Ever since their introduction, the Laverda 1000 and 1200 triples have most
closely bridged the gap between the Italian and Japanese motorcycle industries.
This is to be seen not just from the obvious things such as switchgear,
instruments and the level of finish, but the type of rider that Laverda are
Ride the RGS in city traffic or country back lanes and you will be sadly
disappointed - but take a motorway, or a main 'A' road, and you will appreciate
what makes the RGS tick - power! It has the almost unique ability to sustain
extremely high cruising speeds. Never have I ridden a motorcycle which is always
going faster than it appears. For example, what seems like 70 actually turns out
to be 85; at first I thought it was speedo error, but no, the Laverda actually
is going quicker than the rider feels it is.
On collecting the RGS from Moto Vecchia in South London I was faced with
riding it all the way across the capital, so to avoid the heaviest of the
metropolis traffic madness I chose to pick up the South Circular and head for
the BlackWall Tunnel and them to the Mil as I was making Cambridge my first
stop. This first ride really showed up what has already been explained above.
Until I reached the Mil the Laverda was not behaving, and wasn't at all in a
very happy frame of mind. Everything about the machine felt heavy. The sheer
size made rapid progress more difficult in the heavy traffic, and I began to
think this was one road test that I would not enjoy.
To make matters worse, it was an extremely hot July day and I was wishing
that I could be riding another bike somewhere cooler. Finally the Mil appeared,
and upon joining it I could almost sense the RGS change its mood. Replacing the
annoyance of being strangled by the London traffic, it suddenly responded to the
call of the open road, transforming itself into a rocketship, which proceeded to
make its rider want to thunder into the horizon at a great rate of knots. This
in turn produced the very best out of the bike. Gone was the heavy feeling,
everything began to come together. Even at [175km/h] llOmph, the wind force on
the rider is no more than at [llOkm/h] 70mph, high speed curves give the feeling
the bike is on rails and above [95km/h] 60mph the riding position becomes just
right. In particular the weight is taken off the rider's arms, making riding a
Long before reaching my destination I was beginning to fear for my licence -
such is the deceptive progress at high speed. Slow down to the legal limit on
the motorway, and you seem to be dawdling along. Without doubt below [llOkm/h]
70mph the RGS is not giving of its best, and whilst in my possession it seemed
always to be urging its rider 'faster, faster'. The Mil exit to Cambridge
arrived much quicker than expected, reinforcing the view that you are actually
travelling much faster than presumed.
The machine I tested had over 20,000km [12,500 miles] on the clock and
although it had been the Laverda importers' road-test bike, and later Moto
Vecchia's demonstrator, had stood up remarkably well, in particular the engine
unit which never in my hands felt the least bit stressed.
It should be mentioned that this bike was not completely standard, and had
several alterations which Moto Vecchia can carry out for customers. These
include silencers, which had been changed for Jota ones. Removal of the air
filter assembly, which I was told improves mid-range power. To fit the Jota
silencers the centre stand has to be discarded leaving only the side stand. In
line with the alterations the main jets are changed from the standard 108 to
The standard RGS fairing-mounted mirrors had been removed to reduce fairing
shake (latest RGSs have stronger fairing subframes). Moto Vecchia had
strengthened the attachments for the fairing. Fork gaiters fitted - to protect
the fork stanchions. Teflon lines throttle cable and finally a grab rail to fit
with, or without, the seat hump.
I had studied the RGS before in November 1981 upon its launch at the Milan
International Motorcycle Show. At the time whilst I was inspecting the show bike
I got into conversation with the South African Laverda importer who was very
enthusiastic about the new model, so I found it interesting to put the static
picture into motion some eighteen months later in the form of this road test.
The RGS is a combination of sophistication and brute power. The actual state
of tune is however more modest than the Jota. The compression ratio is lower at
8.8 to 1. Bore and stroke are the same at 75 x 74mm. The chain-driven dohc has
two valves per cylinder. Carburettors are Dell'Orto PHF 32s with accurator
pumps. Fuel specified for the RGS is three-star. Even though it is not as highly
tuned as the Jota it is still POWERFUL to the point where an inexperienced rider
could easily be punished for a mistake; this is a machine which commands
respect. Compared to other European superbikes when stationary or moving slowly,
it seems top heavy; with speed this feeling disappears - the faster the bike is
going. In many ways it is closer to a Japanese multi than an Italian product.
Not just the engine design and ancillary equipment, but its suitability as a
motorway bike rather than the usual Italian back-lanes scratcher's delight. This
is also apparent in its fuel consumption, the RGS in the trim it was tested only
attained [11.35 Litres
per 100km] 25mpg, and whilst the standard example can be
stretched to the late thirties this still does not compare with say a Guzzi or
Ducati V twin. To be fair the Laverda was ridden at speeds virtually all other
bikes would be hard-pressed to follow, but 25mpg and the weight at low speed are
its two main problems.
Where it again is superior to other Italian products (besides its high-speed
motorway capability) is the standard of its ancillary parts, instrumentation in
particular. The space-age layout is perhaps the finest in the whole industry.
Not too gimicky, but just the right blend. This console houses ultra modern
instruments. Gone are the familiar Nippon Denso large round separate dials, and
in their place a completely new layout made by Veglia. Over the years Veglia
have received much criticism from the motorcycle press, most of it fully
justified. But this time they have come up with a complete system which is
actually better than anyone else's - even those currently made in Japan! It
comprises of a 240km/h/150mph speedo. An electronic tacho which is red-lined at
7,500rpm. Both these are large, easy to read, AND accurate. No waivering-just
solid performance. Complementing the two main instruments are oil temperature,
and fuel gauges. This last one was a real boon, together with warning lights for
neutral, lights, indicators and mainbeam.
All in all the instrument console gets my marks for the best one I've yet
come across. The handlebar switches are the normal Nippon Denso items found on
other Laverda models - again good. Instead of the usual single Brembo master
cylinder on the throttle side, there is a matching one on the left-hand bar.
This is for the hydraulic clutch. Compared to the earlier Laverda triples this
is lighter, but it is still not a one finger job. Perhaps its about the lightest
we have a right to expect with all that power to contend with! The handlebars
are of the clip-on variety. In this area is one word of warning - do not carry
all your keys on a ring in the usual way with your ignition key. If you do on
full lock this bunch of keys will foul the plastic handlebar cover (situated on
top of the handlebars) and your ignition will be switched off. This only seemed
to happen on left lock.
Without doubt the bike's strongest features always rotate around high-speed
cruising. The fairing makes an important contribution in this area as it
protects you from the wind buffeting usually associated with high-speed riding.
This normally on a long run can be extremely tiring. As mentioned earlier the
high-speed stability matches that of anything else on the road. But do not
expect to be able to throw the bike through a series of tight S bends, quite
simply it is the complete reverse to that of the 500 Morini I tested last month.
In that test I pointed out that if you ride the Morini on a motorway its good
points remain completely hidden. Do the same with the Laverda RGS and it shines,
but take it into Morini territory and you will be wasting your time. The main
reason is that the two bikes have, I am sure, been designed for completely
differing roles. The lightness of the Morini is its advantage on a country back
road, and its disadvantage on a motorway. This is reversed with the RGS. Its top
heaviness and sheer size work against it on the back roads - but assist its
ability to maintain an ultra-high cruising speed on the motorway. Once set up
for a long sweeping'turn it does not budge an inch. When I first picked up the
bike I thought that Pete Davies and Roger Winterburn were supermen to actually
race and win on Laverda triples. But thinking now, as I am writing the test, I'm
sure that at a circuit like Silverstone or Snetterton with their straights and
fast curves, the Laverda could well be put to an advantage over more
manoeuvrable, lighter bikes which would not have the same absolute power, and
ultra high speed stability. On the club circuit at Cadwell Park however it would
be a brave man indeed who would manage to get a Laverda up near the front.
One thing above all else attracted attention to the RGS - the fuel filler
which is situated in the fairing. Everyone who saw it remarked in some way about
this. The uncanny thing was it had an effect on pump attendants who referred to
you as 'Sir' not 'Mate'. At first most non-motorcyclists would not believe I
actually wanted the fuel 'in there'. On a more serious note I wondered what
would happen if the machine was involved in an accident, as all that was
protecting the pipe leading to the main tank was the fairing. No one likes
talking about accidents but I wondered what would happen nevertheless. Perhaps
any reader who knows could write in! The Judolux oblong headlight (which I am
sure is the same item as in a Guzzi LM11) was something of a disappointment,
although it's a H4 Halogen 60/55 W it's not as powerful as the bike's
performance, all the other aspects of the electrical equipment were first class.
The twin horns were loud and fully in keeping with the high performance
potential. Starting hot or cold was always a first-time affair, whether this
would remain so in winter I cannot say, but one of the most important things on
my list of priorities is ease of starting - the RGS got 10 out of 10. Cold
starting procedure was full choke, two pumps of the throttle - press the button
and away it would go. Another important requirement is the ease of finding
neutral, again the Laverda got top marks.
The gearbox itself was clunky - not the extreme of say most shaft drive
changes, but clunky nonetheless. Against this however there was never any missed
gears or false neutrals.
The amount of power always available makes talking about torque seem a wasted
exercise, suffice to say that it was never lacking. The engine unit is the real
heart of this bike, and only suffered two drawbacks. The first one concerns
Laverda advance and retard mechanism. This is automatically set at either fully
advanced of fully retarded, and could be felt when going slowly by coming in or
going out. Not a major inconvenience but one you could tell existed. The other
concerns vibration which mainly exists between 4 and 5,000rpm. This mainly
surfaced through the handlebars and fairing.
Although lower than the Jota (780mm against 820mm), seat height is still a
shade too much for all but the tallest rider.
Nothing grounded during the period of the test. I do know that in racing the
width of the engine covers are a problem, but for normal road use this problem
would most likely not be noticed at all. The factory quotes the ground clearance
The full cradle frame is supported by a square box-section swinging arm. Of
the type which certain specialists sell as an extra for the average Jap multi.
Tyres, again no need to have to purchase better ones for the Laverda as it comes
already shod with Pirelli Phantoms, front MT29 100/90 V18, and rear MT28 120/90
V18. To transmit the power to these tyres a 630 chain is used. Like most
manufacturers Laverda use a plastic final drive chain guard.
The attractive gold six-spoke wheels are FPS items similar to certain Ducati
models. Whilst the Brembo brakes need no introduction, except to say that on the
RGS they are not quite so effective as usual. This could have been due to the
large mileage OR the extra weight having to be slowed. The disc size is 280mm
for all three discs, which like all Brembo units are in cast iron. The 38mm
Marzocchi front forks were really needed to absorb the power output and braking
There is very little chrome, in fact only the exhaust system, footlevers,
fork cable clips and horn covers.
In line with the sporting stance of the handlebars and fairing (which
incidentally has a tinted screen) rear sets are fitted. Unlike most machines
with these a pillion passenger can easily be carried. This is where the size of
the RGS is handy, unlike when having to push it around at a standstill. I once
foolishly tried to park it in a street with an adverse camber, and found I
couldn't push it out again from the curve - you have been warned!
When carrying a passenger the small carrying compartment behind the solo seat
is lost. This had room for a packet of sandwiches and a shirt and that's about
An extremely useful little goody for the RGS to improve its capacity as a
touring mount is offered by Powerbiking of Chinnor Road, Bledlow, Bucks. This is
a Krauser pannier mounting kit, at £30 plus vat, which includes replacement rear
indicators, plus the various black stoved mounting bracket. This also means that
a rear rack can be fitted as well.
The range in standard trim is I would guess around 175 miles [280km], but in
the modified version I tested this was only just over 100 miles [160km].
Throughout the test I experienced no troubles at all, in fact the bike gave
the impression of lasting longer than most of its competitors.
Besides motorcycles Laverda also are a leading producer of quality
agricultural vehicles and have always put quality before quantity. Because of
this they were the first of the Italian producers to use foreign items where
Italian items were not to their standard. On the RGS you will find besides those
already mentioned, Nippon Denso ignition switch, and various Bosch electrical
Besides the tool kit, a 92-page handbook accompanies each RGS, this also
includes a complete list of torque setting for both frame and engine items.
There are also included a portion for dealer servicing, and service stickers as
well - very much like a car handbook in this area. One comical footnote amongst
all the very useful information was the following: 'Never carry an animal on
this motorcycle'. Well, I've seen some strange hints in various handbooks, but
never that one!
Maintenance - in the handbook the factory recommend servicing at [3,800km]
2,400 miles intervals, including changing both the oil and filter at this time.
Both the clutch hydraulic and front brake master cylinders have see-through
visual checks and cap removal is simplicity itself. The swinging arm has one
central grease nipple. The rear chain is of the 'O' ring type and is also
endless. To remove the battery, the following have to be removed, seat, tool
tray, left side cover, rear brake fluid cylinder and the air intake rubber tube
from near side curb to filter box. The battery is a 12 volt, 24 amp hour.
Ignition is transistorised and no kickstart is fitted - hence the man size
Laverda had been established in the UK for a considerable time, in fact many
enthusiasts think that the first Laverdas to be imported were the 750 SFs. But a
handful of 200 twins were sold in the early sixties - can anyone remember those?
An added advantage is that most of the dealer network have been selling Laverdas
for a long while, and even with the change of concessionaire, Slater Bros to
Three Cross (trading under the Laverda UK banner), most dealers stayed loyal so
there is good service and parts back-up.
A road tester's task is to report in an unbiased way, and although I'm a
self-confessed back lanes scratcher it does not blind me from seeing the merits
of each different make and model, where it fits and who its best suited for. The
RGS is nearer Jap than Italian, and is a longdistance, high-speed, muscle bike
which in the right circumstances is perhaps the best there is for continental
style motorways, or high-speed A' roads. To illustrate this is a trip I made one
evening from Wakefield to Wisbech - around [200km] 130 miles, almost all
motorway or A' roads. Without really trying to go quickly I managed to be home
30 minutes faster than ever before - yes the RGS is extremely deceptive at high
speed. Truthfully it's not an ideal bike for a dealer to have as a demonstrator
because its virtues are not even likely to get anywhere near the surface during
a ride around the block. Use one for a week and you begin to fall in love - but
watch your licence. For that reason only I was relieved to hand the RGS back.
Price £4,250 including taxes.
Source Motorcycle Enthusiast RGS1000 Road Test October 1983 - by Mick Walker