LAVERDA, EST. 1949 ITALY
750S FORMULA - LONDON 1999
If you ride a bike because you have to, then the Laverda 750S Formula, in bright orange and silver, is not for you. In fact come to think of it, forget it in any colour. The 750S is to motorbikes what the Ferrari F40 was to supercars back in 1988. Fast, brutal, uncompromising and uncomplicated. Both, strangely, have the same power characteristics. Very little low down torque, but the most terrific performance once on song, or in the F40's case, on twin turbo V8 serenade.
I have to admit that on this occasion I got on much better with the orange monster than with a yellow cousin last October. The weather helped, we have been experiencing a sort of British summer and what a nice change it is to be able to use all the power and all the road without the worry of running into a wet spot, on an apex, at full chat. Having been down to Castle Coombe circuit, nestled in the western countryside near to the beautiful city of Bath, I jumped out of my Integrale and decided that on this sunny Sunday evening, it was time to visit my mum in Kent for some famous home cooking. Plus the chance to open up the beast on some of my favourite tried and tested B roads.
With what resembles a fine pair Termignoni pipes, both in design and decibel level, I headed off into the motorway traffic, the route already planned out to give a good combination of high speed dual carriageway and serious twisty stuff. The Laverda is a small bike. I'm 6 ft and around 13 ½ stone and I do favour a bit of framework around/underneath me. The position is fairly cramped, and hard on the wrists, certainly not what you'd call comfortable around town. With the fuel tank buried beneath the rear seat, the front "tank" is in fact an air box. Just image the space saving if all that air didn't have to live inside such a big box! It is though quite comfy to lie on, which is what you need to do if you're to avoid a great face full of buffeting and I don't mean Warren, the great sage of Omaha. The 750 actually looks more like a 600. Not, mind a Japanese 600, as no other manufacturer can combine such stellar looks with such beautiful componentry.
What you realise, immediately, is that this parallel twin is totally gutless unless you wind it up. It would appear that Laverda's engine magicians have been studying with the Honda VTEC car engine crew on a field trip in Tokyo. Some sort of pasta/sushi swapfest, I guess, as those engines, too, have less than the best of torque curves, or rather no go at slowmo and loads of go at the high numbers end. BINGO! 6,000 Rpm. Keep the Laverda here and let the smile across your face widen like a daisy in fresh sunlight. The rumble becomes a roar, growing and surging you forward violently and just as you're getting used to this cacophony of exhaust, engine and induction parallel thunder, this near warp effect, BANG 9,500 and it's up a cog we go as the limiter stops the fun.
Seemless gear changes are a wizz, just back off the power and click the, fairly smooth is a little inconsistent box, up, then go back full on. Putting one's knee, and what ever other bits you like, "down" is also not a great effort. The bike falls nicely into corners and tends to find a fluidity of balance where upon you don't have to make constant corrections. This is in no way hindered by the prestigious amount of grip afforded by both the rubber and the rear suspension, although the front set up is a tad harsh, but nevertheless very beautiful to look at it must be noted and still amongst the best if not quite on the top step. As I swept over the north downs, with the amber sun setting behind me, bright blue sky above and roar horses below, I was as close to biker heaven as I have ever come. Long straights, soft tarmac, hard corners and the odd 90° right hander thrown in just for good measure.
It is an emotive experience riding any Italian bike, especially when they are as special and evocative as a Laverda. These bikes are not banzi rockets, as I discovered as soon as I got off the 750's and onto a Kawasaki Ninja 600R. But if you don't want to be one of the crowd on a Sunday lunchtime burn, then I suggest you check out a spicy Italian alternative.
Laverda 750's Formula
Price £7995 Dry weight 185Kg BHP/RPM 83/9000 Top Speed 140mph