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The Evolution of the Maico 490 Engine

20 September 2010)

By Toby

Square barrels, radial primary chains and Bing all come to mind when you of the Maico Marque in the 1970s. legacy continued into the 1980s with the release of the Maico 490 which has become one of the famous dirt bikes of all You may be surprised to know however this engine has been ever since and the grandchildren are being manufactured today.

The 490 engine is not so different than released by Maico in the years In fact the engine is almost for part a late 1970s 440 with a much bigger Just like the 440, the utilizes a large radial fin for air-cooling which was patented by in 1974 (US Patent #3,782,342).

design is definitely unique, eye and has never been duplicated.

those slim engine hide a three shaft and a shifting plate design is also shared with the Magnum series (era Three shafts are necessary to the direction of the engine rotation and reduce the transmission gear from the high ratio of the drive. The primary drive of two rows of individual chains, connect the crank to the clutch and the clutch to rotate in the same as the crank.

The clutch itself is also an design that utilizes a of Bellevue washers to put pressure on the plates which are held using metal rings.

remember what a piston is? True, compared to its Japanese the engine was seemingly dated for 1981. However the performance, the power band which smoothly from idle and its handling all speaks for itself.

spoke with their and the 1981 Maico 490 might be one of the best selling dirt of all time.

In 1983 while hit the box office with a bang hit the ground running with the of a radically new engine design, speaking. The chain driven drive was removed in favor of cut gears, six standard springs the washer stack in the clutch, a shifting drum is found in the and the big Maico now donned a reed intake.

The new design was more than traditional Maico but the and handling was all Maico. The engine’s horse power and responsiveness was much improved compared to the years.

Maico released three 490 models in 1983, which the motocross, a desert racer and an The motocross machine, also the Spider, had a 4 speed transmission the Sand Spider desert had a 5 speed. Both of these utilized the new engine design the Enduro, also called the E, was just the 1982 Alpha E with a reed valve

The Spider was released with two transmission versions. These are to as FK and FL gearing due to the engine serial and the stampings on the gears themselves. The is that the FK gear ratios first released but only in production and later replaced the FL gearing, which has higher 3rd and 4th ratios.

Maico must felt the bike could use a wider ratio and an extra 5 mph on

Unfortunately Maico fell on times this year and went bankrupt. Maico under new ownership in 1984 and the name MStar in the United The honeymoon was short lived as Maico/MStar also went in 1986. Nonetheless, the engine during this time the most significant change the addition of liquid cooling.

Although the factory started liquid cooled engines in they still produced versions until their in 1986.

Several other changes also occurred this time. In 1984 the 4 Spider was dropped in favor of a 5 MX version with new gear The long standing tradition of using a double sealed shaft bearing was also with an unsealed bearing and shaft seal (ala

The primary drive ratio was in 1985 as well as the engine to bolt pattern which the same today.

During hard times many were able to obtain to various portions of Maico’s One of these companies you may have of is MX-Zabel. Friedhelm Zabel out modifying water cooled 500s in the 1980s and increasing displacements to 610cc. By the 1990s, had formed MX-Zabel and began 620cc and 685cc variants of the for sidecar racing.

These MX-Zabel produces a true engine and while it does not use any parts some of the design dates back to the 1983 490.

Following the fall of the MStar/Maico in Lorenz Merkle picked up the and began manufacturing Baby Maicos in 1987. Pushing further, in 1988 the large received a power valve “S.E.E.S.” or “Slide Engaged System”. This is the same which first appeared on the 250 in 1986.

S.E.E.S. consists of a which automatically slides up and based on exhaust pressure. differs from most power valves, which are akin to a centrifugal clutch. designs use a mechanical attachment on the drive which moves the open based on engine

Since 1984 the Maico 490 was marketed as a 500 even though it a 490. Almost an entire later in 1992 the 490 would make the jump to 500cc. had the … increased from to 85mm upping the displacement 488cc to 499cc.

The Maico 490 was now and a true Maico 500.

BV bought Maico in 1995 and the moved to the Netherlands. The company was changed to Maico Motorcycles where N.V. is “Naamloze in Dutch. This nomenclature is used by Dutch companies for Liability Company”.

However Lorenz Merkle and (as far as we know) still holds the to the Maico brand name.

In the big bore Maico received an in the form of a hydraulic clutch, but things went south for Motorcycles N.V. The company was not to secure funding and ownership reverted to Brouwer Motors BV was the largest shareholder at the time.

Brouwer Motors BV ceased its Axel Koestler brought back to Germany at the turn of the Koestler’s relationship with dates back to the 1980s they made their own sets for the early Maico Koestler continues to build and brand new Koestler-Maicos out of his shop in Germany producing around 50 a year.

The latest innovations are coming out of the UK with British Maico International. The custom built British brand is invested in Research Design and in they have widened focus from chassis to engine design. Details are lipped at this time Maico International has announced a new produced in collaboration with a engineering manufacturer for “F.1.”.

We are in engineering some serious back into the bikes on all with some very end parts and manufacturing says Page of Maico International.

Next year marks the anniversary of the mighty Maico Still being manufactured and upon for three decades by companies it is one of the longest surviving bike engines. The 2010 engine uses the same as was used in 1981 and the same rod since 1983. The similarities do not end as there is a large matrix of which are shared across the years.

The largest change may be yet to as we wait in anticipation for the details of Internationals’ “F.1.” engine in

Figure 1 — Maico Box ratios from various

Maico 500 Enduro
Maico 500 Enduro

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