Laverda Chott. More than the sum of its parts.

I’m fairly mercenary when it comes to my bikes. They have to function properly and earn their keep, if they don’t they’re up the road. With neither the time nor the money to indulge in a bike collection, for me it’s all about the riding. And the best way to enjoy a classic bike is to enter it in competition. In competitive events the rider experiences the distilled essence of the bike. There’s little time for mechanical sympathy or worrying about whether you’re going to scratch it, you’ve just got to extract as much as you can out of the bike and it’s in these circumstances that you can really get under a bike’s skin and appreciate exactly what the designers were hoping to achieve.There’s no better way to enjoy a classic .

Lands end

Lining up for a restart on the notorious Blue Hills mine section on The Land’s End trial, one of the most spectacular motor sports venues in the UK. The course is an old miners track climbing up the face of the cliff and from certain vantage points you can see the Atlantic rollers crashing onto the rocks a couple of hundred feet below. It’s a daunting prospect when you see it for the first time but like lots of these things, it’s a lot easier than it looks.

Of all the competition bikes I’ve had the pleasure to own and ride, perhaps the most unlikely one was my Laverda Chott. Or to give it the correct nomenclature, the Chott 2TR . I’d longed for a Chott ever since they were introduced in the UK back in the seventies. The trouble is they were very expensive and they were panned by some journalists who didn’t understand what they were, which didn’t help sales. Too expensive for a trail bike they said, and too slow and heavy for an enduro. They were right on both counts but they had failed to understand what the Chott was all about. The clue is in the ‘R’ of 2TR. It stands for regolarita or regularity trial, for the Chott was built not for trail riding or enduros, it was built for long distance trials which are very popular in Italy. The 2T stands for due tempi – two stroke.

CRM 018

360 miles of pace notes transcribed onto 30′ of paper. This is a Touratech route book holder, a sort of horse-drawn satnav. The route book holder is backlit with a green diffused glow, essential to avoid eye strain during the night stages, The route notes are provided by the organiser about ten days prior to the trial and these are then transcribed onto the paper roll in a crude form of shorthand. These notes are the key to a rider’s success. Do them properly and you can look forward to easy stress free navigation. Do them hastily and you can find yourself wandering aimlessly around Exmoor in the middle of the night. Exmoor is a very lonely place at three in the morning.

Race face. It’s broad daylight so I’d estimate I’d have been riding for about 18 hours straight by this stage. The sections on LDTs aren’t as challenging as on single stage trials but even a relatively innocuous climb up a steep bank like this can have you on your backside if you’re not fully alert. It’s at this stage in a trial medals get thrown away due to momentary lacks of concentration. hence the stern look.

Having competed in such events for a number of years it occurred to me a Chott might be just the job. I contacted a well-known member of the Laverda community with a reputation for knowing all about Chotts and told him what I intended to do. His first words were , “What do you want to do that for , a Chott won’t get you to the end of the road, let alone complete a long distance trial”. I had to concede the Chott had a reputation for unreliability but I’ve come across these rumours about bikes before and they’re often based on hearsay or the uneducated testimony of ham-fisted owners. They are rarely, if ever, based on first hand experience. I decided to make my own mind up.

The Chotts specification on paper suggested it would be perfect for long distance trials. Twin Bosch ignition modules, twin plug head, fully enclosed chain [why, oh why haven’t more manufacturers taken up this idea for off road bikes?], decent suspension coupled with low weight . It’s also an air-cooled,  piston-ported two stroke of 250cc capacity which in my opinion is the perfect configuration for this type of bike. The Chott also has as standard, a very nicely fabricated chromoly frame with an adjustable headstock . A gimmick? Possibly, but having competed on one I’m not so sure. I had mine set on the steepest setting which gave it nimble, trials type steering. It was a joy on the tighter sections and still relatively stable on the road. For longer, faster events a sporting rider could benefit  from one of the other two settings offering a more relaxed head angle.

So, ignoring the received wisdom I went out and bought a Chott, or to be more precise, I bought two. The thing is, Chott spares are thin on the ground and it helps to have some backup. I built up one very good bike out of the two incorporating the larger 11 litre tank from the earlier of the two bikes and within a couple of weekends were good to go.

Neat and tidy Bosch twin plug electrics, the Chott was an expensive , high quality bike which used top quality ancillaries.

On the bench prior to a trial, note the enclosed chainguard. The hubs on the 2TR were alloy, earlier Chotts used magnesium.

Not only did the Chott make it to the end of the road, it also went considerably further, in fact I worked out I had covered over 3000 competition miles on it during my tenure.  I won medals on it in the Land’s End , Edinburgh and Exeter trials, I ran it in the famous Spanish ‘Ruta de cinco mil curvas’ [Route of 5000 curves], a 300 mile regularity trial in the Picos de Europa. I entered it in the Great Northern trial up in the lakes, the Ilkely trial in Yorkshire.and anything else which took my fancy.  I even came seventh in one event which was open to modern bikes. The Chott and I became as one, melded in perfect harmony. I loved it. It’s unfeasibly large exhaust seemed to endow the Chott with levels of torque out of all proportion to its capacity. I could hook it into fifth on the switchback lanes of Devon and Cornwall and ride for miles without changing gear, grunting up significant inclines without complaint.  That kind of easy-to-live with engine flexibility conserves valuable rider energy on a long trial and I’m convinced that was the key factor in my successful run on the bike. It would always start first or second kick and,for a piston ported two stroke , it’s economy was good .  I could eke 115 miles out of tank, useful on a 360 mile event like the Land’s End. Some of these events are 20 hours long and competitors ride through the night tackling a variety of special tests and observed sections in pitch black. I augmented the Chott’s 12v lights with a modern battery powered laser beam of type used by mountain bikers for nocturnal riding. It turned night into day and the battery fitted neatly into the Chott’s tank mounted Brema enduro tool bag. I became so comfortable on the bike I relished the start of every trial. Even the most technical sections held no fear. The Chott’s benign power delivery coupled with impressive levels of rear end grip meant I could tackle anything I was likely to encounter on a Motor Cycllng Club trial with absolute confidence.

Chott exeter fingle woods

Fingle Woods observed section on a very cold and frosty Exeter trial in 2009. The first sixty miles of the trial featured lots and lots of black ice and I was very relieved to make it to the first checkpoint at midnight. A dab on one of the later stages threw away the gold medal but given the circumstances I was happy to go home with a silver.

Did it ever let me down? Actually yes it did, on two occasions but I’ve since forgiven it. The first was a self inflicted breakdown which occurred when I’d stopped on the way to the start of the Exeter trial. The Exeter is notoriously brutal event which takes place in early January. I was riding in a blizzard on the A5 [ yep, I was actually riding the Chott to the start, how hardcore is that? ] when the Chott developed a misfire and I pulled over to check the plug. I unscrewed the HT cap to check the connection, bear in mind this was in the pitch dark and I was using a head torch to peer under the tank.  All the while I was  being sprayed by slush and snow thrown up by the wheels of juggernauts running dangerously close to my perilous poosition in a narrow layby. In my haste to fix the problem and get the hell out of there I fumbled and  dropped the HT cap down a storm drain and it was game over, a DNS. There was another problem on another event which I can’t bring to mind , ignition related I seem to recall but as far as I remember that was it. For a brief four year period the Chott and I formed an immensely pleasurable partnership. I’m not 100% sure but I think I’m the only rider ever to have won anything in a national UK event on a Laverda Chott – not exactly Guinness Book of Records stuff but it gives me a warm glow of satisfaction. Eventually the lack of spares availability forced me to give up competing on it and, as I said at the beginning of the blog, my bikes have to earn their keep and so the Chott had to go. Of all the desirable bikes I’ve let go over the years, the Chott is probably the one I should have kept.

Edinburgh results

Left. The Chott’s finest hour, not long to go now and we’re on our way to a gold medal in the Edinburgh trail. Above. Here’s the proof! Not many gold medals were handed out on that year’s Edinburgh . I’m rider No 2 in the listings. The objective on the Motor Cycling Club trials is to keep a clean sheet on all three major trials during the year, the Exeter, the Land’s End and the Edinburgh. Do that and you win a very nice bronze statue of a fingerpost sign. Previous recipients have included Sir Malcolm Campbell…

edinburgh

pipnbillnbob1

Above. In the Picos de Europa . 300 miles, 5000 curves followed by a metric tonne of Paella dished up by Spanish organisers MC Piston.

Exeter Chott

Smiley faces all round. As well using the bike in competitive events the Chott provided sterling service as a trail bike. I’ll be writing more about Laverda’s off road products on future blogs.

Derby5

3 thoughts on “Laverda Chott. More than the sum of its parts.

  1. What a great story. Though I own a Laverda myself (750SF) I did not even know the Chott existed. You had quite some adventures and good memories. Thank you for sharing!

    • Hi, The Laverda 250 chott is an unbeleaveble bike. I have two of them and has a lot of fun with them. Even with my 750 and 500 of course. Marianne, Are you from Holland?

  2. Interesting. For my sins I have recently bought a 2TR used and abused beyond just a good service. Therefore I am looking for a 68mm piston, even a ring would get me mobile. If anyone out there has a source of parts please leave a message or contact me on uk number 07887790712.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s