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Triumph and Ducati Going Dirt Bike Racing … Why?

Triumph has already introduced its production motocrosser, the TF 250-X. It has race teams in place to compete in both supercross and outdoor motocross this year. The TF 250-X is a state-of-the-art machine with top-drawer components and a claimed best-in-class power-to-weight ratio. It is priced at $9,995 in the U.S.

Now, Ducati is going off-road, as well, and will race this year in the Italian Motocross Championship. It has already announced that the bike will feature Desmodromic valve actuation – a Ducati trademark, of sorts.

Why are these two established street bike manufacturers making hard-core motocross bikes? Share your thoughts in our comments section below. Is it based on the success of KTM, which is the largest motorcycle manufacturer in Europe at present. Building brand loyalty with youngsters with dirt bikes, KTM has expanded to a full lineup of street bikes and is even competitive in Grand Prix roadracing (including MotoGP).

Of course, dirt bikes aren’t cheap when they come from brands like Triumph and Ducati, and it might seem like world economic conditions, increasing environmental restrictions and fierce competition would counsel against established street bike manufacturers venturing off-road.

Here is a summary from Ducati of their dirt direction, followed by a couple of videos.

The Bologna based manufacturer has been working for two years on a prototype that will make its debut next season in the Italian Motocross Championship, with the aim of validating the technical solutions made on the bike on the track. This strategy confirms the approach that distinguishes Ducati in the development of its sportiest and most high-performance models, i.e. starting from racing competition and then creating series products capable of exceptional performance for the delight of its enthusiasts.

This is a multi-year project that will see the creation of a complete range of off-road engines and motorcycles. The models will gradually become part of a family of knobby motorcycles branded Ducati, starting with motocross.

The Bologna-based company has signed an agreement with nine-time Motocross World Champion Antonio Cairoli as a high-performance test rider for the new project and, thanks to his talent, speed and experience, he will give important input for the development of the new motorcycle. 

Claudio Domenicali, CEO of Ducati Motor Holding, commented: “I am proud to announce Ducati’s entry into Motocross. A totally new world for Ducati in which we want to bring our talent in designing lightweight motorcycles, with excellent components and high performance and – above all – which can excite more and more motorcyclists. Just as we believe that the track is the best laboratory to develop and test the bikes that will then be available to customers and enthusiasts. This is why we have decided to cooperate with an undisputed champion like Tony Cairoli who, together with the passion and dedication of many of us here in Borgo Panigale, will contribute to making Ducati in off-road as capable in offering very high-performance products to its passionate customers as we have proven on the asphalt. The project is possible thanks to the company’s excellent results in recent years and confirms our desire to extend our presence into new worlds, speak to new motorcyclists and therefore grow the Ducati Community.”

Antonio Cairoli added: I am extremely happy to become part of the universe of Ducati, which has always been a symbol of Italian spirit throughout the world, and to begin this exciting new adventure, in an all-Italian project. Being able to make my contribution to the development of the Borgo Panigale motocross bike is a dream come true and a source of great pride for me.” 

Ducati has also signed a multi-year agreement with Maddii Racing, one of the most experienced teams in the motocross paddock, which will be the reference structure for the MX racing activities and will take part in the 2024 Italian Motocross Championship with Alessandro Lupino, eight-time Italian Champion and 2021 MXoN winner, also contracted to Ducati as racing and test rider.

The focus of the Ducati off-road project is a combination of the search for lightness pushed to the extreme, top-of-the-line components and engines characterized by a very broad power delivery curve. The latter is obtained thanks to the use of the Desmodromic system, used on all the sports bikes of the Bologna based company starting from MotoGP. Ducati is in fact the only company in the world that uses the same valve return system on its highest performing production motorcycles as it does on racing prototypes.

Entering the specialist off-road sector represents a very important and challenging strategic choice for Ducati, made possible thanks to the excellent results achieved in recent years. A decision that confirms the desire to expand the brand’s presence into unexplored terrain today. New young motorcyclists will be able to get close to the Borgo Panigale brand and thus enter the large community of Ducatisti.

Performance is one of the three core values of the brand, together with Style and Sophistication. In Borgo Panigale there are many off-road lovers and we can’t wait to see the Desmo in all its potential at work off the asphalt!


  1. Mick says:

    Ducati unveiled their 450. The Triumph 250 has been around for a little while. I thought it was odd that the bikes Ducati will be racing have a Beta sticker on the swingarm. I wondered if they were sourcing the chassis from Beta. So I looked up the Beta 450. Nope! Similar but definitely different designs. I suppose Beta could still be making the chassis to Ducati’s design.

    It will be interesting to see if a desmo valve train will be a warm fuzzy for a dirt bike. Desmo valves are a little fussy. But you can adjust them without removing the camshaft, unlike most of the current crop of Moto diesels. It could also make for a crisper low end response. Top end power on the 450s is already more than adequate. Even the pros who ride them think so.

    I’m a two stroke only guy. But it’s fun to watch the cavemen play with their anachronisms.

    • Guu says:

      The Beta on the swingarm sticker is a long established hand tool manufacturer with no links to Beta motorcycles. Different logo also…

      Also, Beta motorcycle chassis is steel. Ducati is aluminum. No relation there.

  2. Jorma says:

    Are any of these top shelf motocross bikes actually better than any of the others?

    • Dave says:

      If reviews are to be believed, the Yamaha YZF-450F is better than every other 450 currenty, assuming they’re all left stock.

    • todd says:

      Depends on who is riding them

      • Dave says:

        True, but all of the shootout articles I’ve seen this year, the Yamaha has been almost universally chosen by riders of all levels participating in the reviews. Without the opportunity to demo all of the choices side by side, most riders won’t get to know for themselves.

    • Mick says:

      That changes a bit for every rider. It is a very real thing. These things are sports equipment. Every player has their golf club, tennis racket, basket ball brand…

      It’s not a fashion statement. These things are tools.

  3. Mick says:

    I think the real question is which if any of the two brands will continue to sell dirt bikes. Triumph will certainly be popular in UK. The Brits like home grown stuff. The rest of the world will buy it or not based on its quality and durability. That and things like parts interchangeablity. Dirt bikers like common spares for wear items. Things like the Stark Varg apparently can use KTM wheels, rotors and pads.

    Ducati knows a little something about chassis flex. It will be interesting to see if their bike handles well. Triumph has its Moto2 thing. But dirt bikers aren’t going to be impressed by someone who thinks they’re cool because they replaced a 250 two stroke with a 768 four stroke. Quite to the contrary actually. Their bike is going to have to really prove itself. Remember BMW? Yeah, they thought they could show the dirt bike market a thing or two. It turns out that those drooling Neanderthals showed them the door didn’t they?

    What these guys plan to make is totally off my radar. But I’ll still be interested to how they do. The title of this article illustrates rather clearly the thinly veiled comtempt the street bike market has for the dirt bikers. I think they will find that the dirt bikers are actually a very sophisticated customer base. There is a long list of failed attempts to break in to the dirt bike market.

    • Gary in NJ says:

      In 2022 Worldwide dirtbike sales accounted for just 6% of all motorcycle sales (71% were road bikes and 23% were scooters) – but in the United States 24% of all sales were dirtbikes (73% road and 3% scooters). Worldwide there are 49 million units sold per year and the United States accounts for about 450,000 of those units (the US is 4th in overall sales behind China, India, Thailand & Indonesia). Using the above figures there are about 3 million dirtbikes sold every year.

      So if you are Triumph with annual sales in the US around 15,000 per year, and you can capture just 1% of the dirtbike market, you just increased unit sales by over 1,000 units – that’s around a 7% increase in sales. And if you can capture 5% – you just increased unit deliveries by 35%. You’re not gonna do that with bold new paint schemes on your Classic line.

      The last new entrant I can remember into the dirtbike world was Cannondale. They did a great job in marketing and promoting and had a unique design (carb in the front of the head, exhaust out the rear). They sold a lot of bikes for 18 months – until everyone realized that the bikes couldn’t compete and maintenance was a $hit-show. Triumph certainly knows motorcycles and the market better than the bicycle company – and they have put together an impressive team to develop and market their machines. Yeah, I can see a 5% or greater capture for Triumph IF the bikes are reliable and competitive. I agree with you Mick – there’s probably room for only one of them – and I look forward to the fight on the tracks and trails.

      • Dave says:

        A big component of their potential success will be distribution. With the volumes dealerships operate at it will be a stretch to ask them to sell the Triumph in place of or in addition to whatever 250F already holds that floor space.

      • Guu says:

        “The last new entrant I can remember into the dirtbike world was Cannondale.”

        Many have tried since. BMW, Alta and just now Stark, just to name a few.

  4. Gary says:

    Why? Ego. Manufacturers want to prove that their R&D is the best. But the writing is on the wall. Off road racing on the amateur level will go the way of the Dodo … and unless some secondary sponsors step in, like in F1, then pro motocross will follow suit. It’s a pity of course … especially for people like me who got into bikes racing scrambles and motocross.

  5. motorhead says:

    As a father and a grandfather, married to a mother and a grandmother, we have modern worries. Modern trends make it obvious to me that motorcycle makers need off-road vehicles. Safety is a big deal. Young riders today face more severe and unpredictable on-road hazards and therefore off-road is the safest place to learn. By extension, I will no longer ride a bicycle or motorcycle on pavement for fear of big SUV drivers speeding around while holding and staring at their smartphone instead of holding the steering wheel while their eyes aim high and all around. Insurance is expensive, medical insurance is costly and they may not adequately cover injuries. I’m keeping my kids off-road for as long as possible. Ducati and Triumph know this, and want our kids to be hooked on Ducati and Triumph. Good for them. (BTW, I’m still a Yamaha fan due to my Yamaha Enduro gateway drug at a very, very young age.)

    • todd says:

      Nice. I still ride my 72 RT2, 360 enduro pretty hard on woods single track. It’s fun to be the hero in group rides but it’s also pretty punishing to both the bike and the rider trying to keep up with all the modern stuff. The engine is amazing and will climb anything but the brakes and suspension leave a lot to be desired.

  6. todd says:

    Probably also because California effectively banned two strokes come 2025. Next year, any non-emissions compliant OHV 2022 or newer will not be allowed to ride on public lands. This immediately (almost) doubled the value of existing two strokes and improved the popularity of new “green sticker”/dual sport bikes like the KTM 350 EXC-F. This also opens the door to more brands like Triumph and Ducati to re-enter the off road market since they didn’t have experience building 2-strokes and people are becoming used to paying huge prices for a competent dirt bike. I just picked up a 2021 Beta 200rr but am shipping it in from Colorado where prices are still in the “sane” category.

    • Mick says:

      I rode a Beta test ride last summer. I rode all the two strokes and the one four stroke that everybody else seemed to like best, the 350.

      I was surprised at how different the 200 was. The test day guys laid out a loop that was a small portion of the Huntersville state forest in Huntersville, MN. It’s a flat sandy mostly pine forest that’s a fun place to ride rain or shine. The loop was a pretty good mix of stuff that was by the gun club where the event was being held. We rode to it from the trailhead where we camped so we could ride more of Huntersville for a few days since we had to go there to ride the event anyway.

      Of all the Betas that I rode the 200 was the one that I rode most of the loop in forth gear like I would if I rode the same loop on my personal KTM 300XC, that I rode to the event. The rest of them I rode mostly in third. The 350 of course required the most shifting so it wasn’t mostly in anything.

      It’s my opinion that if you are in forth you are going to make better time than if you are in third. So for me the 200 won the test. Kudos on your choice.

      The four stroke? Well, I would hate to be legislated into having to ride those things all the time. Flintstones. Meet the Flintstones…

      Apparently KTM is working on some emissions compliant TPI bikes for those poor sods in places like California. If I lived there I would simply be happy that two strokes last forever with moderate care and stock up on a enough carbureted awesome to last the rest of my days.

    • TimC says:

      Too bad we can’t talk politics on here. The thing is, they don’t want us riding – or in any other way self-sufficient. Euro 6 or whatever we’re at now – how do you guys not see the end “Euro” is no bikes?

      • Mick says:

        Yeah good thing right? Wouldn’t want to start talking about just who it is that is actively banning things right and left and who is working hard to give people their freedoms back.

        Europe is hopelessly overpopulated. Coming soon to an everywhere near you. It’s only a matter of time. Want to see the future? Go to China.

      • Dave says:

        They want to reduce emissions/pollution. They don’t care whether you ride or not. Whether or not you do is up to you choosing to continue + buy bikes and the manufacturers continuing to offer bikes for you to buy. You stop buying, they’ll stop supplying. It’s up to you. It always was.

  7. endoman38 says:

    The most important thing for these 2 newcomers, and for Beta to some extent, is hire someone who know suspension, the most important thing for MX/SX.

    • todd says:

      The Betas come with either Sachs or top-spec KYB forks, mine has been upgraded to Ohlins front and back. Since the rider is such a large percentage of the total weight of a dirt bike, suspension setup to suit the particular rider and his/her riding style/terrain is way more important than basic out of the box settings. Dirt bike suspension is so much more advanced than what we find on most street bikes, it’s just more noticeable when it isn’t matched to the rider.

      • Dave says:

        “ Dirt bike suspension is so much more advanced than what we find on most street bikes,”

        Where does this idea come from? Not true.

  8. Buzz says:

    Because dirt bikes and side by sides sell and sport bikes collect dust.

    • Fastship says:

      I went to buy a new Hayabusa last week. But then I tried to arrange insurance for it. The best quote I got was £1900. One was £7k! I cancelled the order.

      There could be a connection…

    • Irvin says:

      Texters tokers and self driving cars mske street riding suicide

  9. Doc Sarvis says:

    For whatever the reasons its great to see.

  10. Mick says:

    Dirt bikes have many more racing and recreational venues in some areas. Motocross in particular has tracks almost everywhere. If you look them up on an online maps site you might be surprised at how many there are. The motocross tracks have not only altered the tracks to favor four strokes, mostly by moving obstacles further from corners and reducing the number of the corners themselves. The four stroke bikes alter the tracks as well by changing the corners as the wear. Two strokes make smooth rails while four stroke dive in, turn and blast out, making a hump in the middle of the corner that the two stroke guys don’t like. They like to start rolling on power coming into the corners and the humps make by the four strokes turn into little mid corner jumps. It’s an interesting effect.

    All this makes motocross an attractive market. The four stroke bikes follow a model popularized by Apple Computer. Their very nature is anti repair. The engine’s grenade so expensively that it’s more cost effective to part the bike out and buy a new one. So the average user buys new bikes more often. Honda, Kawi, and Suzi got out of two strokes altogether. The bikes are too repairable and simply last too long. Yamaha still sells a two stroke with chassis that are nearly twenty years old and engines that are older still. I still have a couple in steel and aluminum chassis flavors. They age very well indeed. One of mine just turned twenty years old.

    In the end, I applaud Triumph and Ducati for entering the fray. They are going to find that they are really going to have to up their game to serve and very decerning customer base. They will learn a great many things that will help the make better street bikes in a more cost effective manner. Ducati seems to be getting with the program already with their upcoming single.

    It will be interesting to see if they ever go after the most decerning customers of the all. The old two stroke guys who play in the woods and the deserts. Only KTM and some other small European manufacturers dare swim in those waters. But it is from that market that KTM has risen to become the powerhouse that it is. They are the victor. And to them go the spoils.

    As an aside to one of the earlier commenters. The four strokes are getting traction control now days. I’m afraid the dirt bikes are going to get even more costly. Gone is the day of the five thousand dollar dirt bike.

  11. My2cents says:

    Selling a motorcycle that requires no warranty, street lighting, gauges, anti-lock, complex electronics, with lack of liability is why. Add to that spares, building brand loyalty, and going head to head with the Japanese. Moto GP is offered as proof that Ducati now rules the roost with KTM and Aprilia close behind, Yamaha and Honda trail in the distance and Suzuki packed up and went home. Hyper Sport motorcycles from KTM, BMW, and Aprilia are more common, sought after, and high end on the money side. No question here why it’s happening.

    • Scott says:

      Yamaha, Honda, and Suzuki are all into dirt bike racing, so whatever the reason “Moto GP is offered as proof that Ducati now rules the roost with KTM and Aprilia close behind, Yamaha and Honda trail in the distance and Suzuki packed up and went home. Hyper Sport motorcycles from KTM, BMW, and Aprilia are more common, sought after, and high end on the money side”, it isn’t because of dirt bike racing.

  12. Roadrash1 says:

    I’m really excited about Triumph getting into this. They make a good product!
    As for the cost…the $5,000 CR250 I bought new in 1995 directly translates with inflation into the $10,000 250 MX bike today.
    The only difference is, now I make 4 times as much money. I guess I’m lucky. Might have to buy a new dirt bike!

    • Grover says:

      You’ve waited nearly 30 years to buy one. Go ahead and treat yourself because your next dirt bike purchase will probably outlive you!

      • Roadrash1 says:

        Grover, I didn’t wait, I was buying other new bikes that whole time. lol!
        But, that ‘95 CR 250 is still being ridden on woods trails by a friend of mine! I’ll be 63 next month, so I don’t disagree with the idea of a new bike outlasting me. If I brought a kitten home, it would probably attend my funeral. Hahaha!

        • Raikka says:

          Hah, I just sold my 2002 Honda CR250R, begrudgingly I might add. That thing still ran well and was in very good condition. At 60, my off roading days went away as did my spare time.

  13. Gary in NJ says:

    I can understand the desire to enter the off-road / dirt realm. First it’s a lot less expensive to field an off-road racing program than any of the street/track teams. Second, as we saw during Covid, when times are bad people (families) hit the dirt. I believe that with the right product(s) and marketing this could be a sustainable activity. Third, the price point for dirt bikes has risen to the point that it can’t be ignored by the OEMs. While I’m not happy that we have entered a period of $9k-$10k 250’s and $11k 450’s; more manufacturer’s means more competition and continued development. Lastly, if you perform well with a 4T, the transition to E-moto bikes will be more organic.

    I’m glad that there are companies willing to enter this market. It confirms that dirt bikes have a future, and hopefully with higher public visibility comes more awareness for the need of legal riding areas.

    • MikeG says:

      Interesting point about the possible transition to E-moto. Triumph might see the writing on the wall, and it might actually be a story of hope. After 50 years of American motocross being something that needed to be done in close proximity to the county dump, and then run further out of town when the township needed the land for another mall or industrial complex, E-moto might eventually be something that co-exists a bit better with society at large. Time will tell, but if the E-MTB situation is any indication, the market could be huge with lots of crossover between the two disciplines.

      • Mick says:

        I’m eager to see what comes next. I bought a Lite Bee and souped it up, doubling its power and upgradingthe suspension. It’s really small. But in a lot of venues I can beat some of my buddies through the woods with it.

        I have been considering an Ultra Bee to soup up next. But it’s quite a bit heavier than the older bike. I’m kind of hoping someone hits the sweet spot between dirt bikes and mountain bikes. Electric bikes make very usable and effective woods power. They can be a lot of fun. Right up until the battery goes flat. The fun stops abruptly right there. Don’t ask me how I know. But believe me. I am quite familiar with the situation. One sand hill and your range goes way down if you don’t keep your speed up.

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