As a Malaysian brand, motorcycle manufacturer Modenas has seen mixed fortunes over the decades. After a stellar introduction in the 90s, and capturing near on half the local motorcycle market in the under-250 cc category, the last five years or so saw the firm fall into the doldrums.

A recent resurgence, though, has seen Modenas launch not one, not two, but now, four new models. The latest addition to the stable is the 2018 Modenas Dominar 400, which is now at, for a limited time, an introductory price of RM14,615. That’s about half the price of a similarly-engined KTM Duke 390.

But, as a collaboration between Modenas and Indian manufacturer Bajaj, who also produced both the previous and current-generation KTM Duke 250 and 390, what is the Dominar like to ride on Malaysian roads? We have covered the Dominar 400 extensively in the past, including two previous test sessions.

The first was at a Malaysian media introduction at the Bajaj plant in India, and a special private test session to provide feedback to Modenas at the Unimap test track in Perlis. During both sessions, which were good enough to give us an idea of what the Dominar is like, something was missing.

That something was how the Dominar 400 would actually behave when subjected to real-world Malaysian riding conditions, in the none too gentle hands of a typical Malaysian rider. So, right after the launch of the Dominar 400, Anurag Sharma of Bajaj came up to the author and said, “I want you to ride the Dominar tomorrow, and I will be following. I want to get your feedback.”

Grabbing the keys for the Dominar 400 from the Modenas rep, we set out as a group of four riders, all local moto-journalists. We will gloss over the details of the Dominar 400, all of which can be found in the previous articles published on paultan.org and will focus on how this naked sports bike behaves on Malaysian roads.

The first thing the rider will notice about the Dominar is it is long. The wheelbase is 1,453 mm from axle-to-axle, and that is long for a naked sports.

This does pay dividends when it comes to highway cruising, with the Dominar 400 being stable at extra-legal highway speeds. Taking the Karak highway to our destination, the Dominar did the highway run well, with no hint of twitchiness dropping into high-speed corners.

When well-heeled over though, the rider needs to keep at constant throttle and not upset the delicate balance of things. While the Dominar is good in a straight line, when the going gets serious in a corner, the Dominar’s budget suspension can occasionally be a little lacking.

This is not the bike’s fault, it was designed and built to a budget, after all. The front having non-adjustable telescopic forks, and the rear adjustable only for pre-load, care needs to be taken selecting the corner entry and line at high speed.

At lower, surface street level, the Dominar 400 does the job well, soaking bumps and surface irregularities somewhat well, with only sharp, short bumps coming through, speed strips approaching intersections, for example. Bigger bumps are taken care of with no issues, though we did not have a chance to ride the Dominar 400 fully-loaded.

Coming into the twisties at Bukit Tinggi, the Dominar would take the corners in a reasonable fashion, ridden within its envelope. Taken out of its comfort zone into some sharp twists and turns, the Dominar showed its length, with steering taking some effort at the handlebars.

Doing the left-right-left transition at corners, the Dominar showed a reluctance to turn quickly, although it would change direction fast when held upright. This was a useful trait in avoidance manoeuvres on the street, and handling city traffic.

Bumbling around town in slow traffic, the Dominar behaved well, and showed no signs of being nervous or quick at the controls. In that environment and on the highway, the Dominar delivered what was asked, albeit in not too much of a rush.

While acceleration through the first three gears was sprightly, the Dominar ran out of puff in sixth. We found this out by bouncing off the rev limiter on the highway in top. If you’re expecting it to sail past well 160 km/h, you’d be disappointed.

Don’t get us wrong, the engine – a 373 cc triple-spark single-cylinder with 35 PS and 35 Nm derived from the KTM 390 mill – had power to spare. The gearing, though, was completely wrong for Malaysian highway use.

Coupled with the six-speed gearbox, we expected more from the Dominar 400. The problem is, as we found out during our high-speed run at the Bajaj test track, the bike is under-geared due to the dinner plate sized rear sprocket.

We were informed, during our visit to the Bajaj plant in India, that Indian riders don’t generally get to top speed and 145 km/h is considered fast. We pointed out Malaysian riders will wind the throttle out till the engine has nothing left to give.

Things being what they are, don’t write in complaining the Dominar is a failure. It isn’t, it just wasn’t designed for the specific riding conditions we have in Malaysia.

What it needs is more top speed, and to be put on something of a diet. The twin-spar frame holding the engine is commendably stiff, and is strong enough to cope with much more than the thumper could give.

But 182 kg is kind of heavy for a single-cylinder sports bike, though the extra weight does pay dividends in other circumstances like highway riding, as we mentioned earlier. All in all, the Dominar does deliver what it promised, that it is a good light-duty sports bike which can do highway distances.

In the area of rider accommodation, the Dominar was a comfortable perch. While not cut out for full-on cut-and-thrust riding, when settled into the seat – we don’t have an official seat height figure yet, but we hazard a guess at 810 mm – the rider has enough space to find a comfortable riding position.

Inside the cockpit, the monochrome LCD was clear enough to be legible, though we did have some issues reading the smaller numbers. Riders who do not wear bi-focals will not have this issue.

So, who needs a 2018 Bajaj Dominar 400, especially at that price of RM14,615? For the commuter on a budget, the Dominar is a no-brainer, quite capable of eating up 100 km plus distances in a single trip with zero issues.

In this segment, the KTM Duke 390 at RM28,800 – coming from the same factory in India – is direct competition, though much more hooligan in intent and with better handling to make up for its higher price point. BMW Motorrad has the G 310 R (RM26,900) and G 310 GS models (RM29,900), both of which will do what the Dominar does, but at twice the price.

For the young rider coming up from the kapchai class and looking at a real motorcycle, the Dominar is a bigger, more powerful selection compared to a quarter-litre machine, but bear in mind you do need a B full license to ride one. For the senior rider looking at an easy to handle machine to handle daily riding duties with the occasional long-distance trip, the Dominar is a logical choice.