(Snowmass, Colorado) Dressing up a motorcycle to make it look like an adventurer isn’t difficult. Designing it so it can take the abuse of off-road use is a lot more. Ducati announces that its new DesertX has this capability. Field verification.
Beyond the trend
While the proliferation of adventure-class models is in full swing, the fact remains that such motorcycles that are truly capable of serious trail riding remain rare. Since unveiling the DesertX concept in 2019, Ducati has been saying this one will really get there. The promotional films of the production version also show it not only in the dust, but downright several meters in the air on a motocross track. It’s setting the bar high for a road car weighing more than 200 kg, but the brand is free to announce what it wants. All that remains now is to verify these claims, since such abilities are rarely real.
A serious construction
A trained eye can quickly distinguish between an adventurer who would break on the first trail and one with the potential for serious off-road riding. A review of the DesertX reveals that that potential is definitely there. The suspensions, one of the most important elements, are signed KYB and offer ample manual (rather than electronic) adjustments. They offer about 9 inches of travel, while the ground clearance reaches ten inches, generous data in any case. The obligatory large 21-inch front wheel is present and in general nothing appears superfluous and everything seems rather in line with the mission of the model.
A natural advantage
Ducati is not only recognized for the performance of its sports cars and the strong character of the V-Twins that drive its road cars, but also for the lightness of its models. As an adventurer’s weight profoundly affects her off-road abilities, the fact that the DesertX weighs only 223 kg when fully fueled is a serious advantage. Note that one of the reasons behind this reasonable mass is the choice of mechanics. It is a compact 937cc V-Twin which allows the package to be much lighter than the 1200-1300cc models in the higher category.
A dream playground
Some manufacturers intentionally limit the severity of off-road test conditions. It’s cheating. Ducati took the opposite route, offering us to climb the steep slopes, strewn with sometimes quite large rocks, at one of Aspen’s famous ski resorts. The gamble paid off, as the environment wasted no time in revealing the truth about the DesertX: it’s an adventurer with hugely impressive off-road capabilities. The two qualities that we immediately notice are the agility of the whole, which greatly facilitates piloting on the trail, and the exceptional work of the suspensions, which absorb the blows of large rocks as effectively as landing after a jump.
Adjustments at will
Even if they require too much navigation in the menus, the many electronic settings offered are frankly appreciated. One can, for example, maximize the traction of the V-Twin by reducing its maximum power from 110 hp to 90 or 75 hp. The ABS system can also be deactivated on the rear wheel to allow it to be locked if desired, while the force of the engine brake can be adjusted to help steering during a steep descent. Note that suspension control is not entrusted to a complex semi-active system as on several larger displacement models. We never complain about it.
And the road?
With such emphasis on the off-road capabilities of the DesertX, you almost forget that it’s also a tourer. However, we discover that the characteristics of the model on the trail are transformed – generally – into interesting qualities on asphalt roads. The famous suspensions, for example, guarantee considerable comfort even on the worst roads, while the uncluttered ergonomics necessary for off-road riding also translate into a comfort advantage on long journeys. On the other hand, the rather high seat will hinder short riders (an optional low seat is offered), while the vibrations of the twin could be better controlled.
The DesertX is not the first Ducati to attempt the dust, but none of the previous tests (Scrambler Desert Sled, Multistrada 1260 Enduro) have proven particularly convincing. The fact that the DesertX offers such an impressive ability to aggressively tackle any type of rough terrain is therefore a major achievement for the brand. The caliber of the product is even high enough to directly compete with the best machines of its kind currently on the market, including the Husqvarna Norden 901 and other Triumph Tiger 900 Rally Pro. The Italian brand has given birth to an exceptional adventurer with the DesertX.
- Brand: Ducati
- Model: DesertX
- Price: $19,695
- Warranty: 2 years/unlimited mileage
- Engine: 937cc liquid-cooled V-twin
- 6-speed transmission, chain final drive
- Weight: 223 kg (all full)
- Front brake: 2 discs with 4-piston calipers and ABS
- Rear brake: 1 disc with 2-piston caliper and ABS
- Front tire: 90/90-21
- Rear tire: 150/70-18
Transportation and accommodation costs were paid by Ducati.