I came to the Laverda brand quite late in life. I never had the money for a new one. This new Laverda from the modern Zane era of the brand is what sparked that passion and can trace its heritage right back to the older Breganze Laverda 750 SF and SFC and 750 GT parallel twin’s of the 1970’s .
My love of motorcycles came from days spent as a young boy at the Transatlantic Trophy races in the seventies. Watching the likes of Roberts, and Mamola scrapping with a bunch of Brits led by the ubiquitous Barry Sheene. Not surprising then when my first ‘Real’ bike was an RD350LC. The closest thing I could get to the bikes I had watched racing.
I took that first bike and did everything I could to make it go faster. Luckily, a friend of mine worked for the fabled Terry Beckett at the time. He would come over and help me to recreate what he was doing to the TZ350’s with my LC. Of course it had to have a Dyson/Plastic Fantastic body kit. Slowly but surely it turned into possibly the scariest bike I would ever ride.
I remember a 900SS Ducati pulling me aside one day on the motorway. At the services his comment was, “You really shouldn’t be going that fast on that thing”. That was a statement that stuck with me and always made me smile.
A Colourful History
My bike history is colourful. After my days riding 2 stroke I took a standard Honda 500/4 (The cheaper option than a 750) and tuned every last ounce of power out of it. I fitted Thruxton bars and rear-sets, along with a 4 into one Dunstall exhaust. It was my companion on many journeys and I rode it for many memorable miles.
Then I turned to British bikes, and that is where my love of the parallel twin engine as a design comes from. I had 2 A7’s, the second a full bore production racer which embarrassed many bigger bikes over the years. I owned a triumph TR25 Trophy Trials for a while too. That is where my love of off-road riding came from, although to be honest, it wasn’t the greatest bike.
Since then I have owned many special bikes. I still have 2 Yamaha FZR1000’s, which I consider one of the best motorcycles ever built. My Triumph Daytona 955i has one of the most breathtaking engines ever made too. My search for the ultimate adventure bike brought me a DR600 Suzuki, KLR600 Kawasaki and more recently a Cagiva Navigator. I took a mild mannered Honda Shadow VLX and turned it into a fire breathing monster.
Adding The Laverda 750 to An Eclectic Collection
More recently, despite the fact I swore I would never buy one, I purchased a Harley Davidson super-glide sport. I have a CB700SC nighthawk S which I adore, but my general dogsbody for nearly 10 years now has been a Suzuki DL650 Vstrom. It is a hard bike to beat on many levels, but one bike has not been enough for years now. I am also the proud owner of one of the last Cagiva W12’s left in the country. A bike that I never tire of.
I have always loved Italian bikes, but I was put off by the high price and reliability issues so many had in the 70s. One day however, I came across a Laverda Ghost Strike and I went soft at the knees. I searched and did the research and knew what I wanted, but the right one just never came up. Then one day I saw an add for what is now my Laverda Carenata.
The only drawback, it was near Inverness. After a very long drive I arrived to see a bike in pristine condition. It was sharing a heated garage with a Ducati 749R. I had never seen one in the silver and orange paint job, and it was truly striking. After going through the paperwork and taking a short ride, it got loaded into my van. I knew even with its great history I was taking a risk, but one short ride and I knew it was worth it.
One Of A Priviledged Few
People will have all sorts to say about Zane Laverda’s. This however tells the story of my love affair with the final incarnation of the Laverda brand. Specifically, this is a last run Zane era Laverda parallel twin. Most people will never have ridden one. Fewer still will have ridden them how they were designed to be ridden.
I got it during a period when I was doing a lot of track days. This is what I intended to use it for. I had great fun flying around on my Exup and Triumph Daytona but both had serious limitations. The Nico Bakker designed chassis brought back memories of all the winning race bikes i had watched in the 70’s’. Speed was less important to me than handling. This was the real limiting factor, especially around a circuit as tight and twisty as Cadwell Park.
Motorcycle Art Meets Italian Passion
In a market dominated by big Japanese 4 cylinder bikes this Laverda 750 was never going to be the most powerful. Even Water-cooling it and Raising the capacity from 650 to 750cc had its limits. But just as with the Ducati 748 and 749, power is only ever part of the story. The result was a stunning if flawed piece of motorcycle passion. All rolled up in a package that can only be described as true motorcycle art.
Mine is a fairly standard late model Laverda Carenata, built in 1999, fitted with the full fairing. It has the full Termignoni X-Pipe race exhaust system and the matching Formula ECU. This pushes power up to the maximum safe levels (around 90bhp). It has also had many of the Alto racing mods done to improve reliability. Reg/Rec is moved to the front under the nose-cone so it is constantly cooled. Standard oil filter is replaced by a high flow stainless gauze system. Starter cables have been uprated too. All easy mods that have helped me have an almost trouble free life with it.
I say almost as gaining access to replace the battery raised a few eyebrows. Removing the fuel tank to trace a wiring fault had me pulling my hair out too.
Is The Laverda 750 The Best Handling Bike Ever Built?
This Laverda is without a shadow of doubt, the best handling bike i have ever ridden. Can it be temperamental at times? Yes. Does it have eccentricities? Yes. Is it worth every one of them? Yes, definitely, for sure :-). Taking it to Cadwell Park revealed the animal in this bike, and life will never be the same.
The Paoli suspension performs brilliantly front and back, but I swapped the rear for a Nitron shock for track use. Being honest, the improvement was minor and probably more to do with my familiarity with Nitron shocks than anything else.
Unlike anything I have ever ridden, this bike really did feel like it was on rails. Pushing harder and harder into corners as I gained confidence in it, I never got anywhere near its limits. Riding around the outside of much bigger, more powerful and newer more expensive bikes always raised the biggest smile.
The relative lack of power of the Laverda compared to many new bikes was never an issue to me. More powerful bikes can pass me on the straights, but it is rare that anything gets far away. Through the tight twisty sections I always pass them again. Watching their frustration at not being able to get past me again until we reached the straights. Anyone can pin the throttle back, but the Zane helps you become king of the late braker’s and carry maximum corner speed into even the tightest most technical twisty sections of any track or road.
Serious Stopping Power On This Laverda 750
The drum brake on the original 750 Laverda’s were one of its success stories but some things have to be redesigned for the modern era. The new Laverda’s replace the original drum brake with beautifully progressive cast iron Brembo rotors. A twin disc set up for the front with a single disc for the rear brake. The ‘Seria Oro’ calipers and master cylinder have more than enough stopping power for the front brake to stand the bike on its nose. The feel is positive throughout, even when they get seriously hot. Braking has a sublime feel, with more stopping power than any tyres can handle.
The Laverda’s gearbox is silky smooth. Clutchless up and downshifts are easier and smoother than on anything else i have ridden. This is important, because this bike doesn’t really ride like a 4-stroke 750 twin.
Ride It Like A Two Stroke
Power and torque come in together on this wonderful parallel twin. The surge, however doesn’t really hit until after about 5500rpm. From 6000rpm to the redline happens in an instant. More like riding a two stroke than any four stroke I had ridden. It wants you to use the slick shifting box constantly. Keep it “on the boil” and it rewards every shift you make with another surge. The howl of the parallel twin through the twin silencer Termignoni exhaust system makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. As you push it faster every one of the eccentricities of the 750 Laverda starts to make sense.
The forged Marchesini wheels aren’t the lightest, but they are perfect for the beautiful Nico Bakker designed frame. The simple twin spar chassis is faultless, although rumour has it he was never actually paid by the Zane brothers.
That chassis deserves an article all of its own. Putting it into perspective, to buy a Bakker Framebauw chassis would cost you in the region of 25,000 Euros (around $30,000). Then you would have to add the cost of suspension and wheels and engine.
In The Footsteps Of Champions
It was a Bakker Chassis that helped Johnny Cecotto to become the youngest world champion ever in 1975. Riders like Giacomo Agostini Boet van Dulmen, Wil Hartog and Jack Middelburg all used Nico Bakker designed frames. He truly is a giant in the world of racing and still produces a limited number of frames today. It was always going to outperform me on track.
All in all I got what I wanted. A bike that would let me ride to my limit without reaching its own. So good, when I found another chassis minus engine I snapped it up. I had the idea of squeezing a more powerful lump in, but that is another story yet to happen. This also had the happy effect of landing me a box full of Laverda 750 SF bits that had once been a 750 SF 2. That is a story for another day, but I will finish the Laverda 750 SF project before too long now.
One thing is for sure I will never need another track-bike. The Zane more than out-performs me in every way. I will keep enjoying it while my broken body allows, I just ride it more often on the road than on track now.
Enjoy the ride :-).
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If like me you have a passion for everything Laverda, Take a look around the shop for some fantastic Laverda merchandise. There is a special TShirt for those other certified Zane owners too. Click here to see the ‘Only A Zane Will Do’ TShirts. You can find a Laverda 750 Formula Tshirt Here.
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