Road Test 1975
To students of modern motor cycle design, there is very little in the
specification of the Laverda 750SF twin to get excited about. By contemporary
standards, the machine is positively archaic and should have been pensioned off
Its engine is a 744 cc parallel twin with a single-overhead camshaft and
drive to the rear wheel is by a triplex primary chain, five-speed gearbox and a
simple rear chain. The bike is heavy and until a rider is familiar with it,
apparently very awkWard to ride.
On the other hand, such an analysis ignores many of the reasons for the
existence of superbikes. For the Laverda 750SF is one of the most aggressively
attractive motor cycles to appear from Italy and to many eyes still puts the
bigger 981 cc three-cylinder Laverda into the shade on looks alone.
The engine, originally conceived in the late 1960s as a 650 cc unit, was
unashamedly based on the very popular 250 cc Honda CB72 twin with sharply-angled
cylinder finning running to the top of the cambox. The whole line of the machine
suggests speed - the tank is long and classically-styled and the rear seat can
be an optional racing-style unit with a sleek back, while by very subtle
positioning of the handlebars, footrests and running gear, the whole picture is
of a machine made for fast and aggressive riding:
The 750SF did not always look that way. As originally designed it looked
strangely cumbersome and it was not until 1972 that it gained the looks that
have kept it a favourite despite the many more exotic machines that have come
onto the market in the meantime.
In appearance, the latest versions of the SF are well up to date, with
cast-alloy five-spoke wheels and potent disc brakes, two on the front wheel and
one on the back. Laverda were the first to adopt the excellent Nippon Seikki
instruments from Japan in favour of the poor Italian examples and still use
them, the current versions being identical to those found on the bigger Hondas.
Switchgear is also from Japan and is the same as that found on Suzukis.
The performance of the SF however, shows the limits of the engine. Once one
of the fastest and most powerful 750 cc machines, the SF is now merely average
with a top speed of 118 mph and a standing quarter-mile time of 13-8 sec,
figures that can be equalled or bettered by the
quicker 550 cc machines. But the 750SF has many other virtues which were
shown up when testing the 1975 model (identical to the latest example except for
the wheels and brakes). New in 1975 were the twin front discs, replacing a
massive four-leading-shoe drum brake, and a more powerful German Bosch
quartz-halogen headlamp. A year earlier, bigger Delorto carburettors with 32-mm
chokes and accelerator pumps plus a higher lift camshaft, had given the 750SF a
While much more lively in the upper rev ranges, the bike is still flexible
enough to pull well at low revs. Most of the power is developed between 5,000
and 8,000 rpm, the rev limit, with a maximum of 65 bhp. The bike is just as
happy to chuff along at a walking pace in bottom gear while idling at 1,000 rpm.
Despite the use of the accelerator pump carbs, fuel consumption has improved
on the Laverda SF over the years, and the latest version benefits from leaner
mixture settings. Overall the 750SF returned between 42 and 48 mpg, offering a
total range of 180 miles. A drawback of the leaner carburation proved to be a
reluctance to accept full throttle during acceleration tests, and which
necessitated heavy slipping of the clutch instead of the usually more effective,
and quicker getaways offered by spinning the rear wheel
The 750SF is a picture of ruggedness, which in reality is not far off the
truth. The engine is built to massive proportions with a four-roller-bearing
crankshaft having wide big ends and running in thick castings. Bore and stroke
are slightly oversquare at 80 mm by 74 mm and the chain-driven overhead camshaft
runs in big roller bearings. Unusually on a modern bike the electrical system is
supplied by a dynamo which is rubber vee-belt driven from the offside end of the
crankshaft, as is the electric starter.
The first acquaintance with the bike is hardly impressive either,
particularly if you have to ride it in town. Out of its element on the fast and
open road, the 750SF feels rough and gawky, and only really comes alive when
driven hard and rushed through demanding bends. Then the message come through
loud and clear, that it is a true sporting bike in the best tradition.
At speeds below 25 mph the steering is heavy and there is some degree of 'understeer'
that requires an application of pressure to the handlebar to maintain a line.
But buzzing the engine to 7,500 rpm through the gearbox (with almost BMW-like
clunks with ragged changes, or crisp ones clutchless), exhaust booming out its
deep note, the 750SF smooths out well for a vertical twin, and the steering
becomes progressively more taut, just like a racing bike.
A reason for the smoothness compared to other vertical twins is the total
mass of engine and the spine-type frame, made of thick wall tubing and
By common standards the frame is very substantial and produces rewards both
in longevity and giving a feeling of being glued to the road. With a weight of
over 500 lb it is a credit to Laverda that the 750SF performs as it does.
Set up for fast road work and most comfortable when breezing along at a 90
mph gait, the drape-over-the-tank rider's stance makes slow riding a chore. The
footrests are adjustable, as on the 981 cc three, giving a fair range and making
up for the tall seat height. Two seats are available, the racing type with a
toolbox in the rear, giving just about enough room for two or a more
mundane-looking dual seat.
With the aid of perfectly-matched suspension, the bike sails securely through
corners without deviating from its path. Spring rates are hard but to be
expected on this sort of machine.
The tyres spoil the handling when the machine is cranked near the limit.
Metzelers may be fine on a BMW but they are hardly suited to the Laverda. Dunlop
TTlOOs as were fitted to earlier SFs and, we are told, are now the standard
equipment, give much better grip on the side-walls.
Although the engine is passably quite mechanically, the triplex-chain primary
drive produced some chatter under power and the clutch, while normally smooth
and quiet, replied to the standing start tests by grating on the take up and
subsequently slipping at speed.
Augmenting the handling well, the brakes are fabulous, despite the all-up
weight of the Laverda. Drawback is that the dual discs increase the unsprung
weight over the old drum unit.
Electrically, the bike was faultless, but we were surprised that Laverda have
retained the small and archaic CEV rear lamp while replacing the headlamp with
the brilliant Bosch quartz-halogen unit. No praise can be great enough for the
fabulous air horns. Instruments and switch-gear are good in quality and
Varied and well finished, the toolkit is easily found by unscrewing one of
the sidepanels, and proved sufficient for most of the usual tasks.
Apart from poorly completed chrome-work - nickel was showing through on the
silencers - the general finish of the bike is good. The only real snags we feel
were a neutral lamp that flickered on regardlessly towards the end of the test,
and buckled rear wheel adjuster, legacy of an attempt to break traction in the
If you are turned on by the Italian looks and aura and want a solid and
reliable machine - a man's bike as they would have said once - then the SF is
the only machine for you.