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It's never been this fun to pick one from many, for an exciting bike that costs less than Rs 2 lakh

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So, the Dominar then…
Let’s face it, Bajaj has pulled one out of the hat with this one. They have decided not to toe the line as far as power output goes with this one, like they had with the RS 200, they’ve concentrated on making the Dominar easy on the pocket. The result is a considerably de-tuned 373cc, single-cylinder motor which makes 35bhp and 35Nm of torque. It weighs exactly the same as the Himalayan at 182 kilos too, but what the spec sheet doesn’t tell you is how good the Dominar feels around corners. This is quite easily the best handling Bajaj in the current line-up and functions delightfully with a firm suspension set up. Straight line stability is also excellent as is the peace of mind that you get thanks to ABS, that you can opt for, and the slipper clutch that comes standard.

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There is however, one major problem with it. While the clean lines on it look sharp and it has plenty of details that catch your eye, the motor that is at the heart of it all tends to vibrate through the entire range that makes for interesting riding. Quite unfortunately, anything above 5000rpm sees a gentle vibration build up through the tank and steadily get worse spreading to the pegs and handlebars till you want to back off and not exploit the power that the Dominar is capable of.

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The wildcard
While the trio fight tooth and nail for your attention, a certain orange fiend has made its way on to the scenario and in typical Duke fashion, it promises to take everyone by storm. This is the brand new 250 and if you thought, oh, it’s only 50cc more, well, think again. KTM has managed to make that slight increase capacity account for six extra horsepower to take the total to 30 while weight has gone up marginally to 161 kilos. However, it does not feel manic at all, in fact the power is far more linear than the 200 and acceleration in smooth through the rev range. However, it also uses a larger sprocket on the rear wheel to ensure quick times in case you enjoy dashes to 100kph too.

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The new tank extension and split trellis frame look excellent and the shorter wheelbase along with slightly tweaked suspension makes it handle even better. There is a side-slung exhaust in tow, like the 390, and it may not sound as furious at idle, but it does emit a nice grown up note at full chat. And you can have all of this for Rs 1.82 lakh (ex-showroom Mumbai). What you do miss out on is ABS, even as an option, and the superb new instrument console that is currently fitted to the Duke 390.

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Verdict
It is a bit of challenge, picking the right motorcycle at this end of the market. From having no options at all, we have reached a point where there are at least half a dozen serious contenders that you must consider. However, your personal preference of style must narrow it down to a couple, possibly three. There is the Mojo, which possibly needs some degree of improvement to seriously contend for your chequebook in this company. Then there is the Himalayan, which has its focus on purpose to make it a rather obvious choice if exploring dirt trails and city commutes are your main areas of use.

The Dominar on the other hand, is by far the best value that you could hope for – I mean it is a few thousand more than the RS200 (if you consider the non-ABS version) and offers the maximum horsepower for your money in the field of motorcycle that we have shortlisted for you. It is a rather tempting option, one that many will bend towards, but its lack of refinement at frequently used engine speeds is something that Bajaj needs to address quickly to make it an obvious choice. And speaking of obvious choices, if a naked, single cylinder, streetfighter is what you are after, take a good hard look at the KTM Duke 250. Yes, it does miss out on the ABS option and the cool new instrument cluster from the 390, but it is a grown up 200 that offers proper bigger motorcycle feel. There is enough power from the motor too and handling is as sharp as you could expect it to be. For roughly 20k more, I would have the Duke and consider it money well spent.

Words: Debabrata Sarkar / Photography: Himanshu Pandya

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Specs

Mahindra Mojo
295cc, single-cyl, liquid-cooled, 27bhp, 30Nm, 6M, fuel tank: 21-litres
Price: Rs 1.82 lakh (ex-showroom, Mumbai)

Royal Enfield Himalayan
411cc, single-cylinder, air-cooled, carburetted, 24.5bhp, 32Nm, 5M, 182kg, fuel tank: 15.5litres
Price: Rs 1.66 lakh (ex-showroom, Mumbai)

Bajaj Dominar
373.3cc, single-cylinder, liquid-cooled, 34bhp, 35N, 182kg, 6M, tank: 13l,
Price: Rs 1.59 lakh (ex-showroom, Mumbai)

KTM 250 Duke
249cc, 1 cyl, 30bhp, 24Nm, 6M, 149kg (dry), fuel tank: 13.4 litres
Price: 1.82 lakh (ex-showroom, Mumbai)

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There hasn’t been a better time to have your pockets stashed with a little more than a lakh and a half. Whether it is the sort of budget that your father has kept aside for your college ride or whether you have just about started saving enough money after buying yourself some bread and paying rent is not important. What is important is the fact that today, unlike any time in our recent past, there is a whole bunch of appealing and attractive motorcycles that want to park your cheque in their favour.

The duo that has been around for a few months now is the Royal Enfield Himalayan and the Mahindra Mojo. Both have been promising in their own right with their particular areas of strength, however, the Himalayan did turn out trumps the last time around. This time, however, there is a new kid on the block, Bajaj’s latest, the Dominar. It is needless to say that the Dominar has generated a lot of interest and is turning heads wherever it goes. There is a possible spoiler though – and you will need to read right till the end to find out about it. For now, the game is on between these three contenders. Let’s see how they stack up against each other.

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Why these three?
Well, apart from the fact that they are all within twenty thousand bucks of each other, they are also pretty closely matched in the power and torque department. While the Mahindra Mojo is the most expensive of the trio at Rs 1.82 lakh (ex-showroom Mumbai), the Himalayan costs Rs 1.66 lakh (ex-showroom Mumbai), while the Bajaj Dominar retails at Rs 1.59 lakh (ex-showroom Mumbai). The three are a mixed bunch too, the Mojo offers quirky styling and boasts a touring kit, available for a few extra bucks, the Himalayan with its tall stance has a typical adventure motorcycle demeanour about it and the Dominar, well, it is about crisp, clean, muscular design, sort of like a street fighter. However, Bajaj prefers describing it as a ’power-cruiser’ and they aren’t too shy about having drawn inspiration from a certain Italian company that likes to paint their bikes red.

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Is the Mojo that good?
It is an interesting motorcycle, this Mahindra. It is quirky, looks odd, has a couple of exhaust cans sticking out of a single cylinder motor and sports golden underbones under the tank. Despite all of that, or possibly because of it, it manages to catch a fair amount of attention. And regardless of what opinion you may have, the twin-exhaust set up sounds rather nice. It isn’t a slouch on the performance scale either – the 295cc, single manages 27bhp and 30Nm of torque, which can propel it past 140kph. You can easily cruise at triple digit speeds out on the open highway, the mid-range grunt from this motor is quite impressive and so is the ride quality.

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What isn’t impressive though, is the low-rpm engine rattle, the constant feeling of wobbliness in a straight line (possibly due to the large fuel tank) and the lack of confidence leaning into corners. The Mojo fails to capitalise on its punchy motor and is clearly out of its elements when you push it hard. Another deterrent to gathering pace quickly is the rear disc brake, which is rather easy to lock up. Moreover, it is the most expensive of the trio, another mark in the red for the Mojo then.

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Is the Himalayan comparable?
It is a valid question, but the fact is this Enfield is very cool and it costs almost exactly the same amount of money as the Dominar. Yes, it was built with completely different usage in mind, but that doesn’t stop it from being useful around town or even on longer road trips. Yes, the 411cc makes a rather low 24bhp which makes it a bit of a stressful run on the highway with the engine constantly buzzing at high rpm to maintain triple-digit speeds. The suspension though manages to flatten a fair amount of surface irregularities and the 21-inch front wheel sorts out bigger potholes like they weren’t even there. However, that same large front wheel also makes the Himalayan slightly lazy through corners.

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The chassis remains stiff and holds lines well, but the turn in and change of direction for a set of flowing corners takes some doing. One thing it manages better than the rest is, of course, dirt trails. Point it in any direction off-road and the Himalayan is likely to get you there without a fuss, suspension working well and the ergonomics working well for you to stand up and ride. The long first and second gears can take some getting used to, but that again boils down to the low power output from the motor.

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