Taking you ANYWHERE you need to go (no, seriously…pretty much anywhere)
Tom Blais, owner of ROKON, likes to joke that “we’re the oldest motorcycle manufacturer in the U.S. that nobody knows about.” Designed in 1958 and in production since 1960, one might think the name recognition of ROKON would be right up there with the likes of other high-profile motorcycle and ATV manufacturers within the hunting, outdoors and offroad communities. Truth be told, however, the ROKON is in a niche market. Part ATV and part dirtbike, the 2-wheel-drive ROKON has a very distinct purpose in life—to access areas of remote, rugged terrain that are otherwise inaccessible to any other motorized vehicle short of a helicopter. While not as fast and not as cushy as a modern 4×4 ATV, where the trail ends for other offroad vehicles, the adventure is just starting to get interesting on a ROKON.
As the subtitle states, there aren’t many places on God’s green earth that a ROKON will have trouble negotiating, with hot lava and sheer cliff’s being a couple of the very few exceptions. Through a standard drive-chain in the rear, and a driveshaft/miter box/drive-chain combination sending power to the front, the ROKON is a true, full-time 2-wheel-drive motorcycle, affording it the traction to go where other two-wheeled-vehicles simply cannot.
These bikes are quiet running, and due to their minimal ground pressure, leave very little in the way tracked evidence behind—both big attributes to hunters. For beyond normal levels of rugged terrain, one of the most endearing qualities of the lightweight, 2-wheeled mountain-goat of a motorcycle that is the ROKON, is that when the going gets obscenely difficult (i.e.: near vertical), you can simply dismount and walk beside it. Dump a ROKON on its side and you may have some scratched paint, whereas if you roll an 800-pound 4×4 ATV down a hillside you’ll likely be walking out of the woods; that is, if it didn’t roll over onto you.
If you’re a long-time reader of On Target, you’ll know we’re no strangers to the ROKON brand. Back in 2002 we covered both the Scout and Trailbreaker models in detail. In fact, we staff members still own these bikes, and with a little routine maintenance, they’re still taking us places today that no wheeled-vehicle has ever gone before. That was eons ago in the powersports world, however, and there have been some significant improvements in the ROKON design since then. To see how the new bikes stacked up against our old steeds, we got in touch with Tom Blais to get our hands one of their top-of-the-line models—the new olive-drab-green Mototractor.
As far as the bones are concerned, the new crop of ROKONs are not that dissimilar from their predecessors. Their basic construction lends itself to basic, fix-it-yourself reliability out in the field . . . something we’ve always appreciated about these bikes. We can confidently say that all of the major advancements since our 2002-vintage bikes have been for the better, however, and all are present on the 2017 Mototractor model. Among the notable changes in the new lineup are Magura hydraulic brakes vs. the old cable style, a new 208cc, 7-horsepower four-stroke/fan cooled engine vs. the old 6-horsepower Kohler mill, keyed electric start with a pull-start backup vs. pull-start only, and the new AutoGrab front suspension system vs. no suspension at all.
Largely due to its monstrous 24×33-inch cargo rack, the Mototractor model was added to the line as a “truck-like” workhorse for trail maintenance, work around the farm, etc., but that same rack just happens to lend itself extremely well to hunting and backcountry exploration. We were amazed at the amount of gear that could be loaded onto and strapped down to this rack without adversely effecting ride quality or handling. Climbing treestand? No problem. A rifle and hunting pack? Yep, with room to spare. A medium-sized whitetail deer? Well, we haven’t tried it yet, but with some creative “packaging”, we’re pretty sure it’s doable.
Moving to the front, the Mototractor comes from the factory with plastic-shrouded aluminum handguards, which—if you use these bikes the way they are intended to be used—will get employed on a very frequent basis. Another component unique to the Mototractor model is their spring-equipped Retro Seat. Adjustable fore and aft for different sized riders, we grew to appreciate this seat’s profile and built-in spring suspension over rough terrain, and much prefer it to the standard foam-padded seat on the other models.
One of the biggest changes in comparison to our 2002 bikes is the addition of ROKON’s patented AutoGrab front suspension, which noticeably helps to smooth out the ride . . . especially as the pace picks up. Suspension was not an option on our older bikes (and if you want to save a little money, the less-expensive Scout model still doesn’t have any), so we resorted to running our tires at a super-low 2-P.S.I. to better soak up the rocks and roots. While the ride improved, the adverse side effect was undesirable, imprecise handling. With the AutoGrab up front, we found that we’re able to comfortable run the tires at 3-4 P.S.I. and keep predictable handling intact.
Fit to the Mototractor model are ROKON’s signature hollow-aluminum wheels, which—if the occasion calls for it—will each hold 2.5-gallons of either water or fuel. With the wheels loaded down with fuel, and the 2.7-gallon fuel tank topped off, the ROKON is capable of an incredible range of about 600 miles. These wheels also allow for one of the most unique ROKON capabilities; they will actually float the bike. Yes, that’s right—if the wheels are empty, these bikes will float. Now, you won’t be riding atop the bike while it’s floating, as you’ll have to lay it down on its left side and actually swim next to it, but put in a pickle, it’s nice to know that deep water is not a “game-over” obstacle. The Mototractor model comes standard with 25-inch-tall Maxxis Bighorn tires (which we’ve always had great luck with), but we checked the box and upgraded to a set of 26-inch, 8-ply GBC Grim Reaper tires to ensure that traction never would be an issue, that we gained a little additional ground clearance, and that a flat tire simply was not going to happen (these things are bulletproof.)
Like the rest of the line, the Mototractor is equipped with a three-speed transmission, with high, medium and low ranges—all shifted via a push/pull knob on the right-hand side. In high-range, top-speed is 35 M.P.H., which has always been entirely sufficient for the type of ground we cover on these bikes.
In the end, after owning my fair share of Jeep’s, 4×4 ATVs/UTVs and dirtbikes, I can still say that the ROKON is still the most capable motorized vehicle I’ve ever piloted offroad—made even more so through recent advancements. You might not get there quite as fast, but you can rest assured . . . you’ll get there. Check out a ROKON at your nearest dealer, or for more information, contact ROKON; Dept. OT; Tel.: (603) 335-3200; E-mail: email@example.com; Web: www.rokon.com
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