Utterly In Zane?
Classic Bike Guide|June 2017

As a bargain-buy, high-performance classic, Laverda’s 750 superbike makes a strange kind of sense

Paul Miles

LAVERDA, LIKE MANY OTHER Italian motorcycle companies, has seen its fortunes wax and wane several times over the years. The Breganze factory, famous for its thunderous triples, finally abandoned motorcycle manufacture in the early 1980s, leaving thousands of Laverdisiti bereft.

Around 1992, after a break of over a decade, new investment from the Zanini group (and subsequently industrialist and two-wheeled enthusiast Francesco Tognon) was found and Laverda rose from the ashes with a completely new model, the mid-size 650 Sport, built in the town of Zane.

At the time this market segment was popular and 600cc sporting class machines were among the bestsellers worldwide. It made sense for the new company to avoid a re-hash of the horribly outdated, litre-plus triple so associated with the Laverda name. Instead, it launched a new, cutting edge sportster complete with a high revving, air-cooled, eight valve twin, based on the old company’s horribly outdated 500cc twin, the Alpino.

At first glance, this might be considered as an unwise move. However, the knowledge and tooling already existed for the twin. By increasing the capacity to 668cc, plus further tuning and fuel injection, the new Zane Laverda claimed a reasonable 70bhp. In order to make the most of this admittedly modest power, a brand new chassis design was commissioned from none other than Nico Bakker. The twin-spar aluminium frame was light and stiff and, coupled with the very best of Italian suspension by Paoli, Brembo brakes and lightweight Marchesini wheels, the rest of the new machine read like a Who’s Who of two-wheeled excellence. Even the bodywork was Kevlar.

The air/oil-cooled 668s were initially well received and praised for their excellent handling and usable performance. A slightly higher tuned Formula model soon followed, finished throughout in jet black. However, for the rider to make the sort of progress the looks suggested, the motor (first designed over 20 years earlier, remember) needed to be mercilessly thrashed. This inevitably led to mechanical problems including valve seat recession, main bearings starved of oil and failing engine balancers. Throw into the mix the usual electrical mishaps almost always present in an Italian bike and the outcome was a machine best described as ‘flawed’.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM CLASSIC BIKE GUIDEView All

An A65 As We Wanted It

Jim and Liz knew just how they wanted their A65 Lightning to be

10 mins read
Classic Bike Guide
December 2019

Norton Atlas 750

Hutch’s Norton Atlas 750 has been a good, solid workhorse – until some journalist had a little go on it and the clutch broke…

2 mins read
Classic Bike Guide
December 2019

National Motorcycle Museum Live 2019

Getting more people to come to a museum must sometimes seem like a tricky affair, but the National Motorcycle Museum does it brilliantly. They let you in, for one day only, for free!

1 min read
Classic Bike Guide
December 2019

Coventry Eagle Flying 8

The little-known range topper of everyman bikes manufacturer, Coventry Eagle, has been a larger influence on biking than you may have thought. Rachel Clegg investigates...

7 mins read
Classic Bike Guide
December 2019

Behind The Scenes Heroes The CRMC Scrutineers

With a variety of machinery to check, can we learn from the CRMC scrutineers?

4 mins read
Classic Bike Guide
December 2019

Aermacchi Harley-Davidson

These Italian/American bikes have a lot to offer, and they don’t cost a fortune

10+ mins read
Classic Bike Guide
December 2019

Verdant Velo

Sporting sophistication for clubmen and commuters

5 mins read
Classic Bike Guide
June 2017

Sure-Footed Shooting Star

Smooth and steady all-rounder

5 mins read
Classic Bike Guide
June 2017

Utterly In Zane?

As a bargain-buy, high-performance classic, Laverda’s 750 superbike makes a strange kind of sense

5 mins read
Classic Bike Guide
June 2017

Desert Stormer

It’s not a Nomad by name, but this Norton tourer has clocked up a quarter-million miles anyway

4 mins read
Classic Bike Guide
June 2017