NEW Ducati DesertX Review 2022

Tech Review reporting: Ben Purvis


Price: £14,095 | Power: 110bhp | Weight: 202kg (dry) | Overall BikeSocial rating: 5/5


For a few years there’s been a fad for 1970s-inspired retro bikes leading to an overload of models taking their cues from 50-year-old designs that few of today’s riders experienced first time around. Now the trend has accelerated into the 1980s and even 1990s with a spate of recent machines that hark back to the glory days of the Paris-Dakar rally – and the new 2022 DesertX is Ducati’s attempt at taking the lead in this new recent-retro category.

From a marketing perspective, it makes sense. The Dakar’s golden era, when it was dominated by large-capacity twins capable of unimaginable speeds across the dunes, tugs at the heartstrings of 40-somethings upwards – old enough to recall those races, and to have plenty of disposable cash, but not so ancient as to be hanging up their helmets.

Ducati hinted at its intentions back in 2019, showing the Scrambler DesertX concept, inspired by the Ducati-engined Cagiva Elefant, but the 2022 production DesertX – carrying similar styling but on a completely different platform – doesn’t have the market to itself. In the same section of the market, it’s facing MV Agusta’s new Lucky Explorer 9.5 (also borrowing inspiration from the Cagiva Elefant), Honda’s Africa Twin (£13,049) plus the Moto Guzzi V85TT (£10,650) and of course the BMW R 1250 GS (base model, £14,200), while simultaneously having to combat modern-styled off-road adventurers like the Triumph Tiger 900.

Ducati first unveiled the DesertX concept as an 1100, complete with side-mounted Scrambler-style shock, at EICMA back in 2019 – and it looked awesome. The production bike today looks similarly dramatic and, thankfully, Ducati has stayed with the concept bike’s twin headlights. The powerplant is now the 937cc water-cooled 110hp Testastretta V-twin, and the rear shock has moved to a more conventional position, but otherwise, it’s equally evocative and true to the original vision.

It is also a huge step for Ducati, who is stepping into a new class. It’s the first production bike to come from Bologna with a 21-inch/18-inch front/rear wheel combination since the 1960s and required an all-new chassis, suspension, electronics… Almost every part is unique to the DesertX.

The X has been designed to work both on and off-road, while being intrinsically easy to use, so it has much to prove. We flew to Sardinia, Italy, to test its credentials, both on and off-road.


For and against
  • Usable engine; low end torque and top end performance
  • Equally accomplished both on and off-road
  • Excellent rider aids
  • Can’t use solid luggage and rear fuel tank at the same time
  • No hill hold control
  • An A2 licence version will be underpowered
Ducati DesertX (2022) - review
Chad heads to Sardinia to ride the highly anticipated Ducati DesertX both on-and-off road


Power and torque

What’s changed from the 2019 concept? The biggest element is the engine. Back in 2019 the Scramber DesertX concept took its greasy bits from the air-cooled Scrambler 1100; a layout that would have graced it with around 86hp. For the production version – simply called DesertX as its Scrambler roots have been excised – that’s all changed, with power now coming from the 937cc Testastretta 11° that’s already the heart of a host of Ducatis; the Hypermotard 950, Monster, Multistrada V2 and Supersport 950 all use it already.

The L-twin isn’t a straight swap, though, as the gearing has been adapted for off-road riding with first and second gears now 14.3% and 8.7% shorter than the Multistrada V2’s bottom two ratios. Fuelling, intake and exhaust are unique to the DesertX and Ducati quotes peak outputs of 110hp @ 9250rpm, and 92Nm/68 lb-ft @ 6500rpm from the Euro5-compliant engine. Service intervals are impressively wide, with the oil service every two years or 15,000km/9000 miles and a Desmo valve service every 30,000km/18,000 miles, plus there is Ducati’s four-year warranty (in Europe and UK only).



Ducati DesertX (2022) Engine, gearbox, and exhaust

The DesertX’s engine isn’t substantially changed from the latest, Euro5-complient version of the same motor seen in other Ducatis, with recent improvements to the clutch and gearbox to reduce weight by 1.7kg over earlier iterations. However, the DesertX’s gear ratios have been chosen specifically for the new model, with shorter ratios from 1st to 5th, improving acceleration, allied to a long, overdrive-style, sixth gear to improve economy and comfort at high speed.

As with most Ducatis, there’s the chance to improve performance further by dipping into the accessories catalogue and adding a homologated Termignoni pipe, bolstering power and torque by a claimed 7% (which should equate to around 118hp and 98 lbft of torque) when allied to a remapped ECU.

Within several revolutions of the wheels turning, as I slowly negotiate my way from the grounds of the Ducati hotel, it’s immediately apparent that Ducati has got the fuelling and throttle response spot on again. In Touring mode (one of six) the throttle delivery is easy, smooth, and soft, and each gear slots into the next with engineered ease, even without the clutch thanks to the (standard) up-and-down quickshifter. Indeed, while some manufacturers of V-twins struggle, Ducati has perfected its fuel injection.

There’s a surprising bark to the DesertX exhaust that sets the tone nicely for the ride ahead, although what happens next is ultimately depends on the riding mode selected. There are six of them: Sport, Touring, Urban and Wet, plus two off-road modes, Enduro and Rally. Each mode tailors the power output and throttle response, with Sport and Touring making the full 110hp available (albeit with different throttle responses), while Urban and Wet cap peak power at 95hp. Enduro brings that down to 75hp, whereas Rally lifts it back to 110hp, again with each mode deploying a specific fuelling map. ABS, DTC (traction control), DWC (wheelie control) and EBC (engine brake) are all present and lean-sensitive.

On the road, there are distinct differences between the modes, in both power and throttle response. Most owners will initially opt for Touring, with its full power with a lovely smooth throttle response. But while Sport mode is certainly more lively and direct, Ducati has also managed to maintain user-friendly smoothness. The factory describes the throttle as ‘dynamic’, yet it’s neither snatchy nor sharp. Instead, it is usable and rideable and where I spent most of the ride (with the TC and anti-wheelie removed for added engagement).

Wet and Urban are as friendly as the landlord’s dog. We did encounter some heavy rain on test, during which the Wet mode proved itself anything but a gimmick, and really made a difference. New and inexperienced riders will love the softer fuelling and mode choice, too.

The Enduro (75hp) and Rally (110hp) modes are both configured for off-road riding but, as with the road options, there is a noticeable step in power and throttle response between them. Again, the fuelling isn’t aggressive in either mode, but you instantly feel an extra keenness when you switch to Rally, while the reduced intervention levels of the rider aids simply adds to the fun for more experienced trail riders.

The excellence of the switchgear and clear, 5-inch full colour dash allied to the sheer usability of the DesertX made it easy for me to switch between modes on the varied terrain of the test, trimming the Ducati to the challenges ahead how I wanted to ride them. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I used the full menu of riding modes so frequently on a single-day test. This was in part due to a 240km route that ranged across a spectrum of tricky off-road to fast sweeping tarmac via gnarly mountain hairpins, sometimes in heavy rain. But it was also due to the versatility of the motor and the modes, which change and enhance the character and strengths of the bike. Progressive touring one moment, off road the next, then back to fast mountain passes, flicking between modes. But never at any stage did I want any more power. The 937 Testastretta is a brilliantly balanced and proportionate choice for the DesertX, with all the torque and drive you’d expect low down as well as the oomph and a willingness to rev when the road gets bigger. Used in the Multistrada V2 and Monster to name just two, it has become Ducati’s workhorse motor for a very good reason. 



Handling, suspension, and weight

The Testastretta engine is slotted into a completely new, steel trellis frame for the DesertX, which is Ducati’s most off-road-oriented adventure bike yet.

Building a bike to work both on road and off is an incredibly difficult task. Ducati wanted proper off-road performance, which meant a 21-inch/18-inch front/rear wheel diameters, long-travel suspension (230mm front, 220mm rear), and high ground clearance (250mm) while not forgetting off-road biased rubber (Pirelli Scorpion Rally). All of which doesn’t bode well for the road – but it somehow works.

In fact, the new steel trellis frame, suspended by fully adjustable KYB suspension front and rear, works far better than they should on the smooth and grippy stuff. Some enduro and adventure bikes with long, squishy suspension and high seats – the DesertX’s is up at 875mm with a low seat option at 865mm and suspension kit at 845mm – feel out of place on the road, meaning you have to make allowances for their off-road capabilities. But not the Ducati.

Okay, the DesertX is no Panigale, but I was surprised what you can get away with, especially with such excellent rider aids as a backup. The DesertX carved up Sardinian Mountain passes at a brisk pace and felt anything but a fish out of water. I was relaxed and confident and while aware I was on a dirt-biased bike, it performed more like it had a 19-inch rather than a 21-inch front wheel. 

The fully adjustable KYB suspension holds the chassis well, albeit a long way above the ground. Even riding aggressively doesn’t tie the suspension into knots. Yes, there is more travel than ‘normal’ but it’s controlled and has a quality feel to it. The excellent on-road handing for this type of bike is also down to the Pirelli rubber, which gives feedback and stability like a conventional all-round road tyre, despite its appetite for tucking into off-road terrain.

When the DesertX hit the first off-road section of our test route I was slightly concerned, simply because the DesertX had performed so well on road. But stood up on the metal pegs (with their rubbers removed) I immediacy felt at home among excellent off-road ergonomics, looking over the screen with the dash clearly conveying all the information I needed in a quick glance. It felt natural to stand on the pegs, with freedom to move forwards and backwards uninhibited by the tank, seat or bodywork.

The ride quality on the dirt was equally impressive as it was on tarmac. We rode on reasonably rough terrain but there were no complaints from the DesertX. Off road the Ducati felt much lighter than its claimed 202kg dry weight, I was able to change my route easily to avoid a large rock or to pop out of a rut, and even able to pop the odd little jump with relative ease. The bars didn’t jolt, the forks didn’t bottom out and the rear stayed reasonably composed, even when hitting fairly hard terrain at speed.

It’s not an enduro scalpel, of course, and as a 110hp road bike compromises have to be made, but considering how well it performed on the road, it’s a superbly enjoyable off-road tool too. Ducati has barely sacrificed on road performance for off-road performance, or vice versa. In fact, they have the best of both worlds which, riding off-road especially, is largely thanks to the electronic technology. 

Riding in Enduro mode is like riding with an instructor. The off-road ABS is excellent, front and rear, with the rear brake pedal in the perfect position. Only once, braking heavily downhill on loose gravel, did I find the ABS intrusive. The very clever TC, meanwhile, will allow the rear to slide, but only up to a point. Even the reduced power (75hp) of Enduro mode is enough to get the rear Pirelli working overtime but lean-sensitive TC takes over and is one of the best systems I’ve experienced. With so much support and reassurance from the electronics I was able to enjoy the ride more; to look up, plot better routes and even admire the stunning scenery.

Rally mode delivers full power, reduced TC, and has ABS only on the front. But again, like Sports mode on the road, this doesn’t turn the DesertX into a beast: the fuelling is still excellent, and the TC still cuts in, but the safety net is a little further away. Experienced riders will be pleased to know both ABS and TC can be fully deactivated should you have the space to make full use of the Ducati’s excellent chassis and 110hp. One simple button turns off the ABS.



Ducati DesertX (2022) Comfort and economy

That weight rises higher, of course, when the fuel tank is filled. As standard there’s 21 litres of capacity, but the DesertX’s options range introduces an intriguing addition in the form of a secondary fuel tank, mounted at the back, that adds an extra 8 litres (40%). It’s plumbed into the bike so fuel can be transferred from the rear to the front once the main tank level drops below a pre-set level, with an on-dash control to start the transfer.

We covered close to 250km/150 miles in a single day, both off-road (stood up) and on, with no comfort issues. Ducati is claiming a range of 400km/248 miles from the standard fuel tank. Ride steady and you could get close to 600km/370 miles before refuelling with additional tank. Although the rear tank looks cool (and so it should at £1026) I think the standard tank’s range will be enough for most. It’s worth noting the pillion hasn’t been forgotten, with a roomy position with a very sturdy grab rail.

Cruise control comes as standard and, with the rider sitting in the bike and not so much on it, the standard non-adjustable screen did a decent job of deflecting the wind during a short motorway stint. A larger screen is an optional extra, along with heated grips.

Ducati quotes 5.6l/100km or 50.4mpg. I completed 248km/149mile, with 109km/68mile worth of petrol remaining and averaged 5l/100km or 56.5mpg, better than Ducati’s claimed figure! After some faster riding (mixed in with off-road riding and therefore high revs in second and third gear) that figure was closer to 6l/100km or 47mpg.

Behind the tank, the seat is a lofty 875mm high as standard, although Ducati says it’s slim enough to make reaching the ground relatively easy. A lower version can be specified, too, along with an additional lowering kit if that’s still too high.



Ducati hasn’t scrimped on the brakes. There are huge M50 callipers upfront, similar to the radial stoppers on the Diavel, but with a different master cylinder and discs. The lever is adjustable, as is the height of the brake pedal and the stoppers have a lovely feel both on and off-road.

Cornering ABS comes as standard and there are three modes to choose from:  three on the road, two off-road for front and rear brakes, and one off-road for the front only and no rear. You can also disable the ABS entirely. On road the ABS is so good I’m unsure why you’d want to, but some riders may choose to ride without ABS off-road as the settings are very different.

Additionally, there are three levels of engine braking, which can be personalised. The lower the number the more the engine braking (like a high-compression single, perhaps) and the higher the number the lower engine braking (think two-stroke).


DesertX | Dream Wilder

The wildest travel dreams come true with the Ducati DesertX: a bike born to enhance the adventure thrill, wherever in the world you can dream of.


Rider aids, extra equipment, and accessories

The electronics are typically high end, with six riding modes – Sport, Touring, Urban, Wet, Enduro and Rally – and four power settings, simply named Full, High, Medium and Low. Similarly, the cornering ABS can be set to three levels and even deactivated entirely in Rally and Enduro modes.

The rider aids and electronics generally are hugely impressive both on and off road and can be personalised to match the rider and conditions. For example, in Sports mode you can add or reduce TC and DWC, and once this mode is saved, it will automatically revert to your saved settings, even if you’ve turned off the TC and DWC.

A Bosch IMU informs the cornering ABS and the lean-sensitive traction control, as well as the wheelie control system, while other tech includes engine brake control and an up/down quickshifter. Cruise control comes as standard but not hill assist, which I was expecting on a bike at this price point. As a short rider I find it useful off-road.

The 5in TFT screen is in line with expectations from Ducati and gets two display modes – Standard and Rally – it’s not only clear and easy to read, but also attractive. Standard features a large digital rev counter and speedo, with a clear gear position but in Rally, the trip and fuel range become larger. Ducati is also working on an app with Bluetooth connectivity, which will give turn-by-turn navigation on the dash and should be available shortly.

Accessories include the Termignoni pipe (reduces weight by 2.5kg and increases power and torque by 7%) and additional fuel tank, mentioned above, and of course you can add luggage – totalling up to 117 litres – as well as additional lights, a centre stand and heated grips.

A lower-powered, A2 licence legal version of the bike will also be offered, with the ability to be restricted to 47hp to suit that licence category. Due to the standard power and weight of the DesertX once you have a full licence the bike can only be derestricted back to 70kw and not to full power.



Other than the handful mentioned earlier, here’s a high-level comparison of some others that you may consider:

Husqvarna Norden 901

  • Engine: 889cc Parallel twin
  • Power: 105bhp (77kW) @ 8,000rpm
  • Torque: 73.8 lb-ft (100Nm) @ 6,500rpm
  • Weight: 204kg (dry)
  • Seat Height: 854mm
  • Price: £12,349


KTM 890 Adventure R

  • Engine: 889cc Parallel twin
  • Power: 105bhp (77kW) @ 8,000rpm
  • Torque: 73.8 lb-ft (100Nm) @ 6,500rpm
  • Weight: 196kg (dry)
  • Seat Height: 880mm
  • Price: £12,499


Honda Africa Twin

  • Engine: 1084cc Parallel twin
  • Power: 100.5bhp (75kw) @ 7,500rpm
  • Torque: 77.4 lb-ft (105Nm) @ 6,250rpm
  • Weight: 226kg (wet)
  • Seat Height: 850/870mm
  • Price: £13,049


2022 Ducati DesertX Review Price Spec_53


Ducati DesertX (2022) Verdict

Ducati has entered a new market with their first 21-inch front wheeled bike of the modern era and has hit the nail squarely on the head. The looks, retro style, and desirability are first class. The engine has enough performance on road, is friendly at low speeds both on and off-road, and is uncomplicated fun. The chassis is usable, versatile and works both on and off road, and only extreme off-road riders will find any limitations. With more off-road focused rubber the DesertX would be able to take on some very rough terrain.

I had so much fun riding both on and off-road, flicking between modes, and enjoying the DesertX in its multiple guises, from slowly negotiating small boulders and jumps off-road to having a hoot chasing another X up a mountain pass as speed with big lean and plenty of confidence. Not many bikes are this versatile.

The electronics are easy to use and to personalise and boost riding enjoyment, especially off road, flattering the rider and instilling belief in the experienced. Many new owners will add accessories packs, be it luggage, extra fuel tank or off-road protection like the sump guard fitted to our test bike. The only question mark is the price; is £14,095 asking a little too much? Only time will tell.



Ducati DesertX (2022) Technical Specification

New price




Bore x Stroke

94mm x 67.5mm

Engine layout


Engine details

DOHC, water-cooled, Desmo valves


110bhp (82kW) @ 9250rpm


92Nm (68 ftlbs) @ 6400rpm

Top speed

130mph (est)


6 speed, up/down quickshifter

Average fuel consumption

Claimed: 50.4mpg (5.6l/100km)
Tested: 45mpg (6.3l / 1000km)

Tank size

21 litres (plus 8 litres in rear tank if fitted)

Max range to empty

Claimed 248 miles

Rider aids

Wheelie control, engine brake control, cornering ABS, cornering traction control, six riding modes


Steel trellis

Front suspension

46mm USD Kayaba forks

Front suspension adjustment

Rebound, compression and preload

Rear suspension

Kayaba monoshock

Rear suspension adjustment

Rebound, compression and preload

Front brake

2x Brembo M50 calipers, 320mm discs

Rear brake

Brembo 2-pot caliper, 265mm disc

Front wheel / tyre

21" tubeless wire wheel, 90/90-21 Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR

Rear wheel / tyre

18" tubeless wire wheel, 150/70-18 Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR

Dimensions (l x w x h)

2390mm x 1425mm  x 960mm



Seat height


Ground clearance



202kg (dry)

MCIA Secured rating

3/5 (Steering Lock, Immobiliser and Datatag Marking but no Alarm or Tracker)


24 months/unlimited mileage


Photos: Ducati (Alex Photo)

Video editing: Too Fast Media


2022 Ducati DesertX Review Price Spec_mcia


What is MCIA Secured?

MCIA Secured gives bike buyers the chance to see just how much work a manufacturer has put into making their new investment as resistant to theft as possible.

As we all know, the more security you use, the less chance there is of your bike being stolen. In fact, based on research by Bennetts, using a disc lock makes your machine three times less likely to be stolen, while heavy duty kit can make it less likely to be stolen than a car. For reviews of the best security products, click here.

MCIA Secured gives motorcycles a rating out of five stars, based on the following being fitted to a new bike as standard:

  • A steering lock that meets the UNECE 62 standard
  • An ignition immobiliser system
  • A vehicle marking system
  • An alarm system
  • A vehicle tracking system with subscription

The higher the star rating, the better the security, so always ask your dealer what rating your bike has, and compare it to other machines on your shortlist.