I start with the newer kid on the block. And just pushing the Dominar 400 out of my parking takes some effort. Thankfully, once on the move, the weight distribution and the seating triangle mask its 182kg bulk quite well. It’s still dark and those all-LED headlamps – exclusive to the Dominar in this test – are a real boon. The spread and the reach of the illumination is one of the best on any bike that’s on the saner side of Rs 2 lakh. The seating ergonomics are great too. You just get on and you are instantly comfortable.
And it has likable dynamics; at least in this company. We are on NH3 heading towards Igatpuri. The road is wide, well surfaced and a little winding at places. The Dominar is completely at home here. It’s not rapid but it gathers momentum without a fuss, tips into the fast flowing corners without hesitation, and those road-going MRFs allow for some aggressive throttle inputs at corner exits. It’s planted in a straight line too.
The only issue when going fast on the Dominar is the vibes. And the loud engine noise, which is anything but pleasant. The Bajaj begins vibrating from as early as 4,000rpm and the higher you climb up the rev range, the worse it gets. The vibes can be felt through the handlebar and levers, via the footpegs, and even through the seat. It’s also a little shorter geared than we would have liked given Bajaj had six ratios to play with.
Soon, it’s time to turn off NH3 and head towards Jawahar. And this presents a bigger problem. The ride quality. On NH3, the Dominar’s ride wasn’t great but it wasn’t bothersome either. But here, on this single-lane, pothole-ridden road, it’s terrible. With its rear constantly kicking up and the front crashing into any depression it finds, within minutes of being on the Mokhada-Khodala road I feel I am going to dislodge my kidneys. I can’t take it anymore, especially given how uncomfortable it is to ride the Dominar standing up.
Things are a lot more comfortable now. Not only does it feel natural standing up and riding on the Himalayan, it is allowing me to fly over what is an awful excuse for a road. Even sitting down, the RE pampers your back and arms more courtesy the softer and longer travel suspension. I like the seating position on the RE better as well; it’s like sitting on a chair with your arms comfortably suspended while the legs take the relaxing L-position.
And on these narrow, bumpy and winding roads, the Himalayan feels more confident as well. Even around bends. Sure, the RE is no match for the quick turning, more feedback-rich and grippier tyre clad Dominar on a well surfaced twisty road, but here on this pitted road, it is running away from the Bajaj as the latter struggles to holds its line and skips around.
But, not all is well with the Himalayan. Thanks to the recall, the engine is certainly more refined but it still sounds agricultural. Gearshifts too are less clunky but they remain hard. And interestingly, there’s no change to the brakes, so it’s all still pretty wooden, weak and scary, particularly the rear.
It’s evening and with the sun coming down, we are on our final leg heading back to Mumbai on NH8. And it’s advantage Dominar all over again. While the RE is most comfortable cruising at 100kmph given the subdued vibrations at this pace, and not to mention, its limited braking and acceleration ability, the Dominar can do it at 120kmph as well. Only difference is while the RE at 100 is relatively vibe-free, the Dominar refuses to stop shaking itself frantically at anything over 90kmph.