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Zero

   

Laverda RGA 1000

 

 

 

 

Make Model

Laverda RGA1000

Year

1984

Engine

Air cooled, four stroke, parallel three cylinder, DOHC.

Capacity

981
Bore x Stroke 75 x 74  mm
Compression Ratio 9.0:1

Induction

3X 32mm Dell'Orto carb

Ignition  /  Starting

Borsch electronic   /  electric

Max Power

83.3 hp 61.2 kW @ 8000  rpm

Max Torque

7.9 kgf-m 77.9 Nm @ 7000  rpm

Transmission  /  Drive

5 Speed  /  chain

Front Suspension

Marzocchi oil damped telescopic forks, 140mm wheel travel.

Rear Suspension

Swinging arm with dual Marzocchi shocks 5-way preload adjustable.

Front Brakes

2x 280mm discs 2 piston calipers

Rear Brakes

Single 280mm disc 1 piston caliper

Front Tyre

100/90-18

Rear Tyre

120/90-18

Wet Weight

249 kg

Fuel Capacity 

22 Litres

Soon spring will be sprung the grass will be ris and only total dumbos will be wondering where the birdies is. Dry tarmac and warm, whispering breezes will beckon even the most timid, fair weather nancy bikers out of hibernation and a jolly good time will be had by all. Especially Laverda riders. Le Mans in April, the TT, of course, in June, the Bol in September — Laverdas are built for going places. And in an unmistakeably over the top manner, to boot.

At least, they used to be. Until the RGS arrived, 'Laverda triple' was synonymous with brute power, outrageous noise and a crotch-splitting seat height. Oh yeah, the ultimate in three-pot macho and big-men-only-need-apply muscle. Unless you could cope with a clutch like Big Ben's mainspring and a ride like a bad-tempered 140mph wardrobe with suicidal handling potential at the limits you might as well stay at home squeezing zits. 'I build real fast sporting bikes,' said Dr Massimo Laverda once, 'and if only one per cent of riders buy them, it's OK. I am happy.'

The obvious conclusion to be drawn from that statement is that it doesn't matter to Moto Laverda if the other 99 per cent of riders are too normal, too skint, or too short-legged to indulge in three-and-a half grand fantasies. Which is true, except that Laverda owners tend to look perversely normal compared to other Italianware freaks until you get close enough to see their eyes.

When the RGS appeared, however, there were fears that the triples themselves were becoming too sane. Even ordinary mortals could get on board without a stepladder; folks could hold conversations next to it when the engine was running; ten-stone weaklings could manage its handling even at full pelt. Totally dedicated masochists known to Bike even decried the loss of the old 180-degree crank motor, known to vibrate riders' innerds into offal mousse on occasions. Luckily there was a compromise available by way of the Jota 120, featuring the new, smooth mill but in the old frame and with the loud pipes.

Imagine, then, the consternation and grief at UK importers Three Cross Motorcyles when they learned that the 120 was to be axed. Reason being that Laverda, small family business that it is, hadn't the capacity to carry on building old-style triples as well as the RGS (and 125cc strokers for the home market) while also developing the upcoming watercooled fours. A mission was mounted to Italy to restore the 120 but Laverda would have none of it. Let them eat RGSs.

Three Cross introduced Moto Laverda to the Great British Compromise, and the result you see before you: the RGA. Basically it's a cheap way of getting an RGS. Indeed, everything from the frame spine tube down is RGS. All they've done is substituted a handlebar-mounted fairing for the RGS's extremely expensive frame-mounted Bayflex item, altered the tank and added a new seat. All this can be yours for £3575 instead of £4250 for the RGS.

Mind you, if you've never seen a motorcycle with padded shoulders and a double chin before, the RGA's looks may take some getting used to. Laverda wouldn't go to a wholly new tank so the RGS's filler spout was lopped off and a conventional hole and lockable flap inserted on the top. That left a mess of bumps and brackets at the front where the RGS fairing should have met the tank. Simple, run up some plastic add-ons and screw 'em on. Looks odd but it grows on you. Necessity may be the mother of invention but I can't help feeling the fairing is spoiled by that air scoop jutting out like a Hapsburg jaw at the bottom.

Nonetheless, the net result is rather more imposing than the RGS: perhaps because the smaller fairing emphasises the rest of the machine. At 5701b fully fuelled up, and with a 60in wheelbase, the RGA is a big^bike by any standards. The flat bars add to the sensation of tallness compared with the RGS while the high c of g endowed by the high tank and tall motor make the weight felt at rest.

My first ride couldn't have been better. After collecting the RGA late on a perfect sunny afternoon I headed home along a favourite route taking in a deserted corner of Salisbury Plain and a superb section of empty, winding road between Hungerford and Wantage. The Laverda fires up easily from cold (though there's a knack to catching it when hot) and the throbbing power delivery from the dohc mill and tall gearing make 70-100mph riding surprisingly relaxing.

Real power starts at around six grand 100mph in top), but there's plenty to spare from as little as 2000 revs and it lollops along invincibly between four and five grand. Those large and extremely effective silencers mean that the beat of the motor is felt rather than heard and except during hard acceleration, although even then the rich mutter won't win any prizes for high-profiling.

If you dislike even tiny amounts of vibration I'd stick to Mr Honda's V4s: the RGA produces a constant background rumble despite its 120° crankshaft and rubber mounted motor. It's neither a big twin's hammer or a four's high frequency buzz, more of a gentle shudder. Probably enough to render mirrors useless at very illegal speeds, but RGAs with mirrors look stoopid anyway.

Unlike so many CV-carburretted fours, the RGA won't charge off into the distance merely because the revs have reached a certain level, so winding the twistgrip steadily open won't impress the 32mm accelerator pump Dellorto carbs one bit. The RGA just ambles up to the 8000rpm redline unless you take the controls in both hands and wrench the throttle slides up as hard as possible.

That gets the triple shifting quickly enough to turn most people's thoughts to questions of brakes (Brembo, fine) and suspension (I'll come to that). Trouble is, the twistgrip and gearchange have a passion for travel rivalled only by the Royal Family. The grip needs two grabs to get it right round and the gearlever bobs like one of those drinking bird toys between letting go and re-engaging. Each gear goes in with a solid thunk but making a rapid shift is more a question of luck than skill. Tackling a stretch of twisty back lane at speed has your elbow and knee pumping dementedly up and down like a one-legged cyclist enjoying a quick round of self abuse.

The hydraulic clutch's eyeball-popping pull lingers as a reminder of bygone days, too. Laverda have relented sufficiently to fit dogleg levers but you still need a left wrist like a steeplechaser's fetlock. All is forgiven when you caress those luvverly Brembo brakes, though. They combine superbly progressive feel with immense stopping power and are generally so wonderful that they encourage dangerous late application games just for the hell of it.

A dose of heavy rain had them lagging badly, making riding in traffic difficult 'cos the bike simply carried on regardless for a few yards until the pads suddenly bit hard enough to slide the front Phantom. At higher speeds the problem is less acute because harder pressure can be applied without fear of locking up, but wet lag was a problem on the RGS we tested in January '83. When is something going to be done about this? It'd probably only be a question of finding the right pad material.

Luckily the rain held off for most of the test and urgent appointments with free lunches at places as diverse as Silverstone and Goodwood meant clocking up plenty of mileage. The Silverstone trip was made two-up but my pillion's glowing praise for the comfort quotient of the new seat was matched by my own black thoughts about Laverda's failure to provide that most basic of two up requirements, a grab rail. Even three-and-a-half-grand motorcycles can become merely tedious when passengers have only you to hang on to.

In the interests of comfort and getting a foot down, I left the remote reservoir Marzocchi Strada shocks on minimum preload even when two up. There's no adjustment on the same firm's forks, fitted up front. In spite of their fearsome reputation for stiffness, the Marzocchi units give a controlled yet comfortable ride. Under a 12 stone (sorry, 76kg) rider, the shocks really needed a couple of turns of the preload ring for fast going.

The RCA's long wheelbase and pushed-out steering head angle make for tremendous straight line stability and steady tracking through bends. Trouble is the suspension doesn't always match, and hard acceleration over bumps provokes a fair amount of wriggling and handlebar waving. It's never bad enough to instill fears of losing control and it stops as soon as acceleration ceases and some weight transfers back to the front. Still, it helps if you like that sort of thing every now and then ...

The improved straight line handling made setting the thing up for MIRA testing easy — it didn't need any. Trouble is, it wouldn't top 125mph under any kind of inducement or provocation. We tried running up through the gears until the little hand was pointing straight down, we tried crouching, lying flat, even speaking Italian. We even committed ourselves to the banked circuit, where the triple took so long to pick itself up after the curve before the lights that we twice nearly lost it.

Without an RCS's streamlined frontage, we weren't expecting a similar, 134mph, best one way but the RGA should surely manage 130mph. Some days nothing goes right.

The return date was, for once, awaited with glee - not because we couldn't wait to get rid of the RCA but because Sarf London Italianware freak Richard Avent of Moto Vecchia had bagged Goodwood circuit for the day - Goodwood being halfway between here and Three Ctoss if one goes the wrong way.

Goodwood is an unpretentious little track on the perimiter of a private airfield. No armco, no marker posts, mostly flat and mostly flat-out. The double apex after the 'pits' features a heavy bump right on the fast exit route but the RGA took that with no more than a quick wriggle. After that it's full pelt round to a tight right at the back where the RGA usually broke into a violent waggle thanks to the drivetrain staying unloaded way too long during the slow third-second downshift.

Apart from that, and my inability to grind any flats on the silencers, the day was great and the triple romped round tirelessly. Handing it over to Big Phil Todd of Motodd fame cured the scratching credibility failure: Phil returned it with a satisfying scrape on the right muffler. Thus equipped with scratches and shredded Phantoms (preserving the rubber scrolls during the leg to Ringwood was tricky), the RGA was handed back.

The trip home was a lot slower on my LC than on the RGA, mainly because the poor thing really struggled under the weight of all the petrol receipts I'd piled up during the test. The Laverda needed filling twice at Goodwood, the second time after only 87 miles. That's a whole 23mpg. Only once did the triple spread a gallon over more than 35 miles and average consumption over two weeks of commuting and fast (but not that fast) touring was 31.2mpg. Fill ups are needed every 100-200 miles.

Anyone who finds that kind of consumption alarming is probably too sensible to want a Laverda anyway. As it stands, the RGA is one of only two ways of getting a new Breganze triple for less than 4000 notes. The other's the RGA Jota which comes with clip on bars, black pipes and a traditional Laverda orange paintjob for around £200 more than the RGA.

Of course you could save a bundle and buy a Japanese 750 which will match the RGA on everything 'cept class but although the Japanese understand the appeal of huge power outputs, they still haven't sussed the secret of building in the rich, meaty feel of an Italian twin or triple's delivery. Until they do, bikes like the RGA will continue to enjoy membership of that small circle of motorcycles which are demanding yet very rewarding; frequently annoying yet ultimately hugely satisfying; and above all, pretty damn exclusive. Apart from a weekend of non-stop group sex in a stately home, few other things offer all that these days.

On a more practical level, there's no need to throw yourself on the mercy of a dealer or the Sale of Goods Act when seeking a guarantee on a Laverda. Three Cross offer a full 12 months/12,000 miles warranty on all triples. Spares are easy to get hold of, though they can be prohibitively expensive. Like, er, nearly £100 for a sidepanel (except they're Bayflex and therefore almost unbreakable) and £15 for a brake or clutch lever. Just the cost of tyres and chains will probably set an RGA owner back more in six months than the entire annual cost of running an Alternative Brit Rustheap. Exclusivity can be bad for your wallet.

If you view the RGA as a kind of second-class RGS, there doesn't seem any point in saving £600 just to get the same bike without the stunning looks and excellent wind protection. On the other hand, the money you save by going for the RGA will be gratefully received by Slater Brothers Ltd in return for enough in the way of high-comp pistons, warmer cams and three-into-one exhaust plumbing to radically alter its character. If you're lucky enough to possess the readies to do that, there's only one thing I can say. I hate you.

Source Bike Magazine 1984

 

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