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
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
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
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
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
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
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