The new Ducati DesertX Rally is a DesertX on steroids. A road legal but virtually ready-to-race adventure bike with beefed-up, long-travel suspension, enduro styling cues and a new wardrobe of racy components that drove a modified X to victory in the twin-cylinder class of the recent Iron Road Prologue at the Erzbergrodeo.
As well as KYB closed cartridge forks – a first on a production machine – with a whopping 250mm (about 9.84 inches) of travel, there's also a 46mm fully-adjustable KYB shock with 240mm (about 9.44 inches) of stroke and a remote preload adjuster. That's in addition to the not-so-small matter of 280mm (about 11 inches) of ground clearance, along with a vertiginous 910mm ( about 35.8 inch) seat height; the highest on any current production machine.
Lighter, stronger, and slightly narrower rear wheels feature Excel rims and steel carbon spokes. The yokes and the reversible brake pedal are machined from solid aluminum. Meanwhile, mass-colored plastics and a forged carbon skid plate signal that the Rally is not afraid to take a few hits. Overall dry weight is 203kg/ (465LB wet weight no fuel), fractionally more than the standard X.
While the chassis gains a more competitive off-road focus than the standard DesertX, the versatile Testastretta 11° L-twin remains unchanged, churning out a useful 110bhp and a wide spread of torque that peaks at 92Nm (or about 67.85 pound-feet).
There are six riding modes, four power modes, three levels of engine braking, eight traction control settings, three levels of cornering ABS and switchable wheelie control. The two dedicated off-road modes are Enduro, which delivers 75bhp and a rapid throttle response, and Rally, which gives full power with minimal intervention from the ABS and traction control, and none at all from the deactivated wheelie control.
As the conditions change, you can easily switch between the two by quickly closing the throttle and selecting, thereby tuning the bike's characteristics to the terrain and the moment. It's fast and intuitive, and the dash communicates the changes clearly.
The system is so effective, it's like having an extra control. On the dirt, I'd input Rally mode for effortless stand-up 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 – and I did so without having to think about it at all. Meanwhile, that lovely spread of torque blends with the slick DQS quick shifter to deliver perfectly metered drive. It's smooth and willing one minute, and able to land a serious punch the next.
The Rally's height may put some shorter riders off. But I’m under 5ft 7in and, thanks to the slimness of both seat and tank, I was able to get one foot securely down while just about reaching the back brake or gear selector with the other. Though, I’ll mention that even taller riders than me struggled to flip up the side stand while onboard.
The 21-inch front and 18-inch rear wheels are shod with tubed Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR tyres while Brembo M50 Monobloc calipers and 320mm discs – as per the DesertX – do the work up front and are supported by a Brembo twin-piston caliper and 265mm disc at the rear. Cornering ABS is controlled by a Bosch IMU. But with some 90 percent of our ride on dirt, I can't usefully comment on the Rally's road manners.
I can say, however, that the KYB suspension was faultless throughout. On fast open dunes and desert to slow and rocky sections, it was immaculately controlled, behaving at times as if it was on paved road rather than dirt.
I deliberately tried to provoke the Rally by slamming the throttle shut over humps to agitate the rebound or hitting rocks while on the brakes. I also even deliberately landed badly off jumps. And yet, the suspension nonchalantly soaked it all up. Even at 80mph on a loose surface that would normally tense me up, I was totally chilled.
The DesertX Rally is expensive. Priced at just under $23,000 it is $5000 above the standard DesertX ($17,995). It is, however, equipped with high-end components. So while the asking price is high, it's easy to see where the money has been spent. I can also confidently state that it is the best road legal ‘big’ adventure bike that I’ve ever ridden off-road.
The Class Of 2024
The middleweight class could be the most highly competitive class in 2024, with new and exciting bikes entering the category. The obvious competition to the new Rally is KTM’s 890 Adventure R, but you also can’t discount the Husqvarna Norden 901 or the much less powerful Yamaha Ténéré 700 World Rally.
The new boys entering the class are Triumph’s Tiger 900 Rally, which we tested here, as well as BMW’s F900GS Adventure and Honda’s new Africa Twin, which we will be testing shortly.
Ducati will continue to sell the standard DesertX alongside the new and exciting Rally. With so many top-quality bikes to choose from, you can see why this class is gaining so much interest. Don’t worry; hopefully in early 2024 here at RideApart we will organize the ultimate group test. Just off-road, though, we predict that the Rally could be the winner.
Photos by Alex Photo