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ADV BikesDesert Raider: Earle Motors Takes The Desert Sled A Step Beyond

Desert Raider: Earle Motors Takes The Desert Sled A Step Beyond

 An Earle Motors creation built to explore the desert’s toughest terrain.

Published on 05.07.2020

Custom bike builder Alex Earle — the mastermind behind Earle Motors — grew up exploring southern Utah, sometimes driving his old VW bus around the deserts near Moab at night with only the moonlight reflected off the sandstone to light the way. It’s that desire to explore a harsh and beautiful environment that inspired his latest build, the Desert Raider.

Based on a Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled, the Desert Raider is both stylish and functional. It takes design cues from the classic, home-brewed, heavyweight desert runners of the ‘60s and ‘70s, combines them with modern technology and functionality to come up with a machine that will have no problem prowling the arid environs of Utah, or anywhere else.

Earle Motors Ducati Desert Sled Desert Raider
The bike features a 21″/18″ Big Wheel kit, long-range tanks, Kevlar skid plate and custom crash bars. Tank shape and narrow seat were tailored with desert-riding ergonomics in mind. Photo credit: Earle Motors

Right off the line you notice the Desert Raider’s bigger wheels. Earle went with a 21/18-inch front/rear combo, the standard for any bike intended for serious riding beyond the pavement. Stock, the Desert Sled runs a 19/17-inch front/rear wheelset. This change alone transformed the bike, Earle said. “The skinny, tall front and large sidewall rear make short work of deep sand and all manner of off-road obstacles. For this reason, the aggressive tires required in these environments are offered (primarily) in these sizes.”

Earle Motors Ducati Desert Sled Desert Raider
A Scotts Performance steering stabilizer was also a very important upgrade, says Earle. Photo credit: Earle Motors

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But it wasn’t a direct swap. He used Excel A60 rims laced to the stock hubs to build the wheels. The bigger diameter rear wheel requires a longer swingarm, so he fabricated an extension kit, available on his website, to make it fit. The result is increased stability off road. “I highly recommend that people simply do the swingarm extenders and wheel upgrades to the stock bikes as it is by far the most effective performance enhancement,” he said. This upgrade also required a longer chain and 48t rear sprocket. According to Earle, the installation is very easy and can be done in an evening.  

Earle Motors Ducati Desert Sled Desert Raider
A version of the bike omits the rear tank and replaces it with a vault that is accessible by removing the seat. It holds a first-aid kit, spare tubes, inflator, etc. Photo credit: Christopher Thoms

The fuel tanks, which hold six gallons in the front and two in the rear, are one-off creations, modeled by hand out of foam in a process similar to how surfboards are shaped. The finished tanks are sealed fiberglass epoxy with an aluminum ring bonded in to accommodate the factory fuel pump. They’re connected together for a 300-plus mile fuel range, a design challenge that required extensive internal plumbing to access all the fuel in both, Earle said.

Earle Motors Ducati Desert Sled Desert Raider
A Termignoni high exhaust system has replaced the low stock pipe. Photo credit: Earle Motors

The front tank was shaped with desert-riding ergonomics in mind, meaning a lot of standing on the pegs, and includes threaded mounting points for a six-liter soft bag. Another version of the bike substitutes a storage area for the rear tank to carry tools, spares etc. The tanks only fit with Earle’s custom-designed narrow solo seat, finished in a Saddlemen seat cover, so they aren’t available yet as bolt-ons.

Other highlights of the build include a Baja Designs LP9 yellow-lensed headlight in a vintage Soltek mount, Termignoni high exhaust system, custom crash bars with a Kevlar skid plate, Barkbuster hand guards with integrated LED turn signals and a custom carbon speedometer relocator. 

Earle Motors Ducati Desert Sled Desert Raider
The front custom tank includes threaded hard points for attaching a 6-liter soft bag. Photo credit: Christopher Thoms

Earle has a long history with the Scrambler Desert Sled, having sketched the first concept bike back in 2014. He’s tinkered with variations of it since, and remains impressed with the design. The air-cooled, 803cc L-twin engine puts out 73 horsepower and good torque, critical in off-road use. At 425 pounds dry it’s no featherweight, but neither were the original desert bashers. “Simple mechanics, easily modified and reliable,“ Earle said. “And comfortable when you have to return to the highway.”

With the extended swingarm and bigger wheels, the Desert Sled is even competitive. In fact, two bikes sporting the setup recently took first and second place in the Mint 400’s inaugural Hooligan Class.

Earle Motors Ducati Desert Sled Desert Raider
Baja Designs LP9 yellow lensed headlamp in a vintage Baja Designs Sol-Tec mount. Photo credit: Christopher Thoms

His mods take it another step toward that original inspiration of being able to explore deep into remote landscapes, wherever they may be. “I have ridden this bike all over Alaskan mining roads, through rivers, snow, miles and miles of deep sand, and fire roads as well as more highway miles than I care to remember,” he said. “I have always been impressed by how well it works in the dirt.  Stock throttle response and overall power is just right for me.  It is very comfortable. Tank shape is exceptional.”

Desert Raider Features

  • Hand-formed, long-range tank with threaded hard points for attaching 6 liter soft bag
  • Solo off-road seat covered by Saddlemen in Compton
  • Custom rear handles, license plate/taillight holder
  • Baja Designs LP9 yellow lensed headlamp in a vintage BajaDesigns Sol-Tec mount
  • Baja Designs S2 fogs and taillight. Ring is a NOS Cyclops. These are getting hard to find!
  • Earle Motors swingarm extenders +3″
  • 21″ and 18″ Excel A60 rims laced to factory hubs
  • Pirelli Scorpion Rally tires
  • Termignoni high pipes – chipped.  No cat
  • Prototype crash bars and kevlar/carbon skid plate
  • Warn winch 
  • Quadlock iPhone holder for nav
  • Heated grips
  • Power Commander
  • Carbon electrics box
  • Rizoma belt covers
  • Rizoma rally pegs
  • Scotts Performance steering stabilizer
  • Barkbusters with LED indicators 
  • Ducati Performance adjustable gear selector
  • Longer chain and 48t rear sprocket
  • Custom carbon speedometer relocator

For more information go to earlemotors.com or you can also follow their amazing work on Instagram.

Author: Bob Whitby

Bob has been riding motorcycles since age 19 and working as a journalist since he was 24, which was a long time ago, let’s put it that way. He quit for the better part of a decade to raise a family, then rediscovered adventure, dual sport and enduro riding in the early 2000s. He lives in Arkansas, America’s best-kept secret when it comes to riding destinations, and travels far and wide in search of dirt roads and trails.

Author: Bob Whitby
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4 thoughts on “Desert Raider: Earle Motors Takes The Desert Sled A Step Beyond

  1. I got to see this bike up close at the International Motorcycle Show in Denver in January. Really impressive.