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Backroad Ramblings February 2008

Friday, February 29, 2008
When the Rambling Man s friend said he had a motorcycle unlike any he d ever ridden before  his curiousity was piqued but not without suspicion because it was still winter and most bikes can t chug through a foot of snow. Enter the Rokon Trail-Breaker.
When the Rambling Man's friend said he had a motorcycle unlike any he'd ever ridden before, his curiousity was piqued but not without suspicion because it was still winter and most bikes can't chug through a foot of snow. Enter the Rokon Trail-Breaker.
Steve, Me, & the Trail-Breaker

It's a good thing I work for MotorcycleUSA because if I didn't there is a good chance I would have pursued that career as a test pilot that kept me from doing my homework all those years ago. And while that's an admirable job in its own right, who else is going to bundle up and drive 45 minutes each way just to sample an exotic bike in the heart of an ugly New York winter just to share my findings with you, my loyal readers? That's just the type of selfless individual I am.

The story begins in early January when my long-time riding buddy, Steve, called with an announcement that would quicken the pulse of any cycle-enthusiast.

"Come on down to the ranch and take my latest acquisition for a spin," he said with a tone of mysteriousness usually reserved for magicians and game-show hosts. "I can guarantee you've never ridden anything like this before."

I looked outside at the quickly gathering snow that rolled in plumes above drifts that were already two feet tall.

"What are you kidding me?" I asked in reply. "Unless this thing has skis and tracks under it, I think we better wait until spring for a test ride."

"Oh no, it has wheels; two of them if you really must know. I'll be expecting you in an hour. Oh and dress warm, knit-hat, warm boots, the whole thing."

And so it was that curiosity coupled with dedication which prompted me to fire up the 4.3 liter gas guzzler and to turn the heater on full blast. Within 10 minutes the defroster had melted a porthole in the windshield-ice just large enough to allow me to depart toward the poorly plowed roads of Cattaraugus County. I picked up two large coffees at the drive-thru window, well aware of the fact that the journey to Steve's house tends to leave civilization in the rear view.

Once I arrived to the ranch, a zigzagging map of fat tire tracks that circumnavigated the property greeted me. Slightly wider than the footprint left by my truck tires in the yet-unplowed driveway had me starting to think Steve was right, I hadn't ridden anything like this before.

Within a few moments of Sherlock Homes inspired investigation, the vehicle responsible for leaving its telltale profile in
The Trail-Breaker might not break any land speed records  but the 172cc Kohler engine has the power to get you to your destination regardless of what obstacles lie in your path.
The Trail-Breaker might not break any land speed records, but the 172cc Kohler engine has the power to get you to your destination regardless of what obstacles lie in your path.
the snow appeared from behind the barn and powered steadily toward me. It came to a stop in the driveway with a beaming Steve at the helm, which prompted the only logical question that I could muster:

"What the heck is this thing?"

"It's a Rokon Trail-Breaker," he casually replied. "Hop on, we'll take a tour of the farm."

As much as I would like to spice up this article with tales of unbridled acceleration, the Rokon took off with a steady clawing motion that reminded me more of my John Deere than it did my CRF. The engine note never changed, a steady rumble of the 6 and a half horses being put out by the Kohler engine below. The tractor-style tires (almost 6 inches wide) made light work of the series of deep rolling drifts that littered his front lawn.

"Two-wheel-drive," Steve shouted over his shoulder, to which I replied, "what?"

We turned a slow arc near the house and headed down a rut-laden gully that immediately crossed a partially frozen stream. I found myself unnecessarily clinching my inner thighs around the Trail-Breaker's cushy seat during the dissention into the water and steady ascension of the bank on the far side. The bike never flinched.

We crested the bank and headed into a large open field where even the knee-deep snow couldn't fully conceal endless rows of drooping corn stalks. We switched positions and I powered out toward the field's distant center while snow, irrigation paths, and crunchy corn parts vanished beneath the Rokon's incredibly large wheels.

"15 inches of ground clearance," Steve said during the obligatory walk around. The backdrop couldn't have been more fitting: A distant line of snow-laced pine trees with snowglobe style flakes tumbling onto the bike's black bodywork.

"She only weighs 208 pounds, gets nearly 9 hours on one fill up of the almost 3 gallon polyurethane tank, hauls 1000 pounds and tows 3000. Oh and did I mention its all-wheel drive?"

"You didn't have to," I said looking back toward the path that got us here. "The evidence speaks for itself."

"Go on," Steve said with a tug of the recoil which sent the 172cc Kohler Single back to rumbling life, "drive her back."

I have to admit, when Steve says you haven't ridden it before, you probably haven't. Over the post-ride barn talk I learned that he ordered the machine directly from the factory for $6000 after freight and insurance.

"I'm talking the wife into letting me order the side-car for it," he said, "next time you come make sure you wear a scarf."

I wonder if it's too late to apply to test-pilot school.
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