Ducati’s best-known for silly, aggressive street bikes (and there’s nothing wrong with that), but every once in a while, it cranks out a sport tourer for more … sensible … customers.
These days, the SuperSport series holds down that duty. Back in the 1990s, it was the ST line. Despite drawbacks from a sport-touring perspective, the bikes were and are well-liked, and if you can find one that appears in good shape (like this 1999 model on Bring a Trailer), then you have a machine that’s fun in the here-and-now, and possible a classic in the near future.
Generally speaking, the ST2 had the general Ducati reputation for flashy styling, and a competent chassis that handled well. It was comfortable, too, once you replaced the seat; Ducati builds sportbikes for small race-type jockeys, but its other bikes are made for normal-sized people.
The heart of the ST2 was its L-twin engine (Or is that a 90-degree V-twin? Who’s to say?). This liquid-cooled lump, with two-valve head and six-speed gearbox, was actually a familiar entity to Ducati owners upon its introduction. It was the latest evolution of an engine that Ducati had introduced in the 1980s for the Paso sportbike line. By the late 1990s, Ducati had worked out the initial bugbears (a crappy Weber automotive carburetor, wonky electronics), and it put out a claimed 83 horsepower at 8,500 rpm.
For its era and intended use, that was more than enough jam. Users knew it couldn’t compare to a true sportbike, even then, but owners and journos alike seemed to very much like the torque and usable powerband in the real world.
They did not like the Duc’s maintenance schedule, though. Today, Ducati’s worked towards developing engines with long intervals between major services, but the ST2’s desmodromic valves offered no such luxury. Fastidious owners would check and adjust the valves every 6,000 miles; a time-consuming job at home, and expensive at a dealership, even back then (many owners stretched the intervals farther, with varying results). Obviously, this was a problem for a sport-touring machine, where the owners expected to put on long miles—it didn’t take long for those miles to get expensive, even without any problems.
Depending who you ask, the ST2 redeemed itself by being fairly reliable, though. There’s an interesting thread on the bikes in the ADVrider forum here, with with @Josephyman wisely pointing out that “If you can’t afford a new Ducati, you probably can’t afford an old Ducati…That’s not a knock, just a reality check backed up by experience and a rather large number of receipts for scheduled and not-so-scheduled maintenance on various bikes.”
He’s right—catching up on deferred maintenance can get very expensive very quickly.
Conversely, @Wreckchecker says the ST2s are still fairly reliable, at least: “… outside of a couple of well-known issues like the wire harness (which a large number of people have already fixed/changed) the ST2 is pretty darned hard to kill. Few of the 2-valves went racing, so there’s less risk of a beater than the 4-valvers. Being a Duck, most owners take better care of them than a Jap bike of similar vintage. Even so, you can treat this bike like a Honda and have a similar rate of breakdowns. The 2-valve engines are actually quite simple and easy to do owner maintenance on, there are plenty of parts on EBay and typical Ducati sources, plus there’s a good owner support group. Apart from the bodywork, a lot of the parts are common to other Ducati models.”
That’s the reality of any used bike. If it’s been taken care of, you’re going to be a lot further ahead, and if you’re buying a used Euro bike that’s had a fussy owner, that’s often better than a used Japanese bike that’s been flogged by a generation of squids.
This bike here?
Good news, then! This machine currently flogged on Bring a Trailer should have had proper maintenance over its lifespan. As per the advert: “The bike first served as a dealer demonstrator at Britalia Motors of Capitola, California and has remained with the dealership’s owner since its closure in 2002.”
Former dealership owner? Sounds like a grown-up has had the keys for the past 19 years, and with only 11,000 miles on the clocks, the chassis and engine shouldn’t be worn out.
Also note the owner’s made several small improvements, including “ST3 comfort seat, an upgraded clutch slave cylinder, a lithium-ion battery, a Ventura headlight guard, a Euro-market ECU chip and handlebar light switch, a contoured touring windscreen, and handlebar risers.” There’s a tall windscreen installed, and the machine comes with locking detachable Nonfango saddlebags. It’s not in original condition; the advert says there’s some corrosion on the exhaust (the mufflers are replacements) and the right-side saddlebag upper cover, lower fairing panel and mirrors are replacements. There’s a set of integrated turn signals bolted on, too.
However, that’s a sign the bike was actually used. That’s important on a bike that’s more than 20 years old, and as you can see from the video above, the machine still has plenty of zip. Anybody want to bid on this, and fly out to California to ride it home? If you’re that bold, let us know how it goes.