Long Live the Queen!
James Patterson has been testing AJP’s biggest model
PR7 Adventure 650 review
I’m usually skeptical about the use of the word adventure. It can be found everywhere now – shoehorned into travel blogs, splashed across cruise ships, and even on ads for supermarkets, of all things. Exposure cheapens any word, but adventure seems especially lowered when attached to these mediums, or when sprawled across images of flaring sunrises or foamy waterfalls.
The world of motorcycling is no exception of course – think of all the R1200GSs parked in garages and only used to chug through the exhaust of a morning commute. Just as the word has become burdened with expectation and promise, ergo have the bikes that bear its name, adding over time gadgets over time: radios, heated this and that. The motorcycle is a simple machine, a mechanical horse that can be ridden bareback. How nice it was, then, to be riding AJP’s new PR7 Adventure 650, a bike that strips away the unnecessary, leaving only the essentials. It could just as easily be called the PR7 Bare Bones.
The model is currently the company’s only foray into the world of overlanding. For over thirty years, AJP has been kept busy as Portugal’s top producer of high quality, award-winning supermoto, and enduro motorcycles. With the inclusion of the PR7 in their line-up, the hope is to carve out a piece of the overland pie for themselves.
Much of AJP’s inspiration for the PR7 was right outside their door. Although the bike is fully street legal, it was undeniably made with fast-paced off-roading in mind. The “Queen of TET” was a phrase I heard bandied about in reference to the bike, and on a visit to Portugal, I thought I would put that name to the test.
The Portuguese portion of the Trans-Euro Trail, newly tracked and mapped, runs for some 600 miles through the country, although I racked up just over 1,500 on the spidery roads that web out from each small provincial town. Passing through mountains, plains, and pastures, it consists largely of farming and forestry roads – land the PR7 was designed and built for.
AJP roots show through in the PR7 (on their website, it’s classified as a “trail” bike) not only look (it’s missing the fuel-tank “bump” of usual overland models) but power. It’s clear from the initial push of the electric start that it’s hot-blooded. Beginners may have a hard time not inadvertently popping a wheelie when they first roll on the throttle.
Despite the 650 in its name, the PR7 holds a 600cc single-banger SWM engine with a 60 hp output – plenty to move its lightweight 165kg (wet). Taking it up and then down a few precipitous hills, I can attest to the bike’s ability to chug over anything. Fuel injection means the throttle is snappy and the power is always where you expect it to be, a must-have when the terrain is loose scree and the village mad dog is at your heels. When I hit the stretches of sand that extend like pale fingers through the natural parks of the western coast, the bike didn’t dig into the soft sand but pulled through with minimal effort, the 21” front wheel and the high wide bars gave excellent control.
Chassis and brakes
Two of the PR7’s key aspects are its lightness and agility. Whether ripping over soft red dirt trails or stone pathways, the bike responds like a smaller motorcycle, with infallible balance and handling. The steel backbone is surrounded by a narrow composite aluminium frame, and the fuel tank – quite large at 17.5 litres – is positioned under the seat. That lowers the bike’s centre of gravity and allows for good, solid control whether leaning into a backsliding turn or manoeuvring over an unstable surface. It feels auspicious to use the word centaur, but it’s the phrase that came to mind with no front-heavy sloshing dictating the movement.
Bouncing over the uneven cobbles of border towns and the odd bone-jarring hole that left me surprised not to have broken a vertebra or two, I was convinced by the suspension – Germany’s ZF Sachs. It’s fully adjustable, with 300mm of travel at the front and 280mm at the rear. The brakes were good too, another virtue of the racing heritage. With no ABS, it’s all in the hand and foot – in the front, a 300mm disc clamped via a dual-piston caliper and in the back, a 240mm unit pinched by a single-pot unit. Whatever can’t be avoided probably won’t bother this bike much though. With 310mm of ground clearance, there is little it cannot cross. Several times I hopped a rock or crawled over a ridge and braced myself for the familiar bang of the bash plate, only to realize I still had plenty of room.
Behind the stacked windscreen is where AJP has slipped in its one technological allowance, but this too feels intuitive. Mounted above the standard dash display showing the usual speed and fuel information, is a Samsung Galaxy Tablet providing more complex trip detail. It is a fully functioning computer with internet capabilities meaning anything a regular tablet can do – navigation, email, weather, etc., this motorcycle can do too. GPS is where it shines – the screen is nice and large without being distractingly so, and it can be operated when the motorcycle ignition is switched off.
The switchgear controls, protected behind a standard issue brush guards, are practical and user-friendly, with push-cancel turn signals, and an easy-to-access kill switch. The levers are practical and user-friendly and the lights – positioned like an over-and-under shotgun – provide good visibility on the straight-ahead.
Rearward visibility is OK through the standard mirrors which provide an adequate view as long as you aren’t riding in the ‘elbows-out’ off-road pose. A small niggle was the lack of a center-stand, even as an option. I’m wary of the side-stand as it keeps the bike at a steep angle and, because it is spring-loaded, automatically folds up when the weight is lifted, meaning a good grip and a clear head is necessary when thinking about mounting. Yes, I understand the dirt bike heritage, but there are a few things overland travellers use differently.
Verdict for Overlanding
As pleasing and distracting as off-road riding is, once on the highway, however, the miles start to lag. This is not the bike for asphalt-pounders – features that are a blessing off-road understandably don’t translate well onto high-speed tarmac. The seat forces the rider into the classic trail-riding position that allows good visibility and high-elbowed control of the machine. That, when combined with the seat height of 920mm, imparts a straight-backed throne-like feeling that can become spinal murder over huge distances. Given the six well-spaced gears this AJP is more than capable of high speeds, but with only the standard footpegs and not much of a windbreak, it soon starts to feel more like hanging on than riding.
The long, narrow seat gave little option for comfort and wouldn’t suit a pillion rider for more than a short ride. While fuel consumption was good – my ten-day average of highway and off-road was 65 mpg – riding for long stretches on tarmac wouldn’t be practical. The large fuel tank meant that I got away with putting in one good drink a day, but anyone looking to put on serious mileage might feel the burn both in the lumbar and the wallet.
As far as luggage, a rack isn’t stock but a stainless-steel bracket can be fitted from the factory. The positioning of the fuel tank means fewer options for tank bags – I couldn’t use my magnetic bag as there was nothing for it to clip to. A pair of soft saddlebags slung over the seat worked well. I suspect that heavy cases attached to the back would end up defeating many of the advantages offered by the bike (excellent weight distribution, balance), so it might best be suited to those able to keep baggage to a minimum.
There is nothing fancy about the PR7 Adventure 650. You jump on, start it up, and ride. For anyone wanting to take full advantage of the growing network of Trans-Euro trails, there isn’t terrain the PR7 can’t handle. Long-distances might be another story for riders accustomed to more comfort or to travelling with the kitchen sink, but already in its short existence, PR7s have been ridden from Portugal to Japan, across Africa, and along the Pan-American. Certainly, after my ten days of trail riding, I felt eager and ready to continue, but sadly had to return this particular bike.
This bike being what it is, AJP may end up striking a balance between drawing old-fashioned purists back from the world of top-heavy motorcycles and pushing day-trail riders out on longer trips. It’s a machine that deserves its Adventure moniker for its scrappy back-to-basics setup. As for “Queen of TET”, the PR7 certainly has royal blood.
AJP PR7 Adventure specifications
TEST AV CONSUMPTION: 65 MPG
ENGINE: Single cylinder, 4 stroke, 4 valves – DOHC, liquid cooled
BORE X STROKE: 100 x 76.4 mm
DISPLACEMENT: 600 cc
FUELING: Delphi fuel injection system Ø45 mm
CLUTCH: Wet, multi-disc
TRANSMISSION: 6 speed
FRAME: Composite – aluminum / steel
SEAT HEIGHT: 920 mm
WHEELBASE: 1540 mm
GROUND CLEARANCE: 310 mm
FUEL TANK: 17 L
FRONT TYRE: 90/90 – 21’’
REAR TYRE: 140/80 – 18’’
FRONT SUSPENSION: ZF Sachs Ø48 mm – 300 mm stroke – adjustable
REAR SUSPENSION: ZF Sachs prog. system with reser. – 280 mm stroke – adjustable
FRONT BRAKES: Twin piston caliper – Disc Ø300 mm
REAR BRAKES: Single piston caliper – Disc Ø240 mm