GoogleCustom Search

Laverda 3C 1000cc RoadTest

Motorcyclist Illustrated 1977

The modern rider is spoiled for choice. Good motorcycles are as common as potholes in a London street. In a wide variety of engine configurations, sizes, and price ranges you can own a machine that will take you to work, across a con­tinent, and everywhere in between. It will do this with a minimum of mainte­nance, fuss or strain, and ownership is rarely a demanding task.

But while all these bikes have the pre-requisites for reliable and pleasant transport, only a few possess the less tangible ingredients of soul and charisma. These two attributes are usually quoted as excuses for a temperamental and plain unreliable machine; seldom are the virtues of character and fuss-free operation combined in one bike. The Laverda 3CL is the latest member of this select group.

Out test machine was the first of its kind on British roads, and consequently became the centre of attention for en­thusiasts and outsiders alike. Wherever it was parked, countless motorcyclists stopped for a closer look and in traffic many motorists wound down their win­dows to make appreciative noises. Non-motorcycling friends overcame their usual indifference and marvelled at its beauty.

The 3CL is similar in appearance to the famous Jota, and cycle parts are identical throughout. The 3CL is a softer-tuned, touring version of that incredible sportster, and shares the finely cast wheels, the first-class triple disc brakes, the excellent Ceriani suspension and the fine-handling frame. The Jota comes in silver only; the 3CL is available in red, green, or blue. Ours was a deep, glossy, and highly attractive medium green.

Standing still, either machine looks like the fast-moving thoroughbred each is. Sitting astride, you notice immediately the bike's relative narrowness, marred only by the bulge of the altern­ator on the right side.

There is no kickstarter, only a button on the right handlebar, but throughout the test the electric starter had the motor running first time every time, and should present no problems in service. The typically Italian fuel taps on either side of the sculpted and tapered tank are quick and easy to use; the choke is rather less so, mounted out of sight under the nose of the tank. Once the engine is running, even from cold, the choke can be opened fully and forgotten about.Clutch pull is heavier than the featherweight feel of modern Japanese units, but it doesn't get tififig even in heavy traffic. The gearchange is a little rough and noisy, especially in the lower ratios and neutral can be awkward to find when the engine is hot.

The throttle feels very light, with none of the painful return spring nonsense some bikes inflict. Easing away from a standstill you can tell that this motor has torque from tickover. The softer 3CL is much more tractable than the Jota and it takes a commuter role as well as any other large machine. Steer­ing is fairly light at low speed, and driveline snatch is kept to an acceptable level.

But only a fool would limit such a fine machine to a workaday existence, and out of town the Laverda triple warms to its natural habitat. Vibration is slight and never intrudes or causes fatigue. Mechanical noise is a little higher than on the two Jotas I rode just before this test, but on paper the 3CL should be quieter and the difference was probably a quirk of the individual machine.

The exhaust is quiet at 78 dBA, but not so quiet as to let the rider forget he's on a real motorcycle. You can cruise for long distances at any speed you choose up to 100mph with comfort and ease and the bike feels smooth and very stable, and the rhythmic beat of the exhaust provides all the soothing music you need.

Over the ton the riding position gets a little uncomfortable because the footrests are a mite too far forward. An inch or two farther back would help your legs take some of the strain of hanging on at high speed.

The feeling that you could ride forever is due largely to the seat and the adjustable handlebar. The seat is firm and gives good support, and 300 miles came and went in a day without getting . the backend blues. The multi-way adjustable handlebar is a familiar fitting on Laverda. It provides a range of movement from a full cafe racer crouch to an extremely comfortable upright, leaning slightly forward, touring stance. With such an ideal riding position and that massive motor working away tirelessly, you feel you never want to stop moving.

However, stop you will — every 160 miles for petrol. This is the safe touring range offered by the 4y2 gallon tank. Average fuel consumption overall was 40mpg, with a best figure of 43 and a low of 35. The test mileage included regular short commuting hops and a lot of fast cruising. The touring range is not exceptional but compares favourably with most other machines in the one-litre class. Filling the tank to the brim caused petrol to leak through the filler seal, but this fault was not evident on either of the Jotas. Oil consumption throughout the test was nil.

When we collected the test bike it had covered only 750 miles from new. The first service had been carried out, but the engine was still fairly tight. Laverda importer Roger Slater tells me that the normal top speed of a 3CL is 127-130mph when fully run in and the machine is not considered run in until it has passed the 4,000 mile mark. A good top end afterwards depends on the bike being ridden quite hard in the early stages.

The highest speed I obtained at 1,500 miles was llOmph. The engine felt strong and completely without strain at this speed, and it is fair to assume that as the miles tot up so too will top speed increase. But llOmph was a shade over GOOOrpm. The redline begins at 6500rpm and 130 would be just under 7,500 where the red zone ends. So evidently the fac­tory does not want you cruising between 115 and 130 all day long. Slater Bros, say you can take it beyond the red band for short periods without any worry.

The speedometer itself took fits and sometimes the needle would swing back and forth through a 10mph range. On its best behaviour the instrument was fairly accurate: an indicated 60mph was an actual 56.3mph. Both speedo and tacho are made by Japanese firm Nippon Denso and are similar to Honda units. The electrical switches are also Japanese and are identical to Suzuki items. This brings the usually poor switches and instruments fitted to Italian machines up to the high standard of Japanese equipment.

Paint and chrome are two other sore points for many owners of Italian motorcycles. Laverda seems to have conquered both problems. The paint was deep and glossy, and the black pinstripes were applied by hand. Chrome quality was above the Italian norm; the only rust apparent was inside the end of the left silencer.

The lights too were excellent. The indicators were bright, the tail light large, and the 60/65W headlamp was safe over the legal limit on unlit roads at night. Although dipped beam gave a good spread of light to both centre and side of the road, the cut-off was a little too sharp for my liking. The twin horns mounted below the headlight were loud and clear like all horns should be, but rarely are.

Italian motorcycles have a well-deserved reputation for good handling, and the 3CL is no exception. Roadholding was good and the bike was rock steady at 110 in a straight line. The Laverda stuck to a line in fast sweeping bends at lOOmph without wavering, and the addition of a passenger made no difference. Damping at both ends was adequate, and rear spring preload adjustments were made easy by built-in levers on each shock absorber. The standard TT100 tyres added to the great feeling of security, wet roads or dry, and ground clearance was such that nothing touched down. Fast left-to-right flicking was easy, hampered only slightly by the bike's size and 5101b wet weight.

Braking is taken care of by two 11 inch discs up front and a single 11 inch unit at the rear. All three discs are cast iron and performed perfectly wet or dry. The brakes were powerful and predictable — except for the time they were used to slow from ll0mph and the front units refused to free off completely. After a few miles they were binding badly and the discs were hotter than hell in a heatwave. It transpired that the screw in the lever for adjusting lever free play had adjusted itself without telling anyone and had taken up all the free play. A few minutes with the spanners solved the problem for good.

Speaking of spanners, the toolkit supplied is of good quality but lacks — would you believe it — the tiny Allen key for adjusting front brake lever free play! I managed without it. But the thoughtful Laverda people even supply a small plastic oil dispenser for such necessities as cable lubrication on an extended tour. Rear chain wear was minimal and ad­justment was fast and simple. No mirrors are fitted but the front brake lever casting is tapped to take one.

A sidestand is another usual fitting missing from the Laverda, but the cen­tre stand is so good you wonder why a sidestand should be necessary on any bike. The centre stand is so well designed that merely standing on its ex­tremity with your right foot accomplishes the task without any strain or effort whatever. Many smaller and lighter motorcycles could give you a hernia, but not this one.

Another useful touch on the 3CL is the rear seat hump. When these little cub­byholes started appearing on bikes I thought they looked hideous, and some still do. But on the Laverda its attractive design is well matched by its practi­cality. For the record it will hold three cans of beer or two pints of milk, whichever poison suits your mood.

The engine is a three-cylinder hunk of sanitary sand casting with highly pol­ished primary and alternator covers. The double overhead cams are chain-driven through a tunnel between cylinders two and three. Actual capacity is 981cc and the motor breathes through three 32mm Dell' Orto carburettors. Primary drive is by triplex chain to a wet multiplate clutch and five-speed gear­box with right-foot change.

The crankpins are spaced at 180 degrees, sending the outside two pistons to top dead centre while the middle piston is at the bottom of its stroke. Maximum power is quoted at Slbhp. Electronic ignition was trouble-free courtesy of Bosch.

Immediately before my two weeks with the 3CL I had the pleasure of putting up 800 miles on two Jotas. The good reputation of this incredible sportster has spread far and wide and some of it must brush off on its touring brother. The Jota certainly feels and sounds a lot faster than the 3CL, but what you gain in speed and acceleration you lose in trac-tability.

The differences between the two machines are few but significant. The Jota runs a 10:1 compression ratio to the 3CL's 9:1. The Jota cams give more lift and more overlap. The exhaust system on the 3CL has extremely restrictive baffling combined with closer camshaft overlap angles for quietness. The Jota's less restrictive exhaust produces an awesome sound sadly missing from other motorcycles today. But the noise level is 90 dBA to the 3CL's 78 dBA. Both machines have a 40 tooth rear sprocket (sprockets with 36 to 46 teeth are optional) and identical gearing except that bottom on the 3CL is lower.

These differences made the 3CL by far the more pleasant machine in town. Neither of the Jotas felt happy in traffic and although they had perhaps an extra 20mph on top end and stronger acceleration from rest, they also have a more definite power band beginning at 4,000rpm. For all but the purist the 3CL is the more sensible option.

At £2,265 the 3CL is appreciably cheaper than the £2,465 Jota. But despite the proliferation of sophisticated large-capacity machines the Laverda is not really competing for the same buyer as most of the others.

The 3CL will tour every bit as well as, say, a Honda Gold Wing. But the two machines are poles apart in concept and execution. The only real competition for the 3CL comprises the new Ducati 900 GTS, costing £1,699; the BMW R100/7 at £2,299; and the Moto Guzzi Le Mans costing £2,099.

But look again at those classic lines, that sensuous tank, the greyhound stance, the seductive sweep of the exhaust pipes, and the way the silencers wrap themselves so tightly round the rear wheel. And ask yourself if owning a merely good motorcycle is enough any more.


  • Capacity: 981cc
  • Bore x stroke: 75 x 74mm
  • Type: Three-cylinder with crankpins spaced at 180 deg. Chain-driven double overhead camshafts. Light alloy block and head. Cylinder head has cast iron valve seats and the cylinders have cast iron liners. Cylinders inclined 20 deg forward.
  • Compression ratio: 9:1
  • Claimed power: 51bhp
  • Carburation: Three Dell Orto 32mm with 118 main jet and 55 idle jet.
  • Primary drive: Triplex chain with slipper tensioner; 2.04:1 ratio
  • Gearbox: Five-speed
  • Ratios: 1st 2.857; 2nd 1.883; 3rd 1.373; 4th 1.173; 5th 1:1 direct
  • Clutch: Wet multiplate
  • Lubrication: Wet sump holding 5.3 pints; gear pump; oil cooler
  • Overall length: 85.43in Overall width: 29.13in Wheelbase: 57.48in Seat height: 32.5in Ground clearance: 5.5in Castor: 63 deg Trail: 5.5in Turning circle: 16ft
  • Dry weight: 4801b (214kg)
  • claimed Tank capacity: 4 gallons including 3 pint reserve
  • Brake discs: Three 280mm diameter
  • Tyres: Front 4.10 HIS Dunlop TT100; Rear 4.25 HIS Dunlop TT100 Wheels: Both quickly detachable cast aluminium; 2.15 x 18 front, 2.5 x 18 rear Price: £2,265 inc.
  • Ignition system: Bosch electronic flyw­heel magneto with external coils Generator: 140W ac Battery: 12V 32Ah Starter motor: O.Sbhp Headlamp: 60/44W Halogen 7" in diameter

Please e-mail the webmaster if you have a picture worth adding to our database, e-mail: