It’s a great time to be a motorcycle enthusiast and I say that earnestly. For the budding tourer, racer or cruiser, there is a highly diverse market out there in the sub-500 cc segment and you can pursue the motorcycle of your choice without having to dig deep into your pocket. Both the Bajaj Dominar and Royal Enfield Himalayan then are very diverse motorcycles, built for a different customer base. However, as different as the bikes may seem, they do have a similar purpose – that of touring. And so, we check out, which tourer of the two makes more sense.
The Bajaj Dominar and Royal Enfield Himalayan are like two ends of a rainbow. The Dominar looks modern, is more compact in appearance and definitely has that mass appeal attracting all the attention. The mosaic-styled LED headlamp is the attention seeker while the sculpted lines extend onto the fuel tank. The rear gets chunky grab rails and Bajaj’s trademark vertical LED lights look menacing. It also gets very fancy pair of alloy wheels, which completes the sporty urban look. The build is impressive and the paint looks fantastic, quite establishing the premium appeal.
Keeping up with the modern bodywork, the Bajaj Dominar gets a smart looking digital instrument console. An auxiliary unit on the fuel tank displays all the warning lights and while it looks very cool, it isn’t easily readable on the fly. The digital console looks busy and packs in only the basic information. Meanwhile, there seems to be a lot going with the Himalayan’s console. Take a closer look though and turns out it’s a fairly simple unit. You get an analog speedometer, tachometer and fuel gauge, while there is a digital readout for the odometer and trip meters. It also packs in a digital compass, which is a segment first and goes well with the off-roading nature of the bike.
Both the RE Himalayan and Bajaj Dominar sport big single-cylinder engines, but are vastly different in engineering. The Dominar’s KTM-derived 373.3 cc liquid-cooled motor gets a single overhead camshaft (SOHC) with four valves, and has been tuned for linear power delivery. The motor makes 34.5 bhp and 35 Nm of peak torque that is available across the rev range. The motor is likeable and revs up to 9500 rpm with speeds climbing faster than you would expect, even with a kerb weight of 182 kg. However, the Dominar disappoints from constant vibrations. While the motor is capable doing triple digit speeds, vibes hamper the riding experience with constant buzz around the foot pegs and seat. Complementing the engine is a 6-speed gearbox which offers precise gearshifts. Gear changes are spot on and respond well to input. It also benefits from a slipper clutch, which makes for more controlled downshifts. Cruising speeds are in the vicinity of 110-120 kmph at around 6500 rpm in sixth gear, while the top speed attainable is around 160 kmph.
The Bajaj Dominar benefits from the steel-tube perimeter frame and that has helped distribute the weight evenly across the bike. So, despite being on the heavier side, the Dominar does not feel so and is actually quite agile around corners. The telescopic forks up front and the Nitrox monoshock suspension setup at the rear are also tuned to keep the bike on the fun side. The ride quality is firm in favour of good handling, without having to compromise too much on comfort. The suspension absorbs broken roads with ease and it is only the big potholes that are disturbing. The firm suspension also gives the bike excellent high speed stability and the MRF tyres manage to offer excellent traction. Windblast on the Dominar is considerable at high speeds, but isn’t unsettling.
Oh boy, this is a tough one! Not because the bikes are very different, but largely because it depends on your intent for purchasing them. The Bajaj Dominar makes a compelling case for anyone looking to upgrade from the Pulsar line-up or any other 150-200 cc motorcycle. It’s fantastic when you think of it as your first big bike. The power is manageable and the extensive features are much appreciated for the price of ₹ 1.55 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi). However, I still think of Dominar as a bigger Pulsar or a bike that will take me in and around the city as well as on the occasional weekend run. It does that job perfectly well and I make no complaints there. Between the two, it will the easier bike to live with as well.
The Royal Enfield Himalayan then, emerges as a bike with completely different set of values. Much like other REs, this one too is a lot about commitment. You can’t back out after getting one home and the purpose-built nature might shy away a few from making it their day-to-day commuter. But here’s the catch, the Himalayan is a simpleton at heart and that’s what I like most about the bike. It will take you anywhere without throwing a tantrum. Yes, it could be tad better built and reliable, get more power, while ABS should have been standard like the international version; but the Himalayan is about committing yourself to those expeditions and that’s why it makes the cut as the more capable tourer, but only slightly.
Photography: Pawan Dagia