ST Learning


Those interested in modifying and/or accessorizing Ducati ST series motorcycles may gain some practical insights from the following.


The confessions first:

  • 1. I am a motorcycle fanatic. A confirmed obsessive who would rather spend time with my bikes, or those I lust after, than virtually anything else in the universe. Riding, thinking about riding or planning when, where and what to ride consumes my free time.


  • 2. When not engrossed with my bikes, I am a marketing executive. This is important only insofar as it means that I have a proclivity to carefully examine and consider then test and re-test, keep what works and easily discard what doesn't.


  • 3. I currently own six bikes. Each falls into a different category of riding. Each has been extensively modified and accessorized. They are; a Yamaha R1 race bike, a Bimota SB6 sport bike, a Honda GB500 café racer, a BMW R100 roadster, a BMW R1100 GS for go almost anywhere "adventure" touring in Western North America and a Ducati ST2 (which I now call a Super ST) for mountain touring in Eastern North America. My wife owns, and I frequently ride, a Ducati M750. The collection is significant only because, of all these great bikes, and the many others I have owned, the single bike that I would own if I could only have one, is my Ducati Super ST.


I bought a completely unadorned and unmodified 1998 ST2 in June of 2000. It had just a few hundred miles on it. I spent months and, eventually, an additional $15,000 developing the bike into exactly what I want. In the process I learned a few things which perhaps may aid others in developing exactly what they want.


What I sought was a bike ideally suited for my style of extensive touring. It had to be comfortable enough to ride for hours at a time and easily manage the luggage that one to multiple week trips require. It also had to have the power to instantly take me up 100 mph, or more, and the braking capacity to bring me back down even quicker, and safer. It had to have lots of torque in the low and mid range to allow me to miss a gear, say on an unfamiliar corner, and still respond immediately. It had to be nimble enough, even when fully loaded for touring, to allow me to play aggressively in the twisties. Lastly, it had to look, and sound, as special as it made me feel.


In my opinion, if one wants a great touring bike with a sporty look, one can do no better than a stock ST2. If more power and performance is sought, the easiest, and least expensive, means to satisfy the lust is to turn to the ST4, or even better, the ST4s. The only thing lacking in the four valve ST4 series is the low and mid range torque of the two valve ST2. All of the street-usable power of the ST4 bikes can be added to the ST2.


One can argue that there are other marques who make good touring bikes with more power than the ST2. Tis true, and I've owned, or ridden, all of them. They are generally bigger, more pedestrian, bikes often with better weather protection but lacking the grace and handling of the Ducati ST series.


To capitalize on the benefits of the two valve engine, horse power and torque can be added by reworking the head to improve flow control, boring out the cylinders, using high compression pistons, an FIM chip and improving exhaust flow. With my bike, those changes resulted in net increases of 25% in horsepower (93 hp at the rear wheel) and over 23% in of torque (69 ft/lbs at 6500 RPM) above stock configuration. The cost in 2000 was just over $2,000. BCM Ducati in Laconia, New Hampshire did the engine work on the bike. There are a few other shops in the country which can competently assist in planning and completing engine modifications. Should you elect to do such work, I would advise that as much time be taken in choosing the shop as in deciding what changes to make.


Once you are satisfied that you have the proper horse power and torque levels for your riding style, no greater performance improvement can be gained than by turning to the suspension. Up front, fluids and springs can be changed in a variety of ways. My bike went through three such alterations before a re-valve with Race Tech springs with Gold valves was completed. In back, the springs on the Showa shock were changed twice before I turned to a series 8660 Penske shock. The impact of these new suspension components was dramatic. The cost of the final changes to the suspension was approximately $1,400. In my opinion, the best source for suspension work are the GMD Computrack shops. I have worked extensively with two of them and spent considerable time with the owner of a third. They have the experience and expertise to do the best job for your budget.


The brakes of the stock ST2 are not as good as the ST4 series bikes, they don't need to be. They can be improved by changing to cast iron rotors and Dunlop racing pads. Further enhancement comes with a larger master cylinder fluid reservoir and, finally, steel braided brake lines. Of the approximately $900 spent, over $600 was on the rotors which yielded a significant improvement, over $150 on the braided lines which are, frankly, mostly cosmetic as are braided clutch lines.


Upgrading the tires to Michelin Pilot Sports yielded a substantial improvement in road holding at the cost of less tire wear. It was a good trade for the kind of riding I do. When I rode less aggressively, the Pilot Sports weren't needed.


With respect to performance modifications, the last, and most expensive, modification was the addition of Marchesini five spoke wheels. I pondered this $2,300 change for a very long time. I knew that they are very largely a waste on long distance tours. Further, they are more fragile than the stock wheels (which I have kept shod with Pilot Sports for occasional use). Having said that, I would add that no change to the bike has given me more pleasure. The wheels surprised me with the extent of the improvement in handling they provide in the twisties. The bike is much more nimble, and the handling more responsive, with them. They make a difference even when the bike is parked as I think they are absolutely beautiful and add to my pride of ownership.


Non-performance changes to the bike include:


A Corbin seat was added at a cost of $360 plus a passenger back rest for an additional $180. The Corbin is only a modest improvement over the stock seat which was largely acceptable. I expected a bigger gain than I got with the Corbin and may yet try another manufacturer. The back rest has yet to be used. I bought it for my wife who said she wanted to ride with me on a tour but has yet to do so. All in all, the Corbin was not a good purchase although it can be argued that the carbon fiber patterned vinyl is attractive.


A Yoyodyne clutch slave cylinder was added to preclude the problems reputed on the stock item when on long tours. Easier lever pull is claimed but I have not noticed it. The $270 cost was acceptable.


One change that honestly seemed a little silly at the time but I am now glad I made was the addition of CRG adjustable brake and clutch levers. They look trick, and are, but their easy adjustability have resulted in less fatigued and more comfortable hands on those occasions when I spend long hours at a stretch on the bike. The cost is $200 plus installation.


Handlebar risers (7/8 inch) were added at a cost of $180. The small difference in distance paid off in big gains in comfort. Although higher bar risers are available, I am content with the ones I use.


A Ducati touring windscreen ($100) was installed. It significantly reduced wind pressure to the head and chest of my six foot body.


I had a difficult time getting used to the short stock foot shift lever. Within a few weeks, I changed to the longer Monster shift lever but it seemed to be too long and I quickly went back to the stock lever. While it provides less foot movement for my size 10 _ boots and was hard to get used to, it gives me faster, more positive shifts.


A company called Hot Grips makes a grip warmer which is inexpensive ($87 installed) and very effective. They are at least as effective as the $350 heated grips that I have used on my BMWs. The Hot Grips do, however, employ a cheap and unattractive two way switch which I will yet replace. Additionally, over time the heat will affect the holding power of the epoxy used in their installation and will need to be replaced (not a big deal).


Throttlemeister bar end throttle control was added at a cost of $160. It is effective and allows me to take my right hand off the bike and shake it out when it feels cramped or tired. The Throttlemeister is not as important to me, however, as the $10 plastic Throttle Rocker which easily slips onto the grip and allows me to use just the palm of my hand for speed control and, further, allows me to relax my grip and minimize cramping in my fingers.


An electrical socket was added to the dash to provide power for a GPS unit, radar detector, or cell phone. I use it for the latter on this bike and it was $40 well spent.


Battery Tender plug attachments to the battery have been placed under each of the two sections of the seat to provide electrical power for heated jackets. The $10 line extensions are simple and effective.


The small foot of the stock side stand was ground down to provide for a 1 _ inch diameter foot to be welded in place. It provides excellent stability in the sand and gravel on which I am often forced to park when touring.


The stock Ducati hard panniers are attractive, have good capacity and are quite dry. The Ducati pannier liners at $115 are poorly designed and a waste compared to the much better designed RKA pannier liners which, at $75, are an excellent value in packing and handling convenience.


The 40 liter Ducati top box was added at a cost of $315. Its size and styling make it a reasonably attractive addition to the bike when needed and it is easily removed when not. Mine has foam padding on the bottom to protect the notebook computer I take touring.


Helen Two Wheels soft luggage bag is strapped over the rear seat for additional storage when needed. The bag is well designed, absolutely dry in monsoon-like downpours and reasonably priced at $130. Her tie-down straps are also well designed and made.


I use a Marsee magnetic tank bag ($130) on this bike. It is well designed and has a large expandable capacity. I prefer it over the others I have used.


A company called Motobags makes an under seat storage bag ($65) especially for the Ducati ST series which is perfect for tools and other infrequently used small items.


Numerous carbon fiber accessories were added to the bike at a total cost of $1200. They are of no practical value and they do make the bike more attractive, at least to some, but I don't know that I would do it again.


So there you have it. Clearly, I am fixated on bikes in general and my Ducati Super ST in particular. I hope you found something of value in my ramblings and self-indulgence. Good riding.


Dan Moricoli