Backroad Ramblings May 2009

May 27, 2009
Jason Giacchino
Jason Giacchino
Contributing Editor| Articles|RSS

A freelancer and published novelist Jason is currently the editor in chief of Mountain Bike Tales digital magazine and holds a State University of New York degree in applied science with a minor in journalism. When not hunched over a computer monitor, he can be found playing outside in the suburbs of Buffalo, New York.

Early Spring Exotic-Bike Sighting

When the Rambling Mans friend said he had a motorcycle unlike any hed ever ridden before  his curiousity was piqued but not without suspicion because it was still winter and most bikes cant chug through a foot of snow. Enter the Rokon Trail-Breaker.
For those that missed the Febuary 2008 Backroad Ramblings, or just need a refersher, this strange creature is the Rokon Trailbreaker.

As many long-term readers (or sufferers as the case may be) are probably already aware, I spend a lot of my time chasing down strange motorcycles in the name of journalistic duty (plus natural curiosity and the desire to be perpetually penniless). Until now my strangest encounter had been with a Rokon Trailbreaker that crawled across the snowy landscape carrying a thoroughly frozen me on back. Of course, I promptly reported on the experience in my February 2008 column, as both an educational opportunity and as a means of convincing myself that I didn’t need one of these things. However, my latest chance encounter makes the old Rokon look about as exotic as a Honda Accord.

The scene was one of those early spring afternoons that almost atone for the misery of a long, drawn out New York winter. Like most abnormally early summer-like days, I was eager to get outside to do, well just about anything so long as it wasn’t indoors. My first instinct was to pull the tarp off the old KTM and rattle the canister a bit on the jet-black loamy trails. A quick assessment of the situation revealed two flat tires (slow leaks I suspect) and a drained battery. Rather than spend the beautiful weather tinkering with the battery charger and running extension cords to the air compressor, I quickly rebounded and grabbed my mountain bike from its resting place in the workshop with similar aspirations of getting reacquainted with my trail network.

Of course, I was quickly treated to a lesson in human anatomy and physiology as in the effects of eight months of watching hockey and eating pizza hadn’t done much for my endurance. With burning thighs and lungs to match, I returned to home base about seven minutes later amidst serious consideration of setting up the battery charger after all when the bright red plastic of a strategically placed empty gas can averted my attention. It was a not so subtle hint from the old ball and chain that whatever ambitions I had been hatching were to be squashed immediately due to a lawn in need of serious cutting. There were also several bags of mulch and a few azalea bushes in need of planting as well should you really want to know why I considered pedaling right on past the house.

While standing along side the pump of the local gas station in effort to balance the fine art of keeping tabs on the price tally while simultaneously ensuring that I didn’t overfill the gas can, I heard the unmistakable butter-smooth hum of a midsize bike pull up behind me. Adding a third task to my already overworked attention span, I began the process of elimination: American Twin? No, too smooth. Repli-racer 600cc class? No, too quiet. Small bore cruiser? Maybe, but a bit too much displaced air. Naturally I did what any true rider would; I stole a glance just as the can spilled over onto my shoe. To my surprise the vehicle in question wasn’t a motorcycle at all. It looked more like a minivan. With a single windshield wiper. And only one wheel up front. Huh?

At idle it still sounded remarkably similar to a bike, which prompted me to peer around the obstruction in the hopes of discovering a Rebel 250 hidden behind the tiny van-thing. No, the sound was definitely emanating from the car, bike, trike, whatever.

A woman climbed out of the driver’s side door and to my surprise, the vehicle didn’t flinch (I half expected it to tip to one side). “Fill it up,” she called to the attendant, who, appeared nowhere near as enthralled as I was. When she returned from the convenient mart, the kid pumping the gas told her it would seven dollars even. Strange considering I had just put ten into the can.

“Okay,” I said in a gasp of defeat. “I have to ask.”

“Sure,” the woman replied with a smile. “This thing gets a lot of attention wherever I go.”

Wildfire 650c
While it may not look like your average car, the gas savings from the Wildfire WF650c will quickly make you forget any issues you had with its unique styling.

The vehicle in question, though much more closely resembling an automobile by definition, was in fact recognized as a motorcycle by the ever-scrupulous state of New York. Powered by a 650cc twin-cylinder engine, the trike is apparently called a Wildfire WF650c and returns a stunning 70 mpg with a single occupant and a brisk tailwind.

“More often though,” the woman told me with a frown, “I average 45 mpg with the kids in back.”

The cockpit could best be described as cozy and had the unmistakable resemblance to one of those weather-beater canvas cabins you see on ATVs or lawn tractors. There were four doors however and a backseat that really didn’t give anything up to say a modern Mustang.

“It gets up to 60 mph pretty quickly because it’s so light. It only weighs 800 pounds topped off. Plus it’s a manual 4-speed transmission.”

“So do you have to get out and push it when…”

“No,” she interrupted. “It’s also got reverse and electric start. Even has a tape deck.”

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t gawking as she fired it up with the identical type of quick-coughing spark that my KTM 450 would have emitted had the battery been charged.

A bit of quick research revealed an asking price of around $8000 for a brand new unit and that includes a two-year, 45,000-mile factory warranty. The rest of the day for me was spent cutting rows of dandelion infested grass while attempting to ward off a strange slow-burning desire to pick up one of those things myself. Then again I forgot to ask her how it drove in the winter and if she answered how I suspect, I would be looking at twice the dead batteries and triple the flat tires to worry about next year.