In June of 1971, the first issue of Dirt Bike Magazine appeared on newsstands. Within it was the first modern motocross shootout. The Husqvarna 250 Cross, Maico 250 K5 and CZ 250 were the subjects of the test. Here is the test as it was presented in 1971
Put together a minimum of two dirt bikers, and the conversation inevitably turns to a comparison of the virtues and vices of various makes of motorcycles. Nowhere is this relative superiority more fiercely contested than with the competitive, flat out, highly specialized class of machines used for motocross competition.
Along about the second six-pack of this fierce wheel-to-wheel pit racing, the field of contending machines which still retain fanatical advocates (who are probably cheating by arguing with the facts) is usually narrowed to three makes in the 250cc class. The big three, acknowledged tacitly by nearly everyone, are Husqvarna, CZ, and Maico. These also happen to be the top three international contenders that can actually be purchased by a rider. Suzuki may have won the manufacturer’s championship and BSA the Trans-AMA, but have you seen one of their 250 motocross machines for sale at your local dealer? No way. You’re not likely to consider a Suzuki 250 for your competition bike unless your last name is Robert, Geboers, Petersson, etc. Not for a while, anyway.
So it remains that a Husky, CZ or Maico is the bike to beat (along with the Spanish 250 machines to be covered in the next issue of DIRT BIKE) at your local motocross track or rough scrambles event. What makes these machines winners? Why choose one over the other? Which one is the right mount for the novice rider, or the expert?
DIRT BIKE acquired the current model of each of these 250 class machines and after weeks of riding, dyno-ing, timing and measuring, managed to put together the info to answer those questions. The source of this data was a head-to-head confrontation of all three: on the track, from the specs, and in the shop. Welcome to the Husky-CZ-Maico shoot-out. The choice of weapons is yours.
More than anything else that emerges from an extensive test of a racing machine, is the personality of the bike. The three motocrossers that we wrung out, even though almost identical in weight, size and dimensions, were distinctively different in feel and behavior. To be competitive in today’s market, a 250-class machine must have the following attributes:
- Close to 30 horsepower (at the crankshaft).
- A good power range.
- Brutal acceleration.
- Light weight, normally around 230 pounds or less.
- Precise steering.
- Nearly perfect suspension and predictable handling.
- Reliability and ease of maintenance.
- It must instill confidence in the rider and respond instantly to his every demand.
- It should look like a racer: dynamic and clean, yet functional.
- It must have all the trick stuff as standard equipment and be ready to win races right out of the crate.
ALL THREE OF the bikes we tested had these 10 requirements in varying degrees, and all are successful in both racing and sales. The minute differences that appear on paper really amount to a world of difference when you realize that the machine will probably spend the greatest part of its existence operating near that thin line that separates crashing from winning. It’s an awful lot to ask of a machine and still have it stay in one piece. With this in mind, we put the 250 Husky, C-Z and Maico through THE TEST.
Indian Dunes is sand. And water. And hills. And pretty much everything else you can think of that could possibly destroy a machine in the shortest possible time. It’s also one of the neatest off-road playgrounds around, having a very demanding motocross course, lotsa desert terrain, hillclimbs and such. Being only 20 minutes from our office didn’t hurt either. We unloaded all of those brand new, shiny machines at Indian Dunes and commenced to filthy them up in a vigorous manner.
Some break-in trail riding was the first order of the day and we found out that these hot MX’ers don’t really like to be ridden slowly. Except the Husky. It was very torquey at the bottom and seemed content to poke around at low revs all day long. The CZ, being a hair on the peaky side, took a lot of restraint to cow trail properly. The Maico seemed sort of neutral; didn’t really like to pok-pok-pok around, but would do so if it seemed really necessary.
After this impatient break-in, the test team of seasoned dirt riders headed right for the big, twisty two-mile motocross course and started to get it on a bit. This is when we started to find out the true differences in the three machines.
Our test CZ had incorporated the following non-stock items: folding footpegs replaced the stock rigid pegs which offered almost no grip in addition to being potential ankle-breakers; Champion L3G and L2G plugs replaced the Czech PAL plugs which are factory equipment, but expensive and difficult to obtain in this country. The CZ is the only totally new design motocross engine of the three test bikes. Both the Maico and Husqvarna engines are derived from 175cc road machines.
The overall finish of the CZ was good. The color scheme is attractive while paint and fiberglass are both well done. Accessibility to electries is excellent on the CZ. The points are in front of the flywheel and can be reached simply by removing the side cover. Generally, all working components on the bike can be reached with a minimum of hassle for maintenance or repair.
The CZ had the lightest clutch action of the shoot-out bikes, with good release: this from a clutch that it was seldom necessary to use. It was possible to slam indiscriminately either up or down the gears without touching the clutch. This included shifting into low at the start. This latter will be appreciated for the quick motocross start. All motocross bike clutches and gearboxes should be as good. The gear ratios are spot-on for MX racing with a good spread. The only fault in this department is the rather long shift throw between all the gears. This can be adapted to as shifting without removing the foot from the peg is still possible, unless you have less than size nine feet.
The brakes, taking front and rear together, were the best of the three shoot-out bikes. The front brake was particularly impressive, and both could be used severely without any tendency to fade during a moto. The front forks are excellent.
Springing and dampening seem just right, even though the forks travel a good distance before reaching full compression in competitive use. The rear shocks are just OK. They are not quite right and a change of springs is in order for most riders. The front forks leaked oil very freely with the stock seals, and most serious riders replace the Czech items with Honda or Ceriani seals. The quality of Czech neoprene is not up to Western standards. The overall suspension feels light, almost delicate. The steering is very precise as a result, and ultimate control in placement is there for the rider able to take advantage of it. With the stock shocks it is difficult to keep the rear end under you and straightened out through the rough stuff.
The very good brakes are contained in conical hubs front and rear, which helps to reduce unsprung weight. There is no front brake adjustment at the lever, and the rear brake has no return mechanism. A return spring or piece of strong rubber must be lashed up to insure positive brake return action, particularly when mud or dirt starts to build up around the pivot points. The steel rims are reasonably strong and do not bend easily. Chromed spokes seem unnecessary on a competition machine, plus chroming tends to make the spokes more brittle. The Barum tires are definitely mudders. They wear very rapidly on dry or hard surfaces and tend to squirm a bit because of the flexible sidewall. A 3.00 x 21 front tire would be our choice for bikes imported into the U.S. It gives the rider a better cushion and avoids the tendency of the 2.75 to knife into sandy or loose, ground. The reliable CZ engine deserves the good reputation it has established. It is an excellent powerplant. The dual ignition is a definite asset, ensuring easy starts and complete combustion. There is a wide power band and the bike showed no tendency to load up.
Throttle action is smooth, with just the right amount of wrist action for short bursts of full throttle. The low end torque was poor compared to the other two test bikes, but the CZ came on very strong, possibly the strongest, from mid-range through to top end. If the rider is skillful enough to keep the machine up on the pipe, the power is awesome and can be used efficiently. Our test bike proved fairly easy to keep within the power band and was devastatingly quick when wicked on for short bursts between corners. Enough to produce white knuckles if you aren’t ready for it or haven’t adapted to the potential of the machine.
The power characteristics combined with the fantastic handling made the CZ a formidable mount on the medium-choppy straights and through the corners. The tendency of the rear end to hop on deep whoop-de-doos was initially unsettling but no serious problems developed as long as the throttle was kept screwed on. As a matter of fact, the solution to a lot of awkward situations the average rider will encounter seemed to be the application of more throttle. The bike inevitably straightened out in response to the smooth build-up of power and handling came under the control of the rider again, even in near disasters.
The gearing of the machine for different courses or conditions is simple and quick, with a completely exposed countershaft sprocket and a bolt-on rear sprocket. Rear sprocket bolts must be checked for tightness as part of normal routine preparation.
The frame is simple and solid. The bike is a heavyweight amidst the current crop of 250 competition machines, but was also the most rugged, in integral construction, of the test machines. The true quick-detach wheels and simple chain adjustment are other positive points for the CZ.
The stock high pipe inevitably hits (and burns) the leg, regardless of rider size. The heat shield is of marginal utility during the shifting of body position required in motocross. A number of CZ low pipes are on the market and some riders claim both better performance and increased comfort. The paper element air cleaner is inadequate, even though location and ease of access are excellent. Unscrew one seat bolt and the cleaner is there in its ‘glass box. The CZ is a machine which can be ridden, and ridden competitively, by the novice competitor. It takes the skill and experience of the expert to Get the full potential out of the bike, something that is true of most all-out machines. The qualities that make it a World Champion in the hands of Robert or Friedrichs also allow the sportsman rider an extra margin for error and recovery during the fast pace of motocross competition.
Our test Husky from MED was not showroom stock, something to keep in mind when considering the following DIRT BIKE evaluation. It had different handlebars and a remote float Bing carburetor. (Huskies generally come equipped with a center float Bing.) It took some preparation to get the Husky “right.”
The gearing was quite low and the Husky had a power curve that seemed more suited to enduro riding. The result was overpowering low and midrange power. There is so much torque, it’s hard to tell what gear you are in. The Husky topped out on speed and revs much sooner than the other machines, and it seems that a tooth or two more on the countershaft sprocket would result in a better spread of power.
One result of the brutal low end torque was the suddenness of wheel spin when cornering. This created a problem on a twisting, tight-cornered motocross track as the rear end would break away in an unpredictable manner. The Husky just did not like cornering as well as either the CZ or Maico. The best way to go through a corner, determined after many efforts by the test team, is to go in deep, square it off sharply, pick a line, and carefully wind on throttle to get out of the turn. Too eager a right hand would cause the rear wheel to break loose and put the bike and rider in very undesirable configurations. This condition was aggravated, initially, by a sticky throttle cable, which made it almost impossible to apply power smoothly. This was corrected by Scuderi at Husqvarna before the end of our test period.
The Husky proved very responsive at low speeds, due in part to the power band. Steering was neutral, permitting a rider to corner with power either on or off. Handling is very quick. This, combined with the massive low end torque, meant that the bike required constant attention as it wanted to go growling and breaking away if the steering-throttle combination was not correct for the course situation.
Opinion of the Husky suspension varied among the test riders. The bike tended to be more “bouncy” than the others, but the Girlings on the rear were the best shocks on any test bike. The impact after a bad jump was very soft and the bike always stayed under control while pushing it over repeated choppy, hard jumps. It was very stable through deep whoop-de-doos but, paradoxically, the whole machine moved around a lot in the sand. It would cover the same ground over a much wider track than either the CZ or the Maico. Front forks were very good and took front wheel landings with ease. The machine recovered beautifully after jumps or steep drops regardless of rider. The bars on the test Husky were definitely too high for maximum control in cornering. It required real effort to force the Husky’s front end down into a corner. This fact, coupled with a steering head that was nearly an inch taller than that of the other bikes, means that the novice or beginning rider will have to work harder to get the Husky through corners at fast, controllable speeds. It seems that heavier or taller riders do not experience this problem; it could be a leverage factor.
Appearance of the Husqvarna is functionally attractive. The flat black cylinder and exhaust look very business-like. The pipe is tucked away very nicely out of the rider’s way; no burns. The red and silver colors are striking, but aluminum fenders are pretty much passe for this type of machine.
The Husqvarna air cleaner is almost a joke in its stock form. It is very exposed and difficult to water proof. It sits outside of the frame where it can collect an awful lot of whatever happens to be flying around such as mud, dust, sand, water, etc. The single paper element just doesn’t make it.
Engine parts accessibility is good, except for the countershaft sprocket which is completely enclosed behind a cover on a taper. It is more difficult to change than the exposed type running on a splined shaft. The Husqvama chassis (a frame type des-ignated MF) appears to have evolved with the machine rather than being an original, integral part of the design. It looks like it’s built with the strength of an armored tank, but this is partly due to the many brackets, gussets and reinforcing tubes. One witty dude suggested that they were trying to reinforce the hinge in the frame under the seat. Our test bike, by the way, did not have this tendency to flex, as reported by some Husky owners.
Clutch action was stiff and the shift throw was very long. So long that it was necessary to remove the foot from the peg in order to shift. The clutch had very smooth action, however, with good, positive engagement. Shifts were always clean and could usually be accomplished without the clutch by blipping the throttle. Third and fourth gears were very close on our test Husky, but with all that low end available, you didn’t have to work the gearbox that much to get around a motocross course fairly quickly.
Starting the 250 Husqvarna was a real bear. It was definitely not a first kick starter from cold, even following the proper procedure. If dumped or dropped while riding, it was difficult to ever get the bike to fire without a push. The Husky always required some severe booting to get interested in firing. The successful drill, when the bike was warm, went something like this:
- Petcock off. 2. Lean bike to left. 3. Hold throttle full open. 4. Kick. 5. Kick. 6. Kick.
… Street bike starts are not expected from motocross machines and this reluctance to run seems to be one of the personal idiosyncrasies of the Husky, but it got to be a drag. (When it did fire up, it was a gas to be able to loft the front wheel at will just by dialing on the beans.) Husqvarna’s floating rear brake is excellent. A gold star to Husky for this item. The rear brake pedal should have a slightly larger foot tab, however, as it was possible to miss it when stomping in a panic mode. The front brake is not up to the high performance standards of the back end. Why equip an expensive machine with a vital component that just doesn’t hack it? The Swedes should know better.
Bits and pieces: Vibration at any engine speed is severe. Long-time Husky riders adapt to it, but the bike buzzes something fierce. The Akront rims are an excellent feature for the privateer, but do tend to collect mud. Husky cables were the only ones with lube nipples, an item we like. The Trelleborg tires, like the Barums, are soft and best-suited for mud or soft ground.
The Husky can be summed up as a heavy-duty package of screaming raw torque. Despite the apparent flexibility this allows your riding style, a lot of the bike would be wasted on the novice rider.
The 250 Maico is a visual machine. It is impossible to ignore the eye-grabbing chrome yellow of the new K5. Add to this the unique fenders, tank and fork boots and you have possibly the most distinctive-looking motocross machine on the market. Nobody ever confuses a Maico for something else, even when it’s covered with dust or mud. In some strange, Teutonic way, it all fits together.
Unfortunately, the finish of the fiberglass components is not up to their original promise. Not for an $1100 machine, anyway. The Maico motorcycle comes on with angular purpose: a single purpose: European-type motocross competition. The whole personality of the bike follows from this. It is very precise and rather stiff, as you might expect from a piece of German machinery.
The most striking performance feature of the Maico is the ability of almost any rider to go very fast on it his first time aboard. The machine instills confidence and, due to a number of characteristics- forces the beginning rider to ride like an expert. The low position of the bars feels strange at first, but they permit the rider to fling the Maico into turns, making it do exactly what he wants it to do. As long as you keep the power on. The bike must be ridden, and cornered, with the power on. That’s the way the international stars ride, and the Maico requires correct riding techniques to make it handle right. Fortunately, the techniques come easily on this machine and the lesson is more inspiring than painful. The 250 Maico is smooth and predictable, even in the rough. The steering is slow compared to the other two shoot-out bikes, but at this performance level, that will be counted as a virtue by many who are moving up to an all-out competition machine for the first time. The Maico is not as exciting as the other machines at first ride, but this is largely due to the smooth, predictable handling and power combination. It’s almost a surprise when you see how many bikes you pass, with everything still under control. For some reason, the Maico was always being ridden with two other bikes available during our test period; possibly because it is the most confidence inspiring for the beginner.
The Maico does have some weak points, which are almost chronic with the breed. The clutch is very stiff and drags continually. It takes both hands and a foot to pull in on the lever and disengagement is never complete. This has been happening with Maicos since 1956 and should have been corrected by now. Gunther Schier, are you listening? As if to compensate, the shifting is short, smooth and positive and the clutch is not needed except for starting and stopping. Shifting is right up there with the CZ for ease, with the advantage of shorter throws. There were no missed shifts experienced and no tendency to bog down. Maico and CZ gear ratios are almost identical and right on for motocross.
The Maico has no front brake to speak of; the front hub is almost an ornament. It was easily the worst of test bike brakes and five or six pounds could be saved by eliminating it since it is nearly useless functionally. Again, compensation is made for the fault through a good rear brake. It is adequate for stopping in nearly any situation, but it would be nice to have two working brakes. The factory rims are another weak point. They were crinkled after one day of test- ing. Severe competitive use would undoubtedly add more corners to them.
The 250 Maico engine can be started in any gear. However, with a non-releasing clutch, the advantage of this feature is somewhat nullified. It was the only test bike with this desirable feature and it seems a shame to lose it. It could be very useful for quick recovery after a get-off. Out of gear, the Maico started first kick every time, even when cold. The engine generates a very flat power curve with no peakiness. The wheels will not break loose with sudden applications of throttle, possibly because the Maico generates the least power to the ground of all the bikes in the shoot-out. Frankly, it did not pull as strongly as expected. The power was adequate, but most of the riders had anticipated a hotter machine. Apparently, the 250 Maico wins are not accomplished on sheer power.
The front end is stiff and felt very hard coming off jumps. The bike was crate-new but it seems possible that more progressive dampening would give a better ride. The rear suspension, Girling, is neutral and gives a very stable feeling. The Maico had no tendency to “swim” even in deep sand. The seating position is low and this helps keep the center of gravity down, a contributing factor in the excellent handling. The low downpipe also helps to keep weight down Jow, and the rider unburned, but is exposed to rocks, etc. A skid plate would be required for any cross-country riding. Don’t be misled. The K5 is not intended for cross-country use. The unique double-downtube chassis is a no-compromise motocross type and alteration would be required for Hare and Hounds-type races. This is a highly refined single-purpose motorcycle and should be approached as such.
The Metzler tires are better suited for hard or cobby grouna man the stock skins on the Husky or CZ. They have very good wear characteristics but are not really the equal of Barums or Trelleborgs in the deep mud. However, rubber on all machines was top quality and such details would probably not be noticed by the vast majority of riders.
Summing up, the Maico is not a fierce screamer but strong in handling and has smooth, controllable power. It’s a mount that will make the beginning competitor get better.
When it comes down to the final decision as to who gets your 1100 or so hard-earned dollars, it’s a matter of “You pay your money and you take your choice.” The advantages and disadvantages in performance and handling of these three first class motocross bikes have been outlined, but the final decision to buy is made up of other factors. The reliability of the bike, for instance. The availability and cost of replacement parts, for another. Which machine has the best reputation for holding together throughout a race? Or a season? Opinions on this will vary all over town, and the individual’s diligence in performing maintenance may be the deciding factor between a winner and an also-ran. All the machines are competitive and the one that feels right for you, and your level of riding skill, is the one th’lt will make you most competitive. The most important thing in purchasing your motocross mount may be the reputation of the dealer in your area. Will he stand behind his machine, or is he indifferent to your problems and motocross in general?
The profiles presented are the consensus of opinion by many riders, testing all three machines. The personalities of the bikes were all distinctive, but there were no dogs in this group. The right man can win on any of them. The final decision is yours.
CZ 250cc Motocross
Price, suggested retail: Approx. $1135
Engine type: Single cylinder 2 cycle, air cooled
Bore x Stroke: 70mm bore/64mm stroke
Compression Ratio: 10.5 to 1
Carburetion: Jikov 2930 30mm
HP @ RPM: 28.6 at 6800 claimed/actual 28
Clutch: Dry multi-plate
Primary drive: Gear
Final drive: Chain
1 1.84 to 1
2 1.47 to 1
3 1.18 to 1
4 1.06 to 1
Air Filtration: Paper element in still air box
Electrical System and Ignition: Magneto flywheel with dual coil and dual plug
Lubrication: Oil in gas-pre-mix
Recommended Fuel: Regular
Recommended Oil: Castrol
Fuel Capacity: 2.2 gallons
Frame: Single down tube split cradle
Suspension: Front: Hydraulic telescopic forks
Rear: Swingarm with CZ shock
Tires: Front: 2.75 x 21 knobby-Barum tires standard
Rear: 4.00 x 18 knobby
Wheels: Front: steel
Dimensions: Wheelbase: 54.33 inches
Height: 42.91 inches
Ground Clearance: 7.48 inches
Weight: 242 pounds actual
Brake: Front: Internal expansion 180mm x 25mm
Rear: Internal expansion 180mm x 25mm
Pounds/HP (roadweight): 8.643 lbs.
per horsepower at crank
HUSQVARNA 250cc Cross
Price, suggested retail: Approx. $1175
Engine type: Single cylinder 2 stroke, air cooled
Displacement: 245 cc
Bore x Stroke: 69.5mm bore (2.72 in.) x 64.5mm stroke (2.54 in.)
Compression Ratio: 12.3 to 1
Carburetion: Bing 32mm (36mm on newer models)
HP @ RPM: 26.2 at 6200 actual/29 at 7000 claimed
Clutch: Wet multi-plate 5 steel, 5 fiber
Primary drive: Gear driven, straight cut
Final drive: Chain
Overall Gear ratios:
1 18.2 to 1
2 13.8 to 1
3 11.7 to 1
4 9.7 to 1
Electrical System and Ignition: Stefa magneto to single plug
Lubrication: Oil in gas-premix
Recommended Fuel: Premium
Recommended Oil: Viking
Fuel Capacity: 9.5 Liters (21/8 gallons)
Frame: Single downtube MF type
Suspension: Front: Hydraulic telescopic 6″ travel
Rear: Swingarm with Girling shocks
Tires: Front: 3.00 x 21 knobby- Trelleborg tires standard
Rear: 4.00 x 18 knobby
Wheels: Front: Akront alloy
Rear: Akront alloy
Dimensions: Wheelbase: 54 inches
Seat Height: 31.5 inches
Ground Clearance: 9.0 inches
Weight: actual p4
Brake: Front: DLS internal expanding 160mm x 30mm
Rear: DLS internal expanding 160mm x 30mm
Pounds / HP (roadweight): 8.916 lbs. per horsepower at crank
MAICO 250 cc
Price, suggested retail: Approx. $1100 (varies greatly)
Engine type: Single cylinder 2 cycle, air cooled
Bore x Stroke: 67mm bore/70mm stroke
Compression Ratio: 12 to 1
Carburetion: Bing 36mm
HP @ RPM: Claimed 33 at 6500- actual 26.7
Clutch: Wet multi-plate steel
Primary drive: Duplex chain
Final drive: Chain
1 1.99 to 1
2 1.52 to 1
3 1.23 to 1
4 1.00 to 1
Air Filtration: Still air box and paper filter
Electrical System and Ignition: Magneto flywheel, with single plug
Lubrication: Oil in gas-pre-mix
Recommended Fuel: Premium
Recommended Oil: Petroleum base
Fuel Capacity: 1.4 gallons
Frame: Double loop full cradle
Suspension: Front: Hydraulic telescopic forks 7″ travel
Rear: Swingarm with Girling shock
Tire: Front: 3.00 x 21 knobby- Metzler tire standard
Rear: 4.00 x 18 knobby
Wheels: Front: steel
Dimensions: Wheelbase: 55 inches
Ground Clearance: 8 ”
Weight: actual 223.1
Brake: Front: Leading shoe/light alloy hub
Rear: Twin leading shoe / special light weight motocross hub
Pounds/HP (roadweight): 8.614 lbs.
per horsepower at crank