Title: Piero Laverda – Our bikes and owners are like family and very different to modern day race bikes like in MotoGP

Author: Myanna Wedes

Piero Laverda is like everybody else sharing a passion for motorcycles. He is a very nice man with a business set on the values of building a good relationship of trust and confidence. In 1949 Moto Laverda became a reality after Dottore Francesco Laverda asked for permission in 1947 from founder Pietro Laverda to found a motorcycle company. What a genius decision it was to do so of which created a beautiful bike that has crossed borders and generations throughout time. Endurance racing was a key area for the Laverda family and it was in the 50’s and 60’s where the company excelled in gymkhana, hill climbing, street racing and more. The 24-hour racing was an area where the Laverda family focused a lot of their attention and with Piero joining Moto Laverda in 1973. He was responsible for the endurance teams and also the production plant. Last week the Otoplus team caught up with Piero at the 2017 QBE International Festival of Speed to talk about classical bikes, Laverda and his role within building the brand. His story is very intriguing.

Q: How would you describe the characteristics a Laverda motorcycle?

Piero: In the beginning with the 50’s my father founded the company and the bike was designed just as a very economical transport vehicle. This was just after the second part of the war and the community needed a cheap vehicle to get to work. In the 60’s the motorcycle had a very high market drop and we came out changing the philosophy of the bike. The bike moved from transport vehicle to the vehicle for free time and pleasure of riding. Our criteria in designing the bike were to give to the owner firs the pleasure of riding (power and speed) and second designing something very sold and impressive. We did this to let the owner, as it is typical in Europe and Italy to drive to the café. They would compare with one another and say this bike is for the real man. This is why we designed the bike so big and heavy.

Of course, from the technical point of view the reliability and movability was key. The design was always over calculated but we never forgot the marketing point to have a solid and strong product for the man. The same can be said about Harley Davidson’s. They ride with the look and to feel macho. For this reason Laverda is quite popular and I am speaking about Europe because in the North of Europe in Germany, England and Scandinavia when they think about Laverda they say this is the bike for the real man.

Q: What made you so passionate about two wheel engines and development of the chassis in the very beginning? 

Piero: I think I was a very lucky man as I was born in a motorcycle factory started by my father. Since I was five or six years old my free time was spent in the factory watching how they built motorcycles. My first bike was when I was 8 years old. They let me ride on the testing track and then from the beginning I had passion for it and then went to technical school. I am a mechanical engineer and went to university in Italy. I spent a few years after university designing the bike, then production, then a plant manager and so on. My experience was designing, producing and also testing bikes. When I was a student I was happy to ride the bikes in any condition. Still now I like to ride the bike on the track.

It was good for me to experience riding because before the delivery of any new model bikes, I would test them with our prototype tester together. We went out on track with two early production bikes and do all the tests to make sure that the bike was quality controlled and the customer was happy. Safety is important. All of the big bike makers like Japanese one and European ones have bikes that are very fast with top speeds over 250km/h.

Q: Where is the most time spent on creating the bike?

Piero: Normally, in my experience the design and testing from the day you decide we have to produce this model in this specification it takes 2 to 3 years. If you are a motorcycle producer (engine and part of the rest) it takes this time. If you are motorcycle assembler (you purchase the parts and put together) it is less than 50% of the time. Most importantly is the engine. 70% of the investment is on the engine side and 30% is on the bodywork and design of the bike.

Q: Your famous orange bikes, why are they that colour?

Piero: There is a very interesting story. Always Laverda entered the production bike in racing. Not Grand Prix racing but sport production races and also races in long distance road races or the 24-hour races. This is the kind of competition that allowed you to do a positive promotion for the product. This was important because Laverda was in the 24-hour and still racing and is reliable which is good for the product. Secondly, it gave you a lot of information on the technical development. When you race for so many hours the weak points come out. It was important to have these kinds of activities.

In the early days of the big bike production (1969, 70 and 71) our racing colour was white with some stickers. In the long distant races, the entrants would be 60 to 80 bikes racing together. This means that during the first few hours all the bikes are together and cross in front of you in a straight line. During these long races the team technical manager and myself were trying to keep under control with the chrono watch to determine where our riders were. When they passed at a top speed we could not seem them. At this time I was still a student in university so I asked my professor in physics, which colour is the best. He said Piero the first is yellow and in second place it is orange. I said yes ok. At the same time we were selling a lot in Europe and the main market was a tiny country Holland. It was small at the time. The importer in Holland was able to sell more bikes in Holland than what we could in Italy with a factory in Italy and with so many more people living there. For me, the Dutch importer was a guru. He was excellent. I spoke to him and asked him about changing the colour from white to orange to have a better facility of control with the bike. He said Piero great idea and go on. I spent two years to understand that orange is the Dutch colour (laughs). From that day forward, all our bikes racing were in orange. This is the story and we never missed catching the time or our bikes in racing since changing. It was easy to see. All of the Laverda enthusiasts enjoyed this colour and majority of the market is orange.

Q: What does this say about Honda in MotoGP with orange?

Piero: We say they copy us (laughs and jokes). Every month we have a meeting in Europe and they call us the orange people. There is a connection.

Q: What does the international festival of speed mean to you and coming out here for the brand?

Piero: It is not for commercial reasons. Today, I am more involved in the classic motorcycles of the time. The Laverda trade name today is controlled by the main group Piaggio but as far as what I know for the moment there is no development projects for new Laverda bikes. For my fans and me it is to take this great opportunity to come here to Australia with our bike to meet our Laverda friends. Moto Laverda is not like Honda. We are smaller and liker a family. We know majority of the owners of our bikes all over the world and everyone is happy to meet us again and speak with us. We have done three club meetings in Australia: Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney. We find owners who have been the owner of the bikes since they first purchased it and are a part of the Laverda family for over 30 years. The enthusiasts still remember key moments and love the opportunity to meet us and talk. This is what we like because you will see this when you are older that one of the best things that remains in your life after your business, work, family and so on is the human relationship. If you keep good positive relationships it stays forever. This is what we do and this is the Laverda name. This is the target of our lives. Australia is fantastic and I like it a lot. We keep good relationships with the owners and continue this.

Credit: Deborah Wedes

Credit: Deborah Wedes

Credit: Deborah Wedes

Credit: Deborah Wedes

Credit: Deborah Wedes

Credit: Deborah Wedes

About The Author

Myanna Wedes

Myanna has an incredible grasp and knowledge of the sport in detail and continues to secure lead stories every week. She is in constant contact with team and rider media management. She is an admitted lawyer with two degrees and is currently writing a biography on Alan Jones MBE 1980 F1 World Champion. She is a fond lover of two wheel motorsport, predominantly MotoGP, Moto2 and Moto3.