My roommate from prep school, Bob, bought this Laverda brand new in 1972. Several years later, he put the machine out on long term loan. Miles accrued, and the bike’s appearance developed some obvious signs of age. By the time Bob got it back to the cellar of his New Hampshire lakeside home, some serious TLC was needed.
Bob and I have always been best friends and we ride together often, so I would see the SF occasionally. Each time we lifted the cover for a peek, I would ask Bob if he wanted to sell it, and he would then ask me if I wanted to restore it. This little skit was repeated for years until, in 1997, I offered to buy the SF but grant him a perpetual right to repurchase it. I figured (correctly so far!) that he wouldn’t, since I could let him ride it whenever he likes. And so the infirm Laverda came to be parked in a warm garage in Pennsylvania, on my lift.
Once I got the engine spinning, compression checked out OK. A little attention put the ignition system in order, before cleaning out the carbs and hooking up to an umbilical fuel tank, because the stock tank was contaminated. The engine was started and brought up to temperature and, after cool down, I checked fluid levels and did a quick safety inspection. The controls worked well enough for a brief test ride to confirm the engine condition, and especially to check the transmission and clutch, as well as steering, suspension, braking, exhaust and electrical systems. I then went over every detail, cleaning and refinishing, replacing and repairing innumerable components. In regular light usage, defects were uncovered and set right until I was confident in the bike. So restored, the beautiful SF once more took flight sometime in 1998, and has given the ensuing years of service and enjoyment with just normal maintenance.
Reverse engineered from a 305 Honda, the Laverda engine is a scaled-up version. The bike is no lightweight, which contrasts somewhat with its innate sporty character, but is pretty much what one might expect of a sport bike built by an Italian tractor company. The Nippon Denso starter and BIG battery spring the engine to life, and the seating position is purely Euro-sport, with high footpegs and an optional solo seat. Unrestrictive LaFranconi mufflers spin the decibels into charismatic music, and the belt-driven Bosch alternator reminds you of its presence via the charge light, which flickers at idle. Japanese tach and speedo are large, steady, and easy to read -- and look like they were lifted from a CB-750K2 Honda. The clutch pull is notoriously heavy but the 5 speed transmission is still manageable though shifting action is somewhat agricultural. SF stands for ‘super freni’ -- super brakes -- and the design is unique. The brake shoe actuators are articulated to increase leverage, and the twin-leading-shoe front drum is reasonably powerful. The rear brake is even better. Together they do the job, but without much margin. This machine likes to stretch its legs, with the relaxed, torquey engine teaming up with the long, stiff frame, Ceriani forks and Koni shocks to munch the miles. Sweepers bring big smiles, where the great stability pays dividends.
This machine never tires, and long stints in the saddle leave the pilot ready to stop before the motorcycle, with its large, well-proportioned fuel tank. The visceral quality of the engine is a big part of the fun, but it demands respect. The riding position is excellent: one can fit inside this machine’s cockpit, somehow, and enjoy tarmac rolling by at a prodigious rate. What do you say we ride 300 miles for Latte this morning? ‘Ats amore.