Ducati's newest sports tourer breaks with convention and now comes with a three valve head instead of the usual four
Click to read: Ducati ST3 owners reviews, Ducati ST3 specs and to see the Ducati ST3 image gallery.
Someone somewhere inside the Ducati factory must have either very thick skin, or a well developed sense of irony, as waiting for each journalist in their hotel room for the launch of the new ST3 was a neatly Ducati-badged tool roll.
You see at the launch of a new bike it's common for manufacturers to present members of the press with gifts as a bit of a sweetener, not that we are influenced by such trivial things you understand. These 'launch gifts' usually bear some link to the bike you're about to test, no matter how tenuous, so on finding the tool roll waiting for me in my Barcelona hotel room I wondered exactly what it was the men from Ducati were trying to say about their new bike.
In the past the words 'Ducati' and 'touring' would have brought sharp intakes of breath from most bikers. I mean, who wants to see Europe from the back of an AA recovery van, even if it is driven by a very nice man? But with the modernisation of the Ducati factory and the launch of the ST range in 1997 with the ST2 Ducati has not only improved its reliability record enormously but also launched a very good sports touring bike that has done a lot to give the Ducati name some touring credibility.
With the ST2 selling well Ducati followed it up two years later with the ST4. Where the ST2 used the old liquid-cooled 2 valve motor (and was on the sluggish side because of it), the ST4 used the legendary liquid-cooled 4 valve 916 motor, the same as the early superbikes, as well fancier suspension and commanded an extra premium because of it. But for those on a tighter budget the ST2 was always waiting in the wings, and looked virtually identical.
For 2004 Ducati has killed off the dead duck ST2 and replaced it with the ST3. But instead of going the usual route of nicking another engine from its range Ducati has created a new motor with a three valve head, instead of the conventional four.
As the theory goes a two valve head creates better torque low-down than a four valve but at the sacrifice of mid-range and top end power. The four valve can get ride of the burnt gases faster at high revs because there are two holes instead of one to get them out of the head and into the exhaust. Honda tried to get around this problem on the VFR800 by fitting the VTEC system which makes the head run on two valves, giving low down torque, until a pre-determined point where two other valves come into play, making it a four valve head and giving it good top end power.
Rather than take the costly, and very complicated, route of creating a similar system Ducati has instead gone the route of a three valve head, like the old Honda Super Dreams of yesteryear. Each of the ST3's heads has two intake valves, each 34mm diameter, and one big exhaust valve of 40mm. According to the technical people this solution gives the same low-down torque as a four valve motor as well as a very comparable mid-range in both power and torque. Which is where you want it with a sports tourer. So what's the catch? Well the three valve head won't rev as high as the four valve and top end is sacrificed, which shouldn't be a huge problem to those who want to tour in a relaxed fashion.
Click to read the final page of Ducati ST3 review.
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