Ducati gets Down and Dirty

Photo credit: Ducati

Ducati is a road bike manufacturer, right? I mean, even the Multistrada, as good as it is, isn’t really an adventure bike you’d want to take into the wilds of Africa, is it? It’s an adventure tourer. Even in Enduro guise, the Multi is just another gargantuan adventure bike that needs the skill of an Alfie Cox or Wade Young to get the best out of and, even then, they’d prefer to go for something smaller and lighter if they really wanted to enjoy themselves.

Nothing wrong with adventure bikers per se, but they are becoming the Range Rovers of motorcycles: more likely to be seen in the city than the bush, despite their ability.

Photo credit: Ducati

So, Ducati, as we have established, is primarily a road-bike manufacturer. Even the Scrambler range really has nothing to do with off-road prowess and more to do with stylish urban cruising.

Well, not anymore! The launch of the DesertX model is about to put Ducati firmly in the ‘advenduro’ market.

Photo credit: Ducati

Based on the Multistrada V2, it has the 937cc Testastretta liquid-cooled engine as opposed to the air-cooled unit in the Scrambler. This means 108bhp and 92Nm of torque, more than enough to do what’s necessary. Gearing has been lowered overall to enhance off-road playtime, while sixth gear is longer for more relaxed road riding.

A big clue to Ducati’s intended role for the DesertX is that it runs on 21” front, 18” rear wheels – the first Ducati to be so equipped – opening up a whole range of off-road tyres to fit (it comes with Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR as standard). Suspension is by Kayaba, with 230mm travel at the front, 220mm at the rear and ground clearance of 250mm.

Photo credit: Ducati

All this does make the seat height a little tall at 875mm but a lower seat option is available. Mind you, if you want full-on off-road ability, height is non-negotiable.

Braking is by Brembo monobloc M50 calipers but the system has been tuned for off-road sensitivity rather than tarmac shredding stopping power. Make no mistake, they’ll be powerful enough for road riding, but with greater feel to stop you going over the handlebars off-road.

Photo credit: Ducati

A claimed dry weight of 201kg is right on the money and the petrol tank holds 21-litres, with an additional 8-litre supplementary tank available as an option. That means it could have the same tank capacity as the BMW R 1200 GS Adventure or the upcoming Triumph Tiger Rally Explorer and will give the DesertX serious range.

Photo credit: Ducati

The riding position has been carefully calculated to offer a good standing riding position without having to stoop to the handlebars. The emphasis has been on narrowness between the legs and the seat has had a lot of attention paid to it to make sure it is comfortable for long, seated distances.

Naturally, the electronics are top-notch: a Bosch IMU (internal measurement unit) allowing a whole array of rider aids – engine brake control, wheelie control, cornering ABS, traction control and a quick-shifter. There are four power modes and six riding modes, including two off-road modes with preset power, TC and ABS intervention levels. All this is adjustable via the 5″ TFT dash.

Photo credit: Ducati

But it is the looks that are going to garner most of the attention. In short, it looks like no Ducati that has been before. It actually looks like a Dakar Rally contender and the specification suggests that this is no idle impression. It doesn’t take too much of a stretch of the imagination to see the DesertX mixing it on rally raid special stages.

This is a real departure for Ducati and a welcome one at that. If Ducati has nailed the concept at the first try, then it’s a massive feather in the Bologna manufacturer’s cap.

Photo credit: Ducati
Harry has been obsessing about motorbikes for over 45 years, riding them for 38 years and writing and talking about them for 13 years. In that time, he has ridden everything from an Aprilia to a Zundapp, from the 1920s to the 2020s. His favourites are the ones that didn’t break down and leave him stranded. While he loves the convenience of modern bikes, he likes nothing better than getting his hands dirty keeping old bikes running, just as long as it’s not by the roadside! Old enough to know better and young enough not to care, he knows you don’t stop riding when you get old, you get old when you stop riding.