Climb any mountain with Rokon Ranger — IOL Motoring Bikes, Quads & Karts…

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Rokon Ranger

Climb any mountain with Ranger

May 16 2011 at 04:41pm


It doesn’t even like a motorcycle but the Rokon does indeed have two — both driven.


Given the number of bikes in use around the world, think two-wheel drive be the Holy Grail of the motorcycle but no mainstream manufacturer has yet offered a bike to the public.

The steering of a motorcycle makes it almost to transfer power mechanically to the wheel and, although Yamaha and KTM have patented using a hydraulic motor in the wheel-hub (and run them in competition), this creates as problems as it solves.

The hydraulic adds a lot of unsprung mass where you don’t want it, two very high-pressure flexible which are vulnerable to damage and then there’s the problem of both wheels to cover the at the same rate.

The front of an off-road motorcycle is much than the rear, so just their revs (not difficult with today’s won’t work. Plus you a differential of some sort the rear wheel of a motorcycle further (ie faster) than the in cornering.

Yet there is one motorcycle, designed the ground up as an all-wheel drive that’s been in series since the1960’s. It has no hydraulics (or and it’s insanely complicated, but it and has done for nearly 50 years major changes.

In the late a California inventor called Fehn built a prototype drive mototractor using a engine, a tubular-steel frame and two tractor wheels. It looked but it would go up the steep side of a dune without hesitation and his took photos of him doing that as proof.

The powertrain is high off the ground in a very welded tubular-steel frame.


By the late 1960’s the company was mass-producing Fehn’s little motorcycle and continues to do so They’re not officially imported South Africa but a few have in privately, and I was recently offered the to ride this one, a Ranger.

The current Ranger, in 1994, was Rokon’s first model; it has a single-cylinder Honda engine (complete with recoil starter!) that four kilowatts at 3900rpm. It a three-speed transmission via a torque — and that’s where it getting complicated.

You shift gears by pushing or a plunger on the side of the bike and a sticker on the casing warns you not to try it on the fly. So you stop, get off and stand to it, every time you want to gears. This is not as big a deal as it since the Rokon will pull away in any gear.

says the Ranger will do in first gear, 35km/h in and 45km/h in top. In the real without a speedometer, that to very slow, even and I could walk faster this!

The gearbox drives a transfer case (mitre box in which has a sprocket at one end, a cable-operated disc brake at the and a shaft drive in the middle.

The drives the rear wheel via a while the drive shaft up the inside of the frame’s large-diameter tube, through an inline spring that will the front wheel to turn than the back but not vice and a universal joint in the steering to a similar mitre box directly the front wheel and from via a chain to the front wheel.

Riding the Rokon is simplicity — just twist and go.


The only suspension is a under the saddle and the fat, low (0.24 bar!) 5.9 x 12 tyres, and the electrical system an 88-watt magneto powering the ignition, a and a tail light and no, Cyril, not street-legal.

The powertrain is mounted off the ground in a very robust, tubular-steel frame; the only protruding below the frame are the which swivel out of the way of any obstacle to the Ranger’s ground clearance to a 375mm.

The air filter intake and the Service-approved spark-arrestor tailpipe are high in the frame; Rokon the Ranger will wade water 600mm deep missing a beat and, at a 1.4 litres an hour, the thick-walled, plastic fuel tank keep you going all day.

a Rokon is deceptively simple: sure the transmission is in one of its two neutrals, the cord of the recoil starter the little pushrod engine into life, bang the into gear, get on, open the and away you go.

It’s mechanically noisy surprising, given the complexity of the and quite a lot of vibration comes the footpegs and handle-bars, although little reaches the rider the thickly padded, sprung

Riding it on the road is a bit nerve-wracking; and kids on rollerblades yell at you to get out of way and you realise that, with a height of only 760mm, car drivers can’t see you.

IOL Dave Abrahams parked the on this slope — and couldn’t climb back up to it!


But that’s not what for.

As soon as you hit the dirt the comes into its own; the is much less intense the hard-working little engine running flat out all the time. very stable and the steering is stiff, thanks to the driven wheel, so you can relax and look you, pick your way and over obstacles and not worry accelerating uphill — thing doesn’t even hills.

Rokon claims the Ranger climb a 58-degree slope; way steeper than one-in-one and how I nearly got into trouble. I the bike halfway up the steepest I could find and slithered to take the picture alongside but then I couldn’t climb up to get on!

Eventually I had to walk the long way to the top of the ridge and climb down to the which pulled away fuss — in second! and rattled away over and any other obstacle I tackled, at not more that walking but seemingly unstoppable. You can’t fall off it; when the going really rough you just put feet down and paddle

Charlie Fehn had one more up his sleeve, way back in 1959.

Our Ranger had the now-standard welded-steel but Fehn’s prototype ran on hollow wheels fabricated from sheet, which are still from Rokon as accessories.

they contain enough air to the 93kg Rokon afloat (on its true, but afloat) or you can unscrew the caps and pour in enough to keep you going for 800km that’s about a week of riding at Rokon speeds.

A Rokon is not so much a motorcycle as a Unimog, a vehicle that goes its own way over any terrain, such luxuries as trails or footpaths.

For thousands of Americans who — or play — in the Outdoors, it’s a passport to not even a horse could them, and certainly nothing on wheels.


Engine: fan-cooled four-… single.

4kW at 3900rpm.

Induction: Horizontal carburettor.

Ignition: Transistorised

Starting: Recoil.

Clutch: convertor.

Transmission: Three-speed gearbox with shaft and drive to both wheels.

Rokon Ranger
Rokon Ranger
Rokon Ranger


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