With the evolving demands of motorcyclists, manufacturers are pushed to make more versatile machines; something you can ride to the office and back, and has enough juice in its engine to make those weekends memorable, demands a certain amount of attention. And in the recent times, motorcyclists in India have begun to take more of a shine to touring this vast country. But with the number of tourers available, making that right choice could
be a bit confusing.
No motorcycle is bad in its entirety. Each motorcycle has its own identity, characteristics that make it unique and fun to ride once you figure out the techniques needed to harness its full potential. That isn’t to say that they don’t have their shortcomings. With the recently launched Bajaj Dominar 400 creating waves of excitement, we seek to find out if it really lives up to all the hype. Then, there’s the Royal Enfield Himalayan in one corner and the Mahindra Mojo in another; we pit the three motorcycles against each other in a showdown of design, versatility and value. After all, these motorcycles do hold the attention of the same category of buyers, riding-wise and budget-wise.
Under the blue sky
While the Dominar 400 and the Mojo are styled along the lines of new-age, naked sports-tourers, the Himalayan is clothed in adventure-tourer garb. Mahindra may admit that the Mojo is a tourer, but Bajaj has decided to call its motorcycle a power cruiser. When viewing the motorcycles alongside each other, the Dominar does appear to have the most compact dimensions. While the Mojo has a facade that could be called bulky and awkward, it does have a certain charm that some enthusiasts would really love. Let’s face it, it does look rather intimidating and could be mistaken for a larger motorcycle. The eyebrow-like LED strips above the headlights may make the Mojo appear like an angry owl, but it does look quite nice. The Dominar 400’s headlight setup, on the other hand, while still quite beefy, looks mature and proportional. And that mosaic-like LED headlight layout is fresh and appealing. The Himalayan simply towers over these two with its adventure-oriented styling. It displays a sort of raw, rugged charm. It has a purposeful, bare-bones stance that may not appeal to bikers who prefer smooth and flowy lines.
The Mojo’s instrument cluster consists of an analogue tachometer that lights up with the revs, and a digital readout for the speedometer and other information. It, however, feels hard to read under direct sunlight and is overly bright during night riding, which reduces a bit of vision in completely unlit situations. Bajaj has given the Dominar 400 a split console, with the handle-mounted one being all digital and quite easy to read, and the tank-mounted LED strip housing the warning lights. However, put on a full-face helmet and the tank strip is away from your field of vision. The Himalayan keeps things simple with its instrument cluster, but things do appear a bit cluttered. It gets an analogue speedo, tacho and fuel gauge, and a digital read-out for the odometer and trip meters. This is the only bike here to get a temperature gauge and gear indicator. It also gets a digital compass for when there isn’t a road in sight.
The tank on the Mahindra is angular and chunky, and it gets thick radiator shrouds on either side that complements the exposed twin-rib chassis. Bajaj’s fledgling, on the other hand, appears to have the better tank design compared to the Mahindra; it appears well-sculpted and mature. The Himalayan’s teardrop-shaped tank is designed to accommodate riding in the standing position to make off-roading easier.
The protruding tail-end on the Mojo is unconventional and looks quite nice on its own, but compare it to the rest of the motorcycle and things start to look a bit disproportionate. The Dominar’s tail-end looks nice and thick and sports Bajaj’s typical vertical twin-strip setup, while the Himalayan gets a raised rear fender, in keeping with its off-road-friendly theme. And where the Mojo unnecessarily gets two metal-finished silencers (that do sound quite nice, actually), the Dominar gets a nice thick, matte-black silencer that has a nice throaty note in higher revs. The Himalayan gets an upswept silencer to aid in ground clearance, but the exhaust note sounds a bit dull and is quite unappealing.
Riding the wave
The Dominar gets a set of beefy 43mm telescopic forks at the front, while the rear is armed with the Bajaj trademark Nitrox, two-stage, adjustable monoshock system. While the stiff setup makes riding over bad roads quite a hassle, the firm setup gives the Dominar sporty handling and excellent high-speed stability. It feels extremely planted through corners and the bike turns in to corners in a fuss-free, neutral manner. The Dominar 400 gets a perimeter-type frame, formed from steel spars and backed
by a precision-pressed steel swingarm. This chassis setup is what makes the weight of the motorcycle feel so well distributed. It’s hard to tell that, at 182kg, the Dominar has the same kerb weight as the Himalayan.
The Himalayan does feel like a large motorcycle, and the weight is a bit more noticeable. The frame is a steel, semi-double cradle, and suspension duties are taken care of by a pair of 41mm conventional forks and a single rear shock. Both ends deliver relatively long travel – 200mm at the front, and 180mm at the rear. What this means is that on the road, there’s not much you have to slow down for. And even though this is a tall motorcycle that has more rugged, dual-purpose tyres, it handles corners wonderfully. This rigid chassis setup means you can dip into corners and the Himalayan holds its lines well, and gives you the confidence to lean in deeper. Although, the large 21-inch front tyre means directional changes are not very quick. Off-road is where the Himalayan really comes into its element. The front end, however, does feel a bit too soft and restricts the amount of feedback you need. And if you manage to get a bit of air time, the suspension does bottom out on landings. Royal Enfield has designed its adventure bike with touring equipment in mind, so the frame includes anchor points for panniers and supports.
The Mojo, on the other hand, gets a twin-tube, exposed chassis that looks nice and solid. But because we’ve had the chance to ride this bike extensively, we can safely say that it’s not the greatest chassis out there. It’s prone to flex at higher speeds, which can make choosing lines precisely quite a daunting task. It also weighs 3kg more and has a heft of 185kg. But, that being said, the Dominar makes use of 43mm telescopic forks at the front, while the Mojo gets more premium upside-down forks. At the rear, the Dominar 400 and the Mojo both get a multi-step adjustable mono shock.
The Dominar really shines in the braking department. The 320mm disc at the front and the 230mm one at the rear do a phenomenal job of bringing the motorcycle to a complete halt. The front brake feels sharp and precise, while the rear feels more progressive. Coupled with the MRF Revz C1 tyres and twin-channel ABS, our Vbox figures revealed that the Dominar comes to a complete stop from 60kph in just 2.02sec and 17.20m.
The Himalayan’s brakes, however, tell a slightly different story. While it gets a slightly smaller front disc at 300mm and a slightly larger rear one at 240mm, it simply cannot keep up with the Dominar when it comes to stopping power. In contrast, the front brake feels more progressive, while the rear brake feels sharp; this may not be that great on the road. This setup actually works best off-road, and keeps the front from locking up, while the rear does, and that allows you to tighten up your turns and use it to steer.
The Mojo is shod with a 320mm disc at the front, made by Jijuan, a Spanish firm that works with Mahindra Racing, while the Dominar gets its brakes from Bybre. The front brake on the Mojo does lack initial bite, but is intended to be progressive; the bite does come in later. At the rear, the Mojo gets a 240mm disc, similar to the Himalayan. But the lack of weight over the rear tyre and a sharp bite means the rear does lock up quite easily.
The Dominar 400 and Mojo share the exactly the same tyre profile. The Dominar’s locally made MRF rubber provide excellent levels of grip, while the Mojo’s Pirelli Diablo Rosso II tyres, aside from being more expensive, provide even more traction. The Himalayan gets dual-purpose tyres from Ceat that provide reasonable levels of grip on the road and offit. Where the Mojo and Himalayan fall short is ABS, they don’t get any at this point. The Dominar gets a more expensive variant with ABS; twin-channel at that. And even this, more expensive, variant, still comes in cheaper than the other two bikes.
While we know for a fact the Mojo’s engine is an absolute gem, the Dominar’s engine shares some base components with the KTM 390 series; we can all agree that the one on the KTM is definitely a bomber of an engine. The Dominar’s engine is a single overhead camshaft derivative of the 373cc KTM Duke and RC 390 engine. It has oversquare bore dimensions, and comes with Bajaj’s triple-spark technology, with its four valves nesting inside a compact single-cylinder head. And while this fuel-injected, liquid-cooled engine may produce less power than the KTM, it’s no slouch at all. It feels punchy and strong, and pulls in a very linear manner to its rev limiter, close to 10,000rpm. Gearshifts up and down the six-speed ‘box feed in with a precise, light feel. The bonus here is that the Dominar 400 also gets a slipper clutch which steps in to allow hard downshifting from high speeds. The gear ratios feel just right and perfectly matched to the engine’s long legs. In fact, overall, the Bajaj encourages you to ride it hard and this is where it feels in its element.
The Himalayan’s engine feels very relaxed in its power delivery. This 411cc single-cylinder unit, with undersquare dimensions, relies on a simple layout with a single overhead camshaft and two valves. It is fed via a carburettor with throttle position sensor, and produces 24.5hp that is driven towards the rear wheel through a five-speed gearbox. The gearbox, however, may feel a bit notchy when shifting at the wrong rpm, and that’s a hassle in city conditions. The tall gear ratios ensure a cruising agenda on the road. And when off-road, these rations mean you don’t have to shift gears too much. The Dominar 400 and Mojo get liquid-cooled, fuel-injected engines.
The Mahindra Mojo’s 295cc unit makes 27hp and 30Nm. So, the Dominar 400 does lead in terms of power output and torque figures, which was expected from the extra 78cc of displacement. But the Mojo’s engine is no pussycat. Once it hits the 4,500-5,000rpm mark, there is this surge of power and torque that makes this motorcycle feel a lot more powerful than just 27hp. It also gets a six-speed gearbox (minus the slipper clutch) which works quite well, except for some rather confusing ratios in the higher gears.
From the Captain’s chair
If these motorcycles are designed with long-distance cruising in mind, ergonomics are the most crucial aspect. Having already covered massive distances on Mahindra’s steed, we can safely say that things do get a bit painful on longer stints. While the seat is fairly comfortable, there is almost negligible thigh support. This means that once you cross that two-hour mark of continuous riding, sore-butt syndrome is sure to come knocking. The handlebar is nice and wide, and rather comfortable. And the foot pegs are rather forward-set, which isn’t really a problem per se, but it does impede any sort of aggressive riding.
The elongated single-seat setup on the Mojo seems functional, but the Dominar’s split-seat setup is wider and is certainly the more comfortable one. The narrow seat on the Himalayan is also reasonably comfortable, and it shares its seat height with the Dominar at 800mm. The Mojo is 14mm taller and stands at 814mm.
When it comes to refinement levels, the Mojo really takes the cake. It feels nice and solid, and free of vibrations. Once you spend a bit of time in the saddle of the Dominar 400, the vibrations become quite apparent. Anything past 4,000rpm will have a light buzz that creeps in from the handlebar, seat and footpegs. The Himalayan isn’t vibration free either, but it simply isn’t as noticeable as on the Dominar.
Another area the Dominar 400 falls behind in is fuel capacity. It’s just that the Mojo will go a fair distance further with its 21-litre fuel tank, while the Himalayan gets a 15-litre one. The Dominar gets a smaller 13-litre capacity. The Himalayan, despite having the most displacement here, puts down 34.6kpl, while the Dominar 400 returns 33.5kpl and the Mojo, 33.4kpl.
Into the sunset
These motorcycles come with different strengths and weaknesses. While the Himalayan may appeal to more adventurous, seasoned, and mechanically sound riders, and the Mojo may appeal to the highway aficionados, the Dominar 400 is simply the better-rounded, modern-day package. This is a motorcycle you can swing your leg over, ride hard all day, without worrying too much about mechanical issues. Aside from it having a bit of a jarring ride, it offers more modern features that make it a safer motorcycle. And let’s not forget that price. If you consider the non-ABS base variant of the Dominar, it costs approximately Rs 15,000 lower than the Himalayan and the Mojo. So, at the end of the day, Bajaj has made a good motorcycle for a phenomenal price tag.