Dirt feature: 1982 Maico 490GS-News & Reviews-Motorcycle Trader

27 May 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Dirt feature: 1982 Maico 490GS-News & Reviews-Motorcycle Trader
Maico GS 490

13 Jun 2013 | Back in ’82, Welshman Geraint Jones rode this Maico 490GS to victory in the British Enduro Championship – a monument to a time when enduros were truly a test of endurance, and enduro bikes were ferocious but simple machines…


Words: Jonathan Bentman

Back in the early 1980s, this German-built Maico 490 Mega 2 was a formidable weapon. It ruled motocross, and in the hands of enduro great Geraint Jones, this particular 490 ruled enduro. This bike is, then, the enduro ‘GS’ variant, and on top of that it’s a works example.

It won the 1982 British Enduro Championship and it was regular podium-winner in the then European (now World) Enduro Championship.

Roll Out The Barrel

“It’s a works bike,” agrees Geraint’s brother Gareth, who prepared the master’s bikes back then. “But I’d say there wasn’t a lot of difference to the customer bike. The biggest difference was they’d put a good barrel on it. By that I mean one with a good, tight bore – something they wouldn’t risk on the production bike, with uncertain maintenance,” he adds.

Geraint underlines the benefit. “The advantage of the good barrel was that you could run a much tighter tolerance and so make good and strong, smooth power,” he says.

“But there wasn’t much else by way of difference,” resumes Gareth. “The wheel spindles were hollow, for lightness. They had a special set-up with a short torque arm and quick-release brake rod that would help when it came to tyre changes. The yokes were magnesium and the steering stem was aluminium, as against the steel of the production bike.

I never felt there was anything on the bike that the average rider couldn’t make a sketch of and fabricate for himself,” he adds.

Not that the average punter, having bought a production 490 Maico in 1982, was necessarily looking for more performance. Weighing a claimed 103kg and producing around 41.2kW (56hp), this bike wasn’t just a powerhouse back then – it still is today.

“It’s incredibly light, like you can’t believe,” smiles Geraint. “You jump on it and you can’t keep the front wheel down because it’s so powerful, so torquey. The front wheel was in the air all the time. I think a lot of peoplewould have a shock if they rode a good one of these today.

“If you could apply the knowledge we have now with suspension, and if they had disc brakes, you’d be surprised just how competitive they’d be – especially if we were on something like the old-fashioned tracks, with fewer jumps. And we’d be having more fun!”

A regular modern 450-beater is the Jones brothers’ wager. Of course, talking of power, wheelies and all that gets us away from another important attribute of this Maico we could very much learn from today – its simplicity.

It’s an air-cooled engine so there are no radiators or plumbing issues. The Bing 40mm carburettor is controlled by the one throttle cable. If it becomes affected by water you can have the float bowl off in a second as it’s retained by a single spring clip.

It’s a far cry from ‘modern’ offerings, says Gareth.

“It makes me mad today when you see the complexity of modern carbs; the number of screws, let alone the amount of bodywork you need to remove to do the same job that took one second on the Maico,” he says.

Geraint agrees. “It’s true; they’ve got a lot more complicated than they need to be,” he says. “You look at the Maico and it’s so basic, so simple, that anyone could work on it – you don’t need to be a genius as there’s not much there to go wrong.

Maico GS 490
Maico GS 490

“You only needed a couple of spanners and screwdrivers to pull it apart – I think the only specialist tool you needed was a puller to take the flywheel off. Now, we’ve been forced into the four-stroke thing by the emissions argument. Bikes are necessarily much more complex.

“We could argue we’ve progressed, though, by going the way of single-shock suspension, but then we’ve got bigger holes as a consequence, and we’ve destroyed the countryside much more as a result, haven’t we? It’s a vicious circle.”

Now if this reads like a couple of bench racers remembering the old times viewed through rose-coloured spectacles, remember that talk of progress was just as contemporary back in the 1980s as it is now.

“It was simply an awesome bike,” says Geraint. “Although we felt – even then – that its predecessor, the 440, was probably the best enduro bike; because the 400 before that had been too revvy, with not enough torque, while the 440 remained quite revvy but had just enough torque.

“And then the 490 came along, with too much power. We were doing all kinds of things to make it smoother – like the long silencer, as you can see. At that time we were thinking ‘this is too much!’”

Geraint’s works Maico 490GS is, then, a monument. To the great long-lap enduros that it and its rider enjoyed – lost through the British land wars that followed. A monument, too, to the robust, simple machine that a rider could take anywhere armed with just a screwdriver, a shifter and some lock wire (and, of course, a spare sparkplug).

Quite possibly it marked the zenith of the true enduro bike.

The Man Behind the Machine

Sixty-year-old Geraint Jones hails from Powys, Wales, where – along with his sons – he runs a cattle farm and Yamaha-backed enduro and adventure riding school. From 1979 to 1989 he was the undisputed king of British enduro racing, winning 10 British championships – at a time when an enduro entailed a single 250km loop through often atrocious conditions. He also contested 12 International Six Day Enduros, winning eight gold medals and four silver medals, and claimed podium positions in the European Enduro Championship (the precursor to today’s World Enduro Championship).

1982 Maico 490GS

Maico GS 490
Maico GS 490
Maico GS 490

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