2005 Ducati ST4s | Two-Wheel Remedy for Gathering Moss

2005 Ducati ST4s Retro Review | Digging Into Archives
2005 Ducati ST4s

So many roads, so little time. The thought remains omnipresent as I reluctantly descend the Coast Highway from Big Sur, heading back toward southern California on a 2005 Ducati ST4s. I’m in a magical nether zone along the ragged coastline—miles from any town or cell tower— where the route becomes a seemingly endless ribbon of smooth asphalt. It’s a rider’s paradise.

Although this trip is far from over, notions of the next journey cross my mind, errant thoughts inspired by the sport touring Ducati ST4s that has brought me to the beauty and solitude of this legendary stretch of two-lane road.

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Few motorcycles blend sportbike performance and touring capabilities with the élan of the stylish ST4s. Borrowing a proven platform of chassis and engine design from its World Superbike Championship-winning brethren—the 996, 998 and the 999— the ST4s is, ultimately, a sportbike designed for long-haul comfort. No better combination exists for the sport-minded traveler.

Exceptional handling characteristics come courtesy of its superbike-derived trellis frame, and the full bodywork and windscreen divert turbulence encountered above 60 mph, forcing air around both the rider and passenger. Though fully capable of long-distance travel on arrow-straight American interstates, the ST4s has European sensibilities even better suited to the winding routes that snake off from main thoroughfares. It’s hard not to fall in love with the Ducati if you have a penchant for back roads and enjoy a bit of spirited riding.

A lithe, accessible machine, the ST4s cuts a sleek, narrow profile—thanks in part to the compact 996cc Desmoquattro L-twin engine—and weighs in at a claimed 454 pounds dry. The big bore twin powerplant delivers 121 hp at 8750 rpm—more than enough to handle a rider with passenger and fully loaded bags—as a Marelli electronic, computer-controlled fuel injection system with a 50mm throttle body feeds the mighty L-twin engine.

Risking the wrath of the devout, Ducati abandoned its classic dry clutch—source of Ducati’s famed metallic rattle—in favor of a wet unit. The new oil-bathed clutch is quieter and requires less lever pull—both attributes that serve a touring machine well, albeit at the cost of that rattle we all love. A precise and solid six-speed transmission carries power to the rear wheel via chain final drive.

The fully adjustable Öhlins rear shock and Showa inverted forks contribute to the Ducati’s pleasant manners. The rear shock can be easily adjusted for a variety of loads—riding solo, with a passenger, and with or without bags. However configured—whether going it alone or with a passenger and fully loaded—the ST4s is precise and predictable.

The Showa forks are hefty 43mm diameter units with TiN treatment (technology borrowed from Ducati’s race bikes) that reduces the friction of the sliding tubes and results in a smoother ride. The bike is effortless to ride, so the longer a string of twists and turns you can weave together, the better.

To aid braking performance from dual 320mm semi-floating front discs and four-piston calipers, the ST4s is available with optional ABS. I am not usually a fan of the unnatural feel some ABS-equipped bikes exhibit, but the Ducati system works exceptionally well without any adverse (read: abnormal) reactions. The engineers at Ducati tuned the ST4s’s ABS to better suit the type of aggressive riding the bike was intended for, and the system can be turned off.

However, with a touring machine you are likely to find yourself riding unfamiliar roads and, at times, in less-then-ideal weather conditions. In that regard, ABS becomes not only a welcome touch but, in a moment of panic braking, a highly effective tool in avoiding potential disaster.

As can be expected with Ducati, each component is first rate. Five-spoke light alloy wheels, clutch and brake levers, light switches and paint details are all beautifully finished. The electronic instrument panel includes a speedometer, a clock and a water temperature gauge, as well as a low fuel warning light that warns you well in advance. The tank’s healthy 5.5-gallon capacity includes a 1.5-gallon reserve good for about 50 miles even after the light comes on. The gauge also calculates average consumption and remaining distance.

Derived from Ducati’s impressive line of racing bikes with direct carry-overs in engineering, the 2005 Ducati ST4s is a capable mount that leaves nothing to be desired in the handling or powerplant departments.

By spreading out the cockpit, lowering the footpegs, and raising the handlebars, Ducati delivers a comfortable motorcycle that will not fatigue the rider and passenger over multiple days in the saddle. Ride the 2005 Ducati ST4s and you, too, might start planning future trips before the one you’re on is over.

What rider doesn’t love a look back at the motorcycles that preceded today’s tech-savvy creations? Welcome to the Ultimate Motorcycling retro review archives; we’re revisiting some of our favorite reviews from year’s past, highlighting the machines that laid the rubber for what’s on the today’s showroom floors. Enjoy. – Ron Lieback, ed.