A search for motor cycle individuality, for a bike with its own special brand
of charm and charisma which offers a return to 'real' motor cycling and distinct
break from the humdrum world of highly efficient, almost characterless, missiles
exported from the Land of the Rising Sun, could lead to the summit of the
dashing Italian Laverda range, the 1,200 cc TS.
Characteristic of Mars, God of War, the restyled 1980 Mirage thunders
menacingly, resembling a low-level flight path of the French jet fighter bearing
the same name. It is an individual, oozing with character, but like so many
individuals a prospective owner should be aware of foibles, some important,
others purely niggling.
The most radical and conspicuous adornment to the originally naked Mirage is
the cockpit handlebar fairing, shielding more comprehensive instrumentation, and
the engine cowling. Those components, like the tank, side panels and seat tail,
are finished in matching silver paintwork -shades of David Essex' Silver Dream
Racer -distinguishing the model quite clearly from the three optional big
triples from the Italian Breganze factory, the fabulous 981 cc race-bred Jota,
new Jarama (formerly the 3CL) and standard 1200.
The 130-mile return ride to London from Laverda importers Slater Bros, based
near Bromyard, Herefordshire in undulating Welsh border country, soon
established some of the model's virtues and vices. The route is tortuous to
start with, a mixture of wide open fast bends and slow ever-tightening tarmac
ribbon, connected by short straights. The bike is seldom upright, and the roads
are of a type to catch out the unwary and slow reacting.
On a journey like this the Mirage is supreme. Steering is neutral and
handling delightfully precise, the ride noticeably more forgiving and
comfortable since Laverda began fitting Italian Marzocchi equipment to absorb
Ceriani front legs were replaced some time ago, and now the factory have gone
a stage further. The original rear Corte e Cosse remote suspension units have
been replaced by Mar-zocchis to match the front, which makes sense. They are air
and gas shock absorbers with the valve, beneath its dust cover, located on top
of a remote reservoir. Maximum permitted pressure they can contain is only 2-6
psi, so needless to say they must be inflated by hand pump since an air line
would blow the seals.
Making sure the bike stays glued to the road are H-rated Pirelli Gordons,
although some models are fitted with the latest equivalent French-made Dunlop
K181 TT100s, the make of tyre so much favoured by the importers in the past.
Brembo's cast-iron disc brake combination has for long set the standard for a
number of road testers, by which others are compared. Our figures achieved from
crash stops of 30 mph and 60 mph are good, 28 ft and 126 ft respectively.
Although no problems were encountered in the duration of the test, they could
probably not have been bettered but for slight sponginess felt through the
controls, in particular through the rear brake pedal, which indicated air in the
The long-legged highly-geared Mirage (overall ratio in top is 4-335 to 1)
burbles with ease up sweeping lefts and rights, wrapped up in a taut
lithe-handling frame, exhaust growling like three angry Manx Nortons, itching to
spin Pirelli Gordon rubber. One of the charms of the thundering model is to
accelerate from 2,000 to 4,000 rpm in top, opening and closing the throttle,
just to listen to the unmistakeable bark and twitter from the pipes. That
encourages the adrenalin to flow!
Make the same dizzy trip at night and you cannot be better equipped than with
the standard candlepower provided. The Bosch 60/55-watt quartz halogen bulb and
7 in-diameter reflector bathe your depth of field, and hedgerows, in brilliant
light more precisely than an aircraft landing light.
But as we have mentioned, the Mirage is an individual character and displays
some frustrating foibles.
The stiff gear lever can progressively make a right toe sore (right foot, of
course, since cog-swopping is performed in old-fashioned rightfoot style, one
down and four up). The gear change action is heavy and long, and it would have
been appreciably more comfortable if the rubber was more substantial and also
enclosed the end of the lever, the crux of the problem. Fitting the gear
lever rubber from a BSA Gold Star gave a dramatic improvement and for minimal
Clutch operation, too, is heavier than its counterparts on Japanese machines,
but seemingly half the effort it once was how that disengagement is operated by
a new Brembo hydraulic system.
In line with current Laverda practice Japanese parts are incorporated on the
bike - the instruments. The speedometer, opposite a matching rev counter, proved
very accurate at speed (just one percent optimistic at 100 mph), and both are
well illuminated and conspicuous for night riding. The speedo is calibrated in
kph, the mph scale being too indistinct for practical use. The less important
mileage recorder which divides the two instruments is poorly lit, but all-in-all
the separate flasher indicators, the neutral, charge and high-beam warning
lights, are a neat improvement.
On the motorways, however, vibration from the big 1,116 cc three becomes
prevalent. Although the crankshaft throws are at 180 degrees, the centre piston
moving in opposition to its outer partners, vibes loom ominously as soon as
3,500 rpm are indicated. At the ton, 5,700 rpm in top, the vibration transmitted
to the rider is acceptable through the tank, seat and footrests, but it is
really annoying through the handlebar and hands soon become numbed.
The handlebar position itself is very comfortable indeed and adjustable to
suit, while short riders will find the 32-5 in seat height a stretch when
manoeuvring in congested traffic. Foot-rests are sensibly rigid and adjustable
for height, and the turning circle is a convenient 18 ft.
The filler cap of the 4-3 gallon tank is now lockable but had its problems -
it springs open. And it was an intrusion that occurred regularly when blasting
along motorway - nowhere else -an action prompted by vibration. A matter of
clunk, click on every motorway trip . . . unfortunately.
Equally annoying, it would leak after the tank had been filled to the brim,
the flow not stopping until some 20 miles had been covered. It leaked with or
without the rubber sleeve in the filler neck, fitted to prevent the problem.
Engine modifications to the 1980 Mirage led the bike away a little from the
marque's sporting image - which has the Jota as its ambassador. It is more
civilised, intended to be more economical and consequently more attractive to
the riding-for-pleasure, touring rider. Hence the effective' cockpit fairing and
'The Executive Jet' publicity. The 'extras' increase weight by nearly 30 lb to a
hefty 542 lb. A similar weight to many Oriental multis in fact.
It is a re-styling and promotion exercise proving successful, judging by
sales, for the Mirage is fast approaching the popularity of the lean Jota.
Mods included twin cams without the Jota's high lift - from the standard
1200. And the Jota's raucous, deep bellowing silencers, fitted to the first
Mirages in 1978, dropped in favour of the 1200's mufflers.
The less mountainous cams open larger valves, increased from 38 mm to 39-3 mm
inlet and from 35 mm to 36-2 mm exhaust, and the inlet tracts masked by an air
filter. Other mods to the Mirage's cylinder head (which is the same as the 1980
Jota) have been made to improve engine tractability and assist fuel economy
rather than add boost to top end power.
Unfortunately our performance testing did not prove entirely satisfactory,
highlighted by a comparatively low mean top speed of 126-34 mph.
In spite of the valiant effort, made by local Laverda dealers, our test
Mirage refused to run sweetly at full bore pulling top gear, nowhere near as
well as we have experienced riding other examples of the big Italian triples. At
best 134-49 mph, albeit with the aid of a howling tail wind, is an indication of
its true potential. Struggling against the elements the corresponding 118-19 mph
dropped the average dramatically.
A fair comparison can be drawn with the standard 1200. In calmer conditions
that ran a best 135-2 mph, mean 1321 mph. Running properly, there seems to be no
reason why the Mirage TS would not achieve, if anything, slightly higher
With the rider sitting-up in a two-piece suit holding a normal riding
position, the Mirage TS surpasses the standard 1200 by 8 mph, giving a
satisfying aggregate of 126-1 mph.
Laverdas are expensive, they always have been, but are cheap in terms of
their macho individuality which attracts a partisan enthusiastic following.