Every year, there are a couple of new bikes which really catch the imagination. They get all the important things right: the spec, the style, the overall picture just fits the zeitgeist of the times. In the past it would have been a sportsbike like the Honda FireBlade, Yamaha R1 or Suzuki GSX-R1000. More recently it has been something like the KTM 790 Duke, the Triumph Bobber, or the Royal Enfield 650 twins.
This year, there are two clear standouts. There’s the new BSA Gold Star 650 – which hasn’t even been properly brought into the country yet, but is sending us all wild to see how it goes. And there’s this: the new 2022 Ducati DesertX.
It caused a massive stir when the Bologna firm released the first images just before Christmas, with its clean lines, white paint with red graphics, the semi-retro dual round headlamps and perky, upright hardcore rally stance. It *looked* right from the start, which is of course half the battle.
And the spec sheets backed that up. Based around the 937cc 11° Testastretta V-twin motor that’s used in the Hypermotard and Multistrada 950, the DesertX used an all-new chassis, with bespoke steel tube frame, dual-sided alloy swingarm and a beefy suspension setup. There are 46mm USD forks and rear monoshock by KYB, all fully-adjustable and with loads of suspension travel.
It’s got proper Brembo stoppers with M50 calipers and 320mm discs, wire-spoked rims with a 21” front fitment and tubeless Pirelli Scorpion Rally tyres. And, as you’d expect on a 2022 Ducati, it comes with high-end electronics throughout: power modes, rider aids, IMU-assisted ABS and traction control.
We couldn’t wait to swing a leg over one, as it were, and though it’s taken a while, we finally got a chance at the Ducati UK 2022 media riding day. It was a quick spin on the new bike, on the roads around Silverstone, where the firm has its British HQ, but we got plenty of time on the bike to see how it goes.
‘Really well’ is the short answer. Very well indeed in fact. Sometimes, you can get a really good impression of a bike within the first few miles, and that was the case here. It’s quite tall for a stumpy 30” inside-leg man like me, but once on the bike, it’s really stable and balanced.
The dashboard is one of these fancy new portrait-style setups, which are all the rage on rally-style machines now, and is a proper full-colour jobbie, with easy access to all the riding modes and rider aid adjustments. The switchgear is comprehensive and easy to use, so swapping between traction control, anti-wheelie, power modes and the like is a breeze.
The 950 motor is a good ‘un in its existing formats – but it’s even better here. Peak power is 110bhp, and it’s had some detail mods to lower the gearing and sharpen the gearshift, as well as a 1.7kg weight loss. What that means is really lively performance: it’s well up on a Yamaha Ténéré 700 as you’d expect, but also feels stronger than the likes of the 1100cc Honda Africa Twin.
It’s even got more power and torque than the Triumph Tiger 900, though it’s a little heavier. Bottom line is the DesertX has plenty of oomph, even for fairly high speed road use.
The chassis is perhaps even more impressive though. This beastie has 230mm travel up front and 220mm at the back, and that could be a recipe for a wobbly, see-sawing disaster when you start to try and throw it about on a twisty back road. That wasn’t at all the case on our ride-out though: I was out with a couple of fast journalists on Ducati Streetfighter and Multistrada V4s, and we weren’t hanging about.
Even with the skinny 21” front wheel and super-long suspension, the DesertX felt planted when hard on the brakes, and agile through a bend. The adventure-style Pirellis fitted as standard gave loads of grip on the (admittedly warm and dry) roads, and there was plenty of feedback from the road.
We didn’t get the chance for any off-road riding (some folk took a spin round a dirt car park at Silverstone for pics, but that seemed a bit meh), so I can’t really report on that. What I will say is that it should be very much at the competent end of that sector for an adventure machine, with appropriate tyres fitted and a suitable level of dirt skillz.
At the end of my quick spin, I was sold on the DesertX for sure. It looks just as good in the flesh as on a screen, the engine, chassis and equipment levels are great, and it’s a real laugh to ride hard on the road. The big downside is the price: a whisper over £14k, which is strong even in these inflation-hit times. It’s expensive then – but that’s the story with a premium product from a premium brand of course.
The question is, is the DesertX good value at that price? I’d have to say ‘yes’ on the basis of my time with it. You’ll never be sad opening the garage door to see those trick LED headlamps peering out, it’ll handle any adventure you fancy throwing at it, and it’s a genuinely great road bike as well. Add in the sheen of riding one of the bikes of the moment in 2022, and it’s a very alluring choice all round.
DesertX TECH HIGHLIGHTS
- 937cc Testastretta 11° engine, 110 hp at 9,250 rpm and 92 Nm at 6,500 rpm *
- Exhaust with single silencer
- Tubular steel trellis frame with cast aluminium double-sided swingarm
- 21-litre fuel tank capacity
- 202kg dry weight (223kg wet)
- Tubeless spoke rims with Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR tyres in sizes 90/90-21 front and 150/70 R18 rear
- KYB 46 mm fully adjustable front fork with 230 mm travel
- KYB fully adjustable shock absorber with 220mm travel
- Six customizable Riding Modes (Sport, Touring, Urban, Wet, Enduro, Rally)
- 4 power modes on 3 power levels
- Bosch ABS Cornering three levels
- DTC eight levels
- Ducati Wheelie Control
- Engine Brake Control
- 5” TFT colour instrumentation
- Ducati Brake Light
- Ducati Quick Shift Up & Down (DQS)
- Ducati Cruise Control
- Full LED lighting
- Dedicated livery in “Star White Silk” coloration