Rock The Casbah

Ducati has pimped its flagship DesertX enduro: more extreme suspension, more extreme suspension travel, more technical wheels – the new DesertX Rally, the ultimate sports enduro for the most demanding off-road riders, is here. Time to take her for a spin.

After all, it’s not every day that you get invited to eat dust in the stone desert of Morocco.

Rock The Casbah 

Racing across Morocco. On a rally bike. Without belting out The Clash’s “Rock the Casbah” in your head? Impossible! Especially if you were born in the sixties – and feel like pogoing around on the desert pavement.

Now the King told the boogie man

You have to let that raga drop

The oil down the desert way

Has been shakin’ to the top


Did Joe Strummer, the brilliant frontman of English rock band The Clash and unofficial spokesperson for the first (and only true) punk generation, have a thing for motorcycles? No idea. He did like big American automobiles, that much we know. But I’m sure that if the guitar hero and former squatter, who left this earth far too soon in 2002, had got his hands (and rear end) on the new Ducati DesertX Rally, he would have loved it as much as his Fender. Especially in the casbah mecca of Morocco.

Sharif don’t like it

Rockin’ the Casbah

Rock the Casbah

The chorus of the 1982 Clash anthem has the perfect groove for the gravel deserts in the Atlas Mountains. Sharif don’t like it – first throttle, drift to the right. Rockin’ the Casbah – next throttle, counter-swing to the left. Rock the Casbah, baby! Dance, rear wheel, dance!

There’s a good reason why Ducati chose Morocco’s desert landscape for the presentation of its uber-DesertX. With a seat height of 910 mm, enormous suspension travel and high-tech spoked wheels, this hardcore enduro cries out for epic surroundings. The original DesertX made its debut in 2022, with press photos shot against a background of endless dunes and spectacularly swirling fountains of sand. Its tagline: Dream Wilder.

The significantly more expensive DesertX Rally is being promoted with the tagline Race Wilder – with images of the bike being put through its paces in rock desert terrain. Just like we’re doing now. Because more is always possible. In this case: more equipment and more suspension. The engine is an old acquaintance, the same powerful liquid-cooled L-Twin with 110 hp and 92 Nm that powers various other models from Ducati. A magnificent companion. Plenty of punch, lots of personality – a two-cylinder dream. Compact and performance-oriented.

We find ourselves in the fabulous reg desert of Agafay. The weather is perfect: 25° C, no rain, moonlit nights. Dust at every turn, but that’s all part of the experience. If you don’t keep your distance from the rider in front of you, you have only yourself to blame – not to mention that you should keep your wits about you and be quick to react if necessary. Every now and then, crumbled boulders dot the gravel highways. Who knows where they came from here in the middle of nowhere in Morocco. If you hit one of them with your 21-inch front wheel – well, have a nice flight. Would be a pity about the equipment as well: Ducati has given the DesertX Rally special wheels with carbon steel spokes, lightened billet aluminum hubs and reinforced rims – round works of art.

By order of the Prophet

We ban that boogie sound

Degenerate the faithful

With that crazy Casbah sound


We leave Marrakech, the start and finish of our two-day 210-kilometer trip, early in the morning, heading south. A short stretch of asphalt, then we turn left and go off-road. Ahead of us lie 140 kilometers of gravel and dirt. Our general bearing: the High Atlas. A panorama to die for: towering peaks, some covered with snow, rolling hills, endless plains as far as the eye can see. Though we don’t get a chance to really take in the scenery. For us, it’s all about speed – coupled with an enormous amount of riding fun.

The DesertX Rally is worth every penny, as long as you don’t have to think twice about every penny you spend. It’s sort of a Plus version of the DesertX, which itself is already extremely capable off-road. The DesertX Rally has a bit more of (almost) everything. An additional 20 millimeters of suspension travel front and rear, 30 millimeters more ground clearance and a sturdy carbon armor for the engine. The high-tech material protects at least as well as aluminum or stainless steel, but weighs less. It even sounds more exclusive when it’s hailing stones. Plong instead of pling. A bit jarring at first, but the sound goes well with Joe Strummer’s guitar riffs.

Now over at the temple

Oh, they really pack ’em in

The in-crowd say it’s cool

To dig this chanting thing

The main new feature compared to the regular Ducati DesertX is the even more powerful multi-adjustable suspension from KYB. The tubes of the front fork measure a whopping 48 mm in diameter (the 46 mm stanchions on the DesertX are already hardcore enough). Their competition-worthy closed cartridge design keeps the oil in the front fork under pressure for consistent damping even under extreme stress. The rear monoshock is larger as well and comes with numerous adjustment options. Top quality and highly functional, of course.

But as the wind changed direction

And the temple band took fire

The crowd caught a whiff

Of that crazy Casbah jive

Riders shorter than one meter eighty might be put off a bit by the enormous seat height: 910 mm – that’s taller than a Great Dane. The regular DesertX comes in at 875 mm, with a maximum of 890 mm with high seat accessory or a minimum of 845 mm with low seat and low suspension kit accessory. The Rally edition is not designed for such low seat heights. The lowest here is 880 mm with low seat accessory. But not to worry: even the standard height is perfectly acceptable. The seat on the DesertX Rally is narrow. With boots on, most riders will easily reach the ground. The design offers plenty of knee contact with the frame to facilitate handling in curves and when standing. In terms of ergonomics, the DesertX Rally gets an A plus. The front wheel guidance is outstanding as well, with precise feedback provided at all times.

The various components of the adjustable suspension interact particularly well when riding in a standing position. The technical and aesthetic icing on the cake is the adjustable Öhlins steering damper. The sleek and slim part between the ends of the handlebar prevents unwanted wobble and similar shenanigans. This probably saved one or two of the riders on our little excursion from unwanted contact with the Moroccan desert, especially in the unexpectedly deep sand that was lurking in some places.

Fine-tuning in every respect is provided by the armada of assistance systems and sensors, including the inertial measurement unit (IMU), a well-known feature among Ducatisti. Six configurable riding programs, three power modes, multi-adjustable ABS cornering function, lean-angle-sensitive traction control, wheelie control . . . What more could you want? Do you even need more? Probably not. Cruise control is standard (distance radar remains exclusive to the Ducati V4 Multistrada), but not needed on our trip through Morocco. Switching between all the different modes is easy thanks to a button on the left of the handlebars – but we barely get a chance to try them out. The terrain requires our full attention. Sometimes we pass through sleepy little villages where dogs that appear to be dozing in the sun jump up and chase after us like bloodhounds, laughing children suddenly tumble out into the street, and men pushing handcarts through town suddenly swerve thoughtlessly in front of us. Rockin’ the Casbah!

Back on the dusty desert roads, the standard quick shifter comes into its own. Changing gears without a clutch is pretty cool, especially on a bike like this where you spend most of your time standing on the footrests. Above 2,500 rpm, the gears shift smoothly and at lightning speed. Below that, however, the engine speed is too low – time for the hydraulic anti-hopping clutch. The lever on the handlebar is adjustable, just like the brake lever – a nice touch from Ducati.


All of the fairing parts on the DesertX Rally are mass-colored and unpainted. In principle, anyone could create their own custom design using thick adhesive PVC graphics. Ducati believes that this increases the service life of the parts and fits in well with the bike’s Erzberg character. Just last year, enduro rider Antoine Méo won the legendary Iron Road Prologue at the totally insane Erzberg Rodeo, the mother of all hard enduro competitions in Austria, on a prototype of the DesertX Rally. This alone answers the question of whether the premium price for the Rally edition is really worth it.

Sharif don’t like it

Rockin’ the Casbah

Rock the Casbah


Text: Ralf Bielefeldt
Photos: Ducati 

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