This aint your pappy's tourer
Producing a claimed 105 bhp at 9000 rpm the engine has it all. Despite the size of those two huge pistons it's remarkably smooth right up the rev-range. You'll have to spin it up a bit to avoid low-down transmission snatch but above 3,000rpm it just pumps out the ponies all the way to redline.
There's an old expression in biking, parts-bin-special. It's not polite; it refers to bikes that are bunged together, often by cash-strapped manufacturers, using bits from other models in their line up. You might be tempted to sneer at the ST4 and label it as a parts-bin-special, but you'd be wrong, very wrong. OK, it might have borrowed its motor from the 916 and its chassis from just about any recent Ducati sports bike you'd care to mention but despite this pedigree it's a bike in its own right. And it's a bloody good one too.
The 916 engine, from the machine that redefined the modern sports bike, might not seem the ideal choice for a multi-purpose sport-touring role initially. After all, anyone lucky enough to have ridden the 916 will know that it's a balls-out sport engine that likes to be ridden hard. Not really the blueprint for an everyday bike is it? But give the 90 degree L-format 4 valve V-Twin engine a little tweaking and you've got the basis of a very versatile power plant that will pootle out of slow turns fully loaded with passenger and luggage, or fire out of the same turns, knee dragging and throttle pinned to the stop. Yep, this is a one-bike does it all machine!
Producing a claimed 105 bhp at 9000 rpm the engine has it all. Despite the size of those two huge pistons it's remarkably smooth right up the rev-range. You'll have to spin it up a bit to avoid low-down transmission snatch but above 3,000rpm it just pumps out the ponies all the way to redline. Ducati did a little reworking to make the 916 motor fit the new role, including lowering the head in the exhaust cam area to allow it to be tilted further forward in the chassis to aid weight distribution. The fuel injection stays as well. The computer controlled injection system is worthy of comment mainly because you hardly notice it's there. Without a close look you might be fooled into thinking the bike is carburetted. There's no stutter and hunting at small throttle openings like on some big twin sport tourers I have ridden. What? Ducati making a touring bike that's more rideable than a BMW? Now there's a new one!
The trellis frame continues to be as much a part of the Ducat heritage as their Desmodromic valves.
The engine is wrapped in that familiar steel tube trellis that's graced Ducati's for the past decade and is likely to continue doing so well through the next. And why not? It works, it may not be a fashionable twin beam alloy, but it's light, very strong and race proven. Even when pushed to the limits it delivers the goods, just ask any one of Ducati's four World Superbike Champions - Raymond Roche, Troy Corser, Troy Bayliss and of course, Carl Fogarty.
When the trellis frame is combined with high end goodies including 320mm floating rotors, Brembo 4-piston calipers up front and a 245 mm disc out back, Showa front forks and a Sachs rear shock, it works quite well. A Sunday afternoon's spirited ride down your favourite country road is a joy on the ST4, and it'll handle a track day with just as much ease. The beauty of this bike is that once you've loaded up the colour-matched panniers and top box you've got enough luggage capacity to turn that Sunday ride-out into a two week tour of Europe.
Amazingly, for a bike that's so closely linked to one of the best sports bikes of all time the ST4 is a very capable touring bike. The ride is controlled and comfortable, without being so soft that it interferes when you get a move on, unlike on so many other sport tourers.
The 916 based power plant is ready for anything. From comfortable drives with your partner to a day at the track - this motor will keep your fun factor at red-line!
The brakes cope well with the added weight of touring gear and the seat and riding position lend themselves to days in the saddle. The road holding is exceptional, I tested a ST4 with Michelin Macadam tyres fitted and these provided loads of grip as well as fast, responsive steering. I've tested these tyres extensively in the past and I know that they are plenty grippy enough for the average rider, and will return much higher mileages than the super sticky sports tyres available. They will overheat if pressed very hard during track sessions, but you simply won't get them to that stage on the road unless you are on a death-wish ride to nowhere!
I found the engine characteristics very confidence inspiring, the motor is comfortable with any style of riding from softly-softly to yank her wide open out of the turns. This combines with the very capable chassis and relaxed riding position to make the ST4 a bike I wouldn't hesitate to recommend to a new rider looking for his, or her, first bike. The saddle, which is well padded enough for long rides is also cleverly sculptured.
The ST4 boasts superb braking power thanks in part to
a pair of 320mm discs and 4 piston Brembo calipers.
The fully adjustable 43mm inverted Showa forks
handle anything you can throw at them.
Generous padding is located where it counts then it narrows down where it meets the tank. This means that riders don't have to spread their legs quite so much when trying to reach the ground, and this in turn means it's not such a stretch. Very important when you're a shorter rider trying to balance a fully laden tourer while fumbling around for money at a toll booth! Taller riders will be pleased to know the foot pegs aren't placed so high that your knees will be screaming in agony after 50 miles. Alloy clip-on handlebars mounted above the yokes add to the comfort factor and help make the ST4 a genuine all-day ride.
Ducati has done the impossible with the ST4. They've taken the basics of a real sport bike and moulded it into a genuine sport tourer. There are compromises but they are working compromises. This bike really is happy in both roles and will provide its owner with many miles of riding joy; regardless of the use that lucky owner decides to put it to. And what's more it looks fantastic too, Ducati didn't forget the style when they put the ST4 together, making it another Italian bike that will turn heads. The ST4, like the long line of Superbike racers from the same Bologna factory, is a winner.