Maico 490 Sand Spider




Make Model

Maico 490 Sand Spider




Single cylinder, two stroke


488 cc / 29.8 cub in.
Bore x Stroke 86.5 x 83 mm
Cooling System Air cooled
Lubrication Oil in fuel, pre-mix
Recommended Oil Bel-Ray MC1+
Oil Capacity 0.60 L / 0.63 US quarts
Exhaust Upswept, right side

Fuel System

Bing, V54, 40 mm carburetor

Spark Plug

Champion N-2, NGK B9ES


Starting Kick start

Max Power

39 kW / 53 hp
Clutch Wet, multi-disc


5-Speed, wide ratio
Final Drive Chain
Gear Ratio 1st 2.35 / 2nd 2.71 / 3rd 1.30 / 4th 1.04 / 5th 0.84:1
Frame Single down tube, split cradle, chrome-molydenum

Front Suspension

Telescopic fork, 42 mm, air assited
Front Wheel Travel 310 mm / 12.2 in.

Rear Suspension

Single Öhlins shock
Rear Wheel Travel 325 mm / 12.8 in.

Front Brakes

Single leading shoe, drum 136 mm

Rear Brakes

Single leading shoe, drum 160 mm
Wheels Aluminum alloy, laced spokes

Front Tyre

3.00 x 21 in., Metzeler, 4-ply

Rear Tyre

4.50 x 18 in., Metzeler, 4-ply
Rake 27°
Trail 119 mm / 4.70 in.
Wheelbase 1490 mm / 58.7 in.
Ground Clearance 372 mm / 14.6 in.
Seat Height 1010 mm / 40.0 in.
Wet Weight 110 kg / 243 lbs

Fuel Capacity 

13 L / 3.5 US gal
Review Dirt Bike, May 1983

Maico 490 Sand Spider vs KTM 495MXC

Let's get a few things straight right off, okay? These are the two fastest Open class bikes around. While we haven't done an official big-bike shootout yet, the DB testers have had a chance to sling a leg across every 500cc racer made this year. Sure, the Honda is fast, the KX is quick, the Husky has massive amounts of mid-range and the Yamaha delivers a sudden blast, but these two machines are the horsepower kings for 1983.

Most manufacturers are striving mightily to get their 500cc bikes close to 50 horsepower at the rear wheel. With the KTM and the Maico, if they don't have over 50 horsepower, the dyno becomes suspect. The "average" 495 KTM and 490 Maico will usually yield between 50 and 53 horsepower to the rear wheel, properly jetted and in the hands of a savvy dyno operator. T

The frame is identical to the Spider MX, as is the swingarm. Also shared are the cases and top end of the MX bike. However, the Sand Spider has a wide-ratio five-speed gearbox and different final gearing. The S/S runs a 15 countershaft and a 52-tooth rear sprocket. Top speed, stock, is right around the 90-mph mark. And optional gearing will take the top speed into the Twilight Zone. A big tank (3.5 gallons) comes with the S/S, as does a skid plate and bolt-on side stand that can be taken off in minutes. All of the MX goodies are still on the bike, like the aluminum silencer, the Ohlins shock and premium-quality Metzeler tires. Unlike the 490MX, which came with four-ply Metzelers (or two-ply Metzelers on some bikes), the Sand Spider is equipped with the very latest 3E Metz knobbies. These have the rigidity of the 4E and are almost as light as the flexible 2Es. The S/S does not come with lighting coils in the Motoplat ignition, but the Motoplat with lighting coils is a bolt-on option.

Long, tall, white and nasty, the KTM 495 is a brute of a bike, and clearly capable of mind-bending speeds, as evidenced by the 123.75-mph run made by theDB testers in 1981. Like the Maico, the 495MXC is motocross-based, with a five-speed gearbox taking place of the four-speeder of the MX machine. A side stand is standard, but the bike does not come with a skid plate. There's a lighting coil in the MXC's Motoplat.

The KTM MXC comes stock with a 3.4-gallon tank, but any number of other tanks are available from KTM. Gearing on the KTM is also taller than the MX, with a 15 countershaft sprocket up front and a 52 at the rear. A 16 c/s sprocket is available and the rear will accept smaller sprockets, if needed. All other hardware is shared with the MX version, including the electric-blue safety saddle and the superb disc front brake.

Both of these bikes have more than enough steam to shred a new Metzeler into a bare carcass with excessive wheelspin in the lower gears. Shifting up early is the way to ride these freight trains. You can't make good forward motion if you're digging a trench.

The Maico has slightly more low-end punch than the KTM. It'll pull cleaner a bit earlier than the white bike. At mid-range, both machines come alive and it's virtually impossible to state which one pulls the hardest. The Maico seems to build its revs slightly quicker than the KTM. At upper revs, the KTM pulls fractionally longer and harder. After a number of drag races through the gears, it was noted that the KTM was a small bit faster than the Maico when both bikes hit fifth gear. Up to fifth gear, the Maico would hold a slight edge. We tried rolling starts, standing starts and top-gear roll-ons. The results would invariably have the Maico bolt out a bit ahead of the KTM, then the two bikes would stay almost side by side until they both engaged top gear, which, oddly enough, was right about the same time. Then the KTM would edge out the Maico by a half-length or so and hold it through fifth gear.

Both machines were stable at speed, and even seemed to track straighter as the speeds increased. Neither one shook the steering head when coming down from speed. Whoops would send a shudder through both machines, then they would go about their business of wailing up to peak revs. On fourth- and fifth-gear sweepers, the two machines showed the manners of flattrackers by hanging the rear end out at just the right amount and driving strongly under power. Chopping the throttle momentarily produced no shudders or weirdness. Still, both bikes were happiest under heavy throttle in the upper gears.

With the bikes set up properly, the forks were supple and flex-free. Those 42mm Marzocchi forks on the KTM almost make us take back all the bad things we've said about Zoke forks in the past. Almost. The 42mm Maico forks handle small bumps and crushers quite well, but are a bit harsh in the mid-range over square-edged bumps. We had no seal leakage problems with either bike.

At the rear (again, after being set up), the two machines handled big bumps without a whimper. The Ohlins-shocked Maico was more supple on the small and square-edged bumps than the White Power-equipped KTM. Overall, the Maico rear end was superior, but not by a great amount. We were able to dial in the right amount of rebound damping on the Maico to get the rear end returning smoothly, but even after working with the White Power shock, we felt that the return damping was too quick under certain conditions, like a reaction from a heavy hit on a deep, sharp-edged rut.


At lower speeds, the Maico had the edge in the turns. Its quicker steering let the bike take the inside line when there was a choice available. From 40 mph on up, we simply couldn't fault the steering of either bike, even on hard-packed fire roads. For normal desert or cross-country work, the turning of the KTM left nothing to be desired.

On a motocross track, the KTM was happier taking the outside line, or careening off a berm. It didn't like to be flicked around and had a ponderous feel to it on tight "S" sections and sharp corners. SHIFTING/BRAKING/STARTING You couldn't ask for a better front brake than the Brembo disc on the KTM. One finger was all it took to haul the white missile down from speed. In a real panic situation, two fingers would make the front Metzeler squeal on hard-packed terrain.

At the rear, our testers tended to over-brake and stall the KTM on a motocross track, but had no problems in a crosscountry situation. Bump-starting the 495 after stalling was next to impossible. There's a lot of compression in that motor.

A cliche is in order here: The Maico was, as we journalists like to say, buttery smooth. Shifts up or down, on or off the power, were very natural.
The KTM took a more deliberate movement of the left foot to get the same job done. It shifted down well under power, but resisted power shifting up under full throttle conditions.

While the KTM required a solid boot on the left-side-mounted kickstarter, it almost always lit off on the first whack. A wimpy effort would reward the rider with a partial movement of the lever and a slight wheeze from the internals. Done aggressively, getting things moving inside the engine was no sweat. There's no compression release on the Katoom. By using the compression release on the Sand Spider, even a pencil-necked geek like Clipper can start the 490. Like all European bikes, the Maico has a left-side kickstarter. Once the rider gets used to the angle and stroke of the kickstarter, the Maico can easily be started by the rider's left foot while sitting on the bike.

Both machines require tickling the 40mm Bing carbs when starting from cold. The Maico has a choke in its aluminum Bing body, while the KTM has no choke in its magnesium-bodied carb; a choke can be added, if the rider so desires. It takes a while to warm up the two huge engines first thing in the day, and a considerable amount of fin-ringing and rattling is normal. When the proper operating temperature is reached, the Maico quiets considerably, while the KTM still makes a lot of metallic ringing.

Of the two bikes, the Maico is the tallest. This year, the KTM is actually a bit lower in the saddle department than in previous years. Some thought went into the shape of the new KTM safety saddle. The tape shows the Maico reaching a nosebleed height of 39.5 inches, while the KTM registers 37.5 inches. One side note: The 1982 saddle will fit on the 1983 Maico easily and makes life a whole lot easier for shorter riders.

A trip to the official and incredibly accurate DB scales (accurate to plus or minus .00000714 obdurates per imbroglios) showed that the Maico hit 243 pounds with no gas in the tank, and the KTM weighed in at a hefty 256.5 pounds, dry. Quite a bit of difference, and more than likely the big reason the KTM felt more ponderous in the tight going than the much lighter Maico.

No doubt about it, the KTM is still the horsepower king in the Open class. However, it suffers from too much weight and the vibration from the engine is genuinely irritating.

The Maico, by virtue of nearly 20 pounds less dry weight, got the nod as the more efficient all-around bike from our testers. Still, where speed is the determining factor, the KTM still holds the title of fastest bike.