Saturday, November 27, 2010

1981 Maico 250 Alpha 1

I got this bike in 1983, bought as a new stock leftover bike Don Gibbs had on his showroom floor. Since there were newer models at the time, I remember it was a pretty good deal. I always liked the 1981 Maicos. I had a good eye for what I thought worked on a bike, and the '81s looked balanced and strong.

The 1981 bike sits right between 2 models that were kind of funky in my opinion. The previous year's (1980) Maicos were radically redesigned, with a banana-shaped frame that was supposed to make the bike sit low, even with the long (12"-ish) suspension on front and back. I imagine some people loved the bike, but I thought it looked too hooptie to be any good. And the 1982 bikes were radically redesigned from my bike and featured a single shock design that was a disaster in terms of performance and reliability. The factory had spec'd a defective part in the linkage that made the shocks blow out, and the rising rate was so harsh the suspension never worked very well.

Anyway, my acquisition turned out to be a great bike that I kept around for many years and rode through a very long "non-current" stage in my life. I thought it was a good riding bike, with a passably fast motor and good long-travel suspension. Of course, we wouldn't dare say anything bad about the famous Maico forks. Even if they did not perform the best, we probably thought they did.

I set a personal best long jump record on this bike, up on a hillside at Widowmaker (Draper) of over 100'. My buddy Doug was there, and he had the same bike as me. We were "brothers of the non-current Maicos" campaigning our red sleds across the state for practice sessions and whatever came up. We never failed to draw attention from the Japanese bike riding fellows on more up-to-date machinery. We were the subjects of a few snide comments, no doubt about it.

I had a humiliating experience on this bike I will never forget. Doug and I, along with some other friends signed up for the Marty Smith Motocross School, given by none other than our boyhood hero Marty Smith. This was a big event for us as we all were star struck to the max. Marty was cool, and we were all trying to impress the poor guy, or at lease not totally suck in front of him. Marty put on a great class, working around the track obstacles one at a time and we eventually came to the quad jump section, something to be feared by us who should have known better.

There was a certain peer pressure in the group as one by one the riders—starting with the best ones—followed Marty over those peaks, taking all four at once. It was a jump of maybe 30' - a prodigious distance for a shaky amateur on a large, lurching "non-current" bright red Maico.

It soon came my turn to attempt the leap. I would say I was somewhere in the middle in the pecking order as far as ability, and in spite of my trepidation and desire for self-preservation I finally went for it. I sacked up, and found, after a few sucessful tries you could just hit the right side of the first jump (it was a little taller) in the fat part of third gear on that Maico and you would clear the precipice no problem. It was kind of fun. But knowing how things sometimes go, I wisely stopped the rampage after maybe five times.

Satisfied I had safely conquered the challenge, I shut my bike off and watched the others ride the section. Doug my "Maico brother" rode up on his identical Maico and sized up the leap. He had not witnessed my graceful execution of the jumps just a few moments earlier, in fact it seemed like he didn't believe me when I told him. I decided to give him a demonstration of what a well-ridden Maico could do on the quad.

I started the bike and lined up for a run at the jumps. When it was clear, I dropped the clutch and shifted up and got right in the fat part of third gear at just the right time, then... silence. A total flame out at the worst possible moment, totally committed. I just hung on, clinching the seat as the front end dropped and dropped, right into the base of the third jump. The impact slid me forward on the seat, past the tank, and nut first right into the triple clamps. I did the classic body flop into the dirt, throwing a huge cloud of dust and anguish into the air right at Marty's feet. The hero and teacher just shook his head slowly. I had forgotten to turn the gas tap back on when I started my bike.

It was an amazing thing, totally spoding out in front of my boyhood hero. Stuff like that builds character. More recently, I have come to appreciate those humiliating times because they make a really great story, much more memorable than if I was just clearing those four jumps all day. And I bet Marty Smith has never forgotten it either.


Dan O said...

Great Marty Smith story. Fun stuff - well, probably not at the time...

1983 cr480 said...

I was there...... I seen it happen!!!!!! This is one of my best motorcycle crash storys. There was no sound as the bike hit the jump front wheel first. Then all you could hear was the air coming out of your body as your nut and chest hit the tripel clamps and bars. DG