Ducati DesertX: 5 Things You Need to Know

Ryan Adams
by Ryan Adams

Your Partner-in-Crime

The more I ride the Ducati DesertX, the more I like it. There are so many excellent choices in the middleweight adventure bike segment these days that any ADV-curious motorcyclist should be able to find themselves a compatible match. The DesertX is like that one friend you know is always down for some sort of mischief – more partner-in-crime than just a partner. It’s rowdy, loud (with the Termi pipe seen above), and raucous, and it coerces you into having a good time. Since we’ve been able to pass Ducati’s latest adventure machine around amongst the staff, it’s become a crowd favorite.

Motorcycle.com would like to thank Travel South Dakota for sponsoring this video.

Here are five of the reasons why:

1. Ducati’s first ground-up adventure bike

Ducati has been touting the Multistrada as an adventure motorcycle for some time now. The Multi can get you down a dirt road just fine, but there’s no denying the big bike is much more adept at tackling twisties than rock gardens. The DesertX is the first purpose-built adventure motorcycle from Ducati in the modern era. The 21/18-inch wheel combo hints at its intentions, but the model’s completely bespoke steel frame and KYB suspension is what allows the DesertX to handle serious off-road terrain. Of course, the punchy 937 cc Testastretta Desmo L-Twin lifted from some of the previous models is a perfect fit with some massaging to optimize the engine for adventure. The DesertX is a solid first crack at the ADV landscape.

2. It’ll get you in and/or out of trouble

Riding the DesertX off-road can be an incredibly satisfying experience. The compliant chassis and the torquey Desmo engine exude confidence that then permeates into the rider. As someone who likes to push themselves off-road on adventure bikes, I’ve found that the DesertX really encourages you to be the best hooligan that you can be. While Ducati’s first ADV machine does a remarkable job at keeping its 500-plus pounds composed, you’re never too far from getting yourself into a whole lot of trouble with all that momentum and power on tap.

3. A customizable experience

The Testastretta isn’t the only thing putting power at your fingertips. The DesertX offers a multitude of adjustments when it comes to electronics, letting the rider tailor the experience as they see fit. There are six ride modes – all of which are fully customizable – that have six different adjustable parameters within them (four power modes, two different throttle responses, three levels of cornering ABS plus off, eight levels of traction control, four levels of wheelie control, three levels of engine braking). A quickshifter and cruise control are also included.

4. A fitting place for the Testastretta 11°

The 937cc Testastretta engine has been seen before in the Multistrada V2, Monster, Supersport, and Hypermotard. The last Monster we dyno’d with the same engine spat out 95 horses at 9,500 rpm and 60.3 lb-ft at 6,500 rpm. At 4,000 rpm or so, the DesertX has already reached within five or six lb-ft of its max output which means, to no surprise really, the torquey motor works great in an adventure bike. Even lugging the bike down toward 2,000 rpm still provides plenty of forward momentum with its lumpy Testastretta lope. Once you’ve hit peak torque at 6,500 rpm, the party is hardly over as the engine reminds you of Ducati’s sporting heritage with the revs climbing quickly toward the 10,200 rpm redline.

5. Accessories!

The DesertX we were loaned for our unorthodox test in South Dakota was slapped around with Ducati’s accessory catalog and came out of it well endowed. Of course, that comes at a cost – nearly $6k over its $17,700 MSRP, actually. The Termi race exhaust and rally seat are probably things you could live without (uhg, do we have to?!) and ring up for $3,400 just between the two. It’s the $1,600 off-road accessory package and headlight guard ($154) that you’re going to want to opt for in order to keep your big investment safe. Purchasing the off-road package saves you a bit of cheddar versus buying the pieces à la carte, too. Included in the off-road package are: a beefier skid plate, radiator guard, frame guard, water pump guard, and more stout hand guards. Oh yeah, that cool livery ain’t free either. Saturn Grey/GP18 Grey/Racing red will run ya $600. Worth it? We think so.

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Ryan Adams
Ryan Adams

Ryan’s time in the motorcycle industry has revolved around sales and marketing prior to landing a gig at Motorcycle.com. An avid motorcyclist, interested in all shapes, sizes, and colors of motorized two-wheeled vehicles, Ryan brings a young, passionate enthusiasm to the digital pages of MO.

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