Ducati Desert X – Pushing My Luck

Stuart Holliday, one of regular contributors has been out and about trying the rather lovely Ducati Desert X. Fair play to him, he did push it really hard, but not perhaps in the way you might expect: Read on…

Now, I consider myself to be a reasonably rational bloke: I like to think about my purchases carefully (especially if they’re a significant sum of money) looking at the various options available and considering the alternatives. I suppose it comes from being an automotive engineer for 25 years.

Sometimes you just have to try before succumbing to temptation

However, just occasionally, I go off-piste and do something impulsive and hence the reason I was stood outside a local Ducati dealer one sunny Saturday morning.

I’d seen a promotion on Facebook for the Ducati Desert X and thought that it looked excellent: A modern interpretation of a Paris-Dakar bike. It also ticked the L-twin box. How can you resist a L-twin just for exhaust sound? Why do you think that all these new parallel twins have a 270º firing pattern??

Handsome Beast

Simple is as Simple Does

The Ducati is specified with with less electronics than my KTM. This not a major issue, I never use most of them. Anyway the Desert X kicks out 40bhp less, so there is less to cope with in the first place. Now, the power reduction might sound a counter-intuitive to most bikers, but less power would probably slow me down a bit. To be honest my daily commute was getting a little dicey as I was starting to utilise the abundant horses on tap with the KTM1290 I currently ride too much

Certainly Looks the Part

So I was handed key to this lovey looking white bike and told to go an enjoy myself:

‘Just put the fuel in it that you use and remember that the carnival is on today this afternoon’

said the salesman as I put my crash helmet on, adjusted the mirrors, thumbed the starter and unleashed the sonorous Italian ponies. Off around the bypass to head home on my daily commute route so I can do some direct comparisons.

Well, it’s definitely smaller than the KTM. I suppose that’s the function of it being based on the Ducati Scrambler rather than the Multistrada. However the Desert nimble and reasonably nippy although you could tell that its on knobbly tyres as it’s a slightly lumpy ride. I was slightly caught-out by the long travel front suspension the first time I hit the very effective brakes: There’s definitely no anti-dive on these forks !

Slim and manageable

Off the Lead

Out on the open road the bike rode very nicely, the TFT screen showing all the required information clearly and concisely. The engine pulled well and the compliant suspension soaked up the road imperfections. Having said that I could feel the influence of the knobbly tyres cause it to squirm a little in the corners. I also noted that I had to work the engine harder than usual to “make progress”. Some like this in a bike, it is certainly fun. But would it become wearing on my regular commute?

Telly is the norm these days. I Like the dots: Looks a bit like piloting an X wing down the trench to the exhaust port of the Death Star

 At home, I gave the “financial controller” a walk around the bike. Sagely she noted that it was a smaller bike and perhaps bit less likely to burn through funds as quickly as the 1290. Suitably inspected I got back on and then headed back to the dealer, enjoying the warm summer lunchtime sun, the sweeping bends of the A44 and a willing motorbike.

It passed muster with ‘The Management’

It was all Going So Well

All was going well until I hit the edge of the town-centre: The council had closed the road for the carnival!  Ahh! Not a problem if you have an idea of where you’re going in town but I didn’t: I knew the way to the dealers and that was it. To make matters worse  the diversion route kept bringing me back to the same place for some reason. I can at  least confirm the Desert X is great at riding around in circles in Worcester.

No only did I not know a way to get to the dealer, my phone had died so I had no Sat-Nav or anyway of warning the dealer I was going to be late. The guys at the road block weren’t local so couldn’t help with directions and the road was going to be closed for at least an hour!!

Well I Did Push it Really Hard

So, I took the only option left to me: I got off the bike and pushed it along the closed streets following the only route I knew. Now pushing a 200kg bike in full bike gear up and down hill on a hot summers afternoon is a slightly strenuous!! I did make it to the dealers, ignoring the instructions of some of the route stewards but I was a slightly soggy mess. Suffice to say that I wasn’t really in the mood to talk to the dealer about any potential deals that day. By the time I’d recovered and cooled down, the road was open again and I hoped on my KTM for a very quick blast home (on two wheels!!)

I’m behind the big, red truck (web image)

Better the Devil You Know?

The ride home did reinforce the strengths of the KTM: The unending torrent of power made making progress effortless (+15mph everywhere in comparison to the Ducati) and the electronic suspension was much tauter making going around corners so much quicker. OK, it doesn’t sound so good, but as the bike is my daily commuter, effortless is always the way to go.

Is the Desert-X a good bike? Very much so. Its so much more than style over substance and could have easily been a candidate as my commuter tool. I’d even overlook the Ducati serving costs, but the KTM is such a phenomenal bike it’s hard to beat.

Second Chance

Post-script: I did go back for a second less stressful/energetic test ride and loved it just as much as the first time. I even got to the point of talking numbers with the dealer, I just couldn’t justify the change. The sensible engineer has clearly snuck back into my head

Words: Stuart Holliday

Pictures: Stuart Holiday & Paul Phillips