BMW R1150RT, DUCATI ST4s

Text: Andi Seiler • Photography: Christian Neuhauser

Motorcycle traveling has changed a lot in the last 20 years. Nowadays pure touring bikes compete with cruisers, standards, and sportbikes, which can be equipped with luggage racks and bags by the factory. In this comparison, the tourer BMW R1150RT met up with a sport-tourer, the Ducati ST4s.

Concept & Tranformation
Our two test bikes couldn't be more different. Traditionally, BMW manufactures bikes which make traveling very easy. Even their Nakeds, like the R1150R, can be purchased with some nice touring features, including luggage hardcases or tankbag. The R1150RT comes with almost everything you need for those longer trips. Its heritage goes back to the late 70's R100RT - a bike that carried many of its owners thousand of miles throughout the U. S., South America, Europe, and even around the world. In the 90's, the four-valve R1100RT and its sisters took over and accentuated the sales success of the Beemers. During 2002, the R1150RT ranked as the top model in the BMW boxer touring range.

The historical lineage of the Ducati ST4s isn't as long. If you count the Paso range and its last model, the 907 i.e., It extends to the mid-80's. But that wouldn't be quite appropriate because the fully faired Pasos were more a design alternative to the classic Ducatis than a real attempt by the company to enter the touring market. So, the real first sport-tourer was the ST2, released with color-matching luggage boxes (as optional accessories) in 1997. Powered by a 944-cc two-valve engine, the bike made 83hp. The next steps forward came with the four-valve 916cc ST4 in 1999 (105hp) and the 996cc ST4s in 2001. Finally, the ST gained the power (120hp) to challenge its Japanese and European competitors.

Engine & Transmission
BMWs boxer is unique. The engine still has pushrods but shorter ones than those on the old two-valve models. Two high-mounted chain-driven cams underneath the cylinders (one cam for each cylinder) accomplish this. And it still has rockers for opening the valves, but don't get the idea this is some 'old' construction that won't pull the power needed on trips. The valve train is modern, light, and good for 8000 rpm. BMW also started out with a fuel injection and an optional catalytic converter right away, in 1993, when they released the first four-valve Beemer, the R1100RS. The R1150RT comes with both in stock. And the old five-speed gearbox was exchanged for a six-speeder with closer ratios allowing for easier and more accurate shifting. Sixth gear is an overdrive that helps to reduce engine speed on a wide-open highway. It's not so much about the 95 horses at 7,250 rpm that turn you on. It's more about the high and steady torque that makes riding so enjoyable. From 3,000 to 6,500 rpm you always get more than 9.2 mkp (68 ft.-lbs.) from the engine. We called it the "Buffalo" character. Shifting may be rare if you are in the mood to prevent it. Fifth (because sixth is the overdrive) is all you need on roads with wider curves. Since we've had some issues with oil consumption on one boxer engine in the past, we want to mention that this one dissipated only half a quart over almost 2,000 miles. On the other hand, starting the boxer was somewhat troublesome after a cold night outside.

While the BMW engine is quite modern, the ST4s power plant shows even more high-tech features. Developed for Ducati's 996, this thing revs and runs like a real sport motor. Two belt-driven cams per cylinder move the desmo-rockers for valve opening and closing. Big bore and short stroke make up for a compact combustion chamber and an engine that doesn't mind revving over 9,000 rpm. The ST4s doesn't use the phenomenal "Testastretta" head but it's still an impressive power display. At 2,500 rpm you can open the throttle and get good, smooth acceleration. And don't worry about the engine's health; the little rattling noise comes from the multi-plate dry clutch, which is used on all current Ducati big twins above 900cc. Shifting with the six-speed gearbox is as smooth as it has to be on a sport engine. Riding this bike should change the perspectives of quite a few. Even if you're not at all into sportbikes, this engine will have your right hand twisted wide most of the time. We (actually, Christian) termed it the "real Roadrunner," which is quite a statement! He also went nuts over the easy starting procedure of the ST4s on cold and early mornings. By the way, Ducati bikes for all countries within the European Union will come with a catalytic converter to meet the tight "Euro 2" standards. And believe us, not one of these bikes is any slower than their US counterparts.

Chassis & Brakes
On our Nova Scotia tour (see last issue) we experienced all the aspects of touring and sport touring. When you look at the map you see a lot of small winding roads that need all your attention. It's definitely a good territory to test handling and brakes. Surprisingly, the 279-kg Beemer did its job very well. With the wide handlebars you have the right lever to push the bike into tight turns. And we want to offer a toast to BMW for the perfect setup of the suspension: There is nothing out there that even comes close to the comfort afforded by a telelever/paralever chassis. BMW departed in the right direction when they made the decision to go for this unusual-looking solution on their R1100RS in 1993. It's no wonder all of their big bikes sport these features today. The same goes for the brakes. The R1150RT uses the full version of their Integral/ABS. It works great, and offers you more reserves concerning safety. Braking on slippery roads is less stressful. But there is only one disadvantage. If you have to slow down at low speeds - in urban traffic, for example - the power brake isn't easy to modulate. But you can get used to it.

The Ducati has no trouble with that because it comes with a conventional system. On an ST4 you have to do the braking job all by yourself. Already this has changed for 2003. Ducati offers a brand new antilock brake for sportbike riders, which will be available only for the ST4s. Actually, the bike equipped with it is called the ST4s ABS. But our test bike was a 2002 model. Still, the conventional brakes worked fine, too. Unlike some other Ducatis with the two-pad, four-piston calipers, the front brake decelerated progress like an invisible lasso on the neck of a bronco. For the chassis, stability is Ducati-like. The steel-cage frame might be one of the best constructions motorcycle engineers have ever developed. That the ST4s turns out even better than any other ST is clearly the result of using an Öhlins rear shock and a titanium-nitride coated upside-down fork by Showa. These components make the bike feel totally different and much better than a basic ST4. This suspension combo is worth every cent spent.

Accessories & Arrangements
When it comes down to equipment, the BMW is obviously the winner. Included in the price of $ 16,290, customers get the whole nine yards of motorcycle cruising and touring. The fairing covers the rider from rain and wind, the electrically adjustable windshield fits any rider's size and needs. The dashboard provides information about almost everything but the weather forecast. In the back you can mount an optional topcase or use the luggage rack for a big touring bag. The stock hard cases offer good storage and keep your clothes dry. But compared to the ones on the ST4s, they have too many interior edges for use of all the space.

The ST4s boxes, which you have to pay for as an optional feature, look smaller but are more practical to pack. Ducati also offers a topcase, tankbag, and a tinted windshield, but you have to pay for them. The fairing is more for sport purposes than for touring. If you don't dig in behind the windshield, you'll surely reap the consequences of a storm and the water will start at your helmet and soak down through your upper body and pants. And of course that's one of the big differences between sport-touring and touring. Otherwise, the Ducati has everything you need for a longer trip: loaded information center on the dashboard, comfy seat and riding position, and even an additional center stand.

Test Summary
Touring or sport-touring? That is the question. This time out we say the game ended in a draw. As an indication, none of our test riders wanted to switch bikes. Or maybe it was just about not leaving their warm seats - the weather was cold and wet. But seriously, we think it's more about your own perspectives on traveling style if you prefer one of the competitors over the other in this test. If you like to ride all day long without too many breaks and if you love Oktoberfest and "Weizenbier," take the BMW. If you like to ride a couple of hundred miles, stop, have some pasta, cappuccino, and ride fast turns afterwards, then definitely go for the Duc.

TECHNICAL SPECS:

BMW R1150RT

Retail Price $ 16,290
Warranty Three years or 36,000 miles
Maintenance Schedule 600/6,000/every 6,000 miles (1.000/10,000/every 10,000 km)
Importer/Distributor BMW of North America, Inc., P.O. Box 1227, Westwood, NJ 07675, phone (800) 831-1117,
website: www.bmwusa.com
Engine
Type 2-cylinder, boxer, 4-stroke
Cooling air/oil-cooled
Valve Arrangement 4 valves per cyl., hc, cams chain driven, pushrod and rockers
Bore & Stroke 101 x 70.5 mm
Displacement 1130 cc
Compression Ratio 11.3:1
Carburetion electronic fuel injection
Exhaust Emission Control catalytic converter
Transmission
Gearbox 6-speed
Clutch single-plate dry clutch, hydraulically operated
Final Drive shaft drive
Chassis
Frame tubular-steel cage frame w/cast-alloy front for telelever
Wheelbase 1,485 mm (58.5 in.)
Rake 63 degree
Trail 122 mm (4.8 in.)
Front Suspension telelever w/single shock
Stanchion Diameter 35 mm (1.37 in.)
Adjustments no
Travel 120 mm (4.7 in.)
Rear Suspension single-sided cast-aluminum-alloy paralever swingarm w/single shock
Adjustments spring preload (hydraulic adjustment) and rebound damping
Travel 135 mm (5.3 in.)
Wheels & Tires
Type cast aluminum-alloy wheels
Front 3.50 x 17
Rear 5.00 x 17
Front Tire 120/70 ZR 17
Rear Tire 170/60 ZR 17
Brakes
Front Brake 2 discs, 4-piston calipers
Diameter 320 mm (12.6 in.)
Rear Brake 1 disc, 2-piston caliper
Diameter 285 mm (11.2 in.)
Antilock Brake/CombiningIntegral ABS (full version)/yes
Weight & Fuel capacity
Wet-Weight 279 kg (620 lb.)
Fuel Capacity 25 l (6.6 gal.)
Performance
(European measurements)
Claimed Horsepower (crank)95 hp at 7,250 rpm
Torque 10.2 mkp (75.5 ft.-lbs.) at 5,500 rpm
Top Speed 200 km/h (125 mph)
Acceleration 0-100 km/h (0-62.5 mph): 4.3s
Fuel Consumption 6.4 l/100 km (37.2 mpg)
Fuel Range 390 km (244 mls.)
Equipment Full fairing, electronic adjustment for the windshield, dashboard w/speedometer, tachometer, odometer, trip-odometer, bar-type LCD for fuel level, digital gauge for clock, emergency flashers, ignition switch/lock in front of the upper triple clamp, hand levers adjustable, seat height adjustable (805/825/845mm), luggage rack, luggage side cases, glove compartment in the inner cover of the fairing, two 12-V outlets, center and side stand.

RoadRUNNER Test Diagram

Engine 5/5

Chassis 5/5

Brakes 5/5

Comfort 5/5

Luggage w/accessories 4/5

Equipment 5/5

Design 4/5

Bike for the buck 3/5

TECHNICAL SPECS:

DUCATI ST4s

Retail Price $ 15,195
Warranty Two years, unlimited mileage
Maintenance Schedule 600/6,000/ every 6,000 miles (1,000/10,000/ every 10,000 km)
Importer/Distributor Ducati North America, 10443 Bandley Drive, Cupertino, CA 95014, phone (408) 253-0499,
website: www.ducatiusa.com
Engine
Type 2-cylinder, V, 4-stroke
Cooling liquid-cooled
Valve Arrangement 4 valves per cyl., dohc, cams belt driven, desmo-rockers for valve opening and closing
Bore & Stroke 98 x 66 mm
Displacement 996 cc
Compression Ratio 11.5:1
Carburetion electronic fuel injection
Exhaust Emission Control no
Transmission
Gearbox 6-speed
Clutch multi-plate dry clutch, hydraulically operated
Final Drive chain drive
Chassis
Frame tubular-steel cage frame
Wheelbase 1,430 mm (56.3 in.)
Rake 66 degree
Trail 102 mm (4.0 in.)
Front Suspension upside-down-cartridge fork
Stanchion Diameter 43 mm (1.69 in.)
Adjustments spring preload, compression and rebound damping
Travel 130 mm (5.1 in.)
Rear Suspension aluminum-alloy swingarm w/single shock
Adjustments spring preload, compression and rebound damping
Travel 148 mm (5.8 in.)
Wheels & Tires
Type cast aluminum-alloy wheels
Front 3.50 x 17
Rear 5.50 x 17
Front Tire 120/70 ZR 17
Rear Tire 180/55 ZR 17
Brakes
Front Brake 2 discs, 4-piston calipers
Diameter 320 mm (12.6 in.)
Rear Brake 1 disc, 2-piston caliper
Diameter 245 mm (9.6 in.)
Antilock Brake/Combining no (MY 2003 ST4s available w/ABS)
Weight & Fuel capacity
Wet-Weight 240 kg (533 lb.)
Fuel Capacity 21 l (5.5 gal.)
Performance
(European measurements)
Claimed Horsepower (crank)120 hp at 8,750 rpm
Torque 10.0 mkp (74.1 ft.-lbs.) at 7,000 rpm
Top Speed 240 km/h (150 mph)
Acceleration 0-100 km/h (0-62.5 mph): 3.5s
Fuel Consumption 5.8 l/100 km (41.1 mpg)
Fuel Range 362 km (226 mls.)
Equipment Full fairing, dashboard w/speedometer, tachometer, odometer, trip-odometer, digital gauge for cooling fluid temperature, fuel level and clock, ignition switch/lock behind the upper triple clamp, hand levers adjustable, 12-V outlet, center and side stand.

RoadRUNNER Test Diagram

Engine 5/5

Chassis 5/5

Brakes 5/5

Comfort 4/5

Luggage w/accessories 5/5

Equipment 4/5

Design 4/5

Bike for the buck 3/5