'Expendables 2' movie features Rochester firm's motorcycle

Union Leader Correspondent |
September 12. 2012 2:37AM

The All Wheel Driver Trail-Breaker motorcycle from Rokon, based in Rochester, was featured in the opening scenes of “The Expendables 2." While the dirt was painted on for the movie, its appearance has stirred up interest in the company, which has been making all-terrain bikes for 50 years. (COURTESY)

Dave Johnson, of Lebanon, Maine, assembles a drive system that powers both wheels on Rokon's all-terrain motorcycles, like the one featured in the opening scenes of “The Expendables 2." (JOHN QUINN/UNION LEADER CORRESPONDENT)

ROCHESTER — While motorcycles are not normally recommended for blowing up helicopters, the makers of the Rokon All Wheel Drive Trail-Breaker are thrilled to see one featured in the opening scenes of “The Expendables 2.”

For the past 50 years, Rokon International — which has been based in Rochester since 2002 — has been making all-terrain motorcycles for a niche market, president Tom Blais said.

“It's really noted for its ability to climb mountains.” Blais said the two-wheel drive bikes are used by farmers, hunters, border agents, search-and-rescue teams and the military in remote areas.

The company, which has about 50 employees, makes about 10 bikes a week. The bikes sell for about $7,000 each.

Rokon produces its own wheels, transmissions and clutches in its Rochester factory.

“We're truly American made.” Blais said about 80 percent of the parts are produced from around the country.

The bikes, which compete with other off-road vehicles, are sold to customers out west and around the world, especially in remote, mountainous areas. The company's success comes from producing a rugged and durable machine, Blais said.

“We don't recommend it for flying,” Blais joked, even if action movies enjoy taking leave of reality to bring a little fantasy to audiences.

The movie, a sequel to the 2010 film, features an A-list of action stars, including Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

“For us to be associated with such iconic action figures, it's exciting,” Blais said.

The Trail-Breaker was prominently featured in the opening scene, which was set in Nepal. The bike was also ridden by Schwarzenegger during a rescue and was eventually driven off a cliff to destroy a helicopter, Blais said.

“As soon as (Sylvester) Stallone gets on it, he turns it sideways and you can clearly see the Rokon label,” Blais said, adding this will help promote a company that is not as well-known as other motorcycle manufacturers.

Rokon — which claims to be the second-oldest continuous manufacturer of motorcycles — makes three all-wheel drive models with hollow wheels, which can be used for storage and allows the bikes to float, if needed, Blais said.

Rokon began making its distinctive bikes in Sylmar, Calif., in 1958 and moved to Keene a decade later.

“We have a cult-like following,” Blais said.

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John Quinn may be reached at jquinn@newstote.com.
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