The tourer you can take to the track
IT’S an advantage to be able to do more than one thing at a time. Walking and chewing is a good example, but sporty touring is a better one. Multi-tasking is all the rage these days, with man and machine being expected to perform several concurrent tasks, rather than just one.
It’s about being a jack-of-all-trades and master of all of them. Ducati had last dipped a toe in the sports touring market in the early 90s with its 907ie, but the ST2 was their first serious attempt to take on the might of the Japanese head-on.
Bikes like Honda’s VFR had the all-rounder segment sewn-up, but the ST2 provides a Latin alternative. Although a completely new model, the ST2 still uses components derived and developed from others in the Ducati range, therefore speeding up development while keeping costs down.
The liquid-cooled two-valve engine gives 79bhp and originated in the 907 Paso, but was bored out by a couple of millimetres to give a capacity of 944cc. If you’re looking for more power, the four-valves per cylinder ST4 version is a better bet. The frame is basically a Monster trellis, itself derived from the 851/888. A 916-style rear suspension linkage brings up the rear and the whole thing was styled by Miguel Galluzzi, who was also responsible for the Monster. They get their money’s worth at Ducati.
A hint of the ST2’s split personality is evident in something as mundane as the exhaust brackets: they’re adjustable, so the silencers can be pivoted up for increased ground clearance on a track day or when you’re going for it on the weekend away. Track day? On a tourer? Well yes, because the ST2 has succeeded in combining the comfort and practicalities needed for touring with the sharp and stable handling of a sports bike. A punchy mid-range, blinding brakes and 140mph performance underline its sporting potential, while optional extra panniers provide somewhere to store the spare kneesliders.
But there’s one trait the ST2 possesses that sets it apart from its rivals: character. Able to pull top gear from as low as 1800rpm, yet rev to 9500, there’s a massive reserve of midrange to either pull you along in gearchange-free cruising mode, or punch bike and rider out of bends on a wheelie-pulling parabola. And if that isn’t multi-faceted, what is?
Alternatives: Aprilia SLV1000 Falco; Ducati ST4; Honda VFR800Fi; Suzuki RF900; Triumph Sprint ST; Yamaha XJ900 Diversion
BUYING TIPS: WHAT TO LOOK FOR
CHECK the obvious things, like service history for a start.
Most ST2s are owned by mature riders so shouldn't have been thrashed, but regular work by an approved dealer is essential to guarantee the longevity of the Duke. If it's been looked after, an ST2 can cover high mileage reliably. If it hasn't then the future is far more uncertain. Check the left-hand side of the bike and check the bodypanels are in good shape. The flip-up sidestand can be a nightmare and if you're caught out by it the Duke can soon flip on to its side. Replacing the panels can be expensive. Beware of home repairs!
FRONT SPROCKET RETAINING PLATE
THERE was a recall to check the condition of the front drive sprocket retaining plate. But, rest assured, the chances of failure are extremely slim. The plate is the same one used to hold the sprockets of all Ducatis since the 851. And it's been toughened since those days, so problems are virtually non-existent. Check the bike got its recall, though, which should be noted in the service documentation.
ON earlier models the wheels would buckle if abused. Running up kerbs violently or hitting big potholes very hard could make them run out of true. Even a badly landed wheelie could knock the front out of shape. From 1998 the wheels put on the ST2 are tougher, which is good because replacements are expensive. If the bike you're looking at has only slightly buckled wheels you could have them straightened for around £100 a wheel.
SERVICING the ST2 isn't cheap as the engine maintenance is time-consuming and results in high labour charges. The fairing takes ages to remove and even topping up the oil is impossible without a special funnel. But if you're patient and possess some decent mechanical skills then the job can be done at home and that will save you a fortune. But be warned, valve clearance and fuel injection adjustment need special tools so unless you are going to make a lot of use of them the cost of those could outweigh the saving you'll make on the servicing. You'll need one service a year, or every 6000 miles.
THESE aftermarket extras are all available from Ducati to make your ST2 more practical for touring:
Hard pannier kit: £445
Pannier inner bags to lift out of hard panniers: £88
40-litre top box kit: £256
52-litre top box kit: £300
Tank bag: £117
Taller screen to keep the wind blast at bay: £64
DUCATI'S build quality and reliability has improved significantly since the American firm Texas Pacific Group invested heavily in the Italian factory at the end of 1996. But Dukes still need a little more care and attention than most Japanese bikes. Regular cleaning and polishing, especially after any riding in anything approaching winter conditions, is vital.
Look carefully at the more difficult-to-reach areas like behind the fairing and around the rear shock to check the bike's been looked after properly and not just had a quick once-over to make a good initial impression.