for less money than a new Rokon.

  14. Roger Mathews

    I was a Rokon Dealer (Mathews Sales Co., Kirtland, OH, selling Hodaka too) in the early 70s & sold quite a few. There was a second model Rokon, the RT140 that had 12″ wheels (rear wheel drive only) The torque converter drive was amazing. Then the RT340 was developed, using a Sachs 320cc engine with torque converter. It was absolutely wicked, on climbing hills with all it’s “power” lurking to shower the guy following, with dirt, when you cranked the throttle. It was a hoot to ride.

  15. Jerry Neely

    i just picked up a 72 identical to the one pictured above. it sat in my brothers barn for about 25 years. i have a friend who between him and his dad ,have about 90 years experience working on motor cycles of all kinds. Mostly 2 strokes. Hopefully they can get it fired up.Cant wait to get it together for a ride.


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