There must be something about the air in Italy that inspires Italian
engineers to build cars and motor cycles that are so downright exciting. Italy's
engineers seem to know instinctively how to breathe the spirit of adventure into
the machines they create. Even the words Ferrari, Maserati, MV Agusta and
Laverda have about them an aura of glamour and excitement.
Since the end of World War II, the Laverda company of Breganze has been
making a name for itself worldwide by building machines which embody the
high-spirited principles so beloved of the Italians. Indeed, Laverda's offering
in the superbike stakes— the Jota—is the absolute epitome of what a super-bike
Ironically, it needed a little British inspiration to produce the Jota.
During the mid-1970s, Roger Slater, Britain's Laverda importer, was campaigning
the Italian company's big 1000cc 3C models in production bike events with great
along came a host of Japanese multi-cylinder superbikes and Slater's need for
more performance .became a pressing problem. So was born the Jota,
Like the 3C, the Jota used a three-cylinder, double overhead-camshaft layout,
but it was now fitted with wider racing cams, three 32 mm Dell'Orto
carburettors, a close-ratio gearbox and a modified exhaust system.
The result was that an already quick machine became even faster. In a
straight line the Jota was capable of almost 140mph, while a standing start
quarter mile could be disposed of in just over 13 seconds. All-out speed,
however, is not really what the Jota is about. It is a riders' bike, the kind of
machine that comes into its own on fast and twisty roads. The handlebars are set
low and narrow and the seat well back, allowing the rider to wrap himself around
the sleek 4-gallon fuel tank. On the road the Jota has all the manners of a
thoroughbred. The acceleration is spectacular, the massively power-
ful — 90 bhp at 7600 rpm—engine barking out its thrilling and deafening
challenge to the world. The engine is not as smooth as that of a Japanese multi,
but that is part of the Jota's attraction. It is a tough, brutal and
uncompromising machine. The clutch lever is numbingly stiff while the five-speed
gearbox needs a positive change if any progress is to be made. The brakes—twin
11-inch Brembo discs at the front, a single disc at the rear—are fierce and
positive. The net result is that the Jota is a taut and frill-free machine,
definitely not the kind of bike for a gentle Sunday afternoon ride. The engine
begs to be revved and the handling makes it difficult to resist throwing the
Jota round every bend which the rider encounters.
In spite of its road racer personality, the Laverda sports a surprising
number of refinements. It has an electric starter, a generous tool kit,
electronic ignition, an easy-to-use main stand and more than adequate air horns.
In addition, the final drive chain wear is remarkably low for such a potent
device, a fact that many experts believe is due to the correct geometrical
relationship between the centres of the sprockets in the final drive, and that
of the needle bearing pivot of the swinging arm.
For sheer exhilaration, there can be little to equal the Laverda Jota. It is
not a cheap bike, but neither is it prohibitively expensive. In any case, most
Jota owners would say the sheer joy of riding such a spirited beast would be
cheap at twice the pri