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Discussion in 'Road Warriors' started by Chuckracer, Aug 29, 2017.
Who's got 'em?
Who rides 'em?
Who digs 'em?
07 ST3S, one of the rare ones.
I did one of the first ST2 magazine "quick" impression/write-up when Ducati first brought them out. I don't have that one anymore, but I have this one from a proper road test a couple years later. I don't have the pics anymore (back in the day we submitted articles online and sent pics separately because of bandwidth lol).
And you need to understand the time-frame in which it ws written (i.e., prehistoric mostly pre-internet pervasive )
The first time you hit an unexpected bump while cranked over on a three digit sweeper you know..... Ducati did not stray far from the formula for which they are justly famous when building their first sport-tourer since the 907. The way it shrugs off the potentially chassis unsettling (and butt muscle clenching) surprise makes you grin and say to yourself "Ah, datsa Italian".
You might have had your doubts while just tootling around on the ST2, it's comfortable, friendly, even practical for everyday use in a way that no Ducati has ever been. The seating position and control layout fits a wide range of rider sizes, the seat is large and comfortable for many hours, the clutch/transmission operation is relatively smooth (you can even find neutral from second, not something which Ducatis are famous for doing well), nice brakes (on the street anyway), and the standard large hard luggage adds a lot of secure and dry storage space. It even has an easy to use (with a pivoting lever/handle in front of the left side passenger peg) center stand. And the build quality is far removed from those first bevel drive 750s. Almost makes you want to double-check that you're riding an Italian bike. Until you start it, anyway. Once it rumbles to life, you know that these sounds and vibes are pure Ducati.
Building a very good sport-tourer is not an easy task; in fact, it’s arguably the toughest segment in which to build a "best" of group. Most of the manufacturers have done outstanding jobs in offering really terrific motorcycles to tempt buyers. There are no lemons in the whole segment, and most of the bikes do a lot of things very well. Bikes like the Honda VFR, Triumph's Sprint, and BMW's S and RS models easily come to mind. First off, a sport-tourer can mean different things to different people; with some wanting the emphasis on sport, and some on touring, but most wanting that extra level of utility for everyday use; so it can't be too committed one way (too-sporting ergos or harsh suspension) or the other (too heavy or too soft a suspension). I guess in some respects almost all road bikes can be considered sport-tourers at one level or another: I certainly won't argue with the person who smokes me through the twisties on a fully loaded two-up Goldwing, or the person that loads up their KLR350 with a month's worth of stuff and heads for the west coast, that their bikes are too one dimensional to be sport tourers. But for most of us, the essence of a sport-tourer is something in between these two, with the best ones (in the opinion of many of us) having a decidedly sporting capability.
The ST2 has been in the market for a few years. There were some raised eyebrows when it was released, since Ducati had firmly reestablished itself in the early-mid nineties as a preeminent seller of hard-core sporting hardware that looked (boy, do they look!) and acted (boy, do they act!) the part. The ST2, in comparison, is restrained, almost softly elegant, of line. In my opinion, the bike looks just right for what it is; even the silver/grey color is totally appropriate for it: lets you flow along and through traffic without unnecessarily catching the attention of you know who.
Ducati, among those who might not know any better, suffers somewhat from a less then stellar reliability record based on, I think, stories from the past. Even in the old days, fundamental reliability was actually pretty good; with marginal electrics being the only real cause for complaint. The "rubber-band" (so called because of the belt driven cam operation) Ducatis have a very good reliability record. I say this based on personal ownership of a 1992 900SS, which has been a model of reliability for 26,000 hard miles that's backed up by many others I know with similar experience. One friend of mine in NJ uses his for his daily 130 mile round trip commute and has close to 20,000 miles in less then 2 years use. I also subscribe to the Ducati Internet list where this fundamental reliability is backed up. If you're familiar with motorcycle lists in general, you know the second favorite topic of conversation is problems people have with their bikes (the first being that "we're so smart/cool for owning this bike brand and people who own other brands are such wankers). Over the past few years the only things that have come up are a couple of voltage regulator failures (usually with the 4-valve bikes, and often attributed to connectors not being properly secured). The only other issue worth noting that's happened in a few cases is hairline cracking of early 900SS frames (yeah, I keep an eye on mine), and some cases of head bolt failure, also on 2-valvers, which leads to some oil leaking. Ducati is usually reported by the few people that have had this happen to make good regardless of warranty status. Given what probably constitutes "normal" use by many Ducatisti (can you say "track days and general road thrashing"? I though you could), this is pretty good. The ST2 (and ST4), according to the list, have been models of reliability
When I started to think about doing a riding impression on the ST2, I thought about what I should do with it. I guess I _could_ have done some local riding and maybe take an overnighter somewhere; but that seemed to be too middle of the road. Then I thought, wait a minute.... Sport Touring... why not do something that sits towards the extremes of the definition. Maybe a track day and an IronButt Association ride in the same week. Toss in a nice NJ back road ride or two and take it to work a couple days for some "local" perspective. Sounds like a plan.
Now it just so happens that every September/October I invite the subscribers of the 5 Internet lists to which I subscribe to meet at the Barber Vintage Motorcycle Museum in Birmingham, Alabama for a tour of it and then dinner. Invitees are encouraged, if they want, to try to do one of the Ironbutt rides to get there. It also just so happened that the annual Ducs Fly South meet was being held the weekend later in Georgia (for a number of reasons BarberButt, as I call it, is held on a Thursday), so it would be a good opportunity to visit this as well. And it also just so happened (don't you just love it when a plan comes together?) that Team ProMotion was having track days the following weekend. Since I'd never run with them, it would be a good chance to check them out.
So I approached my friendly local Ducati dealer, Rick Rizzon from Rizzons Cycle in Middlesex, NJ, with the proposition. He took it to his rep and a phone call (Them- "let me get this straight, you want to use our bike to rip around rutted deer-infested NJ backroads, then do an Ironbutt ride, and then thrash at a track day?" Me- "Yes". Them- "Well, ok") later Ducati North America had an ST2 at Rizzons with my name on it a few days later. Cool!
Rizzon mechanic Bill Londell gave the bike a scheduled maintenance service and I was on my way. After a week's worth of riding around, the ST2 proved better then I would have predicted on NJ roads; providing real good suspension compliance, steady handling, very good braking, and more then enough performance to meet the task; and all from a very comfortable platform. Ditto for the commuting part; with the extra benefit of the standard hard luggage being able to easily hold my laptop and other work related things. One nice thing that I really noticed was the improved low rpm (3,000 rpm) driveability in the higher gears. I guess the extra displacement (944cc vs. something like 904cc for the "900") and fuel injection gets the credit here.
The list of things I didn't like is pretty small, and nothing too major or not easily remedied. The self-retracting sidestand is done in usual demonic Italian mode: more so with the thicker touring boots I most often used then the roadracing boots I also wore. I finally developed the right technique to do this without looking too clumsy: while stopped, turn off the bike, and while still seated toe the stand out, get the bike's weight on it and rock the bike backwards until it's supporting the entire weight. Then graciously step off. Fortunately, if you don't like the idea of a self-retracting sidestand 1) it's easy to remedy in a few minutes by filing off a tab and, 2) it has that very good aforementioned centerstand. Gas mileage wasn't great, being stuck in the 30's for most of my riding: but on the plus side it metered perfectly from idle to what would be redline if it had an actual red line on the tach. So I guess I should say from idle to rev limiter; all the while making those bellisimo sounds. Speaking of sounds, although I would be sorely tempted to install a set of cans just on general principal, the stockers suit the bike just fine, being both loud enough to satisfy the soul and quiet enough not to annoy those who have no soul and think loud bikes suck. On the subject of instruments, Ducati, like some other manufacturers, sets the speedometer in 20 mph increments, shows a high top speed mark, and only uses 75% or so of the dial. Personally, I would like smaller increments, more use of the available circle, and am indifferent to a top speed. Sometimes it’s real nice to be able to quickly know pretty exactly how fast you’re going (you know when). Another big gripe is the placement of the battery; both from an ease of accessibility as well as the long distance from it to the left side of the seat. Why? To attach a cord for electrics. Need to rethink this, in my opinion. What else? Geez, not very much. I wish the throttle assembly was constructed a little differently so you could use one of those inexpensive ($12 or so) throttle locks instead of the more expensive kind. And a bigger gas tank would be nice. And it would be a lot better of the oil level window was easier to read and if it was easier to get to the oil filling cap (note: the bike used no oil whatsoever for all the street riding, and just about 1/4 of a quart after 100+ miles of track time). And if it was my own bike, I'd probably add a set of Grab-On closed cell foam grips; more because I like them then because the bike needs them.
Ok, IronButt ride time. 1,057 miles, 22.5 hours: including about 5 hours of motel sleep. Easy. What can I say? It was fast, comfortable, and fun. I choose a route that, although almost all slab, provided a lot of pretty scenery and a number of places to have some fun (see opening sentence). If it wasn't so much fun, you might even say it was boring. 14 other people showed up (three others, pending review and certification, doing IBA rides) at the Barber, and we had a great time both there and at dinner that night; where I gave out my BarberButt Awards. The Barber is a motorcycling Mecca: I hope to have the story on this in next month's paper.
While on the subject of IronButt rides, I should point out that a Mr. and Mrs. Michael and Carol McDaniel spent their honeymoon in September two-up on a Ducati ST doing the biannual IronButt Association event. Billed as the world's toughest road rally, they covered 9,836 miles over the span of 10 days. Now, what was that I heard about Italian bike reliability and comfort for the long haul?
Friday, a group of 5 of us headed to Georgia for the Ducs Fly South event. About 100 Italian bikes were there, mostly Ducatis. I think the four longest distance riders were all on ST's. Hardly surprising. Again, I hope to have a write-up on this next month.
Because of the rotten weather forecast, we headed out Saturday morning towards a friend's house in North Carolina. Just after we finished the absolutely fantastic Rt. 64 (the no-trucks one that climbs a mountain next to a river- one of the best roads I've ever ridden), we were in rain that was constant and varied in intensity from hard to monsoonal. The ST2 never missed a beat and proved sure-footed in the wet: especially on the last 5 miles going up a 12 foot wide mountain road, complete with mashed leaves and pine needles to the friend's house.
Sunday morning brought no relief from the rain, and two of us (both Duc mounted) left for home. But first we ran a 38 mile loop over a series of very gnarly roads. In the rain. With the same crushed leaves and pine needles, more blind turns then we wanted, and the certain knowledge that the "locals" use those double yellow lines on the road as mere advisories. Fun and trepidation levels were both off the scale. Back on the slab for the long ride home in the pelting rain. Good thing we were on Ducs (Get it? C'mon!... Never mind.). We wound up doing 600+ miles in about 11 hours, with only the last few being dry.
Through all this rain, the overstuffed hard luggage kept things absolutely dry. I tell you, as I reach my dotage I'm liking hard luggage more and more.
I had noticed after arriving in Alabama Thursday that the rear tire (excellent MEZ4) was starting to get a little flattish towards the middle of the tread. When I checked it Monday, while it was still not showing wear bars yet, it would not be suitable for a track day. It had lasted a total of about 5,500 miles. Not bad considering. We weren't able to get a replacement MEZ4, so Rizzon's spooned on an MEZ2 for the track day which was coming up the following Saturday.
Prepping the ST for a track day is easy and it offers a pretty unique feature. After you remove the luggage and luggage rack, you can pivot the exhaust cans up, which also raises the centerstand. Though the standard (with bags) location was ok for the street, the extra clearance for the track is welcome. Neat, and another example that Ducati knows how it's products are used. 15-20 minutes and it's done. Other then that, tape up the front turnsignals (the rears come off with the luggage brackets, another intelligent feature), lights and reflectors, remove the mirrors, put on your numbers, and pull the headlight, taillight, and brakelight fuses. Whoops, wait a minute. Pulling the taillight fuse prevents the bike from starting, so pull out the rear bulb. I don't know why they did it this way: maybe in a nod to tradition (long time Ducatisti know what I'm talking about). Why pull the bulb or pull the fuses if the lights are already taped? So (especially for the headlight) the heat of the bulb doesn't melt the tape adhesive and make it hard to get off later. Call this CCMC's track tip of the day.
OK, track day. Although I meant and wanted to do it before this time, I just couldn't get my schedule clear to run with Team Pro Motion before now. I have to say I was impressed with the organization and structure of what they did. Like the two other excellent associations who run track days in this area, REDUC and NorthEast Sportbike, they run a safe and hugely entertaining program. Plenty of personal instruction available if you want it, following some mandatory instruction for the first timers.
The ST2 was an absolute hoot on the track, removing any doubts that indeed it's a very capable sport bike. At Pocono, we ran what's called the North Course, which includes some banking and a relatively long straight, at the end of which is a fairly slow (about 25-40mph in my case) right-left chicane, followed by a reasonably technical infield section complete with some ripples in a couple turns courtesy of the cars that race there. To me, the most fun was coming out of turn 1, which headed you straight towards, and then along, the wall while WFO and on the tank. Both intimidating and exciting. The highest speed I saw (Yeah, I looked a couple of times. I know, dumb. But done in the interest of journalistic integrity) was just under 130mph; although I suspect that on my fastest laps I wasn't looking at the speedo because I was diverting all my energy to the muscles that control butt-clenching. Here's why: remember that slow right-left at the end of the straight I mentioned? And remember the brakes that I said were fine on the street? Well, slowing for this turn sequence got the best of the brakes after 3-4 laps. The lever was coming waaaay back towards the handgrip and I was not having a high degree of confidence that it would always do the job. It always did, but confidence is a real important thing when riding. Even going through most of the infield off the brakes didn't help very much; and I noticed after each session that when I squeezed the brakes, fluid would bubble from the reservoir vent hole. On the other hand, the brakes never actually failed, and I was breaking hard enough that it felt like the rear wheel was off the ground for that turn sequence. I really would have liked a camera person there to see if I was, though I would have been greatly disappointed to find that I wasn't. May be better to live with the fantasy then confront the reality. I suspect that this can be remedied somewhat by adding stainless or kevlar brake lines. This is a common Ducati owner addition and it worked wonders on my bike. Ducati- take note: the ST (and the other models) deserves them. Other then that, the ST did just fine; clearly a better track bike then I am a track rider. The day ended towards sundown all too quickly (turn on the lights!!!), and I loaded the ST up and headed home: tired but basking in another motorcycling day well spent.
I was sorry to turn the bike in a few days latter as it had proven to do everything a good sport tourer is supposed to do; and do it very well. I won't call it "the best" sport tourer; just as I won't call any of the others "the best" either. It's too personal a call to make such a sweeping generalization. But I will say this, if you can have only one bike and/or have a hankering for a sport tourer, as well as an itch that only an Italian bike can scratch, check out the ST2. I think you'll like it as much as I did for a long, long time.
Thanks to Rizzons Cycle for all their support; to Ducati North America for providing the bike for these kinds of things, and to Team ProMotion for a great time at the track.
Had a 98 ST2 for a year and rode it out to Colorado/NM and back from Ontario Canada, five years ago.
Picked up a 01 ST4 cheap ($3,000) the next year and gave the ST2 to my brother. I rode the ST4 all around the east coast, NH, Vermont and the Adirondacks for 3 years before selling it a few months ago.
Both bikes were fantastic bikes and while the ST4 was faster and smoother the ST2 was mean sounding and a real beast. Both handled really well and the luggage was light and easy to use.
I loved both bikes and the only reason I got rid of the ST4 is to save up for a used multistrada.
I had a 2002 ST2 for about three years, bought it used and made some nice upgrades on it. Traded it on a 2008 Triumph Sprint ST 1050 in 2009. The Triumph had a great engine but the rest of the bike did not compare to the ST2. Regret that trade.
I've owned a 2004 ST3 for about 5 years now and use it mainly for commuting(and one long trip a year). I still love it. It's a little rough in slow traffic, but on the highway, it's king. I keep rain gear in one side bag and then pack my laptop and lunch in the other. I've owned and sold a lot of bikes, but this is one I am planning to ride until it dies or my kids start asking for street bike.
Just picked this up. Can't wait to put some miles on it.
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Have a 2000 ST2 with suspension upgrades. Somewhere around 42,000 miles on the clock. Lots of scratches and whatnot but its a runner. It lives in my buddy's garage in San Diego waiting for me to come out and ride it back to the Mid-Atlantic. Next year I hope...
Riding a 2005 Multistrada for the time being.
I owned a 2001 Triumph Sprint RS with the 955 engine, before I owned the 98 ST2. I really liked the 955 engine and it was a great looking bike, but it handled like dog shit in comparison to the ST2. The Triumph was top heavy, wallowed through corners and was never very confidence inspiring in the twisties. The ST2 was laser point and shoot in comparison.
Too bad Ducati stopped evolving these wonderful motor bikes. The ST market never died, in fact there's been many new ST type bikes introduced by many manufacturers over the years since all the experts called the market segment dead, Kawi about to be the latest to add yet another ST model to the market, with a blower no less. Bought my 2005 ST 3 new, while still in the crate. 55K miles later, I'm still happy. The bike's 13 seasons old and still gets a ton of complimets and has proven itself to be very reliable. So far. Great bikes.
2005 ST4S (last year, only year wet clutch) Best all around bike I’ve owned. Just sold it because I need something I can be sure of getting parts for if I break down on a trip.
It’s getting so even ordering exhaust bolts and grommets are a 6 week wait.
My thoughts exactly.
I loved my both my 89 ST2 and 01 ST4, but would like modern ST bike and recently sold the ST4 to save up for a used multistrada. However, if Ducati came out with something like the KTM 1290 duperduke GT tomorrow, I would take a second mortgage on my house to have it.
Loved my 94' ST4S especially opening up and bringing out the dry clutch
What brand/model of driving lights are those? Do they work well? Do you have any close ups of the mounting?
I LOVE my ST4! Can't stay off the thing!
I bought an '02 ST4S in 2012 and owned it for not quite a year. Absolutely loved it, but sold it looking for something less $$$ maintenance-wise...
Oooh, a thread with people who understand, so I shall chime in. Me and a great friend on a ride earlier this year.