Ducati ST4

Ducati ST4/S – Bikes That Make You Go Hmmmmm…

We’re still unsure of whether this machine needs to go in our ‘future classic’ section or ‘hmmmm’ section. So we’ve plumped for the latter to see what you lot say…

Today the Ducati range is pretty wide-ranging, from the Monsters, to the Hypermotards, the Supersport models, Panigale, the Scrambler and the Multistrada: strength in depth, you’d say.

But, back in the 1990s the company was pretty much banking on its sports machines, be they air-cooled or liquid-cooled and the Monster family itself for a bit of ‘urban chic.’ Bologna, though, wanted to expand and the ST-series was the way they tried to do it…

First off came the 900SS-powered ST2 machine which first broke cover in 1996/1997, but Ducati were clearly working on something a bit more potent, so – during 1998 out came the ST4. The 4 took the ST2’s good points of comfort, style and practicality but gave it plenty of extra oomph.

The ST2’s 944cc Paso-derived motor was replaced in the ST4 by the fantastic, liquid-cooled four-valve Desmo from the sporting 916 range. Like the ST2, the chassis was on the ‘sport’ side of ‘sport-touring’, using as it did the same Sachs rear shock as the 916, albeit with a softer spring to help handle the bumps of the autobahn, rather than the billiard smooth race tracks encountered by many 916s.

Here’s where we kinda go ‘hmmmm’ but in a good way. Ride a well-sorted ST4 today and it does make you feel good and make you feel as though you’re on something special. That L-twin desmo still sounds awesome to the ears while the handling also is assured and comfortable. This bike has character.  Of course, this is also an Italian machine, so don’t expect this bike to be a VFR, VTR, FJ, FJR or anything more sedate or from the Far East – think of it more like a Ferrari four-door! So, yes, the ST still feels firm over the bumps, even if you’ve packed the kitchen sink.

Considering it’s a Duke from 20 years back, there are precious few bad things to say about reliability – but remember that you need to keep on top of belt changes (every 24 months, irrespective of miles) while regulator/rectifiers can fail, the alternator nut can undo, the starter motor has issues as has the sprag clutch.

OK, now for the ugly elephant in the room. The bad ‘hmmmmm’ comes from the looks: even in brilliant red or yummy yellow it’s clearly no ‘sports-touring 916’ so you think they could have made the thing look a little better. Still, handsome is, as handsome does, so they say…

Let’s leave the looks behind and talk ‘halo effect’ model. Yup, that’s the ST4S. Launched in 2001 you got the ST4 package, but with the larger-capacity 996cc motor (around 115bhp over 105 of the standard ST4) as well as new four-pot Brembo brake calipers/320mm discs, Marchesini wheels, better suspension, such as Titanium-Nitride-coated Showa forks and an Ohlins rear shock and a more rigid aluminium swingarm. Ducati even launched this thing at a circuit, to prove a point. But… it never really caught on. The ST4 was caught between the simpler ST2 and 2004’s three-valve headed ST3, which had less power but was in Ducati’s range until 2007.

We reckon it’s a shame the ST series was forgotten… at the time it was joined (and later replaced by) the Multistrada family, which – now we’re looking back at it – is a bit of a shame. Think of what a modern ST with a 1200 V-twin or the new V-four would go and look like?

Four years ago you could find an ST4 for £1500 but things are moving north. Today you’d start around £2k for a rough one but easily be able to find a good one around £2500-£3000. Better still, an ST4S for £4000: collectible? Hmmmm….

All we would say is DO find machines with the official luggage/extras and an all-important full service history!

Ducati ST4/S Specification

  • Price: £8940 (1998)
  • Engine: 916cc, liquid-cooled, DOHC, 16-valve four-stroke L-twin.  
  • Power: 105-110bhp @ 9000rpm. Torque: 66lb.ft @ 7500rpm.
  • Front suspension: 43mm telescopic Showa fork.  
  • Rear suspension: Showa Monoshock.  
  • Front brake: 2 X 320mm discs, 4-piston caliper
  • Rear brake: 245mm disc, 2-piston caliper.
  • Dry weight: 214kg (claimed.)
  • Seat height:  820mm.
  • Fuel capacity: 21-litres.
  • Top speed: 150mph (est)
  • Colours: Black, blue, red, silver, yellow.