First Look – 2022 Ducati DesertX – Ducati Revives Its Off-Road Heritage For A New Era

Ducati has long been an icon in on-pavement racing and performance, with models like the Streetfighter and Paganale, Monster, and the SuperSport contributing to the brand’s legendary performance reputation. However, some buyers might not realize that Ducati also has a robust off-road pedigree, with the Italian bike maker racking up accolades in off-road races. But if you were to visit a showroom, this side of the story may not seem evident at first glance. At the moment, the Multistrada is the only trail-focused bike in the arsenal, but it has to be multiple things at once, and as a result, it does not stand out in one true category, with balance being the central theme. Ducati is out to solve that problem with the all-new 2022 DesertX, which shifts the needle firmly towards the trail and shines a new spotlight on capability too.


DesertX, A Desert Focused Warrior

We had the opportunity to get up close to the DesertX during Ducati’s ongoing “Ready 4 Red” tour, which made a stop at Ducati Detroit in Birmingham, Michigan. The atmosphere was cheerful, with the dealership inviting select members of the media and Ducati owners, including members of the Desmo Owners Club.

While the DesertX that Ducati had on display was a late-stage prototype that prevented us from throwing a leg over the saddle, we were allowed to take a close look at some of the things that make the DesertX so unique. The DesertX was initially conceived to be a member of the Scrambler sub-brand three years ago, but feedback from customers and internal meetings on the matter within the company allowed the X to formally become part of the Ducati family. An all-new steel trellis chassis provides the bones for the bike, and the long 63.3-inch wheelbase was designed to complement the steering geometry.

This model is also the first Ducati in the lineup to use a 21-inch front wheel (the Multistrada uses a 19-inch front wheel) with a smaller 18-inch spoked wheel being mounted at the rear. Ducati claims that when these wheel sizes are combined with the Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR tires, they help provide maximum ground clearance, which is crucial to have when undertaking rough trail riding.

The Desert X is a big motorcycle, but the extra size comes with a modest 445 lb curb weight and the ability to be tailored to a wide range of driving situations. The X can haul two passengers, but if you prefer to ride solo, the passenger seat can be pitched for an auxiliary 2.7-gallon fuel tank which can kick in as a backup source of fuel when the main 5.5-gallon tank runs low. Ducati engineers equipped the DesertX with an adjustable suspension, but in a bid to keep the price down, the X does not use a semi-active setup and instead uses mechanical adjustments for the single rear-mounted shock, and the long-travel Kayaba sourced 46 mm front fork. The DesertX has 9.8 inches of ground clearance when adjusted correctly, with the front and rear suspension having 9.1 and 8.7 inches of travel, respectively.


DesertX Uses Proven Performance Powerhouse

The DesertX may look all new in many areas, but the one category where it walks in lockstep with its corporate cousins is the engine lurking under the functional exterior. The 937cc Testastretta V-twin engine has proven to be a reliable soldier in the Monster and the Multistrada V2, and it’s no surprise that Ducati engineers have recruited it once again for the DesertX. The engine makes 110 hp at 9,250 rpm, with the 68 lb-ft of torque arriving at 6,500 rpm. The engine benefits from the improvements that have already appeared in the aforementioned models, with an eight plate clutch and lighter components helping to make the engine weigh less while also being more compact.

The most significant difference, though, is found in some of the internal gear ratios for the transmission, with first through fifth gear being tuned to be much shorter than usual, which allows the DesertX to excel in off-pavement excursions. Sixth gear is the longest here, allowing the DesertX to cruise along on tarmac when making the trek back home. The bike also comes with Ducati’s Quick Shift System (DQS), allowing clutch-free up and downshifts.

The instrument cluster is not quite as colorful as what we have seen in other Ducati models, but it still provides clear and precise information to the rider. The DesertX comes with six selectable ride modes with the usual suspects like Wet, Urban, Touring, and Sport modes, all being included. A model exclusive Enduro mode reduces power and maximizes electronic intervention, while Rally mode goes the opposite way and maximizes power and reduces the amount of assistance on hand. The screen also allows riders to access and adjust other aspects of the riding experience, including Ducati Wheelie Control, Ducati Traction Control, and the Engine Brake Controller.


When Can I Buy One?

This June, the 2022 Ducati DesertX will be formally entering Ducati showrooms in the U.S., with a base model starting at $16,795 before accessories and fees. Ducati is even offering a nifty riding suit that makes you look like a stormtrooper from Star Wars, but unless you’re doing plenty of desert running, we recommend staying clear of the pricey outfit and focusing squarely on the bike.

If you do, you’ll be rewarded with a very tempting deal compared to the Multistrada, which is $5300 more, lugs 50 extra pounds of weight around, and has a smaller 19-inch front wheel. The DesertX also has a more traditional look than the Multistrada. Its ability to excel in a few areas will greatly please buyers who want a bike that doesn’t feel like it’s a compromised mishmash of traits that’s attempting to please multiple segments at once.