1982 MAICO Works 490GS

Sadly this British Enduro Championship winning bike was lost in a devastating fire a few months back, but it lives on here at RUST...

GERAINT’S LOST GOLD

This bike was first featured way back in 2009. We’re featuring it here again to mark its loss in a devastating fire at Geraint Jones’ Yamaha Off Road Experience headquarters a few months ago. It’s now some 35 years ago Geraint Jones had ridden this machine to victory in the British Enduro Championship, one of his ten UK national titles.

Without question this was a noble machine: its lines were incontrovertibly masculine, so perhaps we should call it handsome rather than beautiful. Back in the early 1980s this German-built Maico 490 (Mega 2) was a weapon of imperious powers. The Maico could beat everything; it ruled motocross and this particular 490, in the hands of enduro great Geraint Jones, ruled enduro. This bike was, then, the enduro ‘GS’ variant, and on top of that it was a works example. It won the 1982 British Enduro Championship and it was regular podium-winner in the then European (now World) Enduro Championship.

“It’s a works bike,” explained Geraint’s brother Gareth (when interviewed in 2009), who prepared Geraint’s bikes back then. “But I’d say there wasn’t a lot of difference to the customer bike. 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.”

“The advantage of the good barrel being that you could run a much tighter tolerance and so make good strong, smooth power,” added Geraint.

 

 

“But there wasn’t much else by way of difference,” resumed Gareth. “The wheel spindles were hollow, for lightness. They had a special set-up with a short torque arm and quick-release brake rod which 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.”

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 56bhp this bike wasn’t just a powerhouse in its day, it remains so to this.

“It is incredibly light, like you can’t believe,” smiled Geraint. “You jump on it and you can’t keep the front wheel down, it’s so powerful, so torquey. The front wheel was in the air all the time. I think a lot of people would 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!”

Part of its brilliance is in its simplicity. It’s an air-cooled motor, so there’s no radiator and plumbing issues. The Bing 40mm carburettor is controlled by a single throttle cable. If it gets drowned you can have the float bowl off in literally a second as it’s retained by a single spring clip. 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.”

 

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

“It was simply an awesome bike. 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 this 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 Jones’ works Maico 490GS was, then, (until its recent loss) a monument. To the great long-lap enduros we enjoyed back in the 1970s and 80s – lost through the (European-wide) land (access) wars that have followed. A monument, too, to the robust, simple machine that a rider could take anywhere armed with just a screwdriver, an ‘adjustable’, and some lock wire (and of course a spare sparkplug). Quite possibly it marked the zenith of the true enduro bike.

 

1982 Maico 490

Specifications

Engine: Air-cooled piston-port two-stroke single

Displacement: 488cc

Bore & stroke: 86.5 x 83mm

Compression ratio: 12.0:1

Carburettor: Bing 40mm dia.

Gearbox: Five-speed

Claimed power: 56hp

Frame: twin loop chrome moly steel

Forks: 42mm conventional fork, 310mm travel

Shocks: Dual control ('Piggy back') Corte Cosso, 310mm travel

Front brake: 135mm drum

Rear brake: 158mm drum

Seat height: 960mm

Weight: 103kg

 

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