1983 Laverda RGS 1000
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Although praised as the beautiful exotic it was, the RGS failed to find a particularly active market. Testers loved it, but many Laverda faithful shunned it, considering it too civilized to be a real Laverda. And it was expensive. At a time when you could get a Kawasaki GPz 1100 for $4,499 or a Suzuki GS1100ES for $4,350, an RGS carried a list price of $5,950. And it was a full 1.5 seconds slower than those other two through the 1/4 mile. Laverda built about 2,500 RGSs, and only sold some 250 here in the U.S.
Variants of the RGS included the handsome Executive, fully equipped with integrated bags and “bat wings” to keep your hands dry, and the sinister-in-black, 95hp hot-rodded RGS Corsa.
The RGS was phased out in 1985 and replaced by the SFC 1000. Considered by some to be the ne plus ultra of Laverdas, the SFC had the high-performance Corsa engine, revised RGS-like bodywork, and upgraded brakes, suspension and new instruments. Technically, it was probably the best Laverda ever. Unfortunately, it was an expensive, almost 15-year-old design. The market had moved on, and Laverdas were something of an anachronism. The last Breganze-built Laverda rolled out of the factory in 1988.
Riding an RGS today
Although I’m completely comfortable on my Laverda RGS, not everyone finds it an inviting proposition. First off, at a shade over 550lb wet, it’s heavy, and at low speeds it feels like it carries that weight high.
The reach to the bars is long, while your legs have a somewhat disproportionately short reach to the foot pegs. Fortunately, the foot pegs are adjustable, thanks to a trick mounting plate that can be rotated 360 degrees for varying combinations of vertical and horizontal placement. I’ve got mine at 6 o’clock, and it’s perfect for my 6ft frame.
Properly tuned, an RGS is an easy starting, easy running machine. Turn on the ignition, open the petcock, pull the handlebar-mounted choke, thumb the starter button and it starts instantly, its 32mm Dell’Ortos eagerly delivering a nice charge of fuel and air.
The choke rarely needs to stay on for more than a few moments before the engine clears its throat, signaling it’s ready to move. It takes a little throttle management to keep it from stalling, as it won’t idle until fully warm, but the engine pulls cleanly and powerfully with only the shortest warm up.
The shift into first is solid if a bit clunky, and moving away from rest you immediately feel the bike’s bulk. Yet like many machines of its ilk, the RGS lightens up quickly as speed rises. Truck-like handling at 10mph gives way to a balanced feeling at 40mph, and it gets better from there. Roll through the gears and get the RGS up to 80mph, and it’s a different machine: alert, powerful and utterly stable.
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