Ducati launches Testastretta-powered 2022 DesertX dune carver
The first Ducati with a 21-inch front wheel mixes tall suspension and ample ground clearance with the superbike genes of the 937-cc Testastretta V-twin. The result is a ferocious off-road alter ego to the Multistrada V2.
Although Ducati has been consistently focused on sportbikes for the road and track throughout its history, the Multistrada family proved to be a significant turning point as it gradually became a perpetual best-seller. The current models are designed primarily as sport tourers. However, the evolution of motorcycle electronics and the Italians’ unquestionable know-how in building great-handling bikes facilitated their transformation to capable dual-purpose machines, achieving surprising off-road skills with their 19-inch front wheels. With adventure bikes dominating global sales, it’s no surprise that Ducati opted to raise its game one step higher.
At the 2019 EICMA show, Ducati revealed its intent to cater to those who seek more demanding off-road abilities, with the DesertX prototype’s first public display. It featured an air-cooled motor and was styled like a reproduction of the two-time Dakar-winning Cagiva Elefant 900.
Two years later the DesertX debuted in production form at the Dubai Expo 2020 (branded as per last year’s canceled show) with a styling loyal to the 2019 prototype, especially in the crucial area of the fuel tank and fairing that defines the Elefant connection. Underneath, though, things have changed radically.
The production bike runs on the 937-cc version of the liquid-cooled Testastretta V-twin desmo motor that also powers the Multistrada V2, Hypermotard, SuperSport and Monster models, producing 110 hp at 9,250 rpm and 92 Nm (68 lb-ft) at 6,500 rpm.
Although the Testastretta was originally introduced as a superbike engine, this down-to-earth evolution has adopted more practical values such as extended service intervals with oil changes every 15,000 km (9,000 mi) and valve checks every 30,000 km (18,000 mi).
Ducati designed a brand new gearbox for the 2022 DesertX which, compared to the Mulitstrada V2 unit, sports shorter ratios on all gears up to fifth, retaining the same long sixth to ensure touring prowess. Especially the first two gears are much shorter – 14.3 and 8.7 percent respectively – in order to cope effectively with the low-speed difficulties an off-road rider will probably face.
The Testastretta powerplant is housed in a brand new steel trellis frame, designed to withstand hard off-road use. It is coupled with a set of fully adjustable KYB suspensions offering 230 mm (9.1 in) of travel at the front wheel and 220 (8.7 in) at the rear, resulting in a ground clearance of 250 mm (9.8 in).
As for the bike’s mass, at 223 kg (492 lb) fully laden it’s actually one kilogram heavier than the Multistrada V2. One would expect some more weight-shedding to make a difference, yet it still sits nicely within the class average.
As expected, Ducati has carried over most of the electronics found on the Multi series, featuring an impressive array of six preset riding modes (sport, touring, urban, wet, enduro, rally), four power profiles, and several adjustable kits such as traction control, cornering ABS, engine braking, two-way quickshifter and wheelie control.
A new feature that debuts on the DesertX is the Rally mode, which complements the Enduro mode as an offering for experienced riders. As in the Mulitstrada V2, the Enduro mode cuts the power to 75 hp and tunes all the electronic systems to off-road settings, while the Rally mode does the same with the engine on full power.
The output can be tuned to four power modes, with Full delivering 110 hp in the Sport and Rally riding modes, while High shaves off the edges for a 95-hp result with softer throttle response in the Touring and Wet riding modes. Both the Medium and Low settings limit the output to 75 hp, as the former retains a dynamic throttle response in the Enduro riding mode, while the latter offers even softer throttle action in the Wet mode.
The adjustability features extend to the new 5-inch TFT display which sits vertically in Yamaha Ténéré 700 style. The screen offers two layouts – the Standard with all the usual information for street use, and the Rally which simulates the tripmaster that racing rally bikes use.
The basic equipment of the 2022 DesertX also includes a steering damper, cruise control, Ducati brake light, self-cancelling indicators, DRL lights and two power sockets, resulting in a complete package for touring both on and off paved roads. The list of extras for the bike include the Ducati Multimedia System, heated grips and an auxiliary 8-liter (2.1-gal) fuel tank that bolts straight onto the rear subframe.
Ducati has also introduced a new supporting clothing line called 21/18, as in the front/rear wheel sizes that are probably used for the first time on a bike from the Borgo Panigale factory.
Strangely enough, although Ducati has obviously designed a tribute to Cagiva Elefant 900, there’s absolutely no direct mention of the bike that won two Dakar Rallies in 1990 and 1994, with Ed Orioli famously running on an air-cooled Ducati V-twin motor.
In the official documentation, the design of the DesertX is vaguely described as "a modern interpretation of the lines of the enduro motorcycles of the '80s." We’d venture a guess that this may have something to do with the fact that just a few weeks ago at the 2021 EICMA show MV Agusta unveiled its own Lucky Explorer adventure bike, expressly linking it to Cagiva’s Dakar legend.
Historically both Ducati and MV Agusta intertwined at some time, with Cagiva as parts of the Castiglioni family business, Cagiva Group. In the end, what actually matters is that two modern-day Elefant tributes will soon find their way to the market.
With Ducati’s latest addition to the "hardcore" adventure bike segment, the class is practically complete with models from most major manufacturers, missing only Yamaha’s entry. The latter is expected in the near future as a replacement of the Super Ténéré 1200 that was shelved in the transition to the Euro 5 era – and of course Kawasaki, that has never shown any interest in this class.
The Ducati DesertX is expected to arrive in showrooms in May 2022, at a price that will logically float around that of the Multistrada V2.
Model website: Ducati DesertX