Ducati DesertX Rally (2024) - Review

Technical Review: Ben Purvis, 3/10/23
Press Launch Riding Review: Adam Child, 25/1/24


Price: from £18,995 | Power: 110bhp | Weight: 232kg (Wet) | Overall BikeSocial Rating: TBA


After launching the DesertX as its most off-road-capable bike yet Ducati has upped the ante once more with the higher-spec DesertX Rally – a version that targets even more extreme use than the Dakar-inspired original.

The DesertX Rally mirrors the upgrades made to Antoine Meo’s factory-backed competition bike, which won the twin-cylinder class of this year’s Iron Road Prologue at the Erzbergrodeo. As such it drops some of the rally-raid looks of the standard DesertX, which has styling that pays tribute to the Ducati-engined Cagiva Elefants that took Edi Orioli to Dakar victory in 1990 and 1994, and replaces them with motocross-inspired elements including a high-mounted front mudguard and even taller, longer-travel suspension than the stock machine.

Ducati has essentially repeated what they have been doing for years: what you learn in racing, transfer to the customer – if in a slightly diluted form. Ducati have had some racing success with the Ducati DesertX (winning the twin-cylinder class of this year’s Iron Road Prologue at the Erzbergrodeo), adding longer travel suspension, greater ground clearance, lighter and stronger wheels, and more crash protection, plus other modifications like a raised front mudguard.

The Rally is a Desert X on steroids, an almost ready-to-race adventure bike, with beefed up high-quality suspension – and it's road legal, of course.


Pros and Cons

  • New suspension is the same kit used by Meo at the Erzbergrodeo
  • Chassis changes add even more off-road prowess
  • Weight-saving measures offset mass of the additional kit
  • Rider aids and modes are top of the class
  • Level of finish, components used, and styling
  • No additional power or performance compared to stock DesertX
  • Lofty 910mm seat height excludes shorter riders
  • The side stand is tricky to flick down while on-board
  • On the expensive side for a middleweight adventure bike
Ducati DesertX Rally (2024) - Review

Review of Ducati’s new DesertX Rally - the Italian’s most extreme production adventure bike, ever. Adam 'Chad' Child spent two days romping through the deserts of Morocco on the new £19k Ducati and has this to say about it.


Review – In Detail

Price & PCP
For and against
Engine & Performance
Handling & Suspension (inc. weight & brakes)
Comfort & Economy


2024 Ducati DesertX Rally Price

There is no denying the new DesertX Rally is on the expensive side, certainly compared to rivals in this sector. Priced at just under £19,000 it is £4000 above the standard DesertX (£14,995). Ducati’s base Multistrada V2, which shares the same Testastretta 11° engine, is £13,295 and the V2 S is £15,795. If you want a middleweight adventure bike, there are cheaper alternatives such as Triumph's Tiger 900, which has heated seats and grips.

The new Rally is equipped with high-end components which help justify the high asking price. Closed cartridge forks from KYB are a first on a production Ducati, possibly the first for any production bike, and similar to those on Meo's race bike – buy them separately for your adventure machine and you'd be looking at the thick end of 5000 Euros, plus another 1500 Euros for the rear shock. Excel rims with carbon steel spokes don't come cheap either, and the Rally also gets a (non-electronic) Öhlins steering damper and a forged carbon fibre sump guard. So while the asking price is high, it's easy to see where the money has been spent.



2024 Ducati DesertX Rally Engine & Performance

The 937cc Testastretta 11° is one of the mainstays of Ducati’s range – powering the Monster, Supersport, Hypermotard and Multistrada V2 – and in the DesertX Rally it’s unaltered from the stock bike.

That means you get 110hp at 9,250rpm and 92Nm (68lb-ft) at 6.500rpm from an engine that ticks all the classic Ducati boxes including the 90-degree ‘L’ layout and desmodromic valvetrain, as well as some more recent family traits like long, 15,000km/24-month service intervals and 30,000km valve clearance checks.

Like the DesertX, the DesertX Rally mates the L-twin to a transmission with dedicated adventure bike ratios, geared shorter than its street-biased equivalents to improve acceleration and low-speed control when riding off road, although a long sixth gear makes long-distance, high-speed touring no chore. Ducati’s DQS quickshifter is standard, with programming that’s dedicated to the DesertX.

A restricted version with 35kW (47hp) is also available to suit A2 licence holders.

As on the standard DesertX, there’s a huge array of modes and settings to play with. These include six riding modes that preselect settings from a quartet of power modes, three levels of engine braking, eight traction control settings and four wheelie control strategies. They also change the settings of the cornering ABS, picking from three levels.

The six riding modes are Sport, with full power, Touring (dropping power to 95hp and softening delivery), and a 75hp Urban setting. There’s also a Wet mode that increases electronic aids, Enduro mode with 75hp and rapid throttle response, and Rally mode with all 110hp and a quick throttle, allied to minimal traction control and ABS, and deactivated wheelie control.

So often modern bikes have a plethora of rider aids and modes, but sometimes the tangible differences between the modes are minimal. Often they are hard to navigate and can’t be changed on the move – meaning they aren’t used to their full potential.

The Ducati DesertX breaks that trend because its multiple riding modes are easy to use and navigate and obviously change the character of the bike, not just its fuelling. And, refreshingly, they can be altered on the fly, making it easier to amend the modes to meet changing terrain and conditions all with an optimised set up – even during a short ride.

I’d not ridden a DesertX for six months, but straight away the new Rally felt like my bike, with easy-to-understand switchgear and multiple modes at my fingertips. Leaving the congested streets of Marrakesh, I selected Urban mode, then opted for Sports mode on the asphalt road and then Enduro mode when we hit the dusty trails, followed by the full power Rally mode as the pace got quicker.

As the conditions change, you can simply flick between the modes. We even had a sharp rain shower, which prompted the introduction of the Wet mode as wet Moroccan roads offer almost no grip. On even a short ride it becomes second nature to flick between modes. Away from the ‘road’, I select Rally mode for effortless wheelies, and then, for a tricky sandy section, pop it back into Enduro for less power and more support from the traction control and other rider aids.

Throttle delivery is all but perfect at low speeds, impressive for a fuel-injected L-twin, and while a peak of 110hp may not sound particularly breath-taking the Testastretta's wide spread of torque makes it feel like more – and you really can make use of every last Italian pony. Pulling a wheelie may not be the most scientific way to test an engine's output, but in second gear, without using the clutch, a reasonable handful of throttle will send the front wheel skywards (with the DWC removed).

Combine that lovely spread of torque with an effortless up-and-down quick shifter, and you have the perfect recipe for fun. I’ve ridden the standard DesertX many times in the UK and abroad and found the motor to be extremely versatile. It's easy, smooth and wiling one minute, and able to deliver a serious kick the next. It feels like more than 110bhp, especially once you tune in to charismatic bark to the Rally's exhaust.

However, it is worth noting that 90% of our test was off-road in Morocco, meaning we only occasionally passed 110kmh – this certainly wasn’t a touring test. Some may want more power for high-speed distance work but, if so, you’re looking at the wrong bike. I’ve always found the Testastretta to be a sweetly balanced road engine – which is probably why Ducati uses it in so many models.



2024 Ducati DesertX Rally Handling & Suspension (inc. Weight & Brakes)

This is where the DesertX Rally really departs from the standard DesertX. Ducati could have taken the easy option and just given the bike a cosmetic do-over to boost its off-road appeal – after all, even the standard DesertX is perfectly capable of hitting trails – but instead there’s a top-to-toe revamp of the suspension.

Starting at the front, the KYB forks are 2mm fatter than the standard bike’s 46mm units, with a diameter of 48mm, and use motocross-style closed-cartridge internals. That means the oil inside the forks is pressurised to prevent cavitation (which is when air bubbles get into the oil as it’s shaken up) to make sure their damping remains consistent.

As well as being fatter the forks are longer than before, with travel increased from 230mm to 250mm, and they’re given both a DLC (diamond-like carbon) coating to the sliders and a hard anodised Kashima coating to the fork tubes. New springs feature reduced front-end stiffness, dropping from 6N/mm to 5N/mm.

The forks are bolted to new top and bottom yokes made of billet aluminium that increase the offset by 1mm.

The rear changes are just as comprehensive, with a new 46mm rear shock – also from KYB – and a redesigned swingarm with a revised attachment point. As well as remote adjustable preload, it’s got separate high- and low-speed compression damping adjustment and adjustable rebound. The rear spring is stiffer than the stock DesertX, rated at 96N/mm instead of 90N/mm, and wheel travel is increased by 20mm to 240mm.

All these changes contribute to an increased ride height, with 280mm of ground clearance instead of 250mm, and the seat height shifts up from 875mm to 910mm.

While the wheels are the same diameter as the standard DesertX – 21 inches at the front, 18 inches at the rear – and there’s no change to the 90/90-21 and 150/70-18 tyre sizes, the back wheel is half-an-inch narrower, at 4 inches, to improve off-road grip. The wheels themselves have hubs machined from solid aluminium, carbon steel spokes and Excel rims. Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR tyres are standard, as on the normal DesertX, but with options of more off-road-oriented Scorpion Rally rubber or street-biased Scorpion Trail II rubber.

Those wheels are lighter than the standard DesertX versions, and along with the new billet triple clamps, gear shifter and brake pedal help offset the extra weight of the longer-travel suspension parts, keeping the overall mass just 1kg heavier than the standard DesertX at 203kg dry, 224kg wet, or the new quoted 211kg wet weight with no fuel.

The brakes are unchanged from the standard DesertX, with Brembo M50 Monobloc calipers at the front on dual 320mm discs, a Brembo two-pot and 265mm disc at the rear, and cornering ABS controlled by a Bosch IMU.

The elephant is the room is the seat height. A 910mm seat height is high indeed, the highest on any current production bike (if memory is correct, BMW's 2005 HP2 Enduro was higher at 920mm) while 250mm and 240mm of travel, front and rear, and 280mm of ground clearance are also lofty numbers. But if you want a bike to work off-road, these are the dimensions you have to work with. After all, Ducati’s Panigale V4R is an amazing track bike, but it isn’t comfortable. Bikes are designed for their purpose and if you want a ready-to-race adventure bike, it’s going to have a tall seat and long travel suspension. You can, by the way, fit a lower seat, which drops it to 885mm, but that’s still tall.

For reference, I’m nearly 5ft 7ins (172cm) and the altitude of the seat wasn’t as intimidating as I was expecting, mainly because seat and bike are narrow, which meant I could get one foot securely down while just about reaching the rear brake lever or gear selector with the other. On paper it’s also a reasonably heavy bike (203kg dry, and that doesn’t include the additional crash protection and radiator guard on this test bike) but doesn’t feel it, even when fully fuelled. However, I did find it difficult to flick up the side stand while onboard – my legs are just not long enough – and even taller riders struggled.

But I’ll put up with a slightly irritating side stand because the Rally is one of the best adventure bikes I’ve ever ridden off-road. As mentioned, 90% of our two-day test in Morocco was off-road, ranging from fast open deserts to slow and rocky sections, sand and a few big jumps, and the suspension was faultless.

Ducati has invested in quality suspension units. This is possibly the first time closed cartridge forks have been used on a road-going production motorcycle, and they are outstanding. They're so sublime the Rally virtually rides like it’s on paved road when it's actually churning the dirt. Like the proverbial swan that's so graceful on the surface but working frantically underwater, the suspension takes everything you can throw at it and more. You can feel the KYB units working overtime but at the same time everything is controlled, with no jolting via the bars and no kicking of the rear.

I’m not a competition level off-roader, but I am competent and experienced… and of average weight, which is where the Rally is aimed – and it shows. I deliberately tried to provoke the set up, closing the throttle over humps to activate the rebound: no problem. Hitting rocks on the brakes with compressed forks: again, no jolting. Even landing decent (for me) jumps: soaked it up and faultless. All day, both days, the KYB suspension made the ride effortless, non-fatiguing and easy. I felt comfortable on loose dirt at 80mph. Even in deep sand, I simply sat back and allowed the front wheel to find its way. I don’t think I’ve ever ridden an adventure bike off-road and had this much confidence in the chassis and suspension.

Having a connection and feel this good gives you time. Time to think, anticipate, work out a way to go faster – or simply enjoy the ride as you don’t have to worry about how to improve the suspension set up. As you’d expect, the front and rear units are fully adjustable, with the rear having both high and low-speed compression damping and a remote pre-load adjustment. As may have guessed by now, I never touched the suspension, and very few riders on the press launch did – unless you are Antoine Meo, it works perfectly out of the box. Only heavy or lighter riders hitting intense levels of competition or terrain at speed will want to tweak the suspension.

To add to the enjoyment off-road adventure riding, there are those riding modes to play with. Rally and Enduro are seriously useful options along with the lean-sensitive rider aids. Look ahead, see a tricky section, and select Enduro mode, which reduces the power and increases the level of intervention by the rider aids. See the route open up, close the throttle, switch to Rally, pop a few wheelies and have a blast. All done on the fly.

The off-road ABS saved me on two occasions, once in a village when a dog ran across my path, and also when cresting a blind dune a little too fast. To be able to ride off-road, with off-road specific rider aids which in the lower settings have been designed to work with off-road tyres (unlike the standard DesertX) is a real game changer. Towards the end of a hot and dusty day one, I simply put the Rally into Enduro mode and relaxed. Waking up full of energy on day two, it was back into full-power Rally mode. The rider aids are so good it’s like having several bikes in one and, should you want to, you can remove the rider aids entirely.

We rode with the dirt-biased Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR rubber, which means it's hard to give an accurate impression of the Rally and how it will ride on everyday roads. The only road riding on the menu was at relatively slow speeds – 70mph and below – and the Rally was composed, even for a tall adventure bike and certainly didn’t feel unwieldy or like a fish out of water. It nipped up a few mountain passes with ease – and ground clearance is never going to be an issue. The standard DesertX is impressive on the road and I’m sure the Rally will be too, but we will need a longer, full road test to be sure.



2024 Ducati DesertX Rally Comfort & Economy

The 910mm seat height of the DesertX Rally puts it on a par with some of the most hardcore adventure bikes on the market – the BMW R1250GS Adventure with its seat in the tallest position, for example, or the Extreme Edition of Yamaha’s Ténéré 700 – so if you’re stubby of leg, it might not be the bike for you.

That seat itself is exclusive to the DesertX Rally, with a design similar to the optional Rally seat available for the DesertX, but a textured coating intended to improve grip.

Other changes from the standard Desert X include the gear shifter and brake pedal, both machined from solid alloy and adjustable to suit off-road or on-road use.

Comfort remains largely untested as I stood up on the new pegs for the majority of the ride and spent little time on the new seat. The new pegs are worth a mention, though, as they are wide, solid, and very grippy even in the wet. With the rear brake pedal flipped over into its off-road setting, its positioning is perfect, allowing you to use the back brake with finesse, even in off-road boots. In Rally mode, there is no ABS on the rear, and the accurate rear brake allows you to make full use of this.

On the road, I assume the Rally will be much like the standard DesertX, with decent enough comfort and wind protection from the non-adjustable screen on long tours. Cruise control comes as standard, as does Bluetooth connectivity to the familiar dash, but heated grips don’t – you just get the button.

Ducati claims 5.6l/100km or 50.4mpg, which is the same as the standard DesertX. Funnily enough, at the end of day one, my bike averaged 5.6l/100km: exactly as Ducati claim. With the standard 21l fuel tank, you’re looking at over 200 miles between fill ups even if ridden hard, and close to 250 if ridden sensibly. If you want a larger tank range there is the extra 8l fuel tank (£1342) which fits to the rear and gives the Rally a very different look.



2024 Ducati DesertX Rally Equipment

The bike’s bodywork is pre-coloured rather than painted, with PVC stickers for the graphics, so scratches shouldn’t mar the appearance to severely. The high-mounted front mudguard also changes the bike’s look compared to the standard DesertX and won’t get clogged with mud.

An adjustable Öhlins steering damper, on brackets machined from solid alloy, is another element that sets the Rally aside.

Although the DesertX Rally comes as standard with the same exhaust as the DesertX, there are two optional Termignoni pipes – a street-legal one and a race version, as used by Antoine Meo’s Erzbergrodeo bike, that ups power and torque by 7% for peaks of around 118hp and 73lb-ft.

The dash is the same portrait-oriented, 5-inch TFT used on the standard DesertX, with two visual modes – Standard and Rally – that change the layout to suit different uses. As usual, there’s connectivity for smartphones to give control over music and calls as well as turn-by-turn navigation. For more extensive navigation there’s a ‘Utility Bar’ to mount a standalone satnav.

Our test bike wasn’t standard. We had the full external steel engine cover (£548) and the radiator guard fitted (£128). And like every Ducati it’s easy to get carried away fitting more accessories. The Termignoni exhaust looks stunning and should sound epic.

As expected with Ducati, the level of finish is high, with quality components like Brembo, Öhlins (steering damper) and Excel (rims). After a couple of days in the desert, with dust and rocks being thrown at the Rally it still looked like new. There wasn’t any obvious sign of wear from enduro boots covered in grit rubbing against the bodywork and the forged carbon fibre sump guard appeared unfazed. Some of the off-road riding was brutal, but there were no reports of dinged rims or even punctures.

The 5-inch dash is carried over from the DesertX with Bluetooth connectivity and two display modes: standard and rally, both of which are clear and easy to read. The view from the cockpit is neat, and the new extra ‘Utility Bar’ for extra mountings above the clocks is a neat touch. The new tall front hugger and cool graphics give the Rally a distinctive look over the standard DesertX.



2024 Ducati DesertX Rally Rivals

The DesertX Rally clearly competes with some of the most extreme middleweight adventure bikes on the market, but there are cheaper alternatives. KTM’s 890 Adventure R is perhaps closest in terms of power, weight and off-road ability, but lacks the Ducati’s 80s-inspired Dakar looks. BMW’s new F900GS Adventure might also be in the mix, and buyers may also be tempted by Yamaha’s Ténéré 700 World Rally, the most high-end version of that bike.


KTM 890 Adventure R | Price: £13,299

Power/Torque: 105bhp/74lb-ft | Weight: 200kg (dry)


Yamaha Ténéré 700 World Rally | Price: £13,000

Power/Torque: 74bhp/51lb-ft | Weight: 219kg (wet)


BMW F900GS Adventure | Price: £14,600

Power/Torque: 105bhp/69lb-ft | Weight: 246kg (wet)



2024 Ducati DesertX Rally Verdict

I wouldn’t describe the new Rally as an improved DesertX as it’s very much a different bike and we don’t honestly know what it will be like on the road, although indications are it should be good.

But what I can say is that the new Rally is possibly the best road legal ‘big’ adventure bike I’ve ever ridden off-road. The suspension is perhaps the best I’ve ever experienced on non-road terrain. The Rally remains unfazed by anything and is genuinely ready to race out of the box, which, away from Tarmac, sets it above the competition.

But this isn’t a radical adventure bike aimed at an extreme audience; the rider aids and modes, along with the friendly power delivery, make it versatile, and usable to a wide range of riders. It can even be restricted for A2 licence holders. On the one hand, with the road legal parts removed, it’s ready to race, but equally an inexperienced rider could spend days standing on the roomy pegs in Morocco, just enjoying the challenge and navigation.

There are downsides: 910mm is tall, and £19,000 is a lot of money, and the side stand is a little annoying, especially for short riders like me. But otherwise the DesertX Rally is hard to fault, and it’s a looker, too.


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2024 Ducati DesertX Rally Review Details Price Spec_132


2024 Ducati DesertX Rally - Technical Specification

New price

From £18,995



Bore x Stroke

94 x 67.5mm

Engine layout

90-degree V-twin

Engine details

Desmodromic valvetrain, 4 valves per cylinder, liquid cooled


110bhp (81kW) @ 9,250rpm


68lb-ft (81Nm) @ 6,500rpm


6 speed, chain final drive, quickshifter

Average fuel consumption


Tank size

21 litres

Max range to empty


Rider aids

Six customisable riding modes, four power modes, three power levels, three-level cornering ABS, four-level wheelie control, eight level traction control


Tubular steel trellis

Front suspension

KYB 48 mm closed cartridge fork, 250 mm travel, Kashima coating treatments on the fork tubes and DLC on the sliders

Front suspension adjustment

Adjustable compression and rebound

Rear suspension

KYB shock absorber with 46 mm piston, 240 mm travel

Rear suspension adjustment

Adjustable in compression at high and low speeds, in rebound and preload

Front brake

320mm discs, four-piston Brembo M50 monobloc radial calipers

Rear brake

265mm disc, two-piston Brembo caliper

Front wheel / tyre

Spoked with billet hub, 21” x 2.15”, carbon steel spokes and high-strength Takasago Excel rims with inner tube. Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR, 90/90-21

Rear wheel / tyre

Spoked with billet hub 18” x 4”, carbon steel spokes and high-strength Takasago Excel rims with inner tube. Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR, 150/70 R18

Dimensions (LxWxH)




Seat height



203kg (dry)


2 years/unlimited miles


9000 miles/24 months

MCIA Secured Rating

Not yet rated




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2024 Ducati DesertX Rally Review Details Price Spec_105


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 (three stars for bikes of 125cc or less), 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.