Mark Hastings of the International Laverda Owners Club introduces the dedicated enthusiasts who appreciate a great part of motorcycling history
The International Laverda Owners Club (website) was founded in the UK in 1974. The main objective is to enhance all aspects of Laverda ownership, from helping members to keep their bikes on the road (by drawing on the vast pool of technical knowledge and expertise that exists in the club) to promoting the social side through events and rallies where members can meet their fellow Laverdisti. We are part of a worldwide network of owners and clubs dedicated to the marque and, being an Italian make, there is significant interest on the continent.
The Laverda marque is recognised by many road users (not just bikers) as the home of the iconic ‘Jota’; the fastest standard road bike in the late ’70s. What Laverda owner hasn’t experienced the question ‘Is that a Jota, mate?’. The Club caters to owners of all Laverda models, from the early lightweight singles and scooters, through the larger twins to the iconic triples and later ‘Zane’ twins. However, it’s important to note that you will be welcomed into the club even if you don’t own a Laverda; all you need is an interest in the marque. In fact, we positively encourage those with any kind of interest in Laverdas to come and join us!
The club prides itself on producing an excellent bi-monthly colour magazine called La Vera Vista as well as offering other services to members such as weekend events, regional monthly meetings, technical advice, an online club forum, discounts on classic insurance, dating certificates, a factory tool loan scheme and an extensive archive. We are also affiliated with the Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs (FBHVC), Motorcycle Action Group (MAG), National Association for Bikers with a Disability (NABD) and, of course, the British Motorcyclists Federation (BMF). Interestingly, the club has seen its membership grow over the past few years and it currently stands at more than 700 members.
On the road
So what does that all look like in terms of a member experience? In practical terms, we have a pretty hectic social year with meetings taking place across the UK. The year begins in earnest with an AGM in early April and usually starts to wind down with the Classic Motorcycle Mechanics Show in October. In between, we attend events such as the Bromyard Festival of Speed and the Festival of 1000 Bikes. We also have a presence on the Isle of Man for various major events there too.
…just not this year. Needless to say, our events and activities have been somewhat curtailed by the appearance of COVID-19. It would be very easy to be downbeat about this but, where feasible, members have still met – providing that it hasn’t breached government rules, of course. Where this has not been possible, members have kept in touch to the best of their abilities, and the magazine and forum have come into their own as powerful tools for maintaining contact within our membership. However, what the current emergency has given us is time; time to reflect, time to look to the future and time to plan.
This should be an ongoing process, of course, but it’s all too easy to be distracted by the present and not see what’s coming over the hill. Like many classic bike clubs, the harsh fact is that our demographic is an ageing one. Ignoring this would be pure folly and to do so would certainly be burying our heads in the sand in the hope that everything will sort itself out. We need to be attracting newer, younger club members with an enthusiasm for the marque and a desire to keep the club and the name of Laverda actively in the spotlight. The ultimate aim (albeit it’s a big ask) would be for the ILOC to be the club that every other club holds up as being the perfect model, looking to us for inspiration. Easy to say, but certainly not easy to achieve.
Looking to the future
What we do know is that all big journeys start with small steps, and we are starting to take those baby steps already. The first step is to come to the acceptance that things are not quite right. Yes, it’s only a relatively small club and is run by a small committee of volunteers, but that doesn’t mean that we have to think small! It’s all too easy to accept the status quo but, in my opinion, this acceptance can only lead to mediocrity, a dwindling membership and ultimately the demise of the club. We have to find new ways of getting the brand out there, of captivating people with the story of Laverda and of inspiring them to join us. Perhaps most importantly, we have to be able to market ourselves to a new generation of bikers. How we do this is probably one of the greatest challenges that we face. There is no doubt in my mind that we can achieve this, but it will take time and effort.
So what are we doing in the short term to address some of these issues? Well, for starters, you are reading this article right now! We are beginning to work as a club to forge stronger working relationships with organisations such as the FBHVC, the BMF and MAG – organisations that we may have been guilty of taking for granted in the past. We are actively looking for public relations opportunities as well by trying to build relationships with publications and journalists alike. If any of you are reading this article now and fancy doing an article on Laverdas, then please feel free to contact me and I’ll be more than happy to support you and provide you with the bikes and resources you need.
What we do really well as a club is to talk to other bikers. What do I mean by this? When we attend events such as the Classic Motorcycle Mechanics Show at Stafford, we take a huge amount of pride in our stand. With a relatively limited budget, we produce a professional-looking stand that often gains recognition and has won awards on several occasions. But what makes the stand such a valuable tool is that it is manned by Laverda enthusiasts who love talking to visiting punters. The expectation is that anyone who walks onto our stand will receive a warm welcome, and we will always aim to take the time to talk to them and answer any questions that they may have. That’s not enough any more, though. We have to be thinking of new opportunities.
With that in mind, the club has developed a great working relationship with the Classic Motor Hub based near to Bibury in Gloucestershire. We started this association back in 2019 and it very quickly became apparent that an opportunity existed to create a brand new bike event to get the year going. May 2020 would have seen the inaugural ‘Ride it!’ event taking place, were it not for the appearance of COVID-19. By the time the proposed date came, the country was in a complete lockdown and that was devastating to all those who had the vision to make it happen.
What happens next?
We also need to do the simple things really well. It’s so important that we take the opportunity to engage with other bikers when we are out and about and to make the time to share our passion with you, particularly if you’re a younger motorcyclist and may never have even heard of Laverda. Despite the statement about being approached by people wanting to know if it’s a Jota, there are as many (if not more) who are likely to say “Laverda? Never heard of them!”. So it’s all about balance and perspective.
There is no doubt that there is an opportunity for reinvention within the club, but it’s still a brilliant club to be a part of! I’m proud of the club heritage, the service it has delivered to its members and everything that it has achieved over the past 46 years, but that’s looking backwards and what we need to do is to look forwards. We need to future-proof our club and ensure that it continues to support its members, making ownership as easy as possible and enhancing their experience long into the future.
If you need any more information about the International Laverda Owners Club, you can explore the website at www.iloc.co.uk or contact me directly via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Take care, stay safe and we look forward to hearing from you!
Laverda through the years
1873: Pietro Laverda founds a business making agricultural machinery in the Italian town of Breganze.
1947: Francesco Laverda, grandson of Pietro, and Luciano Zen start a side-project to design and build their own motorcycle in their own time. The result is a 75cc four-stroke that, legend has it, included parts made in Laverda’s kitchen.
1949: The success of the side-project encourages a more permanent endeavour, so ‘Moto Laverda S.A.S. – Dottore Francesco Laverda e Fratelli’ is officially founded as a motorcycle manufacturer.
1951: A good performance at Laverda’s first race at the Milan-Taranto sees them finish fourth, fifth, sixth and tenth, despite serious competition.
1952: Returning to the Milan-Taranto, Laverda take a clean sweep of first, second, third, fourth and fifth places. A reputation for combining performance and reliability is born.
1966: After Francesco’s son Massimo returns from a trip to America with ideas about bigger machines suitable for long-distance riding, a 650cc parallel twin engine prototype is developed and unveiled at the British International Motor Show.
1968: A limited production run of the Laverda 650cc is launched, attracting admirers for its reliability, stability and comfort, and is quickly followed by a 750cc model. The 750cc model becomes a great success in the US market.
1969: A more powerful 1000cc power plant is developed to help Laverda compete with new machines from Japan.
1973: The Laverda 1000 3 C Triple is launched.
1974: The International Laverda Owners Club is founded.
1976: Building on the earlier 1000 3 C Triple and incorporating changes suggested by British importer Slater Bros., the iconic Laverda Jota is launched. It was the fastest production motorcycle of its time.
1977: The 500cc Alpina intended for the entry-level market is launched, but is renamed to Alpino or Zeta in some markets due to trademarking issues. A 350cc version quickly follows.
1978: An improved Alpina, the Alpino S, and the Formula S are developed for racing.
1979: A road-legal Alpino S, the Montjuic, is launched.
1983: The RGS Sports Tourer is launched in an attempt to modernise the range. However, the technology is still somewhat behind the times.
1985: The combination of falling sales and the huge expense of the modernisation effort proves too much. The Laverda family concludes its involvement with the marque.
1993: After unsuccessful attempts to save the company, the entrepreneur Francesco Tognon buys Laverda and relaunches it.
2000: Laverda is bought by Aprilia and becomes a division of the larger company. The Laverda name is applied to imported scooters and quad bikes.
2004: Aprilia is bought by Piaggio, and the Laverda name is retired.
This article originally appeared in the Winter 2020 edition of BMF Motorcycle Rider.
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Main picture credit: Daniel Kaderli (Laverda 750SFC, 1971) by Cédric Janodet, licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 (cropped)