Five minutes…with Antoine Meo – Racing a Ducati Desert X Adventure bike and 125 two-strokes
From racing Ducati’s Desert X Adventure bike alongside Pol Tarres to French Enduro on a 125 two-stroke – like all “retired” people, Antoine Meo’s life seems busier than ever. Enduro21 catches up with the five-times world champ
The Bassella Race in Spain earlier this month brought out the adventure bike influencer elite with a Maxi Trail category featuring Pol Tarres, Kirian Mirabet, Gerrard Farres, Joan Pedrero and this guy, Antoine Meo.
It’s fair to say among that list, Meo is the most decorated with five enduro world championships, four ISDE victories and Dakar stage wins in his trophy cabinet. But since retiring from racing the Frenchman has taken up a new role as development rider for Ducati and their Desert X Adventure bike.
Which is what brought Meo to Spain at the start of the year for a hugely popular Maxi Trail class in the Bassella Race 1 event. Enduro21 caught up with Antoine after morning practice to check out what the Ducati is like on an enduro track and what he’s up to during 2023…
Hi Antoine, what on earth are you doing here in Bassella?
Antoine Meo: “We’re doing and off-road programme with the trail bike and we’ll be doing some events like this. In Spain the Bassella Race 1 is one of the biggest in the country so we came with the Desert X and then will do some Moto Rally races in Italy and some other big events.”
How is it on the big bike round this enduro track?
“I wasn’t expecting the kind of track like the one we got here, it was all singletrack mostly with only some open piste. Anyway, it was nice and I enjoy it a lot. We had some dices, but it was fun and the bike is really capable of doing it.”
Meo trying to find a way past Tarres...
What’s Desert X like to ride?
“The first time I rode the bike was in Dubai in the dunes, so it was amazing. Ducati doesn’t have an off-road experience and the first bike they built can be ridden in the dunes it’s amazing.
“The strong point is its 900cc engine. It’s a big capacity engine but it’s a two-cylinder V-twin so we only have half of the weight of the engine in the front. Basically, most of the weight of the bike is in the centre and it gives it a really good balance.
“This bike is built for the people who want a capable standard model with all the base components designed for off-road riding.”
How does it compare to an enduro or proper rally bike?
“These bikes really bring the spirit of the ‘90s Dakar back, when the Dakar Rally was the real one! It’s a dangerous bike [because it is so good] and I’m sure if we took the last twin cylinder Dakar bike engine this one is better. The spirit is really there.
“Is difficult for the customers to trust Ducati’s ability to come out with this bike because they had no real off-road experience. If you look the numbers in paper we’re a bit over the weight of the Tenere but we have more power and with all the electronic assistance it’s really easy to ride. You don’t feel that big power.
“We have less weight than them in the front so the feeling there is better, it feels lighter and it’s easy to ride in the singletracks.
“We came to this race with a standard bike, just modified the suspension and took out the restrictions of the exhaust, but you can do all this at home.”
How’s life after retirement from professional racing?
“The Dakar cost me a lot physically, so I made the decision to stop racing professionally because my body was tired. After that I did some work with KTM and then with Honda. Two years ago, Ducati approached me to ask if I was interested in collaborating with them and we started working on the Desert X.
“I was not at the beginning of the development story, I jumped in to continue developing the bike. It was really nice to work hand-in-hand with the engineers and be able to make the changes on the bike.
“Step-by-step we are making the bike better. It’s a new and strong market so our goal is to give a better performing bike to the costumer.”
Where are we going to see you this season?
“Apart from the events we have planned with Ducati and the Desert X, I will race some French Enduro Championship rounds with a 125cc but with the head on to just enjoy the event. After this we will be doing some more development on the Desert X.”
Photo Credit: Future7Media + Fotoesport.cat