I really enjoy new bike silly season. It’s about the only time anything newsworthy happens in the adventure bike space. Ducati’s Desert X is both a triumph of peak throwback design and great marketing language. This is the lowdown.
Ever since I started testing and reviewing bikes, the language Italian brands use to describe anything and everything in English has been wonderful. Expressive, dramatic and never understated. “The wildest travel dreams come true with the Ducati DesertX: a motorcycle born to enhance the adventure thrill without setting any limits”. Damn. Even better is the tightness of their riders trousers. Magnificent. Made by Klim these were not. To add to the ‘euro-ness’, everything is white, the launch video features a few heavy discotheque friendly beats and is deeply dramatic. I already wanna put my deposit down.
The wildest travel dreams come true with the Ducati DesertX
Alas, that’s not why you’re here. You’re here for pretty pictures, possibly an opinion and likely to find out about the specs of this very heavily Cagiva Elefant inspired Ducati Desert X. After all, doesn’t it look unique. To my eyes, it’s stunning. I asked Lucy what she thought and her words were “retro”. Not in an inspired, isn’t that cool tone but a nonchalant, ‘it’s just another retro bike’, kinda way. At least it’s pulling at my Dakar loving nostalgic heart strings in a big way.
So what about the good stuff? Does it look good on paper? How does it look to ride? Will it be good? As always with these things it’s tricky to know but on the surface it’s a good start. The Desert X uses the same power plant as the Multistrada V2 which by all accounts is an improved version of the Multistrada 950, a bike I loved from minute one. The DX is also rocking decent travel at 230/220mm and a respectable 203kg dry weight. I’d expect a similar end weight to the Tiger 900 Rally. All the other specs are right in the ball park of the middle weight ADV category; 81KW (110hp), 92nm, 21/18 wheels, 21 litres fuel and a cheeky optional extra rear tank that can hold 8l. It’s also uncomfortably tall at 875mm heigh, so about the same a T7. Not bad, but not special.
Judging from the videos and photos I’m quietly excited. I really want something this bold to be an absolute worldy of a bike. How cool would it be if the bike harking back to an iconic classic is worthy of being a classic. My biggest concern with the Desert X is that it would be a re-hashed Scrambler Desert Sled. That’s a bike I really enjoyed riding but it is front heavy and since that bike launched ADV’s have stepped into a new era. From the media it looks to be a pleasant surprise with the caveats that the sand looks firm and one of the riders is Antoine Meo; 5x World Enduro champ, 4th in his 2nd Dakar with a pair of broken wrists. He’s a living legend and you and I aren’t. He could ride a zimmer frame and make it look a 250F.
So there you have it. I’ve put myself firmly on the fence. I want it to be great, I love that Ducati have taken a risk to make something really frickin’ cool and for that alone I hope is sells. I’m sure we’ll see some in London, I just hope we see a few ripping the dirt roads in the desert too.
The wildest travel dreams come true with the Ducati DesertX: a motorcycle born to enhance the adventure thrill without setting any limits
21” front wheel and 18” rear, long travel suspension and generous ground clearance: the DesertX is designed to perfectly tackle the most demanding off-road
Powered by Testastretta 11° engine, the new DesertX guarantees a comfortable, easy and safe ride in a variety of travel situations thanks to the obsessive attention to ergonomics, in-depth aerodynamic studies as well as latest-generation technological features
The new Ducati DesertX was unveiled to the public in the sixth episode of the Ducati World Première 2022
Borgo Panigale (Bologna, Italy), 9 December 2021 – In the sixth episode of the Ducati World Première 2022, the new DesertX was unveiled to all motorcycle enthusiasts (here the direct link to the video). The new DesertX is a bike with an intense off-road attitude, that effectively enlarges the boundaries of what can be done with a Ducati. Desert dunes, narrow off-road paths, gravel roads and mountainous twisties: with DesertX travellers dreams know no more limits.
Fitted with 21” front wheel and 18” rear, the new DesertX has been designed to tackle even the most demanding off-road. The specifically off-road-focused development matched with Ducati valuable road expertise give life to a responsive, easy-to-approach bike, at ease on any route and asphalt.
The DesertX project was born in 2019 when Ducati presented the eponymous concept to the public, generating a strong and positive reaction from motorcyclists around the world. This important feedback gave the Bologna-based manufacturer the decisive push to transform that concept into this functional, competent and effective motorcycle.
The design of the DesertX represents a contemporary interpretation of the lines of the Enduro motorcycles of the ‘80s, created by the Ducati Centro Stile in keeping with essentiality and robustness criteria. The bike is visually composed of 3 macro elements: a unique volume that includes the tank and the side shields, the saddle and the windshield that embodies the distinctive double headlight and further reinforces the uniqueness of this bike. Additionally, stylistic emphasis is given by the use of black and white areas. The surfaces in contact with the rider are properly large and harmoniously connected to better support every off-road riding phase.
The chassis layout of the new Ducati DesertX includes a new steel trellis frame, which works in combination with long travel suspension with dedicated settings, to ensure effective operation even in the most demanding off-road conditions. The optimisation of all components led to an efficient bike, all packed in 202 kg (dry weight). The choices in terms of chassis make DesertX an easy bike to ride and able to give the right dose of feeling and safety on any surface. Furthermore, the new DesertX offers a great capacity to absorb road imperfections.
On suspension front, the DesertX stands out for its premium fitting. It is offered with 46 mm diameter upside-down Kayaba fork with 230 mm travel and Kayaba monoshock. Both elements are adjustable in compression, rebound and preload. The Kayaba monoshock is perfectly married to the aluminium swingarm and allows a rear wheel travel of 220 mm. In addition, the new DesertX has a generous 250 mm ground clearance, which results particularly suitable for more extreme off-road adventures.
It is noteworthy that the new DesertX features unprecedented tyres size for a Ducati: 21” at the front and 18” at the rear. The original equipment tyres are the Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR, 90/90-21 and 150/70 R18: the perfect choice for a brilliant all-round use of the bike. DesertX will also be homologated to fit both off and on-road-oriented tyres.
Like all Ducati motorcycles the braking system of this new bike benefits from ABS Cornering function. The front features Brembo M50 monobloc radial calipers with four 30 mm diameter pistons, axial pump with adjustable levers and double 320 mm discs with aluminium flanges. At the rear there is a single 265 mm diameter disc on which works a twin-piston floating caliper, always by Brembo. The braking power setting has been conceived to offer great modulability in off-road driving as well as on slippery surfaces, not to mention the fact that it grants the right dose of power in road use.
The ergonomics of the new DesertX have been developed over long and demanding off-road and on-asphalt test sessions. The saddle-footrest-handlebar triangulation gives its best in stand-up riding and offers a good level of comfort even on on-road riding. The result is a bike with an extremely slim fitting area and perfectly linked surfaces that guarantee the rider maximum control and handling. Saddle is 875 mm high. The combination of a particularly narrow inner leg curve and initial suspension compliance ensures good contact with the ground. The saddle height can still be reduced by means of a lowered saddle (available as an accessory) and can be further lowered thanks to an ad hoc kit.
Ducati technicians have also worked hard on a full suite of contents, that make DesertX a true enjoyable tool on every road. The riding position, for example, results even more comfortable for rider and passenger alike, thanks to the definition of shape and padding targeted for each of the two seats. Heat management is studied in detail with openings and flows of fresh air whilst aerodynamic protection is ensured by the great care taken in defining the shape and size of the original windshield and the even more protective accessory one.
Proper range to face longer journeys is guaranteed by the fuel tank with over 21 l of capacity and thus offering the opportunity of mounting a second tank (available as accessory) in the rear area, adding further 8 l of fuel. Fuel transfer from the rear to the front tank is enabled when the fuel level in the main tank falls below a certain level and can be activated from the dashboard. DesertX also has an excellent load capacity, almost 120 l of volume available including bags and aluminium top case. The specific choice of tubeless tyres is functional to the journey and to safety. It allows a combination of greater reliability, greater safety in the event of a puncture and easier repair.
The admired 937 cc liquid-cooled Testastretta 11° Desmodromic valvetrain engine is the heart of the new DesertX. Characterized by an excellent reliability, this engine delivers 110 hp at 9,250 rpm and a maximum torque of 92 Nm at 6,500 rpm* in Euro5 configuration. Solid Ducati performance is combined with regular and always manageable delivery, providing the rider with a bike capable of tackling any route with great confidence. The engine can count on all the improvements already seen on the Monster and Multistrada V2, including the extremely light and compact 8-disc clutch and the gearbox equipped with a geardrum mounted on bearings to reduce friction and improve precision and smoothness while shifting. This contributes also to a reduction of the total weight of the engine of 1.7 kg compared to the previous version.
To offer the best performance in off-road riding and in various uses, the Testastretta 11° has been specifically optimised. In fact, the gearbox has different dedicated ratios with respect to those of the Multistrada V2. As a matter of fact the ratios have been shortened overall on all gears up to fifth, to ensure the best off-road behaviour. First and second gears, in particular, are much shorter, in order to facilitate the low-speed driving phases of certain difficult passages typical of off-road use. Sixth gear is properly long to facilitate highway handling while maintaining low engine speeds; this means a contained fuel consumption and an increased level of comfort.
A special mention is deserved by state-of-the-art electronic systems, which offer first-rate performance and safety also in terms of rider aids. New DesertX in fact comes with 6 Riding Modes working in combination with 4 Power Modes – Full, High, Medium, Low – that modify the power and responsiveness of the Testastretta engine. The main new features are specific settings for the Enduro Riding Mode and the introduction of the new Rally Riding Mode, in addition to Sport, Touring, Urban and Wet.
To be precise, the Enduro Riding Mode, thanks to the reduced power and the specially designed control settings, allows the rider to tackle the most demanding dirt roads with greater safety and makes it easier for less experienced users to ride off-road. The Rally Riding Mode, on the other hand, with full engine power and reduced electronic controls, is designed for more experienced riders who want to make the most of DesertX’s off-road performance.
Each Riding Mode, also thanks to the presence of the Bosch IMU (Inertial Measurement Unit), can change the character of the bike according to the rider’s input, by acting on the intervention levels of the various electronic controls: Engine Brake Control (EBC), Ducati Traction Control (DTC), Ducati Wheelie Control (DWC), Ducati Quick Shift (DQS) Up & Down and ABS Cornering.
ABS Cornering, in particular, can be set on 3 levels to be able to adapt to whatever situation and rider skill. In the Riding Modes dedicated to off-road (Enduro and Rally), ABS Cornering can also be completely deactivated via the switch cube with a specific button.
The dashboard of the DesertX, vertically oriented and positioned to offer clear information also in stand-up riding, features a high resolution 5” full-TFT colour display. The instrumentation is predispose to integrate the Ducati Multimedia System which allows the rider to connect the phone, thus activating new functions such as music and incoming/outgoing calls or Turn-by-Turn navigation** (optional), which displays directions directly on the dashboard.
The rider is offered the opportunity to choose between two as-standard Info Modes: Standard and Rally. The Standard option provides for all the road information: tachometer and speedometer are clearly visible, as well as the engaged gear, fuel level and other useful journey information. The trip master function is part of the Rally Info Mode. This simulates the operation of the trip master used in rally motorcycles and allows to manually adjust the odometer indication, using the buttons on the left switch cube.
Premium technological features are also represented by the lighting system, which is full LED. The double front headlight has two twin-function poly-ellipsoidal modules with Daytime Running Light (DRL) and has been designed to ensure excellent visibility, particularly important for a motorcycle capable of travelling in all conditions. The rear light is equipped with the Ducati Brake Light, a particular system that, in the event of sudden braking, automatically activates the flashing of the rear light to alert the following vehicles, a solution that further improves rider’s safety.
Such multi-faceted motorcycle can be further customised by the riders according to their own spirit and mood by drawing on the broad range of Ducati Performance accessories. Among the most appealing items: the rally saddle, which marries the rider and passenger seats for greater effectiveness in off-road activities, and the additional 8-l tank. Touring experience can be further improved with the aluminum side panniers which, combined with the top case, give the bike a total load capacity amount of 117 l, additional LED spotlights, central stand and heated grips. Termignoni exhausts are also available, both homologated and racing. The latter increases the values of power and torque of +7% thanks to the dedicated mapping.
Ducati DesertX intense character deserved a special homage. That’s why the Ducati Centro Stile designed, for the first time, a dedicated capsule collection that takes up the livery of the bike. An outstanding line inspired by the iconic “Dakarian style” and named 21/18, a celebrative tribute to this bike’s tyres size. The technical suit includes jacket, trousers and helmet and will be available in a limited edition. Part of this exclusive collection is a range of lifestyle apparel, specifically designed for this model, consisting of a sweatshirt, two T-shirts and a cap.
The DesertX will be available at dealerships in the Ducati network starting from May 2022. The motorcycles will also be available in a depowered version for A2 license holders. The Bologna-based motorcycle company offers the exclusive “4Ever Ducati” warranty, valid for 4 years with unlimited mileage that relies on the service offered by the entire network of dealers***.
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