LOS ANGELES, April, 1998 -- The good people in the marketing departments of your favorite motorcycle manufacturers have tried to make it easy for consumers to find the bike of their dreams. In North America, the epicenter of consumer culture, there are three primary street-only motorcycle categories: Custom/cruisers, sportbikes, and tourers. Each category represents, in a nice, neat package, what manufacturers believe consumers expect from their bikes. The custom/cruiser category seems to say, "Hey, look at me." The sportbike category shouts, "Hey, look at me wad." The touring category declares, "Hey, you can't help but look at me because my bike is bigger than yours."
From these three main categories come hybrids, and this is where marketing departments have taken a few liberties. Dual-sport motorcycles, for example, are not sportbikes but standards that can be ridden, for the most part, on dirt and gravel roads. Then there are sport-touring motorcycles, a category created for the middle-aged rider who prefers a more aggressive bike than a cruiser or full dresser, yet is either intimidated by hardcore sportbikes like GSX-Rs and 916s, or after riding one for a few miles, finds it necessary to make an appointment with a chiropractor. An easy way to tell if a manufacturer intends a bike to fall within the sport-tourer category is to look for an "S" or a "T" somewhere in the bike's nomenclature.
specific bikes come to mind: Honda's ST1100 and BMW's R1100RS, for example. Quick, comfortable, touring bikes that handle relatively well -- touring motorcycles with sporty capabilities.
One area in which the Ducati clearly had the advantage over the Buell is ground clearance. The Ducati's narrow footpegs are set higher and farther back than the Buell's lower and more comfortable pegs. Also,
with the saddlebags off, the Ducati's muffler can be raised for even more ground clearance. A very trick feature.
The ST2 made the trip easily. In fact, the ST2 served us well for the entire time we had it -- almost 9 weeks -- with nary a complaint. Except for the negative lead snafu, the Buell also performed well, and I might have picked the Buell number one if it had easily removable bags, a straight windscreen, and lost the ugly lower fairing that ruined the lines of a very good looking bike. While I would have preferred the Duc with a little more power, the ST2 did everything well, from performance to profile. The Buell is cool, but the Ducati is a little more refined.2. Billy Bartels, Associate Editor No question in my mind, the Ducati ST2 is the winner here. If you're not a racer like Chuck, you're not going to be compliaining about slow steering and a lack of power. This puppy could waste almost anything with or without saddlebags down Highway 58 (one of the Central California roads we tested on). It looks great, the fairing just works, and it has that cool offset headlight like on the 916. This bike is pure sex.
The Buell, just like all Buells, is a cool bike, it just needs a few things fixed. You want to get over the front end of this bike to keep the front wheel more firmly planted on the ground, but the seat tapers off to the size of a postage stamp at the front. That's great if you want to do wheelies, but not if you want to tear up a canyon. Also, the detail wasn't there like it was on the Ducati. The minimallist approach that works so well on the Lightning, needs a little refinement in sport-tourer trim, or touring-sport, or whatever...