Our new PR4 bikes are here! And we couldn’t be more pleased with them (as you can see from our faces in the pictures here). These beautiful machines will be our closest allies in our months on the road and we’re both hugely looking forward to getting to know them better.
Not many people have come into contact with AJP bikes or at least, not as many as should have. But those that have seem to unanimously respect them. I’m not going to go into detailed spec on the PR4 here, the finer points are not our forte and you’ll find better information elsewhere (on the AJP website for instance!). And, whilst spec has obviously been important in our choice, it’s just as important when choosing our bikes for our trip that we’re comfortable with them and that they can go the distance: time will tell for our bikes but we have high expectations that we’re confident they’ll live up to.
First impressions of the PR4
Mickey had been given the heads up about AJP by our friend Mark White (the mechanic that assembled the bikes for us when they arrived) when he recommended we check them out. But my first introduction to AJP and the PR4 came back in June this year at the Overland event when Mickey took me over to Craig Witney’s stand. Craig is the UK AJP distributor and he had a couple of bikes on display for us to play with. One of them was Austin Vince’s, he’d done 2000 miles in 2 weeks and was about to get back on it for another trip. I remember thinking that if it was good enough for seasoned adventurers then it was good enough for me. Getting onto the PR4 240 enduro on Craig’s stand I was amazed to find I could get my feet down comfortably on the ground.
We’d identified early on in the planning that we wanted to travel on enduro bikes but I’d been having growing anxieties that I’d never find one that ‘fit’ (I’m 5’6’’). I’d tried a few of the 250s by other manufacturers and wasn’t entirely comfortable on them so I was resigned to the fact that I was just going to have to get used to it on the road. Resignation or not, the idea was causing some trepidation…it’s a risky business to set off on a year-long trip on a bike you’re not yet comfortable with. So the PR4 scored massive points in that department from me before I’d ever fired up the engine. The next pleasant surprise was its weight. Another major concern that I had was that of handling the bike fully loaded, particularly during the inevitable drops. If Mickey had to park up, get off and help me pick it up every time I put it down then the argument rate on the road was likely to double! Don’t get me wrong, he’s tolerant and helpful to a tee but frustration makes me snappy and needing constant help makes me frustrated. I asked Craig to put the PR4 down and let me pick it up. The last time I’d done this with another make of bike I’d nearly pulled several muscles getting it up. I remember thinking then that I had no chance fully laden and wedged into the ground (let’s face it, the bikes never fall gently or positioned for an easy pick up in real life!). Pulling the PR4 up was like lifting heavy shopping bags – I wouldn’t want to carry them around constantly but it didn’t really phase me physically (despite what my face is saying in the pic below!!!). I think I promptly fell in love with it there and then.
As important as height and weight are to us, we’re not blind to engine spec & performance. Whilst falling in love I simultaneously reigned myself in for the disappointment of a poor performance…I’d read a review and also been advised that the engine ‘plodded’ a little, so I braced myself to discover they weren’t up to the task. I’ve never been so happy to be wrong.
PR4 test ride
We travelled out to Wales a weekend or two later where Craig had a couple of PR4 bikes at an off-road event that we could test ride. As I got on the bike I remember telling him I’d probably have to spend a good while getting used to it before I felt comfortable standing up on it…10 metres later I got up on the pegs, such was the confidence the bike gave me. It felt right. Manageable, perfectly balanced and responsive, I knew beyond doubt that I could control it rather than it controlling me. It has a 233 cc displacement and 20 bhp, so it’s not going to bite you unexpectedly but still has more than enough for off-road riding and plenty for what we need them to do. I had 30 minutes of great fun riding round the field, tarnished only by a small amount of frustration that I couldn’t just take off on it there and then. That last I took to be a very positive sign!
After Mickey had put it through its paces we left and arrived home buzzing that we’d found the bikes we wanted to travel on. But not before spending a fair bit of time picking the brains of a mechanic at the event who had only positive things to say about the PR4. So much so that he’d recently replaced another bike’s engine with an AJP one. He told us they were durable engines (rumoured to be a Taiwan-built copy of the Honda XR) that lacked over-engineering making them easy to fix by the roadside – particularly in Asia – and that they would do everything we’d need them to. He also told us that the AJP company was small, and had a personal touch to it that marked it out as unusual in a good way. Whenever he’d needed to contact them to ask a question, he’d had direct access to their mechanics. For us, a brand is as much about how you treat your customers and clients as it is about the product and I remember feeling like AJP was shaping up to be a brand we could really get behind wholeheartedly.
A couple of weeks later, on the back of that feeling, we got in touch with AJP to tell them about our trip. Confirming our hopes but still to our surprise they were very interested and offered some support towards our endeavour. Aside from the obvious practical advantages of the support of a global dealership network, my pleasure at working with them has stemmed as much from what they haven’t done as from what they have. At no point have they given the impression that they want to do anything other than help us achieve our goal of making it to NZ. In all of my communication with them I’ve found the reports to be true: they strike the balance between professional and ‘human’ expertly – a breath of fresh air in the corporate world. In short, it’s exactly what I’ve always required of my working relationships: mutual respect for mutual benefit.
A couple of days before my birthday, we took delivery of our two adventure-bound AJP PR4’s. What an amazing birthday present! We’ve had them a couple of weeks now and I’m still a little scared of them, they’re so shiny and beautiful. For now they remain unridden, except for a 3 m long maiden voyage that I just couldn’t resist! Although they’re crying out for it, paperwork needs to be sorted first. After that we’ll set about getting to know them properly (more to come on that when we do get our legs over). We also need to make a couple of modifications to make our lives easier when on the road too: as adventure capable as these bikes are they still have the fuel tank of an enduro and they’re not built to carry luggage.And once that’s done the fun really begins: I have a very strong suspicion that we’ll have a blast with these bikes. We’re going to enjoy every minute of promoting the PR4 pedigree to the world!