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Ducati Durability

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We all hear about what goes wrong with our Ducati bikes but no one ever posts the good! Here's an email I stole from the Ducati List about Gary Egan's world record setting Ducati. There was a thread going on about which cross country bike to buy. I remember talking to Gary at Laguna about his Ducati and was surprise to find it was mostly stock in form. I posted to the list and Vicky Smith posted the below after my response to the tread.

Enjoy the read!...........................................

I got this from Gary Eagan a few months back about this exact thing. He
said it was no probolem to share it with you all so here's what he said:

Greetings, Vicki. As always, it was enjoyable talking with you about Ducati
the other day, especially regarding their durability, actual and perceived.
On the heels of that discussion, I thought I’d drop you a note covering my
history with Ducati.

After riding motorcycles for about 7-800,000 miles, in 2000 I realized I was
no longer “stimulated” by my current ride. I had been riding BMWs, mostly K
Bikes, for years and had been very successful in Long Distance endurance
competitions using the German marque. I’d won the Iron Butt Rally and scores of
other competitions of 24 hours and longer, but just wasn’t thrilled with the
experience of simply riding any longer. I wanted to wake up in the morning and
simply be taken by the thought of jumping on a bike again and just playing

Suffering from this ailment, I spoke with good friend and Ducati dealer Matt
Spencer at Salt Lake Motorsports. Matt said I should try at ST 4, as it
might just restore the verve I was missing. I took the bike for a ride one
afternoon, thoroughly enjoyed it, and found myself anxious to take it out again the next day. I was hooked very quickly, which didn’t bode well for keeping a
BMW in my garage.

At the time, I was still deeply entrenched in competitive endurance riding,
and when I spoke with Matt about trying to make an ST fit for long distance
competitions, I had some misgivings. I had of course heard that Ducatis were
uncomfortable AND unreliable. I knew I could solve the comfort quandary, but
the reliability issue? If a bike isn’t reliable, one cannot win any Long
Distance event. Simple as that.

Matt assured me the Ducati would be able to withstand the heat of multiple
1,000 mile plus days, regardless as to what the rap was on the motorcycle
street. My concerns remained, mostly due to the short service intervals required
by Ducati, especially valve adjustments. We talked it over, then contacted
Kevin Davis, Salt Lake Motorsport’s Ducati rep, and asked Kevin if he thought
DNA might be interested in providing an ST 4 for us to set up for Long
Distance competitions. Kevin ran the matter by Jim Viola at DNA’s New Jersey
headquarters, and Jim thought it would be a good idea. He also wanted to see if the ST 4 could be a serious competition machine and discover via real-world
riding exactly how durable the machine would be. If I could do what I thought I
could, he agreed Ducati would have an incredible tale to tell the moto world.
I got the bike in April, 2000, and commenced to set it up for distance work.
I had a one-off windscreen designed and built, rigged a 5.5 gallon fuel cell
to expand total capacity to the Iron Butt Association’s 11 gallon maximum
capacity, added PIAA driving lights (the old ST series had the worst headlights
ever put on a motorcycle) then added Heli Bars and some custom made brackets
to lower the foot pegs an inch or so. I put more than $3,000 out of my own
pocket to make the Ducati distance worthy. I then took off for Ely, Nevada and
entered a 36 hour endurance event dubbed “Dawg Eat Dawg,” and would use it
as my shakedown cruise for the first serious Long Distance Duc to hit the
endurance scene. When I arrived, I was given huge amounts of grief by the 60
entrants, all of which knew me very well. As I was a former Iron Butt winner and
had also won more endurance competitions than anyone in the history of the
sport, most said they were glad to see me on the Ducati, as they wouldn’t have
to worry about trying to beat me anymore, the bike would take care of that for
them. Simply put, to a rider they laughed and said no one could possibly be
competitive in long rides on a Ducati.

After 36 hours and about 2,300 miles, I’d won the Dawg Eat Dawg and shocked
the hell out of the endurance community. The bike still wasn’t perfect, but
was on it’s way. I tweaked a few things ergonomically, but left the bike
absolutely stock mechanically. Over the next few months I entered the ST4 in six
endurance competitions of at least 24 hours and won five of them. The one I
lost was the five day Butt Lite, and I was leading that at the start of the
fifth day when I sustained a total failure of a rear tire, costing me about 12
hours off the bike. I ended up eighth out of 75 riders, in spite of huge time
and point penalties.

About this time, Jim Viola and I were cooking up plans to put 100,000 miles
on the bike in a year. He agreed that if we could do this, DNA would
reimburse me for my expenses, mostly gasoline and a few motels, in exchange for the outstanding PR value of a high mileage ST4. But before that could happen,
Ducati had a change in management in the US, and new president Joe Piazza put
the squash on any and all expenditures for the ST4 project. I talked with Jim,
told him I would just do it myself without help from DNA as I believed it
would be a huge boost to Ducati’s reliability reputation, and just went on with
the challenge. I loved the ST 4, and really wanted to show the world a
Ducati that lapped up 100,000 miles in a year.

I used the 2000 ST 4 to break the Guinness record for riding a motorcycle
from San Francisco, CA to New York City, doing the ride in 36 hours and 57
minutes, nearly four hours quicker than the old record. I put 118,000 miles on
the bike in 13 months before giving it back to Ducati at Laguna Seca, where the
bike was put on display. I still get loads of e mails from people asking
questions about that bike.

As you, I simply love all things Ducati. No bike extracts passion like
Ducati, and all the rap about it being a fragile, temperamental, service intensive
machine is simply rubbish.
Be well and hope to bump into you again soon.
Gary Eagan
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Re: Ducati Durability (Hyperpasta)


As we would say in the statistics world - that's a sample of 1.

It would be great if we could bottle Gary's good luck and pour it into every Ducati and especially every 4-valve motor.

I can't say that I've met many Ducati owners who are maintenance-abusive. Most of them are the types to follow the maintenance schedule, use good oil, warm up the bikes before riding....and do what they can do to keep them running right.

But that still doesn't help when the factory installs the endplay shims incorrectly and they get spit out after a few thousand miles or any host of other issues.

I have a lot of respect for Gary - but to consider this to be indicative of what can be expected from a properly maintained Ducati 4-valve bike is a disservice to those owners who have maintained and operated their Ducatis properly and not had similar experiences.

I'd certainly be interested in the valve lash settings, brand of oil, what particular preparation was done, and any other valuable information that might let us all enjoy this type of reliability.

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Re: Ducati Durability (Buckelew)

I can help with some oil help.

i know a oil baron of sorts, he is the MAN, trust me,

he says mobil1 20/50 syn in everything, very good stuff. 3000-4000 between changes.
Re: Ducati Durability (Buckelew)

I have an MH900e that had the heads removed at 3125 miles because they were defective from the factory, that is nearly 97000 miles short of the story, sorry Art but I agree with Mark, the read is good and is something all of us would utterly aspire too but thus far Ducati have shit on me to the enth.
Re: Ducati Durability (Monstaman)

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Re: Ducati Durability (mrgrn)

To you all, I feel your pain in Ducati ownership.

Mark wrote;
"As we would say in the statistics world - that's a sample of 1."

Mark: I think your thinking along the lines of, throwing the baby out with the bath water. You touch the stove and you get burned, don't do it again! Run away!
I for one am glad you didn't! Back in 1999 you became the Town Crier spreading the word on rocker flaking. Today many can read on many different sites the issue with them as it's all be documented fairly well. Shimming of the crank issue won't make the motor fail unless it is seeing race duty! But we racers know to check everything before we hit the track, right? A track day or six isn't going to make the bearing fail by itself.

MonsterMan: I'll admit I don't know mechanically what went south on your MH900e,
but, if you threw it in a garbage can, I bet I could pluck it out and repair it and ride it for years to come. No! I'm not swimming out to NZ for a free bike! It's too far for me! I ponder if you lived in NH, next to Bruce Meyers At BCM if you'd be having these problems that now has taken the steam out of your sails about the marque? I really don't blame you for having lost the trill of ownership, as well as getting the opportunity to deal with Corporate America. This alone would take years off of my life!

Yes, my 996 ate a cam with a bad rocker. Boo Hoo! I could have had the locals fix it, but I choose not to. They'd replace it with another bad one, back then in the early days. Ducati needs to address the service tech training issue that we all have faced or dealt with at one time or another. I hear this is now a focus at DNA. Although I have met some pretty sharp techs lately at PIM here in Phoenix. My Ducati is not a Honda! I looked at a Honda Superchicken before I bought my Ducati. I'm glad I bought the Duc, even with the bad cam/rocker. That's just me.

I think of all the women I know that ride monsters and never have any issues with their 620 bikes. They run them 80-90 mph here all day long here in the desert. Same for the guys on the SS line of bikes that move up to Superbikes.
Why isn't this "statistic" brought to light. How many of us own two Ducatis, or may sell or buy another brand of bike but still keep the Duc in the stable!

If the bikes are so shitty, why do we find people like Steve Allen, Gary Egan, Vicky Smith, and a ton of others without names, devoting their time to us owners of these bike for nothing, Nada, Zip. You'd think they'd pull up stakes and move to another brand, or change their names, if things are so bad.

For every gripe or complaint I can find two happy owners. In my "statistical world".
As a matter of fact no one complains in the two clubs I'm involved with. Most own the newer generation bikes and seem to be happy. Really most of them all love their Ducati bikes.

I'm not here to change the world! Just pass along some news that never gets out to the average guy.

I should have been smarter though!
With a topic such as this one I should have know it would be like baiting a Bear with honey.
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Re: Ducati Durability (Hyperpasta)

<TABLE WIDTH="90%" CELLSPACING=0 CELLPADDING=0 ALIGN=CENTER><TR><TD>Quote, originally posted by Hyperpasta »</TD></TR><TR><TD CLASS="quote">

MonsterMan: I'll admit I don't know mechanically what went south on your MH900e,


Art, there were too many things going bang and continue to go bang.

The engine was that the valves and seats were all cut wrong from the factory and were wide enough for a fat chick to sit on, Ducati tried to worm their way out by saying it was, K&N filters, different exhaust, the jeans I was wearing and the colour of my undies, the list went on.

I had to thro my toys out of the cot and say I would pay for it if it was not their problem (full well knowing after compression tests)

Long and short it was a factory fup...again.

Anyway, brighter note, my S4 just clicked over 20 k, did the cam belts last night, oils tonight and plugs and shims on their way, this we Monsta goes like a cut cat and is a very reliable rocket with very very few problems and I love it.

So contrary to popular belief I love at least one of my Ducati bikes, but the flagship commemerative machine to a famous man is literally a POS and the most expensive mistake I have made.

Still a great read Art and I for one would kill for an MH that has been reliable as my Monsta!
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Re: Ducati Durability (Hyperpasta)

Art, I for one would like to say thanks for the post, I enjoyed the read. I am one of those that must live right. I have owned four Ducatis (94 900 Monster, 95 900SS/SP, 95 916, 02 998) and the only failure I have had was one Yuasa battery sulfated and died an instantanious death. Before some wise ass suspects my bikes as no mileage garage queens, let me say I have ridden them tens of thousands of miles. Some track miles, mostly road miles. Stranded once (by the afore mentioned battery) and most days I will ride 100+ miles from home. They are not perfect, but what they do, can't be copied by anyone.
Re: Ducati Durability (Phil 998)

Well said phil...
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Re: Ducati Durability (Emperor_Nero)

Well, I guess I'm lucky too! My 1994 888 SPO-LTD had 10,000 miles on it and I never had a single problem. The bike had the orginal clutch when I sold it! My 1999 996SPS has been to several track days, over-revved, and never a problem! Phil is right though, nothing is a Ducati....not even my 2005 MV Agusta AGO replica.
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