Ducati DesertX is an adventure bike that is street-smart and safe
BOLOGNA, ITALY - The fickle Italian weather and picturesque hilly landscape of Bologna became the backdrop for motoring journalists from Asia, who had travelled here to test-ride Ducati's latest adventure motorcycle, the 937cc, L-twin DesertX.
The Italian marque was hosting World Ducati Week 2022, which made a comeback after a four-year hiatus with a three-day celebration last weekend.
The 85km introductory ride on July 26 was done on winding roads and around sweeping bends and tight hairpin turns. From the classy, hilltop Palazzo Loup Hotel in Loiano, Bologna, to the Ducati Factory in the city, journalists endured sweltering 34 deg C heat, as well as heavy rain and hailstones when the temperature dipped to 20 deg C.
But why did Ducati introduce another dual-purpose motorcycle when it already has the Multistrada range?
The brand's senior management explains that the DesertX, which appeared at motorcycle show Eicma 2019, appeals to a different type of rider. It is also cheaper than the Multistrada.
The DesertX - equipped with tubeless 21-inch front and 18-inch rear Pirelli Scorpion Rally tyres - looks large. But it performs well even when grip levels are wet and slippery.
Trying to keep up with the lead rider and crouched behind the mid-sized windscreen, most of us forgot we were riding the DesertX on off-road biased tyres. Still, some riders took turns aggressively as if they were on street bikes.
The DesertX is street-smart and keeps the rider safe when road conditions become less favourable.
Priced at $58,700 with certificate of entitlement but without insurance, the bike has six ride modes - Sport, Touring, Urban, Wet, Enduro and Rally.
At the heart of the six-speed Ducati is 110bhp and 92Nm of torque. With shorter first and second gears, torque is always on tap to make you pull away from traffic stops fast.
Between 4,000rpm and 6,000rpm, the 223kgbike delivers enthusiastic acceleration with its quickshifter providing smoother gear changes in higher gears.
Still, the DesertX can be considered aggressive, taller (we rode on taller seats meant for the European market which leave shorter riders tip-toeing) and more suited for rally-type riding.
A bash plate that protects the bottom of the frame and hand guards give the Ducati street cred for off-road adventures. And should you drop the bike or need assistance getting out of ruts, there is a large grab rail on the rear fender.
Like its 1990s predecessor, the Elefant 900, the DesertX has round headlamps, albeit LED ones.
Its digital dashboard, the size of a large mobile phone, is mounted vertically - just like what you would see on a 1990s rally bike.
The bike carries a large 21-litre fuel tank with an off-centre fuel cap for modern styling, with an option for auxiliary fuel tanks.
Most of the taller riders doing the test ride found that the DesertX's suspension - 46mm KYB upside-down forks and a KYB mono shock at the rear - perform well on the road without behaving like a pogo stick, especially when going over uneven tarmac.
Two days prior to our road test, we were given a short off-road briefing.
While the DesertX's larger dimensions may give the impression that it requires superhuman strength to control and steer, our worries were mostly imagined.
For me, the narrowest part of the motorcycle's seat, which is behind the fuel tank, became an anchor point for my knees when negotiating obstacles and drifting the rear wire-spoked wheel in the dirt.
Top Ducati rally racers also showed us how the bike can make jumps normally executed by lighter dirt bikes.
But the DesertX comes only in white - not the colour that Ducatis are known for.
I speak for many of the other journalists in wishing for Ducati to make a DesertX in its classic fiery red.
Price: $58,700 with COE, without insurance
Engine: 937cc, eight-valve twin-cylinder, water-cooled
Transmission: Six-speed manual, chain-driven
Power: 110bhp at 9,250rpm
Torque: 92Nm at 6,500rpm
Top speed: Above 200kmh
Fuel consumption: Unavailable
Agent: Ducati Singapore