The Rokon can go where no other vehicle dares, through sifting sand, mud, rocky terrain, water higher than your waist and woods with no paths, trails or firebreaks. This all-wheel-drive bike, with a three-year warranty, can be tricked out in limitless ways. Hand-built to exact standards, the Rokon uses a combination of a belt, chains and shaft drives coupled to gear boxes to drive the front and rear wheels. It features a patented front suspension in all-wheel-drive vehicles for enhanced comfort.
Join the Cult
The history of the Rokon began in 1958. That year, Charlie Fehn of California invented the Trailmaker to ride in soft sand and obtained a patent on it in 1966. J. B. Nethercutt, who owned Merle Norman cosmetics, later bought the Trailmaker. He invested heavily in developing and producing the renamed Trail-Breaker that was sold for the Vietnam War effort and shipped overseas.
Rokon owners make up a passionate, cult-like following. Finding a used Rokon to buy is almost impossible, even on eBay and Craigslist. When you ask, “What’s a Rokon?” you might be confused when you hear, “It’s whatever you want it to be.”
Retired Brigadier General Ernie Audino served our country throughout the world for 32 years. That service includes trips Iraq, Afghanistan, North Africa and Germany as a cavalry officer.
“When I worked at the Pentagon, we realized we had a challenge supporting dismounted infantry squads, especially in Afghanistan,” Audino said. “A modern soldier carries a lot of gear, including batteries for all his electronic equipment and extra water, ammo and food. Although a soldier can perform better with less weight, they also can’t get too far away from his supplies.
“We searched for a vehicle that would stay upright and could follow dismounted soldiers on complex terrains and on/off camber slopes at respectable distances. A four-wheel drive or a three-wheel drive vehicle would roll down a hill on this type of slope. I introduced the U.S. Army to the Rokon, which could carry all of the extras and heavy gear, stay close to a squad of soldiers and, if necessary, evacuate a casualty. No other vehicle in production could compare to what it could do.
“Also, the Rokon could be brought in or parachuted in to remote locations from airplanes at high altitude because it wouldn’t be affected by an EMP, or electromagnetic pulse, system. As soon as the Rokon was on the ground, it was ready to roll. The other advantage was if the Army put gasoline in the Rokon’s wheels, the Rokon could support a platoon for a week without having to be refueled.”
Today, Audino enjoys riding his Rokon for fun, going into terrain where no other vehicle can travel, plowing through briar thickets, pushing through riverbank cane, climbing mountains and crossing streams. He laughingly refers to himself as a “Rokon nut.”
Also, the UK Special Air Service owns some Rokons, as does the French Foreign Legion in Djibouti, Africa, as it is the only vehicle able to climb to its top lookout post.
Brazil’s marines use Rokons to scout terrain in the jungles. It allows them to see where the land will allow heavier vehicles to travel.
“The militaries in Singapore, Thailand and China own Rokons, and they’re on islands like Tahiti,” said Tom Blais, the president of Rokon, in Rochester, N.H.
Men and Their Machines
Rokon owners are wildly enthusiastic about their rides. They gather twice a year for several days to enjoy Rokons and the various ways they’ve tricked them out. With 156 miles of motorbike trails, the biannual gatherings are held in April and October at the Ocala National Forest. Rokon owners also appreciate that they can get parts for their bikes anywhere in America.
Eric Harting of Florida originally bought a 2014 Rokon Ranger with a four-stroke engine.
“I decided I wanted to buy a second Rokon with a two-stroke engine,” he said. “My friend Ernie Audino had three Rokons and sold me his completely rebuilt two-stroke Rokon.
“I was familiar with a two-stroke engine and wanted to enjoy that same explosive response because I once rode motocross bikes. The power band on this engine was less peaky than a motocross bike’s two-stroke engine and was much smaller and lighter than a four-stroke. The two-stroke Rokon had a wheelbase about 2 to 3 inches shorter than the wheelbase on a four-stroke Rokon, making the two-stroke very nimble. But I’ve missed the torque of the four-stroke engine, which is where the Rokon is king. Riding a four-stroke Rokon is easier in deep sand.”
Geoff Richardson, who travels the world for Rokon, mentioned that the 2017 Rokons handle more accessories than older Rokons.
King Abdullah of Jordan owns a Rokon, and the Jordanian army currently has about 300. Other people who love their Rokons include director James Cameron and actors Goldie Hawn and James Earl Jones.
“Rokon motorcycle riding groups are very active in Japan and Chile,” Blais said. “I’ve ridden into the Chilean Andes with this group of folks, and they’ve told stories about riding their Rokons to the tops of mountains, where they’ve met border guards on horses, who have asked, ‘How did you guys get up here?’
“Today, the American-made Rokon motorcycles—30,000 to 40,000 total—are being used in more than 50 countries for a wide variety of applications, from special ops to plowing small gardens to skidding logs to fighting wildfires and being ridden by missionaries. Hunters, farmers and ranchers are also driving Rokons to remote areas to check on livestock or to carry out a hunter’s meat and trophy.”
If you’re looking for a wild but consistent ride that can be configured for street-legal driving, travel 35 to 40 mph, go far on a small amount of gas, cross water barriers many ATVs can’t, climb mountains other vehicles can’t, move deep into the wilderness away from the asphalt jungle and take all your gear with you—whether you’re hunting, fishing, camping or fighting forest fires—the Rokon is for you.
For more information, visit the Rokon website.
Rokon Trail-Breaker Specifications
- Length: 6.58 feet
- Height: 41 inches
- Width: 30 inches
- Weight: 218 pounds
- Engine: 208cc four-stroke Kohler
- Output: 7 horsepower at 3,600 rpm
- Electrical: 12 volt
- Starter: Electric and pull start
- Fuel Tank Capacity: 2.69 gallons
- Fuel Consumption: 0.33 gallons per hour
- Wheelbase: 51 inches
- Tires: 8x12x25 tubeless
- MSRP: $7,350
This article is from the fall 2017 issue of Ballistic Magazine. To subscribe, please visit OutdoorGroupStore.com.