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ADV News2022 Ducati DesertX First Ride Review

2022 Ducati DesertX First Ride Review

Is this Italian newcomer ready to take on the competitive off-road ADV segment?

Published on 08.16.2022

Every once in a while, a prototype motorcycle comes along that really captures the imagination of the public. That was definitely the case with the reveal of the Ducati DesertX at the EICMA show in 2019. What started out as an exercise in design, with rally-inspired aesthetics that harkened back to the golden age of Paris Dakar, created a wave of excitement across the Internet that knocked countless fans back into their chairs. 

It’s amazing to think that less than three years later, we’re actually throwing a leg over the DesertX for a first ride review. But there were certain limitations that needed to be overcome in the original concept. For instance, it was based on the Scrambler 1100 platform with an air-cooled 1087cc engine putting out only 86 horsepower on a street-biased chassis. What’s more, we learned the swingarm of the original concept would only allow for a 17” rear wheel.

Ducati DesertX Adventure Motorcycle Test
The DesertX concept was first unveiled at EICMA in 2019.

While the DesertX was great at turning heads with its beautiful design, in its original form it wasn’t going to change perceptions about the off-road capability of Ducati Adventure Bikes. Considering the incredible response the concept generated, Ducati saw a unique opportunity to build a truly iconic motorcycle in the DesertX. Thus the decision was made to scrap the Scrambler platform and start from the ground up. 

Making A Better DesertX 

Ducati DesertX Adventure Motorcycle Test
At the heart of the all-new DesertX is Ducati’s 937cc Testastretta V-Twin pumping out 110 ponies.

In the past, Ducati’s typical design approach with its adventure bikes has been to develop a street-oriented chassis and adapt it for off-road use. This time, engineers designed the new DesertX to be an off-road focused machine from the start and added street attributes later. They also dropped in their tried and tested ‘water-cooled’ 937cc Testastretta V-Twin from the Multistrada V2 that pumps out 110 horses and 68 ft-lbs of torque. Plus, the transmission was given lower gearing in first and second to enable more grunt at trail riding speeds. 

Ducati DesertX Adventure Motorcycle Review


The new chassis rides on a fully-adjustable KYB suspension, sporting 9.1 inches of travel in front and 8.7 inches in the rear. And a first for Ducati Adventure Bikes, a 21” front / 18” rear tubeless wheelset. The standard tires are the Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR but if you’d like something more road oriented Ducati has the option of the Scorpion Trail II, or go more knobby with the Scorpion Rally. 

Ducati DesertX Adventure Motorcycle Review
Compared to the Multistrada, the DesertX’s transmission was given lower gearing in first and second to enable more grunt at trail riding speeds. 

As you’d expect from Ducati, the bike receives a full suite of state-of-the-art rider aids — all controlled through convenient thumb switches and a vertically-oriented 5” TFT display with Bluetooth connectivity for managing phone calls and playing music. Cruise control, up/down quick shifter, 6 individually-customizable ride modes (Sport, Touring, Urban, Wet, Enduro, Rally), and lean angle sensing 4-mode ABS (including off) are just some of the features that expand the versatility of the bike. 

Ducati DesertX Adventure Motorcycle Review
Ducati DesertX Adventure Motorcycle Review

Braking is premium as well with twin monobloc radial-mounted calipers clamping onto 320mm discs up front and a single twin-piston floating caliper sitting on a 265mm disc in the rear, both by Brembo. Moreover, the dash incorporates a Rally Info Mode that works like a rally trip master, giving the rider the ability to manually adjust the odometer on the fly, using handlebar switches, for those who want to go racing with their DesertX. 

One of the stand-out characteristics from the original prototype was its use of a Rally-style rear fuel tank, and luckily that feature wasn’t eliminated from the final build. The rear tank, which adds an additional 2.1 gallons of fuel to the 5.54-gallon standard capacity, is being sold as an option though. Other than that, the production bike in its stock form looks pretty true to the original concept that garnered so much praise at EICMA. And with all the upgrades to the engine and chassis, it’s even better. So let’s fire this thing up and see how she does! 

Let The Test Begin

Ducati DesertX Adventure Motorcycle Review

While Ducati’s marketing team has been keen to demonstrate the DesertX’s capability conquering sands dunes, our test would take place high in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. The ride would cover primarily off-road tracks, along with some curvy mountain roads mixed in. 

Our test units were fitted with the standard Scorpion Rally STR tires, along with factory accessories like the upgraded bash plate, crash bars and radiator guards to help protect the bike from any trail hazards. Additional optional equipment included heated grips, Termignoni exhaust silencer, hand guard wind deflectors, and a handlebar bag. 

Ducati DesertX Adventure Motorcycle Review

Unfortunately, we didn’t get to try out the rear fuel tank system, which was not available in time for the launch, but we did get to hold a prototype in our hand and it feels very light. Ducati also described how the system works: After the fuel level drops in the front tank to an adequate level, a light appears on the dash that allows you to transfer all the fuel from the rear tank to the front, in one shot. By keeping the fuel distribution focused up front, it ensures consistent handling of the bike. 

Ducati DesertX Adventure Motorcycle Review
The optional 2.1-gallon rear fuel tank allows you to transfer all its fuel to the front tank in one shot at the push of a button once the fuel level is low enough.

On The Road

Hoping on the bike for the first time, I noticed its overall size seems compact for a bike that is nearly in the liter class. Leaning the bike side to side at a stop, it does not feel top heavy at all, and it’s easy to pull the bike back up from a deep lean. At 6’2”, it was easy to flat foot it with a 34.4-inch seat height butI also didn’t notice any of the shorter riders in our group struggle much to reach the ground at slower speeds. However, Ducati does offer a low seat that drops it down from 34.4 to 34.1 inches and a low suspension can get you all the way to 33.3 inches. 

Ducati DesertX Adventure Motorcycle Review

Ergos while seated feel nice for a taller rider, with a roomy cockpit and commanding handlebar position that felt just right for a long ride.The fuel tank has a shape that is fairly short front to rear, allowing you more easily scooch forward in the seat to get your weight over the front wheel. My long legs felt just a tad cramped but not enough to be a concern. I would probably go for the tall seat option though to gain some additional comfort.

The punch of the 110 horsepower motor was a bit milder than the eye-popping power I was expecting, but then I remembered we were starting our day at 8,400 feet elevation and our tracks would take us all the way up to 11,430 feet by the end of the day. It’s hard to judge the power at this elevation, but I imagine it would have felt more impressive if the test had taken place near sea level. Still, power feels silky smooth all the way up to its 10,000 rpm redline, and there is a flat torque curve throughout the range. Plus, the Testastretta 11° engine with Desmodromic valve makes a fantastic sound when ripping through the gears using the quick shifter, although the exhaust note is fairly quiet even with the upgraded Termignoni slip-on.

Ducati DesertX Adventure Motorcycle Review

We didn’t get on the highway but did ride a few long, straight, high-speed sections. The windscreen is fairly tall and deflected the wind over my head fairly well. I didn’t feel any significant buffeting even wearing a full-on motocross helmet. Keep in mind though the windscreen is not adjustable, so results may vary depending on your height. 

The seat is firm yet not too hard. It has a nice shape to it and it provided all day comfort. Though it is worth mentioning we were standing off-road or shifting our weight side-to-side riding twisties for much of the day. Even so, it felt like a well-designed saddle that would be comfortable for longer journeys on the highway. Adding to that comfort is an easy-to-use electronic cruise control, which I played with during a few lulls in the ride. It’s intuitive to use with the thumb switches and is a nice convenience to get on a bike designed primarily for off-road. 

Ducati DesertX Adventure Motorcycle Test
While the 34.4-inch seat is slightly scooped, it’s flat enough that you can still slide back in the saddle without resistance. Riders can also opt for a one piece flat seat or a low seat option.

One thing I did notice while cruising around town is that there is a fairly large gap between 2nd and 3rd gear. When riding between 25 and 35mph, you often feel the need to shift up or down. Not a huge issue, but something to be aware of if you’re planning on using the DesertX for a lot of city riding for your daily commute. Also, engine heat on your legs seemed mild at low speeds but it did start to emanate more as we got to about our 6th stop light in town. There could be some potential hot leg issues in extended stop-and-go traffic. 

As far as touring amenities, the bike also comes equipped with the Ducati Multimedia system, which allows you to connect your phone with Bluetooth to manage your music playlist or take phone calls. I didn’t get a chance to use it on this ride, but I’ve used it before on the Multistrada V4 and it’s a nice feature for long-distance rides. You can also get turn-by-turn directions on the dash, which is great for reducing distractions while you ride, but this is optional equipment on the DesertX that must be installed at the dealer.

Ducati DesertX Adventure Motorcycle Review

During the day, we had several opportunities to test the handling of the bike in the curves. Despite the 21”/18” wheels and the fact that the tires were set to 26 psi for off-road riding, the bike still handled impressively. You can lean the DesertX deep into turns and its generous ground clearance means you don’t have to hang off the bike to avoid scraping pegs. The front end feel was excellent on the tire edge for a big 21” and this bike should have no problem keeping up with your sport bike riding buddies on the street. 

Slowing down was equally impressive with the big Brembo M50 monobloc radial calipers. With one finger, you can effortlessly bring the bike to an emergency stop. In fact, the rider behind me saw black marks left on the pavement from my ABS braking tests, evidence that the system is letting you utilize every ounce of braking power. I also noticed a fair amount of front end dive under hard braking but nothing too offsetting.

Ducati DesertX Adventure Motorcycle Ride Modes.
The DesertX features fully customizable Ride Modes, including 4 on-road (Sport, Touring, Urban, Wet) and 2 dedicated off-road options (Enduro and Rally).

As far as the electronics, everything is highly configurable. For the street, you have four modes (Sport, Touring, Urban, and Wet) that are self-explanatory in their usage. You can quickly switch between modes on the fly as well and the mode is remembered after turning off the bike. Moreover, each mode can be custom configured for wheelie control, engine braking, power output, throttle response, traction control, and ABS level. At the same time, making fine-tune adjustments in the settings was fairly intuitive and easy to do without going through tons of menus but I would have liked a universal back button to return you to the main screen quickly. 

I stayed in Sport mode most of the time, which gives you a crisp throttle response, and full power to the rear wheel, along with the ability to do small wheelies. However, I did try some of the other settings while riding through town. Touring mode smooths out the throttle response and cranks up the ABS intervention while keeping the wheel down at full power. Urban drops the HPs down to a more manageable 95 while taming your throttle response and upping the traction control. Then Wet increases intervention to the max, expanding the size of your safety net on a rainy day. 

Opponents of electronics on adventure bikes often point to the fact that they add to the list of things that could go wrong. But there’s no denying modes increase the versatility of a bike. And these days, the computers and sensors are so good, that they really do improve how you ride, increase safety, and just let you relax a little more while you travel. Each rider has to weigh how much they value the convenience, safety and improved performance of electronic rider aides versus the additional cost and complexity they add. But I digress… Let’s move on to the off-road test, which I’m sure most of you are wondering about. 

In The Dirt 

Ducati DesertX Adventure Motorcycle Off-road test.

As Ducati’s first off-road focused adventure bike, the DesertX has stiff competition in its segment. This category has filled out in the last few years and we’re getting more performance, versatility and value than ever before. So it’s a high bar for Ducati to jump over their first try with athletic opponents like the KTM 890 Adventure R and Triumph Tiger 900 Rally Pro.

Weight, power, suspension travel, and ground clearance numbers put the DesertX in the mix with those other bikes, but spec sheets aren’t everything. Some numbers do stand out though, like the dirt-friendly 27.6° rake and longish 63.3-inch wheelbase, both of which aid stability in the dirt (and increase the U-turn radius). It also features a stout 46mm fork with built-in steering stabilizer that adds further steadiness to the bike in rough terrain. 

WATCH: Ducati DesertX suspension in action.

Ducati engineers clearly spent a long time dialing in the ergonomics, because the DesertX feels great both sitting or standing — something that hasn’t always been true for the Multistrada line. Standing up, it doesn’t feel like it needs risers for my 6’2” ft frame, although some might prefer to tilt the bars forward a tad. Also, the footpegs are some of the widest I’ve seen for stock units, potentially saving you the cost of an aftermarket upgrade. The tank sits comfortably between your legs and its shorter design encourages getting into the attack stance, with your chin over the bars. I also noticed that the vertically-mounted TFT display is easier to read while looking down from the standing position and I especially liked the interface with the round dial tach. 

Ducati DesertX Adventure Motorcycle Review

Sitting down, the tank splays the legs only slightly and can be easily squeezed with a knee when doing sit-down turns. Getting forward in the saddle is no problem, and the DesertX feels right at home being ridden like a dirt tracker on slick fire roads. While the standard seat is slightly scooped, it’s flat enough that you can still slide back in the saddle without resistance. I’m keen to try out the tall, one-piece enduro seat though, which will be made available later this year as an option. That should improve the seat to tank junction and provide a more dirtbike-like riding position, while also adding some additional leg room. 

Ducati DesertX Adventure Motorcycle off-road performance

After just 20 minutes or so of riding dirt, I was surprised that we were already jumping the bike.  Still getting used to the new machine, we were suddenly getting both wheels airborne on water bars that crossed the trail. Immediately, I found the bottom of the suspension both front and rear and realized I needed to dial it back a bit as I wondered if this bike was not quite what they had made it out to be. However, Ducati techs had previously warned me that they were starting us out on the standard settings and that they would make adjustments to the suspension for more aggressive riding if needed. I needed it, and at the next stop, I had the tech make a few clicks of the dials and turns of the screws to accommodate my roughly 230ish pounds (including gear). 

Ducati DesertX Adventure Motorcycle Review

I wasn’t expecting a big change but soon after I was blasting up a trail full of loose rocks and getting both wheels off the ground again. It felt like a completely different bike than before. No more clanking of the forks or bottoming the shock after the adjustment, yet it still felt plush. The suspension has the feeling of high-quality internals with good hold up in big bumps and the ability to smooth out even the sharp-edged rocks or ledges. After the adjustments, it handled most of what I threw at it with poise. Although, I would have liked another half-inch or so of travel, especially in the rear, to give it more bump absorption on flat landings or drop-offs. 

Handling is excellent for a big bike. It doesn’t get knocked offline by baby head rocks in the trail and feels fairly light and nimble for its size. Throughout the day I learned the bike has good recovery if it starts to get out of control, and that’s a big ‘nice to have’ on an Adventure Bike that is nearly 500 pounds with fuel. The front end confidence really stood out as a unique characteristic of this bike’s handling, and this was with the Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR tires, which aren’t known for offering a lot of traction in soft or loose terrain. 

Ducati DesertX Adventure Motorcycle Review

Several times throughout the day I felt the front end wanted to tuck when pushing hard, but each time I was able to pull it back from the brink, giving me more confidence the next time to see if I could extend that edge of traction further. As my confidence grew, I was left feeling like I could take this thing almost anywhere, which surprised me when I remembered this is nearly a liter bike. 

At one point, I was following our ride leader, pro racer Jordan Graham, who was distracted in a turn looking back to see if the other riders in our group were still following us. He tucked the front end in a steep, soft, silty switchback and I thought for sure he was going down. Somehow, he just kept the bike turning and recovered from an extreme lean angle that seemed destined to result in the bike laying on the ground or going off the cliff. Yet he pulled off a perfect 360° turn in the trail, leaving us both laughing at his spectacular save. Now, Jordan is a top-level off-road rider but I’m sure he was appreciating the heightened front end feel and lower center of gravity of the DesertX in that moment.

That front end feel was also useful on steep descents. We went down one trail that was uneven and steep, with lots of loose rocks. This was early in the day and it was the first time I had ridden with the ABS completely off. Soon after descending, I gave the rear brake a bit too much pressure and it locked up resulting in a stalled engine. I was able to keep the bike under control though and remain standing as I slowly made my way down the trail trying to find the starter button without losing my concentration.Ducati was a little bold to take us journalists down that trail but we all made it down without any mishaps and it was quite the demonstration of the bike’s agility and their confidence in the bike. 

Even so, locking up the rear tire inadvertently was something I noticed on a few other occasions throughout the day. The powerful rear Brembo has a lot of bite and I had to retrain my brain to go easy on the pressure. The front stoppers were not a problem though in low traction terrain and they had great feel despite their superbike-ready design. Most of the time I just rode with ABS at Level 1 though. There are 4 ABS modes: Level 3 offers street ABS front and rear; Level 2 is off-road tuned ABS front and rear, Level 1 turns ABS off in the rear and retains an off-road tuned front ABS; or you can turn it all off front and rear. 

Ducati DesertX Adventure Motorcycle Review

As for the modes, there are two dedicated off-road options: Enduro and Rally. Enduro is meant to be a more tame mode that sets the traction control, ABS and horsepower to more manageable levels. In fact, power is dropped down to 75 HPs in Enduro mode, whereas, Rally Mode gives the rider the full 110 horses and a snappy throttle, along with less traction control intervention and ABS. With Enduro Mode, you get a dirt-tuned ABS on both the front and rear tire (Level 1), although there is some ability to lock up the rear tire in a turning skid. Rally mode turns the rear ABS off completely in Level 1. Again, all modes are customizable, so if you wanted to turn Rally Mode into Wet Mode, you could, and you can turn ABS off completely in either Enduro or Rally mode with a press and hold of the ABS button.

Ducati DesertX Adventure Motorcycle Review

I found both modes useful though, even as an experienced off-road rider. On one particularly slick dirt road and a few loose hill climbs, I preferred keeping it in Enduro Mode. It’s just easier to let the computer modulate the traction rather than your wrist, and if you aren’t racing, why not. Actually, I’d wager that some of the trails we did I’d be faster in Enduro Mode than Rally Mode because the computer is better at calculating how much throttle to apply in certain situations. When considering a real-life adventure touring scenario where you are far from home, out exploring new trails, loaded with gear, it’s the perfect mode to keep things under control and reduce the number of potentially trip-ending mishaps. 

Ducati DesertX Adventure Motorcycle Review

Rally Mode is fantastic though when you want to really push it. It gives the bike that aggressive feel of a true performance off-road bike. And when pushed hard, the DesertX responds with “yes sir, may I have another!”, encouraging you to take it up a notch. Perhaps it was the high elevation but the bike seemed very tractable and controllable, even when being heavy on the throttle in loose terrain, allowing you to enjoy full power with fewer ‘oh sh!$t’ moments. 

The Bottom Line 

While Ducati has continued to enhance the off-road capability of their Multistrada line over the years, the gulf between them and the current crop of off-road focused adventure bikes is still a chasm to cross  There’s always going to be a market for the sport-oriented Multistradas though and Ducati doesn’t’ want to lose that existing customer base by going too far in the dirt direction. 

Ducati DesertX Adventure Motorcycle Review

Enter the DesertX. A machine that is poised to become a legitimate contender in this competitive off-road ADV segment. For the 900cc Adventure Bike class, I’d place its off-road prowess somewhere near the top of the category with the KTM 890 Adventure R leading the pack, but a back-to-back comparison would need to be performed to get a more precise gauge of where it falls. Some might also wonder how it pairs with the Yamaha T7 or Tuareg 660, but those bikes are really in a different power, weight and MSRP class. As far as suspension though, I’d say the DesertX is significantly better than the T7’s and not quite as good as the Tuareg’s. 

There were a few areas that I’d argue could use some improvement like the gap between 2nd and 3rd gear (can we lower 3rd gear too?), a grabby rear brake in the dirt, and a configuration screen that could use some streamlining but overall, these are pretty minor details considering this is the first iteration of the bike. Personally, I’d like a little more suspension travel but the suspension is very good as is, and many riders would not find it worth the tradeoff of a taller seat height.

Ducati DesertX Adventure Motorcycle Review

To be honest, I was expecting the DesertX to be more dazzle than razzle but it turned out to be a bike I thoroughly enjoyed riding. I think the stand out feature for me was the front end confidence and its ability to recover. That’s a characteristic that can really save your bacon when riding these big bikes off-road. Plus, everything on the bike seems to work better as you push it harder, letting you explore your own limits in the dirt and go places you might not normally dare. 

It’s still a large bike to take off-road though and can be quite a handful for the inexperienced rider in more technical terrain. It’s not a bike I’d recommend getting your start in adventure riding on. Yet, its advanced electronics do make it more manageable for an intermediate off-road rider to grow their skills with. 

Ducati DesertX Adventure Motorcycle Review

It’s also a great street bike that is a ton of fun in the twisties, and with all the power, comfort and accouterments you need for long-distance touring. It doesn’t quite have the precision and pure connection to the road of a Multistrada but the differences might be unnoticeable to those who aren’t experienced sport bike riders. And while Ducati’s have the reputation of being expensive to maintain, at least you can rest assured that you won’t have to get those valves adjusted until 18,000 miles and oil changes are every 9,000 miles. Not to mention the fact that the 937cc V2 Testasretta engine has proven to be a reliable powerplant in several different Ducatis for years now.

Ducati DesertX Adventure Motorcycle Review

Speaking of costs, this one does come with a premium price tag — one that got even more premium recently. The MSRP was originally set to be $16,795 USD for MY2022 bikes but delays pushed the delivery date and the U.S. is now receiving MY2023 bikes which are priced at $17,095 USD. Beautiful, fast, Italian things are never going to be cheap though, so those with the pocketbooks to afford one (and even those who don’t) will likely find it offers plenty to justify the price. With its big power, top-shelf suspension, agile handling, touring comfort, thrilling street performance, and retro-cool styling, it’s sure to be a bike many will want to own. 

Ducati DesertX Specs

ENGINE TYPE:Ducati Testastretta 11°, L-Twin cylinders, Desmodromic valvetrain, 4 valves per cylinder, liquid cooled
BORE X STROKE:94 x 67.5 mm
POWER:110 hp (81 kW) @ 9,250 rpm
TORQUE:92 Nm (68 lb-ft, 9.4 kgm) @ 6,500 rpm
FUEL INJECTION:Bosch electronic fuel injection system, Ø53 mm throttle bodies with ride-by-wire system
EXHAUST:Stainless steel single muffler, catalytic converter and 2 lambda probes
GEARBOX:6 speeds
PRIMARY DRIVE:Straight cut gears, ratio 1.85 : 1
RATIO:1=38/14, 2=31/17, 28=28/20, 4=26/22, 5=24/23, 6=23/25
FINAL DRIVE:Chain, front sprocket Z15, rear sprocket Z49
CLUTCH:Slipper and self-servo wet multiplate clutch with hydraulic control
FRAME:Tubular steel trellis frame
FRONT SUSPENSION:KYB Ø 46 mm upside-down fork, fully adjustable
FRONT WHEEL:Cross-spoked, tubeless, 2.15″x21″
FRONT TIRE:Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR 90/90 – 21 M/C 54V M+S TL (A)
REAR SUSPENSION:KYB monoshock, fully adjustable, remote preload adjustment, aluminium double-sided swingarm
REAR WHEEL:Cross-spoked, tubeless, 4.5″x18″
REAR TIRE:Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR 150/70 R18 M/C 70V M+S TL
WHEEL TRAVEL (FRONT/REAR):230 mm (9.06 in) – 220 mm (8.66 in)
FRONT BRAKE:2 x Ø 320 mm aluminum flange semi-floating discs, Radial mount Brembo monobloc 4-pistons calipers, Bosch Cornering ABS
REAR BRAKE:Ø 265 mm disc, Brembo floating 2 pistons caliper, Bosch Cornering ABS
INSTRUMENTATION:5″ TFT color display
DRY WEIGHT:202 kg (445 lb)
KERB WEIGHT:223 kg (492 lb)
LOAD CAPACITY:240 kg (529 lb)
SEAT HEIGHT:875 mm (34.4 in)
WHEELBASE:1608 mm (63.3 in)
GROUND CLEARANCE: 250 mm (9.8 in)
TRAIL:122 mm
FUEL TANK CAPACITY:21 l (5.54 US gal), expandable to 29 l (7.7 US gal) with optional rear tank
SAFETY EQUIPMENT:Ducati Safety Pack (Cornering ABS, Ducati Traction Control)
STANDARD EQUIPMENT:Riding Modes, Power Modes, Ducati Wheelie Control (DWC), Engine Brake Control (EBC), Ducati Quick Shift up/down (DQS), Cruise control, full LED lighting system, DRL, Ducati brake light (DBL), USB power socket, 12V socket, self canceling turn indicators, Steering damper
EQUIPMENT READY FOR:Ducati Multimedia System (DMS), Anti-theft system, Turn by turn navigation via app, fog lights, heated grips, auxiliary fuel tank
WARRANTY:48 months, unlimited mileage
MAINTENANCE SERVICE INTERVALS:15,000 km (9,000 miles) / 24 months
CO2 EMISSIONS:133 g/km
FUEL CONSUMPTION:5.6 l/100 km (42 mpg)

DesertXs are already shipping to dealers here in the US and abroad. Check one out at your local dealer or get more details on the Ducati website.

 Gear We Used 

Photos by Gregor Halenda, Scott Rounds and Ducati.

Author: Rob Dabney

Rob Dabney started a lifelong obsession with motorcycles at the age of 15 when he purchased his first bike – a 1982 Honda MB5. Through his 20’s and 30’s he competed in off-road desert races, including the Baja 250, 500 and 1000. Eventually, his proclivity for exploration led him to dual sport and adventure riding. Rob’s never-ending quest to discover what’s around the next bend has taken him on Adventures in Latin America, Africa, Europe, Asia, and throughout the American West. As a moto journalist, he enjoys inspiring others to seek adventure across horizons both near and far.

Author: Rob Dabney

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Todd Ranson
Todd Ranson
August 16, 2022 2:08 pm

Rob. Great article and it looks like a fantastic bike. How does it compare tom the Aprilia Tuareg 660?

Rob Dabney
Rob Dabney
August 16, 2022 6:54 pm
Reply to  Todd Ranson

Well, both are great bikes that I really like and would be happy to own. In terms of performance, the Tuareg has a little more bump absorption and is more agile off-road. The DesertX has better power, a smoother engine, and a more stable feel. I’d say the electronic aids are a bit more refined as well on the Ducati. You’d also have to consider dealer proximity to your home with both brands. Both bikes rip though.

September 8, 2022 9:46 am
Reply to  Rob Dabney

Hi Rob, thanks for the great detailed review. Indeed I am very happy with the Tuareg offroad but had recently the opportunity to try a Desert X on an easy offroad trail and have to give kudos to the front suspension set up – it gave me more confidence than the Tuareg and I did not feel the extra 10% more weight. Not sure because of the steering damper or higher front of the Ducati. Anyway now my wife did try my Tuareg offroad for four days and now she considers it as the best choice for her. So I am seriously looking into the Desert X as a new alternative. And yes I am also curious about the fuel consumption – Tuareg is extremely efficient.

August 16, 2022 5:44 pm

This is the one I would get if I could personally justify spending that much. Would sell my 1290 Super Adventure R in a proverbial heartbeat. The only other option is a KTM 890 R but the additional cost for what is only a firmware update irritates me enough to pass on that one. And I don’t even want most of what is included in that extra firmware.

I started riding around 1972, and spent much of my early years riding trials, so I have a favour to ask some of the manufacturers. Can you get these out at a lower price without all of the riding aids, maybe as an option? I really don’t want most of them, and my KTM spends its time in the max horsepower mode with only front ABS on.

Scott Halbleib
Scott Halbleib
August 18, 2022 8:25 am

Good article. Still hoping one of the mc pubs will do a legit comparison, including bikes like the T7, Aprilia, Triumph, BMW, KTM, AT, etc. There may be some discrepancies in cc or $$ but ultimately people just want to know which does the job best.

August 19, 2022 6:22 am

Nice writeup as always Rob. I’d put the T7 and Tuareg in their own middle weight class. This Ducati, KTM 890 and Triumph Tiger 900 in a light heavy weight class. I own a fantastic 790 Adventure R but would not mind owning any of these! Looking forward to the inevitable comparo!

Rob Dabney
Rob Dabney
August 23, 2022 1:24 pm
Reply to  Patriot159

Thank you! Have to agree with you on that assessment. The Middleweight vs. Light Heavyweight boxing analogy is a good one. The Tuareg and T7 are true middleweights but can easily get in the ring with a Light Heavyweight foe and use their speed and agility to stay in the fight. They just need to avoid getting trapped in a corner where big power comes into play and they struggle a bit.

August 23, 2022 9:58 am

4 yr. warranty, nice!

I do not see clear pictures of the CAT. So, I think it is underneath the engine skid plate, yes? (looking for the heat generators). The Tuareg 660 is getting well known for the excessive CAT heat from the exhaust downtube, a deal breaker for me riding in the USA SW Deserts. Tucson AZ is stop ‘n go across town traffic, for many many miles.

Is the subframe a bolt-on, or of a unified frame? Makes a difference from a totalled bike .vs a repair, after a drop.

Rob Dabney
Rob Dabney
August 23, 2022 10:08 pm
Reply to  Bob

Hey Bob. Yes, the Cat looks like it’s tucked underneath the swingarm pivot. The subframe is a separate bolt-on unit and passenger peg brackets are also bolt-on.

September 4, 2022 3:26 pm
Reply to  Rob Dabney

Thank you very much for the concise informative reply. Also, Thank You for this great writeup! I sat thru 5 YTs today authored by fellows who had little offroad experience, and not really giving me the content that I then read here. Great Work, Thank You! I did not see a YT offered by you, I would just put on that one and got a bag of popcorn 🙂

August 23, 2022 1:28 pm

Wondering why Ducati is not able to build fuel efficient engines? The KTM 890 seems to be 20% more fuel efficient which direcly translates into a longer reach, even that the Duc has a 1l larger tank.
Wondering what the real fuel consumption numbers will be, both if you ride the bike hard and of you are touring/travelling. Both my former 790 and my current 901 take 3.9l/100km.

Ron Doogalo
Ron Doogalo
August 31, 2022 1:37 pm

Let’s see how it compares with the Triumph Tiger 900. Then I’ll make my judgement.

Bill Dussell
Bill Dussell
October 20, 2022 12:06 pm

The DesertX Owners Manual is useless. Ducati needs to make the service workshop manual available to owners. The notion of taking the bike to a local dealer for anything other than checking tire pressures and adding gas is absurd, especially in the Adventure bike segment.

Joe John
Joe John
November 16, 2022 2:59 pm

I really prefer a v twin to a parallel twin. The v twin is almost as rare as the thumper these days. It keeps the weight lower and the bike skinnier. It would be pretty sweet if they made a super enduro version of this bike.


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