IThere are always some adventures to be had on the way to work. Wandering construction sites and those where nothing moves for weeks, pushers, creepers, flashing bun fetchers, people hanging off bridges, people stuck to the asphalt provide a constant challenge. However, what is missing on our route from where we live on the outskirts of Frankfurt into the city are desert dunes, off-road paths and scree switchbacks. Normally we don’t regret that, but recently we really missed something like that.
That was in the days of the Ducati Desert X. “A motorcycle for even more adventure fun,” as the manufacturer emphasizes. “With a strong off-road orientation.” That is undoubtedly correct. A real slob. When was the last time that the fine red racing brand was available?
It’s a shame if there’s no time and no way to find legal off-road driving far and wide, which is true for large parts of the country. Therefore, in our case, the adventure with the Desert X was largely limited to commuting to work. No sand, no rubble, so much honesty is required. Some trade journals report high competence in this regard, they are believed.
Driving feels relaxed and effortless
You don’t even have to go off-road to feel: It can do it. Wheel sizes of 21 inches at the front and 18 inches at the rear – a first for Ducati -, block profile tires and long spring deflections of 230 and 220 mm contribute to this, as does plenty of ground clearance and an at least moderate weight of almost 230 kilograms ready to ride. The pleasantly balanced Desert X doesn’t arouse fear, but instead encourages excursions to places where there’s dust.
Standing up driving and maneuvering feels relaxed and effortless. Narrow saddle, great freedom of movement. Rubber pads in the serrated footrests can be quickly removed for better interlocking with rough boots, the wide handlebars give you a feeling of control. And when seated, the upright posture at a considerable height gives a great overview of the game, comparable to that of Franco Baresi as libero in the Rossoneri jersey.
As a proven force, already used in other models, Ducati’s Testastretta 11° two-cylinder is used. The desmodromic 937 cc charismatic delivers a nominal 110 hp at 9250 rpm and 92 Nm at 6500 rpm. This is basically a dream engine, but it required a modified gearbox for use in the Desert X. In comparison, for example, with the Multistrada V2, gears 1 to 5 have shorter gear ratios, especially the first two, so that the engine doesn’t suddenly die with a pop in difficult, slow passages and the whole thing topples. Nevertheless, the V-Twin does not feel completely comfortable at the bottom of the rev range. So be it. Two of the six available driving modes are specifically tailored to off-road use. The sixth gear as an overdrive keeps the revs low and your nerves calm when you cover distances on highways and enjoy full suspension comfort.
Especially at low speeds, however, filtering out short, hard impacts from below doesn’t always work perfectly. In return, the machine swings in the hinterland with precision and dynamics from curve to curve, without the bad manners of rocking that some stilt motorcycles allow themselves. A real Ducati: stable even at 200 km/h, agile despite the 21-inch front wheel, although you have to tell her clearly where to go – the higher the speed, the more emphatic. Nothing fails with the standard tires, with the bumpy Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR you can also give good rubber on asphalt.
Our average consumption was 5.3 to 5.6 liters per 100 kilometers, the tank holds 21 liters, which opens up a decent range of action. Extraordinary: An 8-liter additional tank can be installed at the rear in case the journey to the oasis or ice cream parlor is particularly long. This extra was not available on the test machine, nor was there a luggage rack, pannier or top case – everything was subject to a surcharge, as was the main stand, grip heating or smartphone connectivity. The basic equipment of the Desert X looks exquisite, but incomplete, the base price of 16,300 euros is elitist as usual.
Fulfills the obligation to create a sensational design
Electronically, nothing is missing. Motor brake, lean angle ABS, traction control, power development, front wheel lift control can be configured according to personal preferences, the necessary paths through the menus of the on-board computer are refreshingly clear and logical, the associated switches are exemplary. A power is the braking system, the cruise control is useful, the quickshifter is a pleasant addition. Metering the throttle and clutch when launching requires a bit of care walking the fine line between howling and stalling.
Rally-style steep and narrow, the windshield stretches upwards, shielding the chest but not the shoulders. In our case it caused loud turbulence; As is well known, this varies greatly depending on body size and helmet. The 5-inch TFT screen standing upright in the cockpit is also reminiscent of Dakar veterans, clearly structured and brilliantly displayed.
So far, so desert. On top of that, the Desert X fulfills the duty of eye-catching design associated with the Ducati name. With her elegant dress, which is as robust as it is refined, the Italian playfully quotes the enduro era of the eighties and sets an elegant contrast to many other offers in the booming market of “adventure motorcycles”. Leading Desert X into the dirt must feel like mucking out the stable in a Brioni suit. At some point we’ll try it.