Text: Ile Kauppila
When thinking of Ducati, you’re probably picturing a lean, mean street machine. But with the announcement of the DesertX, the Italians will soon offer something good for off-road fanatics as well.
The DesertX was first introduced to the public in 2019 as a concept bike. Now, after incorporating feedback from the public, the company is preparing to launch an off-roader that promises to keep the good times rolling across gravel roads and mountain trails.
The newcomer isn’t completely alien, though — its styling represents a contemporary interpretation of ‘80s Enduro bikes, Ducati says. The DesertX’s powerplant, too, may seem familiar to hardcore Ducatistis.
Housed in a newly designed trellis steel frame sits a 937cc liquid-cooled Testastretta 11° Desmodromic valvetrain engine. Ready to put out 110 hp at 9,250 rpm, with a max torque of 68 lb-ft at 6,500 rpm, the engine features all the enhancements included on the Ducati Monster and Multistrada V2.
Among these improvements are a compact eight-disc clutch and a precision-boosting bearing-mounted geardrum in the gearbox. The engine tweaks have reduced its weight by 3.7 pounds, bringing the DesertX’s total dry weight down to 445 pounds.
Ducati has optimized the engine for better performance in off-road situations. For example, the gearbox has different ratios than the Multistrada V2, offering better handling and lower fuel consumption on challenging trails. The bike also features the Ducati Quick Shift (DQC) Up & Down quickshifter.
The DesertX features a 5.54-gallon fuel tank, with an option to mount a secondary 2.1-gallon accessory tank in the rear. The rear tank will start draining once the primary tank runs low, allowing you to cross greater distances before refueling. Maintenance intervals are every 9,000 miles or 24 months, with valve clearance checking every 18,000 miles.
Suspension and Wheels
To help suck up the bumps and cracks of off-road trails, the DesertX comes equipped with a 46mm upside-down Kayaba fork, with nine inches of travel. In the rear is a Kayaba monoshock attached to an aluminum swingarm, offering 8.66 inches of travel.
Both the fork and the shock are adjustable in compression, rebound, and reload. In addition, the tubeless 21-inch front and 18-inch rear wheels—both unprecedented sizes for Ducati—give the DesertX a respectable 9.8 inches of ground clearance for rugged off-roading.
The rubber on the wheel rims are Pirelli’s Scorpion Rally STR tires (90/90-21 and 150/70 R18). These tires are suitable for both pavement and trails, but Ducati says it’s also possible to swap them for on-road-oriented tires.
Brembo M50 calipers—monobloc radial calipers with four 1.2-inch pistons, axial pump, and adjustable levers up front and twin-piston floating calipers in the rear—help bring the wheels to a stop. In the front, the calipers clamp onto double 12.6-inch discs with aluminum flanges, while in the rear they grip a single 10.4-inch disc.
In addition to mechanical goodies, the DesertX offers electronic aids to make riding easier and more comfortable. The bike comes with six riding modes, working alongside four different power modes to modify the Testastretta engine’s performance.
The riding modes include Sport, Touring, Urban, Wet, Enduro, and Rally. Out of these, Enduro and Rally are new for Ducati technology.
The Enduro mode reduces power and engages specially designed control settings to make the bike easier to handle on demanding dirt tracks. Meanwhile, the Rally mode enables full engine power and switches off most automated controls for experienced off-road riders.
The four power modes—Full, High, Medium, and Low— control horsepower output and throttle response. The Full mode (110 hp) pairs with the Sport and Rally modes, High (95 hp) with Touring and Wet modes, Medium (75 hp) with Endure mode, and Low (75 hp) with Urban mode.
Working in conjunction with the riding and power modes is a Bosch inertial measurement unit (IMU). The IMU controls the intervention of various other electronic controls, including engine brake control, traction control, wheelie control, quickshifter, and ABS-cornering.
Speaking of ABS-cornering, this feature can be set to three levels depending on the situation and rider skill. In the off-road-dedicated Enduro and Rally riding modes, ABS-cornering can also be completely switched off.
Controlling all these electronics happens through the DesertX’s five-inch color TFT dashboard display. Oriented vertically for ease of readability while standing on the pegs, the display allows you to choose between the Standard and Rally info modes.
Each of the info modes displays different information to suit different riding situations. Additionally, the TFT display is compatible with the Ducati Multimedia System, enabling connectivity with a smartphone to display navigation info, call info, and music controls.
The DesertX’s saddle-footrest-handlebar triangulation is optimized for riding while standing up, while still providing adequate comfort even on the pavement. The 34.4-inch seat height can be reduced with an accessory low seat.
The bike also features a full-LED lighting system, boasting double headlights with daytime running lights. The rear of the motorcycle houses the Ducati Brake Light system, which will begin to flash in the event of sudden breaking, warning anyone behind you of imminent danger.
All the electronics and the engine are covered by a minimalistic, adventurous design, comprising three different macro elements and available in Star White Silk livery. The front of the bike is particularly striking, with the windshield blending into the double headlights.
Ducati also offers various accessories for the DesertX. On top of the already mentioned rear tank and lower seat, the company offers aluminum side pannies and a top case (totaling to 117 liters of storage space), additional LED spotlights, a centerstand, heated grips, and an optional racing variant of the Termighoni exhaust.
The Ducati DesertX will be available from North American retailers starting June 2022 at an MSRP of $16,795.