New for 2021, the Fasthouse edition takes the Desert Sled to the next level

LISTEN 10:40

Ducati rolls into 2021 with some fresh paint for its returning Desert Sled model, and for you connoisseurs out there, a limited-edition Fasthouse variant rolls with unique coloring and an even more aggressive mien. Both come set up with an off-road bias while maintaining some street capabilities in keeping with its Scrambler roots. Power delivery remains the same with the 803 cc L-Twin powerplant that reprises its role alongside cornering ABS to help you keep the thing dirty-side down.

  • 2021 Ducati Desert Sled
  • Year:
    2021
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    L-Twin
  • Displacement:
    803 cc
  • Top Speed:
    120 mph (Est.)
  • Price:
    11995
  • Price:

2021 Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled Design

  • Premium LED lighting
  • New Livery
  • LCD display
  • Limited edition Fasthouse
2021 Ducati Desert Sled
- image 982344
2021 Ducati Desert Sled
- image 982343
A high, tripleclamp-mount front fender comes straight from the dirt sector, as does the X-shaped wire grille that protects the cyclops LED headlight from flying-object damage

Ducati’s Desert Sled is based on the homejob-custom “sled” that was popular in the ’60s and ’70s, primarily in Southern California. Named after the bashplate that protects the engine from terrain strikes, the Desert Sled was originally built around bikes that started life as street machines that were modified with wire wheels and off-road tires to make them suitable for soft terrain such as that found in Cali’s desert areas. The Desert Sled rolls with many of the same features including the laced wheels that have long been the favorite of proper off-road riders. A high, tripleclamp-mount front fender comes straight from the dirt sector, as does the X-shaped wire grille that protects the cyclops LED headlight from flying-object damage.

Blackout treatment runs rampant from the front forks, through the frame and drivetrain with details such as the leading edge of the bill, exhaust silencers, rear mudguard, and heat shielding to tie the look together, front-to-back. A slightly inclined new bench seat accommodates both rider and passenger, and for your riding partner’s comfort and confidence, the fold-up footpegs out back mount to the frame rather than the swingarm so they don’t get their feet jostled with every little bump. Like the front fender, the rear mudguard/plateholder rides high above the rear wheel, off-road style, to accommodate the lengthy suspension stroke.

In contrast, the limited edition Desert Sled Fasthouse rocks a red Trellis frame with a unique paint scheme on the steel tank cover and its associated aluminum inserts. The blackout treatment extends to the fenders and wire wheels to further set the Fasthouse apart from the base model. Ducati plans on building only 800 of these units in collaboration with the Fasthouse apparel company, hence the devilishly clever name rider that marks these special models.

2021 Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled Chassis

  • Adjustable Kayaba suspension
  • Reinforced-for-off-road-use Trellis frame
  • Bosch cornering ABS
  • Lightweight aluminum frame
2021 Ducati Desert Sled
- image 982348
2021 Ducati Desert Sled
- image 982354
2021 Ducati Desert Sled
- image 982342
If you were wondering if Ducati is serious about the Desert Sled's off-road chops, the suspension rocks two more inches of travel than the more streetwise models.

Alternate coloring aside, the Desert Sled and the Fasthouse come built around the same welded-steel, reinforced-for-off-road-use Trellis frame with a dual-side gull-wing swingarm to finish out the standing structure in lightweight aluminum. This minimizes the unsprung weight out back to deliver a lithe suspension response with some extra protection for the integrity of the rear contact patch.

Up front, a set of inverted, 46 mm forks take care of business on the full trinity of adjustments as opposed to the rear monoshock that carries only a variable preload feature and rebound-damping adjustment. Suspension travel measures in at 7.9-inches at the front and rear; if you were wondering if Ducati was serious about the Desert Sled’s off-road chops, the suspension rocks two more inches of travel than the more streetwise models, so there’s that.

Wheel diameter tells the same story with a 19-incher up front to help negotiate terrain obstacles ahead of a 17-inch rim out back, and no matter which model you choose, you can expect a set of Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR hoops in a 120/70 and 170/60 to grab the ground. As for the anchors, a radial, four-pot, opposed-piston caliper grabs a single 330 mm front disc while a single-piston rear caliper bites a 245 mm rear disc. Bosch supplies its cornering ABS as part of the stock equipment package to give this pair some electronic safety and ride control.

Frame: Tubular steel Trellis frame
Front suspension/ Travel: 46mm fully adjustable usd forks/7.9 in (200 mm)
Rear suspension/ Travel: Kayaba rear shock, pre-load and rebound adjustable. Aluminum double-sided swingarm/ 7.9 in (200 mm)
Rake: 24°
Trail: 4.4 in (112 mm)
Total steering lock: 35°
Front wheel: Spoked aluminum wheel 3.00" x 19"
Rear wheel: Spoked aluminum wheel 4.50" x 17"
Front tire: Pirelli SCORPION™ RALLY STR 120/70 R19
Rear tire: Pirelli SCORPION™ RALLY STR 170/60 R17
Front brake: Ø330 mm disc, radial 4-piston caliper with Bosch Cornering ABS as standard equipment
Rear brake: Ø245 mm disc, 1-piston floating caliper with Bosch Cornering ABS as standard equipment

2021 Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled Drivetrain

  • Air-cooled 803 cc L-twin engine
  • 73 hp and 48.9 lb-ft of torque
  • Slip-and-assist clutch
  • Ride modes
2021 Ducati Desert Sled
- image 982361
2021 Ducati Desert Sled
- image 982356
Ride Modes let you dial in the power delivery for your off-road adventures.

To finish the higher electronics on the Desert Sled and Desert Sled Fasthouse, ABS can be disabled through the off-road Riding Mode that lets you dial in the power delivery for your off-road adventures. Duc powers the Desert Sled with its air-cooled, 803 cc L-Twin plant. It’s a Desmodromic engine, so it replaces the usual valve spring with a cam-and-follower that provides positive closure for the dual poppets in each head. Needless to say, the valve-lash adjustment is critical on this mill, but it prevents the deadly harmonic valve-float that can occur at high rpm on the sprung engines.

The L-Twin engine – or 90-degree V-Twin if you prefer – comes quite oversquare with an 88 mm bore and 66 mm stroke for a total displacement of 803 cc. The 11-to-1 compression ratio falls in the middle of the range and will tolerate 91-octane road champagne, so there’s not any kind of special fuel needs with this mill. Induction control falls to the 50 mm throttle body with its electronic fuel delivery that partners with an exhaust catalyzer and Lambda probes to meet Euro-5 emission standards, at least in countries where it is required.

Power output is claimed 73 ponies at 8,250 rpm with 48.8 pounds o’ grunt at 5,750 rpm. It flows through a slip-and-assist clutch that makes for a light pull weight at the clutch lever. It also adds a layer of traction protection by preventing excessive backtorque from developing in the drivetrain. That dreaded backtorque can cause the rear end to break loose on hard downshifts and when scrubbing speed ahead of a curve. A six-speed transmission gives you the tools you need to keep the engine in its useful powerband and sends the power to the rear wheel via a tough O-ring chain-and-sprocket final drive.

Engine: L-Twin, Desmodromic distribution, 2 valves per cylinder, air cooled
Displacement: 803 cc
Bore x Stroke: 88 mm x 66 mm
Compression ratio: 11:1
Power: 73 hp (53.6 kW) 8,250 rpm
Torque: 48.9 lb-ft (66.2 Nm) @ 5,750 rpm
Fuel injection: Electronic fuel injection, 50 mm throttle body
Exhaust: Stainless steel muffler with catalytic converter and 2 lambda probes, aluminum tail pipes
Standard: Euro 5 (Only for countries where Euro 5 standard applies)
Gearbox: 6 speed
Ratio: 1=32/13 2=30/18 3=28/21 4=26/23 5=22/22 6=24/26
Primary drive: Straight cut gears, Ratio 1.85:1
Final drive: Chain, front sprocket 15, rear sprocket 46
Clutch: Hydraulically controlled slipper and self-servo wet multiplate clutch

2021 Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled Price

2021 Ducati Desert Sled
- image 982351
2021 Ducati Desert Sled
- image 982363
MSRP on the Desert Sled is $12k, the Fasthouse is three bills more.

You can score a 2021 Desert Sled in Sparkling Blue with Ducati Red and Iceberg White trim on the sheet metal, blackout frame and gold-colored rims for a starting MSRP of $11,995. If you prefer to have one of the 800 Fasthouse models, you can expect to shell out another three Benjamins, which seems a light price to pay for such a sharp-looking limited-edition model.

Standard equipment: Steel tank with interchangeable aluminum side panels, headlight with DRL by LED light-guide and interchangeable aluminum cover, LED rear light with diffusion-light, LED turn indicator, LCD instruments with gear and fuel level indications and interchangeable aluminum cover, under-seat storage compartment with USB socket, ABS cornering, machine-finished aluminum belt covers, black engine with brushed fins.
Desert Sled & Fasthouse equipment: Aluminum handlebar with cross-strut, front stem protectors, seat with specific design, high front mudguard, long rear mudguard and high plate support
Warranty: 24 months unlimited mileage
Color: Sparkling Blue, Fasthouse: Fasthouse Livery
Price: $11,995, Fasthouse: $12,295

2021 Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled Competitors

2018 - 2020 BMW R nineT Urban GS
- image 791041
2019 - 2020 Triumph Scrambler 1200 XE
- image 803959
2021 Ducati Desert Sled
- image 982346

The Desert Sled fits a very narrow design niche, so much so that it is difficult to match it in looks, capabilities, and displacement. With that in mind, I decided to fire a broadside in that direction, and in doing so found some worthy of mention. Let’s start out with BMW, shall we?

BMW R nineT Urban GS

2018 - 2020 BMW R nineT Urban GS
- image 791040

The Bavarians flex their off-road muscles with the R nineT UrbanG/S – Gelände/Straße, or off-road/street – that rolls with wire wheels, aggressively knobby hoops, upswept exhaust, and stock handguards. Lookswise, these two are birds of a feather with plenty of classic scrambler DNA on display, but they diverge sharply in the drivetrain.

The Beemer carries a 1,170 cc boxer-twin engine that’s a bit larger than its counterpart, and it comes with a concurrent increase in output with 85 pound-feet of torque on tap – almost twice that of the Desert Sled’s lump – for an “OMG” difference in grunt.

The trade off is the price. Beemer wants $15,995 for its dual-purpose delightfulness which leaves quite a bit of cheddar on the table.

Read our full review of the BMW R nineT Urban GS.

Triumph Scrambler 1200 XE

2019 - 2020 Triumph Scrambler 1200 XE
- image 803958

I suppose Triumph earns an honorable mention as well with its Scrambler 1200 XE. A proper dual-surface machine, the Trumpet carries its own genetic markers as a model that is essentially a naturally-evolved machine from Triumph’s own deep historical roots. The hoops are more like stealth knobbies for improved street performance, but the 7.9-inch suspension stroke is all about tackling rough terrain. Ride Modes and ABS come stock to improve rider safety and comfort, and more or less break even with the Duc.

Again, the Desert Sled takes a beating in the beating-heart department; Triumph tucks a 1,200 cc parallel-twin into the frame with 81.1 pounds o’ grunt, which is a little over half-again more torque. But also again, you’ll pay for that advantage to the tune of $15,400.

Read our full review of the Triumph Scrambler 1200 XE.

He Said

This could be my favorite model from Ducati’s Scrambler lineup. While it doesn’t have quite the displacement some may like, my everyday bike is an 883 cc, so I’m OK with the smaller lump. My affinity for historical machines draws me to the Desert Sled in general, and the Fasthouse in particular. Would I ride it? 10/10 would put it my pen.”

She Said

My wife and fellow motorcycle writer, Allyn Hinton, says, “I love me some scramblers, but what I really like are scramblers that are honest-to-goodness off-pavement capable, not just poser street bikes. Enter the Desert Sled and the Desert Sled Fasthouse. They have the look of the old-time scramblers from the 60s and 70s (and yes, I remember those when they were the hot new thing) and they actually have the chops to perform in the dirt. Wheel travel, laced wheels, a bash plate, and the headlight grille tell you that the Desert Sled can handle some terrain. The new seat has a grippier surface so you have more control in the saddle. The engine won’t wow you, but it’s capable and will let you handle situations without the frenetic pace of the bigger engines. Weight wise, the bike is light enough to handle without feeling like a toy. The downside is, the ground clearance and suspension travel that make it so nice for scrambler action also make for a tall bike, even with the low-seat option. If I could pick one and be prettier, thinner, smarter, or taller, I’d pick taller in a heartbeat.”

2021 Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled Specifications

Engine & Drivetrain:
Engine: L-Twin, Desmodromic distribution, 2 valves per cylinder, air cooled
Displacement: 803 cc
Bore x Stroke: 88 mm x 66 mm
Compression ratio: 11:1
Power: 73 hp (53.6 kW) 8,250 rpm
Torque: 48.9 lb-ft (66.2 Nm) @ 5,750 rpm
Fuel injection: Electronic fuel injection, 50 mm throttle body
Exhaust: Stainless steel muffler with catalytic converter and 2 lambda probes, aluminum tail pipes
Standard: Euro 5 (Only for countries where Euro 5 standard applies)
Gearbox: 6 speed
Ratio: 1=32/13 2=30/18 3=28/21 4=26/23 5=22/22 6=24/26
Primary drive: Straight cut gears, Ratio 1.85:1
Final drive: Chain, front sprocket 15, rear sprocket 46
Clutch: Hydraulically controlled slipper and self-servo wet multiplate clutch
Chassis:
Frame: Tubular steel Trellis frame
Front suspension/ Travel: 46mm fully adjustable usd forks/7.9 in (200 mm)
Rear suspension/ Travel: Kayaba rear shock, pre-load and rebound adjustable. Aluminum double-sided swingarm/ 7.9 in (200 mm)
Rake: 24°
Trail: 4.4 in (112 mm)
Total steering lock: 35°
Front wheel: Spoked aluminum wheel 3.00" x 19"
Rear wheel: Spoked aluminum wheel 4.50" x 17"
Front tire: Pirelli SCORPION™ RALLY STR 120/70 R19
Rear tire: Pirelli SCORPION™ RALLY STR 170/60 R17
Front brake: Ø330 mm disc, radial 4-piston caliper with Bosch Cornering ABS as standard equipment
Rear brake: Ø245 mm disc, 1-piston floating caliper with Bosch Cornering ABS as standard equipment
Dimensions & Capacities:
Wheelbase: 59.3 in (1,505 mm)
Fuel tank capacity: 3.57 gallon (13.5 l)
Fuel Economy: 43.6 mpg (5.4 l/100 km)
Dry weight: 425.5 lb (193 kg)
Curb weight: 460.8 lb (209 kg)
Seat height: 33.9 in (860 mm) - low seat 33.0 in (840 mm) available as accessory
Max height (brake reservoir): 47.8 in (1,213 mm)
Max width (mirrors): 37.0 in (940 mm)
Max length: 86.6 in (2,200 mm)
Number of seats: Dual seat
Details:
Standard equipment: Steel tank with interchangeable aluminum side panels, headlight with DRL by LED light-guide and interchangeable aluminum cover, LED rear light with diffusion-light, LED turn indicator, LCD instruments with gear and fuel level indications and interchangeable aluminum cover, under-seat storage compartment with USB socket, ABS cornering, machine-finished aluminum belt covers, black engine with brushed fins.
Desert Sled & Fasthouse equipment: Aluminum handlebar with cross-strut, front stem protectors, seat with specific design, high front mudguard, long rear mudguard and high plate support
Warranty: 24 months unlimited mileage
Color: Sparkling Blue, Fasthouse: Fasthouse Livery
Price: $11,995, Fasthouse: $12,295

Further Reading

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TJ Hinton
TJ Hinton
T.J got an early start from his father and other family members who owned and rode motorcycles, and by helping with various mechanical repairs throughout childhood. That planted a seed that grew into a well-rounded appreciation of all things mechanical, and eventually, into a formal education of same. Though primarily a Harley rider, he has an appreciation for all sorts of bikes and doesn't discriminate against any particular brand or region of origin. He currently holds an Associate's degree in applied mechanical science from his time at the M.M.I.  Read full bio
About the author

All images featured on this website are copyrighted to their respective rightful owners. No infringement is intended. Image Source: ducati.com, triumphmotorcycles.com, bmwmotorcycles.com

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