In the motorcycle world, specialization has been good to us. It’s made the difference between enduro bikes and extreme enduro bikes, and between motocross bikes and Supercross bikes. In the case of the AJP PR7, the concept of specialization has been taken a step further than ever before. It belongs to a category of American off-road bikes so specific and focused that it doesn’t yet have a name. We’ll call it a rally bike for now, even though the activity doesn’t really exist over here—not yet anyway.
THE PLAYER FROM PORTUGAL
You can be forgiven if you have never heard of AJP. It’s a company from Portugal with a very short history in the U.S. It was founded by Portuguese enduro champion Antonio J. Pinto and is named after his initials. For now, the company makes only the chassis for its products. The motors come from all over the world. The PR7 is the flagship of the operation. It uses an Italian-made SWM motor. We know, at this point even SWM is a somewhat unknown name stateside.
But, there’s one company in the bike’s history you might be familiar with—Husqvarna. If you were around in the days before Husqvarna was purchased by BMW (and subsequently by KTM), you might remember a bike called the TE630. It had one of the last motors to be designed by the Italian engineering team before they were all dismissed. If you really look closely, you can see some similarities that go all the way back to the original Husqvarna 510 of the ‘80s. That was the most advanced off-road four-stroke of its time.
These days, the PR7’s motor is a 600cc, DOHC four-stroke with an Athena/GET fuel injection. It has a hydraulic clutch and a 6-speed gearbox. The frame is like nothing else on earth. It has a steel steering head bolted to cast-aluminum side beams. The fuel tank is located under the seat, and it uses Sachs suspension front and rear. All the components have a very high cool factor. The exhaust system is a downswept titanium Doma with a carbon fiber end cap, and the brakes are Brembo. It has a fairing that looks like it could have come right off Ricky Brabec’s Dakar bike and two radiator fans. Stock equipment includes wraparound handguards, an aluminum skid plate and a coolant overflow tank. The list of bling includes billetaluminum footpegs, billet triple clamps, anodized hubs and a carbon fiber airbox cover right next to an aircraft-grade fuel filler. To top it all off, there’s a tablet mounted behind the fairing that links with your phone for navigation.
FINDING A PLACE
One of the hardest parts about testing a bike like the PR7 is figuring out where to test it. If the Sonora Rally was next up on the calendar, we would take it straight there. As it was, the timing was right for the 24 Hours of Glen Helen. We didn’t officially enter it in the race; that would take a team of riders, a trailer of spares and a world of commitment. The PR7 was the perfect chase vehicle. It carries 4.5 gallons of fuel and has plenty of room for tools and parts.
First of all, the elephant in the room, if you can pardon the imagery, is the bike’s weight. All that bling and rally equipment doesn’t make for a lightweight bike. The PR7 weighs over 400 pounds with a full tank. How much over? We don’t know. That’s as high as our scale goes. It’s more or less irrelevant, because five minutes on the bike tells you more about its intended purpose than 10 pages of specifications. It’s just too much motorcycle for a closed course, even one like the 24-Hour.
The first time you put the bike on a center stand it’s a bit of a shocker, because it certainly doesn’t look that heavy. The bike is actually as narrow as a typical 450 motocross bike. The seat height might even be a little lower. When you start riding, though, it’s clear that it doesn’t like low speeds. There’s just too much mass there. The faster you go, the better it gets. In fact, the PR7 is more powerful than almost any off-road race bike. The motor is downright amazing, especially when it comes to the low end. It’s not motocross power, though. It has thick, smooth torque like four-strokes had in the olden days. The powerband starts early and ends early with deep, rumbling pulses rather than a shrill buzz. The 600 doesn’t rely on rpm to make its point, and that’s emotionally satisfying if nothing else. Unlike the four-strokes of the past (we called them thumpers, remember?), the AJP is clean and civilized. It doesn’t cough, backfire or flame out. It really does combine the best of both worlds.
Finding a place to wring out the PR7 can be a challenge. Almost everything seems confining when you have a bike that wants to do 100 mph. When you do find some space, it’s incredible to roll the throttle open and let it run. Even if you’re already going 50 mph, the AJP can yank your arms with more acceleration any time you twist it harder.
As the race went on, it became more and more difficult to find that kind of open space. The whoops got bigger and bigger with every passing hour. The PR7 has about the best fork that Sachs offers. It has 48mm tubes with a closed cartridge, and the piggyback shock is fully adjustable. Both ends were super cushy when the course was smooth, but they were quickly overwhelmed. The rear, in particular, is too soft for truly rough terrain. Can it be beefed up? We don’t really know. When you’re talking about a 400-pound bike, most suspension shops will be in uncharted territory.
THE RALLY FACTOR
If the sport of rally takes off in the U.S., AJP will clearly be in the driver’s seat. It’s a beautifully made motorcycle with excellent parts everywhere. Until then, its best role will be as an outlaw dual-sport bike. In some states, you can walk right into the DMV and get a license plate for the PR7. Not California, of course, but even out here on the left coast we see Arizona plates on everything from two-strokes to quads. A license plate on the PR7 would be a perfect fit. It has a range of almost 200 miles, and that will get you halfway across the Mojave Desert. On the highway, you can tuck in behind the windscreen and make good time. It already has all the switches for blinkers, horns and hazard lights.
AJP’s U.S. importer is Central Powersports Distributing, and they are in the process of homologation right now. The motor has already passed emission testing on two different occasions; first as the Husky TE630, then as the SWM Superdual. So, it’s only a matter of time until the PR7 can rule the most specialized category in the U.S.; it’s the king of the non-streetlegal big-bore rally class. We just gotta come up with a better name.