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The Rokon Motorcycle
ML has kindly furnished us with a reprint of a post he made on the old ezBoard forum. Since this subject comes up occasionally it seems only logical to include ML's review in the FAQ section so we don't lose it again.


From ML:

(The following material was originally posted in January of 2003 on the Hoods Woods Forum.)

* * * * *

Ah, the Rokon—for nearly 50 years the unstoppable postapocolyptic vehicle of the lone outdoorsman’s dreams. Close your eyes and say the name.



It sounds like a planet from a science-fiction novel or some B-movie matinee.


You can smell the yellowing, brittle, high-acid pulp paper of a childhood comic book with a two-inch ad showing a blurry bike in the back pages. Here was the mini-bike you always wanted, only incalculably better.


The very name conjures up the vestigial image of a pipe-smoking woodsman wearing a red-and-black-plaid stag wool “jackshirt” in the long forgotten pages of your Uncle Ed’s copy of Argosy or Field and Stream, or, dare you dream it, the copies of Playboy he kept in the third drawer of his tool chest out in the garage.

Rokon. Rokon. Rokon.

Well, boys and girls, prepare to be dazzled (or perhaps bored into a low-grade coma), because Your Humble Narrator has actually ridden the mythical Rokon. Several of them, as a matter of fact, the first in 1971—in Alaska (how perfect is that?)—and the last about three years ago.

For the newcomers here, the Rokons are fundamentally fat-tired two-wheel-drive off-road motorcycles. Like the alligator and the cockroach, they are throwbacks to a time before modern all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), and like the ’gator and the roach they really haven’t evolved much in the last half-century or so, either. More correctly, they’re sort of a missing link between an off-road motorcycle and an ATV. They’ve always used some kind of single-cylinder engine, usually appropriated from a lawnmower or generator or stationary water pump (present Rokons use Kohler and Honda engines), and feature what is in essence a belt-driven automatic transmission really akin to what a contemporary scooter (think Vespa, et. al.) uses. A visit to their previously cited website will yield all the specs and some photos, as will Mr. Hay’s original post at the head of this thread.

In July of 1999, Cycle World magazine tested a Rokon. The entire text of that test appears on the Rokon website, although only a couple of photographs accompany it. A pity. Were all the photos shown, you would see my friend Jimmy Lewis—Paris-Dakar veteran, Baja motorcycle racing legend, and the article’s unnamed author—aiming a Mossberg 180-series bolt-action 20-gauge shotgun while using the saddle of the parked Rokon as a rest. From whom, might you ask, did Mr. Lewis borrow that shotgun to use as a photo prop? Forum members are allowed three guesses.

Jimmy’s article in CW is pretty much right on, and I encourage anyone interested in a Rokon to read it (a link appears at the end of this post). However, I might add the following.

For most non-motorcyclists, I think a modern, all-wheel-drive ATV may prove more utilitarian than a Rokon. Certainly the Rokon is narrower and lighter, but an ATV will haul more, and non-off-road-motorcyclists generally find an ATV easier to ride, too.

Those with any off-road motorcycle experience will find the Rokon excruciatingly slow. Yes, it will climb just about anything. And yes, it is generally capable of getting you so far back into the boondocks that you’ll need all 13 volumes of the Woodsmaster Wilderness Skills videos to save your ass should something go wrong back there.

A skilled motorcyclist will be able to ride a good off-road bike just about anywhere a Rokon rider will be able to, but faster. However, the operant word here is skilled. Certainly, a degree of skill is needed with the Rokon as well—and Jimmy Lewis is extraordinarily skilled in addition to having a no-fooling-around mindset that would be the envy of many on this Forum.

For myself, I’d choose a contemporary four-stroke off-road or dual-sport motorcycle over a Rokon, but then my motorcycling experience is something more than casual. Indeed, as part of my general preparedness, I have two off-road bikes which function primarily as worst-case-scenario vehicles. Part of this is because one may easily ride them or paved or dirt roads at much higher rates of speed. For real agricultural work, I’d choose an ATV.

I’m sure the Rokon is appealing to many, but I think it’s important to ask yourself this: Does the Rokon make you dream of a situation where you think you may need its capabilities, or do you really need what this vehicle (and not what another off-road bike or an ATV) offers? If it’s the first, then the dream of the Rokon will seduce you, and not the reality of your needs. If it’s the second, then maybe you should give the folks in New Hampshire a call.


(Link to Cycle World article on the Rokon website):

Of all the things I've lost, I think I miss my mind the most.
Quote:yes, it is generally capable of getting you so far back into the boondocks that you’ll need all 13 volumes of the Woodsmaster Wilderness Skills videos to save your ass should something go wrong back there.

most excellent ML!

One of these days I'm going to do a search for all your posts and read them all one after another... they're like Cheetos with far more nutritional content! <img src='<#EMO_DIR#>/biggrin.gif' class='bbc_emoticon' alt='Big Grin' />
Hope is for the lazy....

"Doing better next time. That's what life is." - The Bloody Nine

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