2022 Ducati DesertX: Get Your Dakar Daydreams Ready

Unless they’re riding a Scrambler Desert Sled, you’re not likely to see riders sliding in the dirt on Ducatis. And even the brand’s existing adventure-touring motorcycle, the Ducati Multistrada, is more about touring than off-roading. But that’s about to change. With Italian rivals MV Agusta and Aprilia rediscovering their ADV capabilities, and off-road bikes as a whole rising in popularity, Ducati needs an (iron) horse in this race. And that horse is the 2022 Ducati DesertX.

The 2022 Ducati DesertX gives the brand a true adventure motorcycle

A white-and-red 2022 Ducati DesertX in the desert
2022 Ducati DesertX | Ducati
2022 Ducati DesertX
Engine937cc liquid-cooled ‘Testastretta’ L-twin (90° V-twin)
Horsepower110 hp
Torque68 lb-ft
TransmissionSix-speed manual with hydraulic clutch
Front suspension and travel46mm fully-adjustable KYB inverted fork; 9.1”
Rear suspension and travelFully-adjustable KYB mono-shock; 8.7”
Ground clearance9.8″
Seat height34.4″
Dry weight445 lbs

Although the 2022 Ducati DesertX isn’t simply a re-skinned Multistrada, it does use the latter’s engine. Not the Multistrada V4’s engine, mind you, but the 937cc L-twin in the current Multistrada V2, Cycle World explains. The 2021 Monster also uses this engine in the same state of tune. However, Ducati gave it a few tweaks for DesertX duty.

Firstly, the 2022 DesertX has different gear ratios that are better suited to off-road riding. Secondly, while the DesertX has an electronic quickshifter like the Monster, the adventure bike’s transmission has upgraded internals for smoother shifts. Also, the Testastretta L-twin in the Ducati DesertX is almost four pounds lighter than the Monster’s version.

While the 2022 DesertX has a Multistrada-ish engine, its steel-trellis frame is all-new. Ducati also says that the DesertX is its first modern motorcycle with 21” front and 18” rear wheels. In comparison, the Multistrada only has a 19” front wheel. Furthermore, not only are the DesertX’s wheels spoked but they’re wrapped in Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR tires. And rounding off the Ducati adventure bike’s standard off-road hardware is KYB long-travel suspension, engine guards, and an aluminum skid plate.

But if that’s not enough, there are plenty of off-road-related Ducati DesertX accessories. Riders can add things like handguards, upgraded engine guards, a radiator guard, panniers, LED spotlights, and an auxiliary fuel tank. Incidentally, the DesertX can automatically draw fuel from the auxiliary tank once the main one runs low enough, RevZilla says.

This Italian adventure bike packs retro Paris-Dakar looks on top of modern tech

The side view of a white-and-red 2022 Ducati DesertX
2022 Ducati DesertX side | Ducati

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Interestingly, although Ducati offers electronic semi-active suspension on some of its other motorcycles, it’s not available on the 2022 DesertX. Given that other high-end adventure bikes offer it, this might seem like a misstep. Especially since the Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250 Special offers adaptive ride height on top of that.

However, Ducati has several good reasons for sticking with a mechanical setup on the 2022 DesertX. For one, electronic shocks are expensive and often heavy. Secondly, fixing them is nigh-on impossible in the wilderness. Plus, Ducati considers this ADV to be a “sturdy, simple, and minimalist” machine, RevZilla reports. Going mechanical fits the old-school vibe, which is further reinforced by its vintage Paris-Dakar racer design.

An overhead view of a white-and-red 2022 Ducati DesertX
2022 Ducati DesertX overhead | Ducati

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However, that doesn’t mean that Ducati hasn’t given the 2022 DesertX tech elsewhere. Those classic-looking dual round headlights, for example, are LEDs. The bike’s dash is vertical, recalling vintage rally roll charts, but it’s actually a 5” TFT. More specifically, a TFT with smartphone connectivity and access to all the bike’s electronics.

Those electronics include cornering-enhanced ABS, wheelie control, traction control, engine braking control, and six riding modes. These modes change the engine’s power output and throttle response, and the off-road-focused Enduro and Rally modes also let riders disable the ABS. And in another Dakar Rally nod, the DesertX’s odometer has a tripmaster function.

When will the 2022 Ducati DesertX start its US adventure?

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Because of its (relative) simplicity, the 2022 Ducati DesertX is about 50 pounds lighter than the brand’s previous off-road tourer, the Multistrada 1260 Enduro. It’s also noticeably cheaper than that bike. With a $16,795 starting price, the 2022 DesertX falls mid-way between the Multistrada V2 and V2 S.

Admittedly, that makes it about $5000 more than the new Aprilia 660 Tuareg. However, the Aprilia is less powerful, less torquey, and doesn’t have the Ducati’s cornering-enhanced safety features. And while the new Husqvarna Norden 901 is cheaper and has more torque, it also has fewer electronics and slightly less suspension travel.

But if you’re interested in saving up for a Ducati DesertX adventure, you have some time. The adventure bike isn’t hitting North American dealers until June 2022.

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