Media rides of Dominar 400 are still some weeks away so proper full blown reviews will start flowing only when we ride the Bajaj’s biggest. But before that motorcycles have reached various dealerships in India and many of our readers have ridden them and shared their views. Here is one such view from our avid reader Saravana Kumar who is a Duke owner himself. He presents his opinions on why and if Dominar 400 makes for a worthy buy or not…? So here it is in his own words…
Saravana Kumar: I am in no way an expert, but let me share my thoughts of having owned a Duke 200/2012/18000 kms and a Duke 390-2015 (my younger brother’s daily ride). I’ve also test ridden Dominar two times as of now as I’m planning to buy it in 2017. Anyone comparing/cross-shopping between the Duke 390 and Dominar 400 please read on..
1) The Duke’s are designed and produced by KTM with only one thing in mind; absolute raw chassis for aggressive maniac levels of fun acceleration, to have the segment best power/weight ratio. This is why they are so popular in Europe, especially the monster Super Duke 1290, I wish I ride it at-least once in the future!
2) Now this has led them to lightweight (and hence expensive) alloy swingarm, lightweight alloy wheels, you get the drift. It is very sensible of KTM to blast it in smooth tarmac of foreign countries, but the opposite often shows up on Indian road conditions, except on track days. It’s DNA also wants it to be used most of the time on track only.
3) I’ve replaced the front alloy wheels two times during my 2-year ownership, due to uneven wheel bend/cracks in pothole laden Chennai roads. This was completely unexpected to me that time and brought my happiness levels down many times during the first year of ownership.
4) I initially thought this was due to my duke 200 being one of the first batches to be sold in the country, but even my brother’s 390 front alloy was changed once since last year due to a bend noticed by an air-checkup guy. Thanks to the light-weight alloy wheels again!
5) City Riding was a pain on my old duke 200 after my initial excitement got diluted, heated up motorcycle blasting hot air to my thighs most of the times. The pain multiplied in Duke 390! Man it heats up too badly in peak hour traffic. Adding more discomfort is the suspension, which is very stiff and it will tire you out quickly on our roads, sending regrettable jerks to your vertebrae if a bump/pothole catches you unaware.
6) The Duke’s feel cool (more at home) only on highways or long roads. They are less heating and that stiff suspension and chassis aides cornering authoritatively. Even if it’s the epitome of street-fighter with razor-sharp handling which I happen to love, to cut and rise above splendors in traffic, seat-comfort is not their main priority meaning they don’t want you to sit there too long, and the wafer thin seat is only there to protect you from the battery underneath.
7) Your girlfriend or anyone close will verbally abuse you and she might even break-up with you after going pillion with you for more than 15-20 minutes. KTM doesn’t want to see you ride with a pillion, the seat is there only literally; physically it’s a butt and lower-back torture zone. God bless the pillion if you’re on the RC! If the pillion does not get angry even slightly after a ride, marry her! 😀
8) This insanely high power/weight ratio coupled with short-gearing and super-car type acceleration, gives the duke 390 rider a ‘high’ like a drug each time you twist the throttle from a signal or standstill. Many get addicted and forgive the above daily tortures. But this makes the pillion fear for their life, with feelings of falling down from rear, if they don’t hold you tight.
9) Now what if all the complaints/compromises from thousands of Duke riders were taken as feedback by Bajaj to work towards a better well-rounded product suited for our conditions. In comes the CS400 now Dominar!
10) From my brief initial impressions, I feel the character/style of 390 and D400 are so vastly different, comparing them from a performance or spec sheet perspective feels absolutely unfair.
So what is the Dominar in one sentence? The Polar Opposite of Duke 390.
Dominar is heavy but nimble and easier to handle on the move. The seats are wide and comfortable for both the rider and pillion. It does not have aggressive acceleration but has a more mature smoother delivery due to the detuned dtsi enabled, lesser stressed derivative of the same engine.
Where the duke always wants you to rev it and ride it like a racer, the Dominar wants you take it slow, but at the same time overtaking something easily and in-gear acceleration was better than Mojo its close real rival (I feel). Slipper clutch is light and downshifting too is effortless. Gears slotting correctly with no false neutrals were so unlike the previous Bajaj/KTMs I experienced. I only missed the Gear indicator and expected a bigger fuel tank but don’t see them becoming deal breakers. The brakes were strong with good initial bite but we must see how they perform in the long run.
Conclusion: If you want a decently powered modern motorcycle, which is kind of a ‘jack of all trades’ for city commuting as well as highway riding, I think this is it. The LED headlights, ABS and VFM pricing are icing on the cake. If the After Sales Experience is also going to be better for Dominar (like pro-biking outlets), I don’t see why anyone can go wrong with the new brand of Bajaj. I will get mine in February if all goes well. I’m guessing I didn’t offend any KTM fans, I just wanted to share my honest experience as simply as possible. Hopefully I will enjoy coming back to weekend wanderlust after a long-break…
Disclaimer: These are views expressed by our reader and we can only comment once we have the motorcycles for proper tests.