The nights are drawing in.

It’s gone a bit nippy here in Shrosphire. For me the cold weather always means long nights in the workshop doing the stuff I wanted to get on with in summer but somehow never got around to because I was too busy riding bikes.  This winter I’m finally going to get around to completing the restoration of of my Laverda 125 Regolarita Casa. Whaddy mean, you’ve never heard of one? Allow me to illuminate.

Laverda , who are perhaps best known for their big three cylinder roadsters, always built dirt bikes, in fact they were very good at it and by the seventies, the factory’s off-road race shop was one of the best in Europe, so much so that BMW asked them to build a prototype enduro bike based on their boxer engine. And we all know what that eventually led to.

Laverda BMW b

Laverda prototype BMW Boxer enduro bike. Looks familiar? Thought so…

During the fifties Laverda started off making a regolarita model based on their very successful 100cc road bikes .  By the mid sixties Massimo Laverda, son of the founder Francesco Laverda, was starting to make his presence felt within the company and designed a 125cc trail bike with the intention of capturing sales within the burgeoning US off road market. Massimo was the brother of my good friend Piero Laverda and for me the 125cc Trail marks the start of the golden age of Laverda when the two boys , Massimo and Piero, took over their father’s business and made it into one of the best-loved brands in motorcycling.

Massimo’s design, known as the 125cc Trail America, was also marketed under the Garelli Gladiator name in the US. Meanwhile , back in Europe Laverda offered a small quantity [about 50] of specially prepared versions of the 125cc Trail to customers wanting to compete in Regolarita events [ a kind of long distance regularity trial popular with Italian clubmen]. As well as these  customer competition machines the company also built a handful of ‘Casa’ models to run in ISDT events and had some modest success with them. ‘Casa’ means ‘house’, or works bike. Only two , possibly three of these original works bikes survive and, as a lifelong Laverda enthusiast, I’ve always fancied building one.

125 4T Regolarità Casa

Brochure shot of a Regolarita Casa, this shot is a bit misleading because the model was never offered to the public. I suspect this is a shot of a Casa which the factory intended to market as a Corsa [race] bike to replace the model pictured below. It was not to be and only 4 or 5 were ever produced

 

125 4T Regolarità Corsa

One of the 50 customer machines, a cobby little bike sporting what looks like a GRP Rickman tank [nobody I’ve spoken to in the Laverda world can quite remember where the tank came from] These customer bikes had a four speed ‘box, the works bikes had a five speeder.

 

125 4T America

And this is the cooking version offered to the American market

 

The Casa is loosely based on the Trail, very loosely in fact and I must confess the quest for special parts to complete the project has taken far longer than anticipated. Finally, with a good deal of help from Piero and his son Giovanni, I’ve now assembled all the parts and I’m ready to start putting the bike together. If you compare the pics you’ll see the frame on the works bike is very different to the production bike and features a brace running from the headstock to the swing arm. Having started off with a bog standard Trail I had to have the extra bracing fabricated by my chum Pete Priest [www.priestbikepaint.co.uk], other mods included having a toolbox fabricated into the top of the steel tank mimicking the work’s bike. The factory bikes also had 32mm Ceriani GP forks instead of the spindly 28mm units fitted to the production bikes. Special Q/R wheels off a Gilera ISDT were also fitted and these , along with the forks, proved very hard to track down. Giovanni Laverda found a pair or wheels for me at an Italian autojumble a few months ago and they arrived in the UK last week. Game on.

jig 003

Pete’s jig, built to hold the frame true whist the bracing was added

 

ISDT regolarita

Here’s the modified frame showing the extra bracing and the altered fuel tank. Prior to having the jig made I didn’t notice the original frame was twisted. What we now have here is a heavily braced, twisted frame! Hopefully this will be sorted in the next few weeks when we’ll un-brace the frame, correct the twist and weld it up again. Doh.

Once the frame is straight I’ll do a dry build and get all the fiddly bits done. My bike is a rare 150cc version  so it should have a bit more poke than the standard. It’s got to lug my 90kg bulk around Shropshire so it’ll need all the help it can get, bearing in mind it’s a small capacity pushrod four stroke from the sixties.

Researching the background and technical specs to these rare little bikes has been tricky. Massimo has sadly passed away and Piero was ne’er but a teenager when this model was built. I asked him what became of the four works bikes and he smiled ruefully and told me he’d been given one of them when he was a student and he used to ride it in local regolaritas but sadly he can’t remember what became of it! Fortunately he has access to works rider Nino Caretta’s bike . Nino died some years ago but his old bike is now owned by his son Mirko who runs a restoration business. Mirko allowed Piero to take  over sixty reference shots of the bike which have been invaluable  for research.

I’m intending to display the bike at the Telford off road show in February, meanwhile I’ll post updates of progress from time to time.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Mirko Caretta proudly showing off his Dad’s bike.

 

 

Piero Casa

A teenage Piero Laverda riding an ultra rare Laverda works ISDT bike in a club event in the 1960s. Where is it now I wonder?

 

And finally, a Laverda Trail America masquerading as a Garelli Gladiator

Garelli_150_Gladiator

 

Better late than never…

I came across this article whilst trawling through some stuff I’d written for Classic Bike last year. It’s an event report from the superb ISDT Centenary celebrations held in Carlisle last August. I’d entered the event on my Bultaco but due to space limitations and copy deadlines the report never made it to press which is a shame because there were some very interesting bikes and people at the event. So, a bit late perhaps , but here it is.

Carlisle ISDT Centenary.

The centenary ISDT celebration in Carlisle had an appropriately international flavour with entrants from France, Germany, Holland, Scotland and Wales . They had turned out to celebrate the famous event by re-tracing riding the route of the original competitors who had set off from Carlisle almost exactly 100 years earlier. The anniversary celebrations were the brainchild of the irrepressible Dot and Jim Jones, well known personalities in the off road world. Dot and Jim had piggy-backed the Centenary ride onto a three day enduro hosted by Rallymoto and the paddock was packed full of exotic rally raid machinery sharing pit space with classic ISDT bikes dating from 1913 right up to the early 1980s. The organisers had won the enthusiastic support of Carlisle town council and riders were waved off by the Mayor of Carlisle as they threaded their way out of the town and headed out to the Lake District. Of course most of the original route is now tarmac but in on some of the more remote routes through the fells and on the occasional green lane riders were able to sample the scenery and roads experienced by the early pioneers of the International Six days Trial.

1913 980cc Trump

Local lad David Miller from Wigton brought along his 1913 Trump to represent the pioneering days of the ISDT. His heroic exploits on the Trump won the admiration of all who witnessed his take-no-prisoners riding style on the sporty looking V-twin. The Trump is direct drive, devoid of clutch or gears and with marginal brakes. If you stop, you stall and bump starting the long legged 980cc Jap sidevalve is a tricky business. Not such a problem on the wide open fell roads but definitely an issue when the centenary entrants passed through the places Keswick crowded with sightseers and weekend traffic. David’s technique was to maintain forward motion at all costs and his fearless filtering past slow moving traffic was a masterclass in how to ride vintage machinery .

Trump

1975 Jawa Team bikes

Works Jawas are like late night buses- you wait ages to see one and then three come along at once. Steve Gard had travelled up to Carlisle from London and brought with him three Jawa team bikes from the 1975 Isle of Man event including John May’s gold medal winning 250cc machine [number 3]. Steve’s machines represent the heyday of the Czech factories involvement in the ISDT and in their day these purposeful looking machines were in the elite of long distance competiton machinery. Steve is shown holding bike number 234, a 360cc, brother in law Nick Morris is with 228 which is a 350cc machine and Paul Howard is riding John May’s medal winning machine displaying its ISDT original number 3 .

Jawas 2

1913 Campion 500cc

Bob Ashwin from Evesham was riding his 1913 Campion. Powered by the ubiquitous 500cc JAP driving a 3 speed Sturmey Archer hub gear Bob’s bike also sports a cleverly fabricated hand cranked starting device which he made himself, “ It’s not an original unit but at least it’s Campionish, I’ve had the bike about 3 years and this year is the first time I’ve had it on the road and so far the experience has been trying”. Bob’s testing times with the Campion were to continue and sadly the bike threw its hand in a few miles from the start. Fortunately he has a trusty Royal Enfield rigid ready and waiting in the paddock and went on to complete the event.

Campion

Campion hand crank

1980 SWM 370 GS

Frenchman Philippe Vandewalle’s superb SWM 370cc G/S1 was representing the hairy era of the ISDT when much emphasis was placed on the bike and rider’s performance in the motocross style special test. These big bore two strokes don’t suffer fools gladly and when asked about the performance of the Italian thoroughbred Philippe replied “ C’est fantastique, I’ve added a gasket to reduce the compression and the bike is superb to ride with good torque and an easy power delivery.”

Philippe, a well known competitor in the classic off road scene, runs the popular website www.oldknobblies.com devoted to classic enduro machines. He was taking it easy on the Centenary event having crashed the SWM in the previous day’s enduro sustaining a wrist injury.

SWM 370

1969 Cheney 500cc

There were nine original Cheney Triumphs on the event and this example , ridden by John Cart of Stratford ,was particularly good example sporting some interesting period features. “I’ve owned it for twenty years and when I originally bought it the bike had been used by its owner in one day trials. It’s got the original Cheney yokes and forks which are quite unusual and hard to find, in fact John Cheney spotted them and asked me if I wanted to sell the yokes! It’s also got a set of original Rickman hubs fitted. This particular bike wasn’t a team bike or anything like that, it’s just one of the bikes which were offered for sale at the time” An ex motocross man, John has used the Cheney in the Red Marley hillclimb and it shares his garage with a variety of Triumph twins including a 350 trials iron and a Tiger 100.

Cheney Triumph

1956 AJS 350 MCS

A number of the bikes on the event had genuine ISDT provenance and this nicely turned out AJS 16 MCS owned by Jeremy main of Oxford had participated in the event during its history. Jeremy bought the bike two years ago and hadn’t ridden the bike until the Centenary event. The competition version of Plumstead’s single was a popular clubmans mount in the 1950’s , the bike becoming popular after works rider Hugh Viney famously won the Scottish Six day three times in a row in the post war years. Jeremy seemed very pleased with the Plumstead single on its first outing and is pictured here at the final checkpoint of the day.

AJS

If you’re interested in ISDT stuff you really have to check out http://www.speedtracktales.com  It’s an incredibly comprehensive archive of ISDT material , superbly written and extremely well laid out. If you need to check any facts or research any history regarding the ISDT this is the place to go. One of my favourite websites!