Saturday, November 27, 2010

Diamond in the Rough

This was the second 1978 Maico 250 I owned, the same one that's in my garage right now. I resurrected this bike from a shed out behind the Maico dealership in around 1982. At the time, I was a poor college student and could not afford a new bike. Yes, I had fallen into "non current" status, an affliction that affects those who have fallen off the moto map.

But I still wanted a bike! Luckily for me, bikes of this era also fell off the moto map, and became devalued and unloved in just a matter of a couple of short years. When Don Gibbs unearthed this particular Maico from the confines of his storage, it was rusty, ridden hard and put away bent. It took a trained eye to see beneath the grime, but I knew what was there, and I liked it.

It had been used as a desert bike. For those in the know, desert bikes were usually somewhere South of the moto standard of sano. Duct tape, wire, dirt and a crazy set of super-wide "jack rabbit" handlebars adorned a sad looking carcass of a bike. I paid Gibbs $600 and took it home.

This bike gave me many hours of enjoyment, riding - but never racing - on a college student budget. Being "non current" meant being slightly embarrased when going riding with your more "current" buddies. Yes, I cared. I wished I had a more modern bike with which to roost, but alas...

The picture above was at the old Widowmaker track. Yes, there was an actual "official" motocross track on the site of the famous old-school hillclimb in the foothills of Draper. This had been the track I watched the Plumb brothers race back in 1972, the famous "Fire-O'Cross" race, the name coined by the incident where the grass parking lot caught on fire and almost burned up our little Ford truck. Quick action by my dad saved the day, he jumped into the truck as flames licked at the doors, started the hapless beast, and drove to safety.

I remember that Evel Kneivel was there that day to put on an exhibition. He did a cool wheelie right down the start straight to the delight of the crowd. There were some international stars there that day, too. I remember seeing Jimmy Weinert sitting by the side of the track, broken Kawasaki leaned over. When he took off his helmet, I could see the reality of the effort racing takes out in his red face and crusty residue.

These memories are faint but still there, as is the feeling I still get when I look over my old Maico. I am glad I looked deeper than the surface on this bike. It paid me back for my pity with some great memories and some red face and crust of my own, something I will always be thankful for.


Dan O said...

You still have the '78 Maico - cool.

You involved with the vintage MX scene at all? I dabbled through some websites, looks pretty damn fun.

If I had the time and dough, would pick up something like your Maico, and give it a go.

Mark E. said...

Wow! A voice from the past!

I was a Bob Plumb disciple in 1970-72. Bought a new Hodaka Super Rat, took it home and tricked it out just like Bob's - B&N reed valve w/ 32mm Amal carb (true!), lowered frame, lengthened swing arm Koni shocks and Van Tech leading link front end (like the DKWs) with Yamaha front brake (stock brake was weak).

Bike was fast with great torque (stock pipe with homemade Coke can silencer). More than once I beat everybody to the first turn and ended up leaving the turn behind everybody else! Unlike you, I was more wrench than rider.

Great fun. My buddy with Husky 400 tried it out one day in Parley's gulch. He was amazed at what 100cc's could do.

And... I was there at the 'Fire-O Cross!' We got out of the car that day, looked at the 12" tall dry grass everywhere and thought, "Man, if one guy drops a cigarette..."

Evel... I didn't see the wheelie, but I was on the course at the bottom of the hill just after the jump with the heavily berm'd right and immediate left back to the starting line. Evel looked terrified riding that hog!

I Googled 'Bob Plumb' on a whim just to see what he was doing. Found your blog. Fun reading!

Mark Elam
60 years old
Now riding MTB, single speed and tandem.

Jeff Clawson said...

Mark, thanks for the comments. Hard to get bikes out of your system, not that you would want to... I thought the Super Rats were awesome. Did you live near Wasatch Blvd. and 45th South? There was a guy who used to ride at one of our moto fields with a Hodie.

Mark E. said...

Nope. I lived a few blocks east of Bob and Rick Plumb - 33rd East and 2920 South.

Sidenote... I crashed some, but never really got hurt riding motocross. I crashed my mountain bike last July and my shoulder is still bothering me.

What happened???

Mark said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mark said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mark said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mark said...

Jeff, if it jogs your memory, I was the guy with the YELLOW Super Rat.

Yeah, the guy who 'sure crashes a lot, but at least he's trying hard.'