These numbers speak for themselves: 21/18. For the first time since the 1960s, Ducati exists in these wheel sizes, and today nothing underscores the desire for true off-roading more than a 21-inch front wheel with coarse-side tires.
This raises doubts about its true roadworthiness, because a narrow tire of this large diameter tends to stand up to the brakes and provides little stability and feel to the front wheel. And then the Ducati does not come in red! So what awaits us?
With its white dress, black spots on the windshield and stunning twin headlights, DesertX cites a Ducati past that, like DesertX itself, is very contradictory. The oldest of us remember Phil Kajiva. Equipped with a 900 Ducati V2 engine, the Elefant won a race – and they love the Borgo Panigale more than sporting victories. But the 1990 Dakar champion was not built in Bologna, but in Varese. Thus, it cannot be a real Ducati in the strict sense of the word. Is this fate threatening DesertX across the board?
dirt out of dirt
DesertX development started in the dirt. The whole body structure, the steering head angle front part, the wheel, the front and rear suspension travel, the ergonomics – everything was designed for off-road use and then implemented in prototypes. When the engineers rated this as successful, the concept was “educated” for the street, so to speak. Brembo Stylema sports brake calipers may be the first clue to this to an observer.
Twin installed all the way
The drivetrain is the twin-cylinder 937 cc, 110 hp, which Ducati fans know from the latest Monster, Hypermotard, SuperSport 950 and also the Multistrada V2. And this clearly speaks of its merit on the road, because this popular and highly cultivated twin has enough taste from the bottom, and it turns happily and beautifully across the speed range. It works with a maximum torque of 92 Nm at 6500 rpm and takes gas very smoothly. In the first kilometers of asphalt in cruising mode, the engine highlights just that, and the whole motorcycle makes the impression of a very good bike for long distances on almost straight connected roads and the subsequent motorway stage. Seating position is comfortable, fast forward, automatic transmission with blade glides. So you can enjoy the wonderful landscapes of Sardinia.
Ducati can go off-road
But before it gets too easy, the tour guide sets the pointer and we stop at the entrance to a sandy cliff that leads up the mountain. Time to put in the enduro, which limits the power of the twin engine to around 75 horsepower and in which the ABS system is specifically tuned for off-road use. Now keep standing. The traction control allows just enough rear wheel slip so that off-road beginners won’t feel fussed and will soon enjoy these slides.
The shorter translation in first and second gear compared to the other models already mentioned increases this delight from every narrow angle of the dusty sandy track. When approaching tighter turns, the ABS system completely prevents bad front wheel slip. Good news for inexperienced users and those with gross motor skills with their right fingers, because the Brembo pliers grip well.
For off-road cracks
The off-road notches at least deactivate the ABS in the rear on such terrain and really put the bike into the corner, which also succeeds comically thanks to the nice, wide handlebars and the really good balance of the DesertX. The Ducati can be maneuvered around potholes even at higher speeds using non-slip latch and pedaled over transverse grooves or rough stones by retracting the gas valve and retracting the handlebars at the same time. DesertX also emphasizes that good off-road impression on more technically demanding terrain, such as when you’re tight around a corner on loose pebbles or diving into a very steep section while standing on a bend. Even around tight trees with your finger on the clutch as you walk, DesertX shows it has really matured off-road.
Desert X: No hard enduro
Of course it is not difficult Enduro. How about 223 kg? But she’s just such a great figure all around and finally crowns it all in rally mode. Here she is in full force, can be chased like a Dakar racer at high speed over gravel and sand and dance with butt so wonderfully that even in this enduro paradise in Sardinia, you might want to take off straight to the deserts of Africa. If the chassis shows its very good side with nice, attractive damping, the DesertX electronics are great overall. The eight-level traction control in rally mode is level 3. Even at high speeds, it makes its way up the mountain safely – simply inspiring. If you are daring, you can go down to level 2 at a speed of 80 or more. You can feel the difference right away.
Street sport 21 inch
But the fun has to end at some point, right? After all, Sardinia also has beautifully paved roads that bend in all imaginable radii. Stop swallowing dust! It’s time to put the sport to control electronics. Now twin handle gas direct, 110 hp This active engine in the light-looking motorcycle fits right in, Stylema brakes sparkle with tremendous controllability and clear deceleration. And the front wheel is 21 inches? Heck, it looks like 19 inches. Even braking deep into a corner doesn’t cause the DesertX to stop. Stability on the brakes, and a precise line when cornering. Front feel is good and indicates that the Pirelli Scorpion Rallye STR provides amazing grip. As a result, you can actually steal curves with DesertX, throw them from side to side, and dash through arcs with pinpoint precision – no kidding! The only thing that puts an end to the fun at the end is the approaching evening, which reminds us to return. Before that, she would go off-road several times, up into the Sardinian mountains, where she would never be able to ride street bikes. All this has so far been denied to Ducatiste. But with DesertX, Bologna has been able to break new ground – and in a really cool way!
I don’t currently know of a better compromise between a street motorcycle and a truly ambitious off-road adventure bike. Particularly impressive: DesertX never feels like a compromise. The Ducati Desert X isn’t a crossover, it’s a frontier wreck – but alas not an exorbitant price.