Ducati Splatty – Slippy Slide / Loss of Pride ^^
“..quick question – would you be interested and available for a small photoshoot next week? I need to take some images of the Ducati desert sled for Kevin from Dart motors.” – Project brief: easy trails and dirt. Nothing extreme.
Ooh, new bike to try!
Sounded great. I explained about not being confident on dirt, but was willing to give it a go. The weather had been dry and hot, so the dirt would most likely be firm. I am okish on firm dirt with my Kawasaki d’tracker, I figured I would be ok on the Ducati too. Just hoped for no rain, because mud would be scary for me.
So really, what could possibly go wrong….?
Meet point: Ducati Chiang Mai – 8am
At the Ducati showroom I met photographer Thorsten, and Ducati staff Art and June, which is when I got my first feel of the desert sled.
When I sat on it I initially found the seating position further back than I am used to and I was overreaching a bit with the handlebars, but the most concerning aspect was realising that I was right on my tip-toes when sitting on the bike. As I am unfamiliar with the bike, and as the weight is heavier than I am used to, this worried me, especially if we planned on riding dirt trails. I prefer to flat-foot or close to flat-foot on bikes that are heavy and unfamiliar.
When we did get going I was really careful on the bike. We were launched straight into city traffic and I didn’t want to filter through traffic until I got more familiar with how the bike handles. I needed at least 10 or so minutes to get comfortable with how the bike handles and responds, so I didn’t want to gamble on anything whilst coming out of the showroom. Rather than going to the front of the traffic at the red lights, I waited behind, with my tip-toes precariously balancing the bike! We were heading to Chiang Dao.
The initial 40 kms or so are a bit boring on this route due to it being a built up traffic and city area, but once we got past the R1095 Pai junction the ride became enjoyable. The Desert Sled felt amazing. Really responsive and lots of torquey fun.
We initially stopped in for breakfast and morning coffee at Mokluang Cafe.
A few cool photos were taken outside of the cafe before heading of to ride up to San Pa Kia lookout.
As we were riding I was frustrated with myself for sitting down so much, rather than standing. Even though standing makes so much sense in many ways, for some reason I kept losing my nerve and sitting…which of course only makes trail riding worse!
I really need to practice this more. I really should return for more courses at the Honda Riding Park, as I did just a couple with them when the first opened. It is not like I am unfit either, as I have been regularly going to the gym. I am just unskilled.
Here is a video of the start of the trails.
Sadly I wasted too much of my gopro battery life (for those that follow me, you may remember that I lost my bag of batteries during my Cambodia/Siem Reap ride. Which I haven’t yet replaced. Silly me! So I currently only have one battery.)
Later on, the thunderstorm and rains came which turned the area wet, muddy, and full of debris (broken branches and wet leaves), but by then my battery was already dead. Very irritating as I would have liked to have re-watched the footage of it. I think we still kept a fairly good time, although I was much slower than the other guys, (who were really lovely and patient with me!)
On the route there were moments that Thorsten wanted us to turn around and ride back up. Usually a few times on each section. As I was scared to drop a bike that doesn’t belong to me, I got the guys to help me turn it around each time. Felt rather pathetic with this request, but the fear of dropping and damaging an expensive bike that wasn’t mine was greater than my embarrassment. Still, it did feel a bit humiliating.
About half way up the mountain we began to hear thunderclaps. Oh-oh. I figured it might not rain though, but alas the sky god had a laugh and sent buckets and buckets of rain down to land on us. lol.
It took a while for the rain to ease off. To prevent myself from overthinking about the rain conditions I decided to go down a small muddy looking hilly area to a juicy looking lychee tree that was full of fruit. I got myself a good handful of fruit, but also absolutely soaked through. Was worth it as they were so delicious.
Once the rain finally eased off we got back on the bikes. I was nervous. ^^
..but, it turned out much better than I expected. Despite the ground being wet and slippery in sections, the bike and tires handled really well. The main problem was again my lack of confidence and lack of good footing. Everytime I stopped or started the bike it was difficult to keep my balance. Once going it was ok, albeit not so fast.
We had a few more photo opportunities on a bit of straight solid ground.
We got a few promo shots before heading back down the way we came..a nice slippery downward ride..eek..!
As we were coming down I realised that I was beginning to enjoy it more. I began to trust the bike was doing a good job and even though there were times i was slipping in mud, i stayed upright.
…hah..well, for the most part. Time to confess…!
I did fall..but it was a really pathetic minor fall. It was all due to lack of balance because I could not reach the ground properly.
I was on the bike in the dirt trail, ready to start it up. As I began to go forward I went too slowly and lost my balance.
It was a weird slow motion stupid fall.
Although the fall was so soft to do any kind of real damage to the bike, it was unfortunately enough to break the clutch lever.
Then, the worst part, after we got the bike upright again, I went to maneuver and fell straight over on the opposite side, bending the front brake lever! H#LY Cr*P! I couldn’t believe it!
So sorry Kevin (Ducati Chiang Mai) 🙁
I managed to break parts on a new and expensive bike, in a really pathetic way, and at the same time break my spirit a little. I KNOW that if had been able to plant my feet more solidly on the ground then this would not have happened.
At the time I realised I was losing my balance but could do nothing about it, so had to go with the drop as gently as possible.
On my dtracker if ever I lose my balance it is light enough for me to just put my foot down and pop myself upright again, not so with the heavier desert sled. I really needed that extra bit of foot-on-ground to help me.
I have some additional notes, but will put them all at the end of the write up.
Once at the bottom of the trail we went to have a cool drink. I felt absolutely buzzing with adrenalin and ended up talking a mile a minute.
The bikes really got quite dirty, as did we.
View this post on Instagram
I was invited to be in a promo shoot for Ducati Chiang Mai, riding the Ducati Desert Sled 2019 model. We got really quite dirty! More on this later lol..just short video of the end of the trail ride. ^^ . . . #ducati #chiangmai #thailand #chiangdao #motorcycle #motorbike #mud #rainy #desertsled #ducatidesertsled
The waterproof luggage that was being tested out held up really well.
I believe this luggage will be available at Ducati Chiang Mai, but not sure of the details just yet.
We did hit peak hour traffic on our return to the city though, which is never fun, and it was dark by the time we arrived back at the showroom (around 6pm).
Had a bit of a chat and had a look around the Ducati workshop area.
When I first got back on my own bike it initially felt really weird and light. I had gotten used to the heavier desert sled, so my bike felt like a buckeroo for a few moments. I settled back into my bike and on my ride home and realised I do actually really love how lightweight it is. It just feels like an extension of my own body. The desert sled felt like it was a little beast i was riding. My scooter (a yamaha fino 115cc) feels like a pug dog I am attempting to take for a walk ..but my dtracker feels like an additional limb. I am so used to my bike that it was like putting a prosthetic back on my body, and it felt really really comfortable.
Still, the desert storm is a bike I would definitely like to ride again. So far out of all the bikes I have tried, the bikes that i have enjoyed riding has been the MT-07, the modified dtracker (big bore kit to 350cc), and the desert storm. However, I still love my simple dtracker. ..which is a good thing in my books.
Official specs for the Desert Sled HERE
My personal overall impressions of the desert sled (from a non-techy perspective):
- Fantastic bike to ride. Smooth, reliable, no vibrations (max speed I took it to on the road was 150kph, so not sure how it is at higher speeds, but zero vibrations and very smooth at that speed)
- Reliable both on-road and off-road (as an unconfident rider off-road, the bike really did perform fantastic and I started feeling my confidence grow).
- Perfect for Northern Thailand (although i haven’t experienced the bike on the super tight twisties (more curves than twisties), I have a feeling it would be fantastic)
- Comfortable (although I haven’t done a lot of road KM’s, so unsure how it would be after many hours)
- Stock tires: The Pirelli Scorpion Rally tires felt great. (Much better than my Vee Rubber vrm-163 dual sports tires. I was told to put my faith in the tires, and I could see why).
From a cosmetic perspective:
I really prefer the more classic style of the Desert Sled 2018 model. However, the 2019 model is more in tune with the general Ducati colour/look.
- For me personally the height really was a big issue. Maybe if I owned the bike I would eventually be ok with the height, but being on the bike for the first time I wanted to have my feet firmly on the ground. When the bike was going, all was fine, but stopping/starting/slow maneuvering equaled HUGE problems for me, especially on unstable ground.
- The handlebar position had me overreaching slightly. This would need to be adjusted for me slightly. Maybe this is a general female rider issue, as we tend to have shorter torsos than men, but not sure.
- The seat position was further back than I am used to, but I think this is just because I was overreaching for the handlebars.
The seat itself would be nicer (imo) to sit on if scooped slightly, rather than a flat large surface.
- The neutral is tricky to get into place. I noticed this was an issue for others too.
These factors being fixed/amended would have made a big difference to my riding confidence on the day.
Also, at one point Thorsten asked me if I prefered the ABS off or on. I felt rather stupid because although I know what ABS does, I didn’t know how it would affect riding in this particular circumstance. I have no ABS on my dtracker thus no experience of what having it on or off makes to how a bike handles in dirt.
In the end I felt both excillerated and deflated. I loved the opportunity and wish I could redo it with some adjustments to the bike. I learned a few things that day, but my confidence levels did take a little bit of a nose dive. I came away wanting to do more though, so it’s all good. I also came away with some minor muscle strain from overreaching, and a few little pretty flower bruises, but it’s all good!
Looking forward to the photographs that come out of the ride, from amazing photographer Thorsten Henn. (Hopefully he got some great shots even though I am not a confident trail/dirt rider). Check out his website HERE and stunning images on Instagram HERE. He is an amazing photographer, so was great to be included in the project.
As for the guys at Ducati, they were great and very patient with me. So thank you very much Art and June!
Hope you enjoyed this mini write up.
Have you ridden the Desert Sled or own one?
What are you thoughts?
Comment below! ..and don’t forget to subscribe ^.^