MX Bob Bike History - Fairy Tale 10
1981 Maico 490
1981-1983
Racing the Fast Guys

Towards the end of the 81 season, The Knobby Shop, a KTM / Maico dealership in Norfolk, still had this brand new 81 Maico 490 on the floor, so they knocked the price down to Japanese levels. This was back in the days when a European bike would cost $400-$800 more than a similar Japanese model. (I guess it's debatable whether those days are over.) I somehow managed to come up with enough money to roll it out of the shop. My dream bike, or so I thought, had become a reality.

I raced it three or four races times at the end of the season. I won a race and got trophies at the others. I had the advantage of riding a brand new bike against bikes that had been raced for 6 months, but the bike handled as good as I thought it would, and was perfect for my riding style. The engine was deceptively fast. The power was so smooth that it didn't really feel that fast. It wasn't until I was motoring past wound out 250s that I knew it had some beans.

I trained hard that winter and rode a lot. I put enough hours on the bike that I began to experience some of its mechanical shortcomings. My mechanical ability had improved quite a bit over the last few years, but Maicos required special attention. I got into the habit of taking the wheels off, roughing up the brake pads with sandpaper, and greasing everything associated with the wheels, every week.

There were a few other areas that needed constant attention. I learned some of these the hard way. There was the race that the compression release came loose from the cylinder, the race that the rear brake seized (I hadn't lubed the brake pedal pivot), and many others. Eventually, I would check almost every nut and bolt at least every week, and some of them every ride.

All this work was done in a 10 x 10 piece of concrete, within the large village that was the Tidewater Self Storage, just outside of the base. That 100 square feet was a home away from home. The people that ran it turned a blind eye towards Navy guys working on their cars and motorcycles, drinking beer, and hanging out for hours. Beer didn't often fit into my racing budget or training regimen, but I got to know those car guys quite well. Many were ship-fitters which is a whole other world of crazy, both on the job and off.

The season started, as always for District 13, on the first Sunday in March. I won my way out of B class a few months later. I was still having some DNFs though. I managed to fry the ignition three times. Luckily, they were quite a bit cheaper than Japanese units, but then again, I've never had to replace one on a Japanese bike.

At the time, Open B class was not that much different from Open C, but B class was very different from Open A. That's where all the fast guys ended up. I got lapped my first race, but never again after that. At first, I would finish near the back every race, but eventually, I worked my way into the top ten pretty regularly. The guys in the top five were at a higher level than I was. I would only finish in front of them if they had big problems.

Some of the tracks had non-points paying Saturday races. Most of the faster A guys would not show up at those. The track would often run 30-minute motos on Saturday. That was good for me, because I needed the seat time. I could rarely practice between races.

At one track, SME, I became king of the Saturdays. The majority of my first place trophies are from Saturday Open A races at SME. There would usually be the same two to four of us each time, and the other guys were people I could usually beat, especially if they ran long motos. Occasionally one of the fast guys would show up on Saturday to get some extra track time, and then I wouldn’t get a trophy. Since there were so few racing the class, they only gave one trophy.

My best Sunday finish was a second. In the second moto that day, one by one I was passing the fast guys in my class. Sounds impressive until I add that it was extremely muddy, the riders I was passing were no longer moving by the time I finally caught up to them, and the guy who won was already back at his truck and partially cleaned up by the time I got the checkered flag. However, I paid the price for those second place points. I had quite a few problems in the weeks to come that were definitely related to the water and mud getting into things.

In other highlights, if you could call them that, when I raced Open A at Lake Sugar Tree, I raced against Mickey Boone and Rodney Barr, both North Carolina fast guys who did well at the national level. I avoided being lapped by them. In fact, I was dead even with both of them. And then the gate dropped.

Because of having to stay on the ship for duty every fourth day, I would only go to about two thirds of the races. Between that, taking a few months to get into A class, and the frequent DNFs, I raced and finished in less than half of the points paying races. I ended up 11th and only the top 10 got awards. That would be the closest I would get to a top ten finish in A class. *

Much as I liked riding the bike, the mechanical problems I had with it, and the constant maintenance, lead me back to Japanese machinery. I can't remember much about selling this bike either. It was kind of cumbersome for me to sell a bike. I lived on the ship and didn't have a home phone. I would run an ad in the local paper with my work number. The person would have to call during the day to get an answer and then would have to meet me at my storage unit to see it.

I'm sure I didn't get as much as I wanted, but I had to sell it to pay for the next bike.

* This was originally written around 1999. A few decades later, I am interpreting this to mean closest to a Top Ten in A Class ever. Stay tuned, esteemed reader of this prose, to see if that "done racing" mentality stuck.

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SME Motocross Park, Dilwyn, Virginia, 1982 photo by Doug Burba
I really liked this picture because I thought I had good form and style. The duct tape visor seal was a pretty common site then. I was ahead of the trend on the boot covers and large bolt-on front numbers. The SME pictures are a bit pinker than the actual colors.


White Oak Motocross Track, Fredericksburg, Virginia, 1982 photo by Art Law
The picture is cut off, but I'm going up the White Oak mound. You can see the "Safety Seat" that I installed. No, that's not a piece of wood piercing my eye, it's actually in the background.


SME Motocross Park, Dilwyn, Virginia, 1982 photo by ???
I liked this one so much I bought it from the trackside photographer. Photos were a big-time luxury for me then. This was a Saturday race and I won both motos in A class for the first time.


White Oak Motocross Track, Fredericksburg, Virginia, 1982 photo by Doug Burba
The Maico liked it when you stayed forward on it. Note that the clutch lever looks like it’s adjusted almost straight down.


I made this shirt into one of my signature bicycle training shirts.

Revised June 2017