Rallymoto AJP PR5

2014: Sometimes you might think you’ve seen it all. Then you walk into a race paddock and you’ll see something like this. A full-cream rally bike, only with a modest 27hp 250cc motor. And actually it’s not that big either, a bit shorter than you’re regular bike, a bit smaller. Somebody has evidently been thinking outside of the box...

It’s a rally bike, Jim – but not as we know it. Of course you can identify it as a rally bike because of the silhouette, the way the navigation instruments hang over the handlebars, the way the exhaust runs low, not mid-height, as it traces it’s route front-to-back across the bike. But after that, well 250cc sounds a bit small, and if you place this bike up against anything of scale – then yes, it’s a bit smaller all round, a scale model almost.

It is then an AJP trail bike – a PR5, as they’re known – given the rally once-over by specialist firm Rallymoto. AJPs are more commonly recognised as trail bikes or soft enduros. They also do a few what we could call three-quarter size models to suit those of a smaller frame. And power-wise a typical AJP is a fair few horses behind the competition – intentionally, these are bikes to get you started, or for those who don’t want for a cutting edge enduro racer but would like solid off-road chops. So as a basis of a rally racer it’s an unlikely starting point.

“I just wanted to do something different,” says its creator, Mark Molineux.

Mark’s probably better known as Moly, half of the Burt & Moly (Burt – that’s Robert Hughes) double-act who are the driving force behind the All Terrain Rally Challenge (formerly known as the Big Bike Rally Challenge) – a rally series that brings the spirit of Baja and other big cross-country and rally events to the UK. Burt & Moly are heavily into the rally scene so they have the Rallymoto business too, which specialises in rally bike preparation, not just for the ATRC but for the big internationals too, including the Dakar.

So this AJP rally bike is their interpretation of a little bit of ‘something different’.

“I’ve done the big bikes, the 1200s, I’ve done the 450s, so I wanted to try something else, and I figured doing this might add some interest to the trail bike class for which it qualifies,” continues Moly. “So much of dirt biking is KTM orange that I wanted to try a different brand, AJP came to mind and when I spoke to them they were straight away interested, definitely up for it!”

THE WORKS

So what turns a trail bike into a rally weapon?

“You need fuel range, and the standard seven-litre tank isn’t doing that. The AJP has its fuel tank under the seat so we fabricated a new sub-frame, using box section alloy and with sheet alloy, gusseted for strength, infilled it to create a 15 litre tank, although we could make that up to 19 litres if we wanted. But with a 250cc motor we’ve already achieved a massive range.”

Fabrications such as rear tanks applied to enduro bikes typically require a rerouting of the exhaust and that’s been the case here. So now the AJP has a hand-fabricated under-slung rally type exhaust with massive Doma rally muffler – massive but still louder than stock. But as Moly explained, being able to use a bigger diameter pipe and making that pipe longer helped boost the AJP’s power. Which is needed, as with about 27bhp (claimed) it’s a fair few horses short of the likes of a KTM 250EXC-F.

Next comes the panel of navigation aids, known in the business as the ‘rally tree’. It looks big and bulky but Moly assures us it weighs little more than a kilo or two so has almost no effect on the handling. The bracketry attaches to a couple of lugs welded onto the headstock and holds the road book, an ICO (electronic computer, speedo, trip meter etc) and a CAP repeater (an electronic compass, as we understand). Despite all the extra electronics the AJP needs no upgrade on its electrical output; the lights are LED and so draw very little and the rest of the kit draws barely much more – the wonders of modern technology. We must admit, we’re kind of ‘at sea’ with all that tech, but we understand the concept of switches, and the AJP has a switch for the ignition, another for the navigational equipment and a third for the lighting.

After that comes only a minor tweak to the suspension – a Wilbers spring fitted to the standard Sachs shock to deal with the extra weight of the fuel tank. The Marzocchi USD forks are completely standard.

“That’s all it needs, everything else is more than up to scratch.”

“And I love riding it,” says Moly. “With only around 27 horsepower yes, you rev it – pin it, really – but it goes, more than enough to surprise quite a few riders. And it handles so well, it’s stunning. The bike is quite short so it can steer really quick, yet it’s stable enough to go full speed without the need for a steering damper. I think the extra weight of the rally kit holds it down better.

“As you see it, it’s not finished. I was going to run like it is with just a screen, but now it’s done I’m not satisfied, so I’ll have a full rally fairing fitted on it soon.”

THE RIDING

Moly’s not lying, you need to pin it. This is a small, modestly-powered 250F, there’s very little torque, so don’t even ask about ‘plonk’ – no, just nail the throttle. We had a mate, Alan, do the riding for our photo-shoot. At first he didn’t look too comfortable – having jumped off a Husaberg FE450 – but then he got to grips with the idea of on-the-stop throttle (always) and had a ball. Every time he got on to gravel it was that same sound of a high-revving four-stroke being held to within an inch of its limiter, gear after gear – and you could see, it did speed!

For a six-footer like myself it is a bit cramped, I’m not sure I fit the AJP frame, or indeed am part of the design parameters of these bikes, and I was put in mind of the time I was asked to test a Honda RS125 road racer – I could do it, but ‘it wasn’t me’. I probably need just a bit more space between the pegs and the bars to be comfortable. But I couldn’t deny what Moly said about the handling, it is quick. Sometimes quick the way a racing go-kart can be, sort of twitchy-quick. But also, like he said, quick yet stable.

The AJP does though, call for application. I’ll not call it hard work, but you need to keep on top of the rev range, need to be on top of the handling, to get the most of it. Just as in a kart, or on that RS125 road racer, if you’re lazy, then you’re going backwards. And of course I’m lazy – or just plain slow – so I’m not the best pilot of this mini rally-racer. But I can see that (essentially) a smaller, keener, and yes, probably younger, rider will get a lot more from this bike. In the right terrain I can see it embarrassing a lot of much bigger, supposedly faster, machinery. 

GOING HOME

By the time you read this Moly will have given his AJP its first competitive outing at the Baja 300 in Portugal – that’s the country where AJP’s come from. But you’ll see it competing on home soil soon, too, for Moly plans to take it out in a few ATRC rounds this year. The original plan was to add some spice to the trail bike class but given the fact this bike looks every inch the rally racer – not so much a DT175MX – and actually qualifies for the rally classes he’s now quite taken with the idea of pitching up against the full-size rally bikes. Now that should be something to see – and given the wail from that Doma, to hear as well.

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