Since '02 xBhp is different things to different people. From a close knit national community of bikers to India's only motorcycling lifestyle magazine and a place to make like-minded biker friends. Join us
The Bajaj Dominar 400 is a fantastic motorcycle. I know that because I have ridden it extensively. But for me, it is not because of its wonderful engine, natural handling or comfortable ergonomics; not even because of the fact that it carved its own niche and its own classification.
To me, what matters the most is that despite being a stellar motorcycle the first time around, Bajaj went on to improve it. And they have done it again. Acceptance of the fact that there is always room for improvement is important for evolution. And evolution is the key to reaching as close to perfection as possible.
The 2021 Bajaj Dominar is here as a result of evolution. It is so good that I came up with a name for it; Tourminator, because Arnie is one of my idols and just like The Terminator decimates his enemies, the Dominar decimates distances. Again, I can say that with so much confidence because I was one of the few riders who went on one of the six Odysseys, done to test the mettle of the Dominar 400 around the world.
If you want to watch my video of the 2021 Dominar 400, you can do so below. If you’re a good’ol reader, carry on!
The Odyssey that I was a part of was called the xBhp Dominar Great Asian Odyssey. It started from New Delhi in late 2019 and finished after 90 days, 15,000 km, and 11 countries on the 20th of January, 2020. That was just before Coronavirus changed the world as we know it.
Starting from India, we covered Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia and finally to the tip of Singapore. From there, we went to Sri Lanka and marked the end of this Odyssey is Talaimannar which, by sea, is just 36 km from Dhanushkodi in India.
I have ridden my fair share of big adventure motorcycles around the world. I have even ridden one of those on a racetrack. But for a long time, I wanted to do the ASEAN road; Delhi to Singapore. But more importantly, I wanted to do it on an India-made motorcycle.
To that end, I was looking for something that was peppy, flickable, and something that could endure all kinds of riding. For the most part, any motorcycle can do long distances but I was looking for something that was not too heavy but not devoid of power.
Enter the Bajaj Dominar 400. The 2019 Bajaj Dominar 400 to be precise. The 2019 revision was more powerful and boasted of many improvements over its predecessors making it an even more potent tool. Around 40 bhp of power, 35 Nm of torque, the right aesthetics, the right ergonomics, and the right dynamics.
It was a huge step for me and after a very long time, I shifted to a sub-100 bhp machine. Will it provide the same touring experience? Something inside me replied with an emphatic, “Yes!” And so began the preparations. I had to get it touring-ready. The hunt for aftermarket accessories but in the end, I was happy with how it turned out. It was now ready for the gruelling 15,000 km staring me right in the face. And we all know how that panned out.
Fast forward to today and the 2021 Bajaj Dominar 400 comes with factory-fitted touring accessories. One look at it and all the memories from the xBhp Dominar Great Asian Odyssey came flooding back. At the back of my mind, I was also thinking, “Wow, they took some of the accessories from our Odyssey Dominar and made them stock; Things are getting serious.”
Now, we need to talk about the 2021 Bajaj Dominar 400. Mechanically, the motorcycle remains the same for the most part and that’s a good thing because it is a phenomenal machine and very well set up. You can read our review of the 2019 Bajaj Dominar 400 here. The add-ons are the accessories that I’ll talk about while taking you through some memories from the xBhp Dominar Great Asian Odyssey so that you have a better idea of how the particular accessory comes in handy.
First off, the windscreen. At speed, there’s a massive difference between having the wind bring its full-send on your face and having a wind-protection bubble. That is where the windscreen comes on. Our odyssey Dominar had what one could call a flyscreen at best.
Heading from Mae Sariang to Chiang Mai in Thailand, we had open roads & triple-digit speeds; the windblast can be bothersome and that is where the windscreen comes in.
So a taller windscreen was a no-brainer. It kept us protected from cold, dust, rain and, of course, the windblast. There were many instances where we were cruising at over 100 kays an hour on endless highways for hours; in those instances, we could not thank the windscreen more. It also gives the motorcycle a purposeful look. The one on the new Dominar 400 is thoughtfully designed and looks at home on the motorcycle.
Next up, Handguard. It is more like an extension of the windscreen but for your hands. There are a few things handguards can do for you. First and foremost, it protects from accidental tugs on the brake or the gear lever. A slight brush with any vehicle on the road or a protruding object off the road can press the lever. And I do not need to tell you what an intentional engagement of the brake of the clutch can do.
The photo is from Paro in Bhutan, it was much colder than the already cold picture this photo paints. Handguards can be the difference between numb and relatively comfortable hands.
Slightly less serious but still important on longer journeys, it protects your hands from the direct wind which is a godsend in colder conditions. We received firsthand experience of that functionality while riding in Bhutan in freezing temperatures. Lastly, we all love our riding gear and gloves do not look good with a million dead bugs. We encountered a lot of those in lush areas. Every sunset would have been a nightmare for the gloves without the handguards.
The ones we had were good but the ones on the new Bajaj Dominar 400 look much, much better. That is generally the difference between aftermarket and factory accessories. They are much better executed and look more natural on the motorcycle. The new Dominar 400’s almost look like winglets which I really like.
The next accessory I want to talk about is the engine bash plate. It is paramount if you plan to do any sort of adventure riding. If not, it can also come in handy when the roads are really bad. We had our fair share of those during the xBhp Dominar Great Asian Odyssey. What we had on motorcycles for the Odyssey was a basic aluminium plate under the stock plastic cowl.
Golden Rock, Myanmar to Mae Sot, Thailand, brilliantly bad roads and we probably wouldn’t have made it without an engine bash plate.
Crossing over to Thailand from Myanmar, we encountered perhaps the worst road of the entire 15,000 km. Fine dust on what one calls a road if being conservative and riddled with huge potholes; it was so bad that the suspension of the motorcycle bottomed out a few times.
If not for the bash plate, the stones on the road would have surely damaged the exhaust pipes or the sump. The one on the new Dominar 400 looks much much better than what our Odyssey Dominar had. It is a combination of glass-filled nylon and steel. Looks pretty, looks sturdy, and looks ready for an adventure.
Another important accessory is the USB charging port. Not just because of today’s record-everything-age but also because phones are used for navigation, navigation uses a lot of battery, and wilderness has no electricity. Since I was making vlogs for a change, I was also using the phone for controlling the camera.
It may sound like a simple add-on but the slightest of mess-ups can drain a bike’s battery or even cause issues with the electrical systems. On long journeys, one can’t afford that. But since it was imperative to have one, we got our own system installed. But it was nowhere near as pretty or sophisticated as the 2021 Bajaj Dominar’s stock system.
The leg guard is another important accessory. On rides as long as 15,000 km, one is bound to experience a fall, big or small, at some point. It is not a given but the likelihood is high. One such incident is when my co-rider had a very mild crash.
It was nearly at a standstill but considering the kind of luggage we were carrying, it could have caused some damage. Thanks to the leg guard, it did not. Now the ones on the new Dominar 400 take that a notch further and protect the radiator as well.
Moving on, a navigation stay is one of the most important things that your motorcycle must-have. You need to mount your phone not only for navigation but also to make quick calls to connect with your co-riders. For the Odyssey, we had a ram bar mounting solution. It was not ideal because it blocked the speedo and had wind-buffeting issues as well.
The system on the 2021 Bajaj Dominar is much cleaner. The same ram mount is very well mounted. Its placement ensures that it does not block the speedo and also that it remains well protected from the wind and therefore buffeting.
Then there’s luggage. Our Odyssey Dominar 400 was decked with a top case and side cases over custom mounts. We also had steel tubes around the boxes to protect the box in the case of a fall. Additionally, they further secured the boxes as they could not be taken out. So we kept all our stuff in a plastic bag and kept that in the lockable boxes. Needless to say, it also gave the motorcycles a more purposeful look.
However, it was cumbersome and predictably, heavy as well. Not a lot of you may want to go that way and be happy with soft side panniers. That is where the new Dominar 400’s carrier cum back stopper and the optional saddle bag stay come into play. The rear carrier also has a back stopper which looks neat and might aid the pillion over long distances.
Thinking that a whole lot of time was spent in customizing our Dominars for what you can get right from the factory with the 2021 Dominar 400 is mind-boggling. The Dominar 400 was already a potent motorcycle and now it has become an even more potent touring weapon. And the 2021 Dominar 400 is a testament to Bajaj taking firm steps to ensure that the Dominar 400 becomes an even better touring machine than it already was.
Another good decision on Bajaj’s part, and good news for existing Dominar 400 customers, is that all of these accessories (except the USB port) can be retrofitted on older Dominars as well. These are very valuable add-ons if one plans to use the Dominar 400 for touring and if you do so, I am quite sure you won’t be disappointed. There’s still more that can be done because as I said, evolution is a never-ending process. But these are big steps in the right direction.