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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I know this is not a Ducati form, but I respect this community's opinions on all things moto, so I thought I'd ask for opinions.

Stumbled across a very nice Ducati ST4s at a used motorcycle dealer yesterday. It's a 2003 with only 9,300 miles on it, chrome yellow with color-matched Ducati Performance saddlebags and top case, Ducati Performance carbon fiber rear wheel hugger, and Laminar Lip on the stock windscreen. The rest looks to be stock. It is a non-ABS model. Not a mark or scratch anywhere on the bike. According to the dealer, there is nothing wrong with the bike; the one prior owner had to leave the country and couldn't take the bike. (A common story given with used motorcycles in Miami -- whether true or not.)

I'm intrigued. I've been thinking about getting a more sport-oriented bike to add to the current fleet, but I also want something that can travel, as I have to ride at least a few hours to get to any decent roads from where I live. This ticks those boxes, plus a few other desires: exotic; Italian; nice-looking; v-twin.

It's basically a 996 Superbike engine in sport-tourer clothes, with Showa titanium-nitride forks, Ohlins shock, 5.5 gal. fuel tank, and hard bags.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ducati_ST4s



My concerns are: reliability; maintenance costs; and price (plus whatever else others may point out to me).

Reliability: I would use this bike for trips to the twisties, which means at least 1,500 miles round trip. Obviously, I would prefer a bike that won't leave me stranded far from home and/or any dealers.

Maintenance costs: I have no firm numbers what it costs to maintain the water-cooled 4V Desmoquattro engine, but I'd guess it's not cheap. The dealer did not know what the valve check or timing belt change interval was, or if it had been done by the prior owner. IIRC, service is every 6,000 miles on the early 2000-era bikes. Does anyone have any idea what a valve adjust and belt replacement costs for one of these? Is this something a passably competent (if slow) wrench like myself could tackle?

Price: Dealer wants his cut, of course. The price as marked is $6,350. Used examples seem to be going for closer to $5K, although generally not with these few miles and this nice of condition.

Thanks in advance for your opinions.
 

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I own a 2006 ST3 and you should check out Ducati.ms and then the sport touring forum. Im pretty sure they even have a potential buyers thread. The bikes are generally reliable, but the aftermarket is slim and expensive. I love my ST3, but if your looking for a platform to tinker with its not a great start. I had a great time building up the SV, but when looking to do simple mods like a new exhaust on the ST3 its extremely expensive with limited choices. Even parts are hard to come by sometimes (my lower fairing has a hairline crack and ebay NOS left or right fairing halfs run $400) but there is some part crossover between the ST2, ST3 and ST4.

As far as maintenance Im pretty sure the ST4 is close to the ST3 (even though the ST4 is older) and that means 7500 mile service intervals. That service is pretty expensive as it is valve adjustment and runs north of $500 at the dealer. Other than that its normal stuff like chain adjustment.
 

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I recently purchased a ST2; the ST4 is basically the same thing, just with a 4-valve motor instead of a 2-valve. (And the ST4s is basically just a tweaked ST4.)

Maintenance on 4-valves costs more, because there are twice as many valves. Might also be trickier dealing with 2 valves under each inspection cover - I'm not sure, as my only experience with that side of Ducati is with my 2-valve ST. Intervals are only 6000 miles, but from what I've read, after 12k it should be pretty worn-in and not really need adjustment much. Belts are generally recommended to be replaced every 10k-12k or so. I looked up replacements, and they run about $70 for the pair. If you pay somebody to do everything, it is likely to get very expensive very quickly.

They are supposed to be fairly reliable - at least as far as Italian motor vehicles are concerned. Biggest problem I've read about is electrics, and particularly R/Rs - in that one respect, not much different than the R/R issues that first-gen SVs can experience. Very early models - like mine - can have issues with the alternator/generator, but the later models changed the rotor to produce more electrical power and be more reliable.

Price-wise... $5 sounds about right. Under $6k would probably be good. Especially since it has the matching bags. I got my ST2 for $2900 (sticker was $3500), but it didn't have the bags. (I managed to place an order for some new-old-stock bags for $650+S&H, so I will be set there.)

Just remember that lots of maintenance has always been - and will always be - a big part of Ducati ownership. As I like to wrench on things all the time, that was actually something of a plus for me in deciding to get the ST2 - now I don't have to buy project bikes to work on! :p

ETA : The one other common criticism is the headlight. An aftermarket replacement is available - which is supposedly amazing - but it is not cheap. I have not yet had the Duc out at night to comment on its headlight capabilities.

Also, assuming that is a photo of the actual bike you are looking at - how does that Sargent seat feel? I am considering ordering one, based on how much I like the Sargent on my SV.
 

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DVC, my ST3 came with a Corbin and the OEM seat and I can tell you the Corbin is worlds better than the OEM.
Yeah, I'm most curious about the Sargent, though.

But it appears that the OP's photo has been changed?? There was a very large photo that very clearly had a Sargent seat on it, now it's a lower-res photo that looks to have the stock seat.
 

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On of the things to remember when buying an older classic/exotic/semi-exotic is that even though your entry price is low, all repair costs are based on the expensive, new MSRP. I know, 10 years is not really "old", but in your mind, you are buying a $6k bike, but everytime you take it to the shop or buy parts, it is a $15-20k bike.

If you are okay with that, you should be fine. Premium brands carry premium pricetags. Only you can decide if the premium rewards are worth it for you.

Price seems close - kbb retail here is $5915, calculated on 30k miles. If you can get an FSM and do the service yourself, mainenance may be reasonable. You'd need to check dedicated forums for known or common issues. The brief browsing I did indicates that it is a good bike, but needs the owner to stay on top of things. Dealer maintenance is reported as expensive.
 

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I have a freind who just bought an ST3. For some reason the mechanic he knows recommeded this over the ST4. I'm curious about this as well since they changed from a four valve on the ST4 to a three valve on the newer ST3.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thanks for the replies so far.

I originally posted a stock photo from the internet; I replaced it with a photo of the actual bike for sale. It has the stock seat. Sorry for the confusion. I've heard the either the Corbin or the Sargent are worthwhile upgrades, as are bar risers or Helibars. If anyone has an opinion on the ergonomics, please share.

I have heard that the one to get is the ST3, but I have no idea why. Anyone?

I'd really like to get a handle on maintenance costs. That looks to be what this will come down to. If anyone has experience in the care and feeding of 4V Ducs, please let me know.
 

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4 valve ducs are a pain in the ass. (But then again, so are 2 valve ducs, they're just aless expensive pain in the ass) If you want a fun sport tourer, all of the ST's are a nice bike. If you want something that you can "just ride", you shouldn't be looking at ducs. You'll spend money on belts, and valve checks, and valve adjustments, and...and...and.

I finally got the last of the ducati lust out of me when my beloved 750ss needed a second O-ring replaced underneath the back cylinder, and I said the heck with it and sold it rather than tear it down again.

The only cure for Ducati lust is to own one. Personally, in this case, if you have to have one, I'd go hunting for an older 2 valver. Simpler to work on, and cheaper to buy.
If you want a reliable sport tourer, go hunting for a triumph sprint. Similar money, similar rideability, another great exhaust note, but more reliable and less maintenance.
 

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Something about the way that Duc is set up just doesn't gel with me.. I've liked most of the Ducs I see in person, but with that windscreen setup, its combined seat, and all the color in those hard bags playing off the fairings.. it just almost has a tinge of "scooter" look about it. Obviously, it's far from it, and a very nice bike if all those features are useful to you!
 

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Valve adjustment/check recommended every 6000 miles.
Timing belts recommended to be changed every 12k miles or 2 years, whichever is first
The ST4 heads as Testa Basso and factory gates are about $170 a pair
Dealer valve adjust/timing belt change will typically run $800+
The Desmoquattro has a tendancy for flaking chrome on the rockers. Stock rockers are NOT recommended to skip to 12k checks because some of these rockers go bad quickly.
The "S" is the one to get because it has the light-weight/five-spoke wheels, aluminum swingarm, Showa TiN forks, and Ohlins rear shock
Comfort is fine on the ST bikes once you get used to them, I did a SS1000 on mine
If you opt to do your own maintenance, it is not rocket science, but the Desmoquattros require pulling the cams to check the closer rocker chrome surfaces. I am not sure with the ST4, but the 748/916/996 are a PITA to get to the vertical exhaust for checking the valves if you have large hands.

In general, the ST4s is fairly known for their reliability, comfort, and handling ability. I heard of a very few having crank bearing failure issues, but I think it was the '02 model that I read about. The electronics and charging system (regulator/stator) are fine on the ST4s.

I can't think of much else noteworthy.

As for the scooter look, just remove and sell the rear tour pack for a few hundred bucks and sell the tall windshield for about $50 and replace it with a regular or shorter-than-stock windshield. My wife's ST2 came with tall shield, bar risers, and the trunk, and we sold all of the "touring" items and wound up with a steal of a deal on the bike....





This is what they look like without the panniers on them (and a rear seat cowl - if you can find one)....

 

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It's a great bike and reliability is excellent as long as you stick to the factory recommended service intervals. I know a number of people who own Ducati motorcycles and do their own maintenance on them putting 50-60,000 miles on them easily.

Here's a thought, call a couple of your closest Ducati dealers and ask them how much for a valve adjustment and belt change. Those are pretty much the only major services on the bike and the parts themselves aren't that expensive. Probably around $150 for the belts for that motor and a few bucks for a shim kit and gaskets.

I'd invest in the tools and a service manual and start working on it yourself.
 

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Where's CoryUT when you need him? Cory had an '02 S4S. I don't know how many miles he had on it, but I can tell you it was not what you'd call reliable. Sometimes it wouldn't start. Then it started cutting out on rides. Then it out and out stranded him. Then it sat around for months while he replaced just about every consumable you could think of with no joy. I'm not sure what was wrong with it. He bought a VFR800, then got it running a few months later and sold it.

You may try shooting him a PM to see if he'll respond. I haven't talked to him for a while.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Something about the way that Duc is set up just doesn't gel with me.. I've liked most of the Ducs I see in person, but with that windscreen setup, its combined seat, and all the color in those hard bags playing off the fairings.. it just almost has a tinge of "scooter" look about it. Obviously, it's far from it, and a very nice bike if all those features are useful to you!
Yea I thought it looked like a scooter too. Not my cup of tea but to each their own.
The photo does not do the bike justice. Bad lighting, bad angle, distortion....

A slightly better picture of the bike:

 

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Thanks for the replies so far.

I originally posted a stock photo from the internet; I replaced it with a photo of the actual bike for sale. It has the stock seat. Sorry for the confusion. I've heard the either the Corbin or the Sargent are worthwhile upgrades, as are bar risers or Helibars. If anyone has an opinion on the ergonomics, please share.

I have heard that the one to get is the ST3, but I have no idea why. Anyone?

I'd really like to get a handle on maintenance costs. That looks to be what this will come down to. If anyone has experience in the care and feeding of 4V Ducs, please let me know.
I have heli bar risers on my ST3 and cant imagine riding without them.
 

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I have heli bar risers on my ST3 and cant imagine riding without them.
I have Helibar adaptors with Ducati SBK clipons, which lower the bars and provide me with a much more natural wrist angle...

 

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The photo does not do the bike justice. Bad lighting, bad angle, distortion....

A slightly better picture of the bike:

Its just the way the lower fairings are and then add the luggage on the back. Just reminds me of a scooter. If the lower fairings were removed or even a different color like black, I think it would look much better to me.
 

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As to discussions of handlebars/risers/etc : I'm planning on getting a LSL handlebar kit to replace the stockers on my ST2. If you search some older threads on the Ducati boards, you can find that one of the guys there has some pics hosted of his ST with the LSL kit.




Here's a thought, call a couple of your closest Ducati dealers and ask them how much for a valve adjustment and belt change. Those are pretty much the only major services on the bike and the parts themselves aren't that expensive. Probably around $150 for the belts for that motor and a few bucks for a shim kit and gaskets.

I'd invest in the tools and a service manual and start working on it yourself.
FYI, some costs at the dealer up here:

- 7500 mile service package $630
- 12000 mile service package $900
- 18000 mile service package $540
- 24000 mile service package $900
- 4V Ducati Valve adjustment (only; no other service) $270

I looked these up for humor the other day. I don't have dealers touch any of my bikes.

I'm in the middle of checking/adjusting the valves on my ST2. (Bought it with 6k already on it and no service history, so I wanted to check soon... but just had to get a week of riding it out of the way first :) )

It's not terribly difficult, but I wish I would've ordered everything from the start - especially a full shim kit. I didn't want to pay the price ($300, but it is 36 shims), but now find that it would be well worth it to be able to swap everything and recheck immediately. Especially as the closers are a huge pain in the ass to deal with. The openers are pretty easy, actually. It's the closers that suck.

Things are pretty accessible, though again I've run into a case of trying to half-ass things. Would be easier to strip even more off the bike (mainly tank and airbox) in the first place than try to reach in everywhere. Less time overall, too. Finally gave in and found things to be much easier. I'm waiting on a shim kit to arrive now, as dicking around with one of the closers was enough for me. I don't really want to pull them on and off more than I have to right now. This will just make things easier in the long run. Also have ordered a couple of other tools that should help out. The way I see it, in 2 service intervals, all of it will have more than paid for itself. If I buy another 2V Duc (which I'm thinking I might, down the road), then they are really a great investment to make right now.

Oh, and of course my experience is with my 2V ST2, not the 4V ST4s. You get twice the everything there!




I for one am very much pleased with my Ducati purchase. In many ways, their higher need for maintenance - though maintenance one can easily do yourself, given the tools and instruction - fits my personality. Now I don't have to have a separate project bike to wrench on, at least to fill the periodic need, of course. The character of the ST2 is also rather fitting.
 
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