So while a lot of reviews released and spoke all nice things about the much awaited and not much awaited Dominar 400, I thought of finding out myself. Not because I’m interested in it or something, but because it’s a very interesting motorcycle itself, in every way! A 400-ish cc motorcycle priced close to a 200cc segment motorcycle having abs, slipper clutch and stuff is bound to have people leaning forward on their paunches. But, is it THAT good?
The ride: Speaking of paunches, I found myself leaning forward while my paunch pretended to be a gel support between the 13L tank and me. The upper half of my body felt like it was riding a street motorcycle while the lower half was confused if it was controlling a cruiser or a street motorcycle pretending to be a cruiser.
I rode a short distance but managed to take it over varying terrains, thanks to Bangalore’s pathetic roads. Some potholes felt quite hard but not as bad as they treat me on my Duke 390. But if you hate them and like slow riding, you could tweak the rear monoshock for a soft ride. All in all, it was OK, but a bit on the weird side though.
Handling: Not that I thrashed the Dominar 400 around corners because doing that on public roads is bad manners, I did feel the weight of the motorcycle while making U turns. It definitely isn’t as good as my Honda Dio. LOL! But neither was I as confident when it came to leaning too much. Of course, I can’t compare the chassis to a light trellis frame but the handling comes as good as the price and nothing more. And why should it? Otherwise it would be called something else! 😏
Engine, performance and feel: While the engine is KTM’s 390 powerhouse, Bajaj’s modifications to it has completely transformed the engine from a Gazelle desperate to mate with the opposite sex to a struggling derby horse. If you aren’t the Nat geo kind of a guy unfortunately, then replace the Gazelle with Sunny Leone and the struggling Derby horse with erm… that lady from the movie Pa.
I must mention though that this engine remains very smooth below 5000 rpm which in my books is an excellent thing done to a fat little single cylinder engine! While it has lost 9.5 horses and put on 35 odd kilos, that’s taken the power to weight equation down to around 190 horse power per tonne! So then, buying the Dominar for the performance and speed it offers is like investing in a candle to light up your neighborhood. It is summer right now so I’m forced to make that analogy as I type this in total darkness!
I know it hits 100 in about 8 point something seconds and maxes out at 160 kmph-ish and that is an enjoyable thing to do when every atom on the motorcycle forces you to go mad with the throttle. But with the Dominar, vibrations kick in as early as 5000 rpm that sort of spoils the fun a little bit and made me a bit hesitant in pushing too far.
Speaking of the torque on this motorcycle, it does kick in pretty early so it is traffic friendly by a small margin. I’m sure it won’t fry your legs when you get stuck in start-stop traffic either. On the highway too, this would make a great tool for cruising peacefully. The gearbox on the motorcycle I rode was repaired recently and it still wasn’t performing at its optimal best, so I would refrain from making a judgement on that.
Ergonomics and Comfort: The Dominar did make me feel quite comfortable but not as much as it is hyped. I had to lean a bit forward on the bars while the seat was soft and deep. Wish I rode it for a longer distance to make a sure shot judgement. The ergonomics though were quite confusing because like the ‘Ducati Diavel’, the Dominar has 2 screens to look at in front with both showing a lot of info. The user interface could have definitely been simpler because I wouldn’t want to waste more than a second in looking at the screen if I tried cruising at 3 digit speeds! I know it looks great and all but nothing really trumps practicality. And of course, a windscreen is something I missed, at least a short one should’ve been added.
Braking: Bajaj has done a great job in improving the brakes! The rear brake felt better than the one on my 390 and did not lock up easily. The front brake did have more bite but the motorcycle took a longer duration to reach a complete standstill. All in all, for the performance it offers, the brakes do a pretty good job!
To sum it up then, this motorcycle is for riders who wouldn’t wish to push too much but who are more for the idea of relaxed touring at 90 kmph. If you’re buying it because it’s a medium capacity motorcycle for 1.7 Lakhs on road, Bangalore but are having high expectations from it in terms of performance, then it’s not the motorcycle for you. The engine is not what id call rev happy and it is quite far from KTM 390s performance. This is a calm animal and behaves more like a 250. Speaking of 250, the KTM Duke 250 could actually have a lot more ‘umph’ factor.
Are you 33+, hard working, are planning your next child and want a motorcycle that has an engine displacement enough to impress your neighbor with a Hyundai i20 but are refraining from investing in a Royal Enfield? Then the Bajaj Dominar would be a better match than your existing life partner. The Headlight is a bit of an overkill though but still, it’s 1.7 Lakhs with ABS. 😀
Based on a lot of enquiries, I’ve added the link to the Yi action camera I used on the Dominar’s test ride, below.