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Bike Review - Posted 13th April 2016
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Laverda 1200 Triple - Owner Review

Some years back, Simon Lock suffered an expensive education into the ways of Italian classic bikes. Even so, he's been tempted once again to enter the world of exotica...

Exotica? Whatís that, you ask? Well your exotica might be a Bantam Bushman and quite rightly so. Mine, however, has required a significant personal step upwards in the motorcycling pantheon, toward the rarefied world of pricey Italian stallions, via a rather large leap of faith and wallet towards my very own Beast of Breganze.

Laverda 1200 Triple - Owner Review

If youíre of an age like mine, youíll recall the Channel 4 series ĎClassic Bikesí from the 1990s. Here, in weekly episodes, the owners of classics from various countries paraded their machines around inevitably sunny, country lanes whilst the clever narrator gave us viewers some often tellingly ironic insights into the foibles of each nationís motorcycles Ė in a way that was surely, gently, designed to fit with the stereotypes we hold.

Thus the BMWs were Teutonically oil-tight, raced along Nazi-built autobahns all day and generally were pretty seriously engineered by pretty serious people. We learned that the saucepans they made during the post-war ban on transport manufacture had nice rounded corners for easy cleaning. BMW saucepans: more reliable than an oilhead GS? Probably!

Brit bikes, naturally, were constructed by plucky chaps in greasy overalls, manfully coping with pre-war, worn out machine tools and building in a significant element of optimism over experience. Brit riders met, significantly, at sunsetÖ to race their way towards eternal darkness, perhaps? Only if their Goldies could actually be started, of course.

To my mind, the greatest offerings in the series were those of the Italians. I swooned at the shape of the tank of the MV Agusta, the bike that broke the family bank. I delighted in the Guzzi tractor-heritage V-twin, and I so wanted to be the pudding-basin-clad and full leather-suited chap enjoying his cappuccino whilst gazing wistfully at the girder-forked Gilera Saturno beside some gorgeous lakeside cafť. I loved all these images of beauty so much that I neglected to pay attention to the warnings. The criticisms of lights not working and the chrome falling off were countered in typical Italian fashion.

ĎWhen itís this pretty, who needs lights?í

Little did I know what I had fallen for.

I learned what Italian bikes were really like in the classroom of misery provided by a Guzzi V75, Ducati 900SSie and ST2. The first of these, to be fair, cost only £200 and had lurked at the back of a sailorís shed for four years after he personally brought it back on his ship. I think it would have made a decent anchor. Passing on, the Ducatis were very educational indeed. I rebuilt much of the ST2. Twice. Then I sold it, to a chap from Cornwall who planned to ride it home. I wonder how far he got? The 900SSie (not the bevel 900SS) was pretty pretty, but exceptionally uncomfortable Ė it lasted 65 miles, and my neck ache long outlasted the bike.

So, many years passed and so did many bikes Ė mainly BMWs, funnily enough. But I never forgot the Italian episode. I just needed a comfortable, reliable and pretty bike. Preferably a fast one too. And thatís when the Laverda turned upÖ

Laverda 1200 Triple - Owner Review

Actually, I didnít spot it. It was drawn to my attention by the irrepressible Italianophile Ace Tester Miles of this parish who commanded me to go and see it Ė after about three years of prevarication on my part over whether I really wanted a Laverda. So, having been commanded, I went off to deepest Coventry for a look.

The ride up on my trusty V-Strom was wonderful and, as I enjoyed the sunshine, bends, comfort and pleasure of heading back toward my old university town, I decided that I wasnít really bothered about a posh Italian beast at all. The ride was quite enough pleasure. Still, I said Iíd have a look so I did knock on the vendorís front door and was taken to the garage.

Wow! Really. Wow! How is it that some people manage to make bikes sooo shiny? Iíve never really managed that. I can clean and polish them well but they never look THAT shiny. This beast positively gleamed at me.

Trying to remain less than impressed I was offered a test ride. Well, itíd be rude not to, wouldnít it? Gosh, thatís loud! And it goes well too, doesnít it? New tyres, you say; all sorted you say; even charges at tickover does it? Hmmm.

I still retained some sort of self-control and refused point blank to go over the limit Iíd set myself. In truth, I reached for my jacket to head home when the vendor decided that my offer was, actually, quite enough.

Iíd bought a Laverda! Gosh, more than twice the price of any other bike Iíve ever bought. Eeek!

So, whatís it like? Well, itís both fast and slow. Itís not a Jota, so it has nice soft touring cams. But itís still got 1200cc of oomph. The best description is that the progress is sure-footed up to about 4000rpm, at which point the Jota pipes start to sound very loud and the horizon approaches at a fair lick. Great for impressive overtakes. The flywheel must weigh about thirty tons as the engine doesnít spin up like a modern multi Ė instead it carries the punch of a big Brit twin, like a T140 say, with mucho macho Italian punch. Nice.

It handles well too Ė the mass really feels centralised (perhaps thatís because there is a very large lump of alloy near the middle) and it turns in pretty well provided you are firm and strong Ė clearly one requires manly Italian style to ride this with aplomb. Brakes are fine, and, yes, it does charge at tickover, everything works and nothing has yet caused me any grief. Thereís still time for that, of course, but, so far, itís been a model of excellence. Mind you, the previous owner was a senior engineer at a once very large motor manufacturer near my old university town.

Laverda 1200 Triple - Owner Review
Luscious Laverdas on Now...

In terms of maintenance the list, so far, is short: a replacement dip switch, as I knocked the old one off collecting the bike; £4 for the right Suzuki item. An oil change, and filter gauze clean Ė inevitably noticing some red Hermetite type goo on the gauze. Itís Italian so you have to remove the exhaust to clean the filter gauze. Replacement centrestand springs, which involved a lot of fun hanging the bike from the rafters of my garage to support it during removal. Good advice from Slaters though about how to avoid skinned knuckles. New shocks from Falcon, via LaverdaScozia and thatís it. No, really, thatís it.

This is the first bike Iíve had for about 15 years that has actually made me laugh out loud inside my helmet about how cool it is. The noise is so addictive that I went for a 20 mile spin without earplugs to enjoy it more. That was a mistake as it took my ears a day or two to return to normal.

Will I keep it? Donít be silly. Iíve stopped thinking Iíll ever have a bike I keep. But in the interim it is a whole lot of fun and the summer might well involve some very pleasant trips, with my wife on the back, to country pubs and cafes. Would I recommend you buy one? Well, for me the cost was well beyond comfort, but Iím glad I can say Iíve owned one and it might stay a year or two. The nice thing about classics, as we all know, is that you wonít suffer from modern-bike depreciation so, in the long term, thereís nothing really to worry too much about provided the oil changes are kept up and all that polishing is maintainedÖ

Laverda 1200 Triple - Owner Review

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