With the DesertX, Ducati proves that the Desmo V engine can do more than sport. Because now he drives an off-road bike that is reminiscent of the successes of the Italians at the Dakar Rally. It's also a kind of sport, but very different from the one with which Ducati otherwise earns its merits.
With the exhibition of an all-terrain concept bike in the style of the Dakar racing machines from the eighties at the Milan motorcycle fair EICMA 2019, Ducati had no peace - off-road fans from all over the world peppered those responsible with inquiries and shared well-meaning advice. As a result of the euphoria, the production-ready offshoot, the Ducati DesertX, was developed in the record time of just two years.
Visually based on the concept bike as well as the historical ancestors, the Italian is clad in white with red trim and sports a distinctive dual headlight integrated into the front fairing with a towering windshield. It is reminiscent of the Cagiva Elefant, which won the 1990 Dakar Rally with a 900 Ducati V2 engine under Edi Orioli. Its shape is dominated by the mighty tank and exudes the typical narrow, long-legged attitude of a real off-road motorcycle, which is complemented by the coarsely profiled off-road tires of 21 inches at the front and 18 inches at the rear.
But not only the tires, the entire chassis is designed for real off-road use. With a newly developed steel space frame, adapted steering geometry and high-quality, fully adjustable Kayaba suspension elements with plenty of spring travel at the front and rear for a significant ground clearance of 25 centimeters, the DesertX is well positioned for aardvark. However, this construction provides a decent seat height of 87.5 centimeters, which means that not only short-legged people are looking for a suitable place to stop. When riding, the ergonomic triangle of rests, seat and wide handlebars results in very generous space that is definitely suitable for long journeys and a more than acceptable wind protection behind the non-adjustable windscreen.
An old acquaintance, on the other hand, is responsible for the driving dynamics, the 937 cm³ large, 110 hp Desmo-V, known from the latest Monster, the Hypermotard, the SuperSport 950 and also the Multistrada V2. Although this drive comes from the road, it was designed for off-road use with a shorter 1st and 2nd gear. As in the other models, the Twin is highly cultivated, delivers plenty of pressure right from the bottom and revs happily and linearly through the rev range.
In order to do justice to the various purposes, the driver has four engine modes that change the character significantly. Bundled in six driving modes - two off-road, three asphalt and one rain mode - various electronic settings are stored and can also be customized for: engine braking behavior, traction control, wheelie control, quickshifter and the cornering ABS.
In touring mode, the engine responds gently to the gas and uses the maximum torque of 92 Newton meters at 6500 crankshaft revolutions on asphalt for easily controllable driving pleasure. Sport gets down to business more spontaneously, but also a little more spontaneously, then the Ducati dashes with verve and a full 110 hp lively over winding country roads and behaves so obediently and neutrally. That you almost forget the big 21-inch front wheel and rather think you're sitting on a compromise bike with a 19-inch front wheel. Great praise is due to the Pirelli Scorpion Rallye STR, which enables off-road-atypical lean angles with its amazing grip.
The steering damper is hardly needed here, especially since the long wheelbase ensures a lot of stability anyway, which makes the DesertX a bit stubborn. The four-piston fixed caliper calipers in the front wheel are perfect for chasing asphalt, which can be dosed with pinpoint accuracy and, if necessary, decelerate extremely sharply.
Unlike here, there are still countless unpaved slopes, gravel and sand paths in Sardinia that are not only legal to drive on, but also function as real access roads. This is where the enduro mode comes into play, which limits the twin to 75 hp and changes the ABS specifically for off-road use. It is appropriate to ride while standing, while the handlebars, rests and foot levers can be adjusted in no time at all, which suits almost all rider statures.
If you still use the gas spontaneously, the adapted traction control allows controlled slides on the loose surface, which, thanks to the clean control, cannot even scare off-road beginners. Precisely because of the shorter translation in first and second gear, the dust spurts out of the corners when accelerating, the off-road ABS also helps less experienced drivers to get through safely and without falling. The DesertX masters deep potholes and gullies very well thanks to the excellent spring elements. The steering damper pays off here by preventing the front from wedging.
With all kinds of tailor-made accessories, the profile of the DesertX can also be sharpened according to taste. The offer ranges from species-appropriate aluminum cases to a rally seat, LED auxiliary headlights and an additional tank at the rear. Unfortunately, a few essential travel features such as heated grips and the main stand can only be found as accessories, but that doesn't detract from the amazing debut appearance: As a great blend of street motorcycle and serious adventure bike, the DesertX opens up a new field that Ducati hadn't tilled until now - even if the price from around 16,000 euros reaches typical Ducati regions.