1976 Rokon MX2
Shift lever? Who needs a shift lever?
The Japanese invasion of American motocross may have been in full force by the mid-1970s, but there was still room for serious innovation.
Case in point: The unique approach to motorcycle design by Vermont-based Rokon, which produced this unusual MXer with a fully automatic transmission.
Best known these days for its long-running Trail-Breaker line of two-wheel-drive utility motorcycles, Rokon was experimenting in the mid-’70s with dual-sports, enduro bikes and motocrossers, including this 1976 Rokon MX2.
All these machines were based on the company’s RT340 enduro model, yet each went its own way. The MX2 featured a 335cc two-stroke Sachs engine with a sunburst head and pull-cord start. Several touches were ahead of the competition, including the hydraulic disc brake, Spanish Betor fork, lay-down Red Wing shocks and plastic fenders from Preston Petty Products. But the main point of interest was the shiftless tranny, which used a centrifugal clutch and a variable-belt drive like the kind often found in snowmobiles.
Rokon had tasted success in the International Six Days Enduro, winning an award for technical achievement after finishing four prototype machines in the 1973 event in the U.S. And Motorcycle Hall of Famer Dave Mungenast piloted a Rokon to a bronze medal for the Canadian Trophy team.
But those competition models never captured the market like the two-wheel-drive Rokons. And when Rokon emerged from receivership in the 1970s, it made only 2x2s, which are still sold today.
While Rokon’s automatic didn’t carry on, the idea did. By the mid-’80s, Husqvarna made an automatic, three-speed machine good enough to win the National Enduro Championship with Terry Cunningham at the controls.
Such sparse history makes machines like this immaculately restored MX2, owned by Hugh MacDonald exceedingly rare.