Cycle News Archives
As Functional as a Meat Cleaver
Maico. Hear the word, and you’re instantly harkened to the day when the German manufacturer ruled the motocross scene in the early to mid-70s. Okay, maybe not ruled, but it was the brand you wanted to be on if you were serious about winning motocross. Or you just wanted to be aboard the most exotic motorcycle at your local MX track. Ulrich Maisch, the company’s founder, knew how to build a good motocross bike, and Adolf Weil and Willy Bauer and Swede Ake Jonsson proved that to us Yankees when they often dominated the popular Trans-AMA MX Series despite going up against many of the world’s best racers, including Suzuki-mounted Roger DeCoster, who many times had his hands full battling the Maicos, especially Jonsson, for wins. At one point, Jonsson won nine consecutive motos en route to the Trans-AMA Championship in 1972.
But only a few in the U.S. knew that Maico also built some excellent off-road bikes at the height of the company’s success. The brand was never really known as an “off-road” powerhouse in America but still produced some excellent-performing single-trackers. Perhaps Maico’s reputation for being mechanically troublesome scared potential off-road buyers away, and how could you not blame them? After all, who wants to break down deep into the woods, far away from your Datsun pickup truck?
In 1975, Cycle News tested one of Maico’s 250cc off-roaders, simply called the Maico Enduro. It had a 248cc two-stroke air-cooled engine with those iconic Maico radial cylinder fins. It had a 36mm Bing carburetor and a four-speed transmission. Best of all, it had that beautiful Maico “coffin” aluminum gas tank. The list price for the Maico Enduro was $1536. That’s nearly $9000 by today’s standards.
What stood out between the Enduro and the motocross Maicos was its “up-pipe” exhaust system compared to the motocrossers’ “down-pipes” that everyone was so used to at the time. Downpipes and off-roading did not mix unless you wanted to buy a new exhaust pipe after every enduro.
We were impressed with the Maico Enduro. We said, “The only thing you’ll notice on a trail ride is that you’re not working as hard as the others and that when everyone else is sitting around pouring various liquids into their faces, you’ll still be in the saddle wanting to go back for one more ride. It’s true.”
“On the Maico,” our tester wrote, “about 40 miles out after you’ve passed at least 150 riders stopped exhausted, disgusted or stuck, you’ll begin to understand why Maico simply calls their bike Enduro rather than a more glamorous name. Maico makes a straight statement—Enduro. No brag—fact.
“If this is starting to sound like a biased test of a Super Enduro bike, it’s only because we haven’t gotten to the gripe section.”
That gripe, as it turned out, was, of course, a mechanical breakdown during an enduro competition that our tester was riding in. The bike ground to a halt at speed at mile 91.5, less than 10 miles from the finish line. “Bummer,” he said. It turned out that a ring had snagged on the exhaust port. Bummer, indeed.
Still, our test rider was impressed with the Maico Enduro. He wrote: “Up until that last fatal road section, the motor had run perfectly, lugging down to put the power on the ground in the deep mud and then winding an honest 70 mph on paved sections. It’ll take more than one failure to convince this tester that the Maico is anything less than a serious competition mount.”
He was impressed with the bike’s high-mounted exhaust pipe but not the “pickle-shaped” muffler tip that would break off unless the owner designed his own bracket or just bought an accessory muffler. Nor was he impressed with the Maico’s lights, which are “not what you’d expect to find on an over $1500 machine manufactured in 1974. They worked neither well nor often.”
As with most Maicos at the time and, well, pretty much always, fit and finish was an issue, which he noted in his conclusion.
“Overall appraisal of the Maico: Extremely forgiving handling—plenty of power in the right place and an uncanny ability to put it on the ground. [My] main gripe consists of a lack of attention to detail by the factory, that is, leaking gas cap, poor lights, and unwise muffler design. The seat is very comfortable, as is the layout of the footpegs, etc., making long rides a pleasure rather than an ordeal. Good airbox and foam filter. All in all, a solid design that is as functional as a meat cleaver. With better detailing, it would rank among the best of the serious ‘A’ rider enduro mounts.”
So the name Maico might have been more associated with motocross, but the German manufacturer that designed the infamous coffin gas tank could also build a formidable off-roader in the 250cc Maico Enduro. CN