ABR’s Green-laning god, Mike Beddows, takes AJP’s PR5 for a spin in the snowy Peaks and asks, ‘could a 250cc enduro ever become a true adventure machine?’
Portuguese manufacturer AJP has been making bikes for 25 years and has now started to expand to several dealers in the UK through a new distributor (www.ajpmotos.co.uk). The bikes are made in Lousanda, which is about 30 minutes inland from Porto, Portugal. The brand is named after the seven-times Portuguese Enduro Champion Antonio J Pinto (AJP) and with his pedigree you’d expect the quality of the bike to be just right.
The bike I tested was the 2012 model; the PR5 250cc air-cooled four stroke with an electric start and fuel injection. A new liquid-cooled version has just launched (£3,850), and as there are only four air-cooled models left in the country, the original £4,750 price tag has dropped to a bargain £3,650, so if you fancy one, best get onto AJP asap (www.ajpmotos.co.uk). I’m hoping to get my hands on one of the 2013 liquid-cooled models for an ABR test ride very soon.
The PR5 uses a copy of the late 90s Honda XR 250 engine brought up to date with modern additions. It’s a great engine that’s served Honda well over a number of years, but AJP’s engine isn’t built by Honda and instead is built under license in the Far East.
There’s no avoiding the fact that the PR5 is a tall bike, as are most trail/enduro bikes. The test bike had a performance exhaust fitted and an aftermarket bash-plate (it’s a shame this doesn’t come as standard, but this seems to be the case on most bikes these days). The short trip back from the dealers to my home made me aware that the bars needed rising to make it a more comfortable ride, so I added a set of Rox Risers and it completely transformed the bike. I’m 6ft 5” and nearly 15 stone. I had feared the PR5 may be a tad too small for me, but once aboard I felt very comfortable.
I was awake just before dawn and immediately set off for a day on the bike. The temperature was -5 and there was three inches of snow on the ground; perfect conditions for testing the bike’s potential. My destination was the Peak District where the forecast was for up to a foot of snow, icy roads, with many of the smaller back roads being inaccessible. Fantastic! This route would give me the chance to test motorway, A roads, B roads and some of my favourite byways and unclassified country roads.
The first 20 miles were motorway. Normally, I dislike the first part of my journey to the Peaks and just ride as fast as is legally allowed just to get it over and done with. I really hate motorway riding. I managed to squeeze a top speed of 68mph out of the PR5, but soon slowed down to a comfortable 60. I have to admit, slowing down really made me appreciate the bike’s potential. It doesn’t have a screen or any fairing to shield the rider from the elements, so I figured I’d be getting blown all over the place. This wasn’t the case, though; in fact it was a pleasant 20 miles at a reasonable cruising speed. I think I’ll start to slow down on other bikes and appreciate the surroundings a bit more. The PR5’s maximum speed isn’t great then, but this bike and those like it are not about speed. I’d estimate a ‘lighter’ rider would be able to squeeze a few more mph out of the PR5, too.
The next 20 miles were a mix of A and B Roads leading to my meeting point in the Peaks. The PR5 is a great bike for these types of roads and it soaked them up with ease. I felt very confident, even leaning the bike into the icy bends, and it was a very enjoyable run.
Once in the Peaks, and after meeting my riding companions for the day, we set off for some byways and unclassified roads. All the back roads were covered with ice and snow. I felt really comfortable on the bike and trusted its abilities to ride through these conditions. Soon we came across the first byway. Under normal conditions this is a relatively easy trail, but these were not normal conditions. There were knee-to-waist deep drifts of snow along the trail. The PR5 did well, but soon got bogged down in deep snow. Luckily, this wasn’t a problem. I simply jumped off the bike and walked it through the snow. When it finally became too deep to plough through, it was a case of lifting the front of the bike up and pointing it in a different direction. This just wouldn’t be possible with my other bikes.
3Some way on, the KTM 400 EXC and Suzuki DRZ 400 I was riding with looked to be struggling a bit on some of the sections. The riders were off and running with the bikes up the snowy slopes. With the PR5, I managed to stay on the bike and ride up. We completed two of the best trails in the Peaks, Three Shires and Sparbent and then moved on to a few trails around Hollinsclough, including the descent down Hollinsclough B, which I consider to be one of the harder routes in the Peaks. The PR5 was in its element here. The suspension just soaked up all the bumps and rocks, and it felt good riding technical lanes at a slow pace and fast flowing lanes which carried more speed.
Unfortunately my ride was cut short when I hit a patch of ice on a road and dropped the bike. The gear lever penetrated the crank case, leaving a small hole in it. This was just bad luck on my part as I’d previously commented that the gear lever was a bit too high for my foot, and really, I could have done with adjusting it. If it had been lowered then the lever would have missed the crank. Just an unlucky incident and no way connected to the build quality of the PR5. I have also been informed that on the latest models there’s no possibility of the lever catching the crank no matter where it’s positioned, which is good news. I later checked my two bikes, a Husqvarna TE 630 and KTM 950 Adventure, and both of these would have the gear lever making contact with the crank if dropped in an unlucky way.
First things first; the bike looks fantastic. AJP has already invested in racking for the PR5 and its solution looks to be a great option for making the PR5 into a true adventure bike. The racks have been designed to take Stahlkoffer pannier cases. Personally, on a bike that’s designed to go off road, I’d prefer to see a softer approach to luggage and would suggest either a roll bag on the rack, throw over soft panniers or a more off-road biased solution such as the Giant Loop Coyote.
An aftermarket screen is also available, which provides better protection form the elements and would further the PR5’s capabilities as an all-round adventure machine.
No review would be complete without highlighting the downsides to a bike, but I’m pleased to report that the PR5 had very minimal issues. As standard, the bike is fitted with hand protectors. As this bike is classed as an enduro bike, I suppose it doesn’t really need them, but from an adventure perspective they’re a great addition. The hand guard design is very basic, though, and there’s even a label on them stating they’re not provided for accident protection. I don’t think the guards would survive a heavy drop. The position of the guards also means that the indicator block is located just too far away from the left-hand grip. This means I couldn’t indicate without having to remove my hand from the grip. On the road, it was easier just to use hand signals than the indicators. I’ve been assured that this issue has been resolved on the newer liquid-cooled model. The only other gripe from an adventure perspective is the 7.5l fuel tank. There are plans to develop an aftermarket solution, but until then I suppose if extra range was required a Rotopax could be used.
So, can a 250cc really be classed as an adventure bike? Let’s look at the evidence, starting with: what is an adventure bike? I’d class an adventure bike as something that a rider can have an adventure on, plain and simple. Something that’s capable of travelling to and from different places, carrying luggage, and something that offers some sort of protection from the elements. It should also have some off-road capabilities, considering some of the places an adventure’s likely to take you. The AJP ticks all these boxes, so I’d honestly say that, yes, a 250cc can be an adventure bike, and the PR5 would make a good one. Perhaps it‘s time to stop relegating these types of bike to playing second fiddle and appreciate that they really can be used as primary bikes for adventures in waiting.
Engine: Air/oil-cooled, SOHC, electric start, fuel injected 4 stroke
Bore and stroke: 73x59mm
Frame: Aluminium beam with steel double cradle
Front susp: Sachs 48mm USD fork, fully adjustable
Rear susp: Sachs linkage shock, fully adjustable
Front brake: 260mm disc, 2 piston calliper
Seat height: 940mm
Fuel capacity: 7.5l
Weight: 130kg (wet)
How versatile is the PR5…
As a commuter?
If you have a short journey to work then yes, but if you have a long motorway commute then there are more suitable bikes for the job.
As a weekend tourer
There’s no reason why I wouldn’t set off for a weekend away on the PR5. With the rack fitted there’s space for luggage, but I’d be tempted to leave the hard panniers at home and use soft throw-over ones.
As an off-roader
This is where the PR5 comes into its element. It was fantastic on the snowy lanes in the Peak District.
As a continental road tourer
I really think there are better bikes if long road tours are your thing.
As an RTW overlander
If you plan on sticking to tarmac then I’d choose something else, but if you’re planning an off-road trip, and speed isn’t a consideration, then I don’t see any reason why this shouldn’t be a contender. After all, the ‘Mondo’ crew went round the world on a bunch of Suzuki DR350s.
As a pillion carrier
There are rear foot pegs and there’s space for a pillion – just. I wouldn’t fancy giving anyone a ride though, nor do I think anyone would appreciate being pillion –especially with me at the helm!