No moto on the used market represents the 90s “Urbal Trailbike” fad more than the Honda Dominator.
Also referred to as the NX650, the Honda Dominator is still sought after by knobby-tired town-rippers turned trail-jumpers on the weekends.
As far as value goes, the Honda Dominator is a hard deal to beat, but just how long does a Honda Dominator last? Fin out below.
Here’s the Short Answer to How Long a Honda Dominator Lasts:
A well-kept Honda Dominator can last close to 100,000 miles thanks to a reliable SOHC, air-cooled single-cylinder motor. That said, many Honda Dominators have been ridden rough; an unkept Dominator can overheat, causing the valve seats to drop, affecting performance, reliability, and longevity.
How Many Miles Do You Get on a Honda Dominator?
You can get over 70,000 miles on a Honda Dominator if it’s appropriately ridden and serviced according to the maintenance schedule outlined by Honda in the owner’s manual, including valve inspections. You can get even more if you clean the bike and store it away from the elements and corrosive chemicals.
There are myriad Dominators on the road that have cleared 70k and are still running strong; some have even clocked upwards of 100,000 miles.
How many miles a Dominator will run for depends entirely on ownership.
Since ownership is the most significant variable, we thought we’d check in with some real-life Dominator drifters on the forums and see what they had to say about how many miles they believe they’ll get.
- One rider said it depends entirely on how well it’s been looked after, but his was well maintained, and the 100,000+ is not uncommon on NX650s kept up with like his. He notes, though, that he only used it as a commuter on easy, low-stress rides. This dominator ripper says he’s less concerned about the engine and more concerned about the rest of the bike. You may need to replace consumables like wheel/swingarm bearings. He also warns about corrosion and rust-seized bolts from excess weathering and riding through off-road terrain—use is more significant than mileage.
- Another Dominator owner told us he was so astonished when he cleared 100,000 miles on theirs that they actually asked their local Honda dealer if this was common. Apparently, the mechanic replied that they service a couple of high-mileage Dominators used as courier bikes, with only one having ever been rebuilt around the time it clocked 100K. “Anyone who has ridden Dommie knows they’re not real fast for a 650 compared to modern bikes, mainly I think of the massive flywheel hanging off the motor. This works in the bike’s favor in terms of motor longevity as it’s not revving its ring off all the time.” This Dominator owner says the secret to their long-lasting NX650 motor is regular servicing, valve clearance checks, and keeping the air filter clean is key.
- One Dominator rider chimed up to point out the 70K they clocked and wasn’t concerned since a friend of theirs has 120K on their Dominator’s clock— the motor’s still running fine, but plenty of the other components on the bike have been replaced.
What Is Considered High Mileage for These Models?
A Honda Dominator is considered high mileage after 45,000 miles by the used market, but that figure has little bearing on how long the bike will last—good ownership habits and routine maintenance can extend the Dominator’s life well past 70,000 miles.
The used market or “Blue Book” value is based on the assumption that a dual-sport bike like the Dominator is ridden hard through corrosive environments. Still, a well-kept Honda Dominator can last well past 100,000 miles if it’s washed up, dried off, greased, and stored out of the elements after off-road use.
If you find a used Dommie that’s considered to be high-mileage, but it was ridden and stored correctly, you may be able to get a great deal on a bike that still has a long life left.
That’s what happened to one Dominator owner we heard from online.
- She bought a used ’96 Dommie for cheap because it was considered high-mileage. She’s since averaged 7,000 miles a year on the bike to bring its odometer total up to 158,000km and counting!
- She says that the vibration is minimal compared to other single-cylinder dual-sport bikes and that maybe that’s why the Dominator can last well past the point that it’s considered a high-mile motorcycle.
- That said, this Dominator drifter notes that she’s a petite-built female who doesn’t hit the off-road that often, primarily using the Dominator as a commuter. She makes plenty of long trips on it, though, and has been known to rip through muddy roads from time to time.
- She’s quick to note she checks her oil levels often, as there isn’t an oil gauge, and overheating causes problems with the valve seating.
- Speaking of valve seating, she also notes that she inspects her valves per Honda’s suggested intervals, adjusting them as needed.
In summary, just because a bike is considered high-mileage doesn’t mean it doesn’t have much life left.
A Honda Dominator may be regarded as high-mileage after 45,000 miles by the used market. Still, a unit that’s maintained adequately, cleaned regularly, appropriately stored, and ridden responsibly can last well over 70,000 miles.
How Many Years Does a Honda Dominator Typically Last?
A Honda Dominator can last for well over 15 years if it’s maintained properly, cleaned, greased, and serviced per Honda’s suggestions. Some Dominators have been in use since the late 80s/early ’90s with over 100,000 miles on them, still running strong.
Dive into the forums, and you’ll find some Dominators have lasted for over 20 years without a rebuild. You’ll find others that had to have the valves replaced after just 20,000 miles, so what gives?
There are myriad factors to how many years a Dominator’s engine lasts, like:
- Extreme weather or riding in corrosive terrain and not correctly treating your Dominator before and after.
- Adhering to the Honda-spec service schedule outlined in the Dominator’s owner’s manual.
- Chain and tire maintenance.
- How aggressive the bike is ridden, how technical and extreme the trails are, etc.
- How the Dominator was cleaned and stored.
And it’s not just off-road habits that affect the lifespan of a dual-sport bike like the Dominator. Starting your motorcycle below freezing or riding in sweltering weather can be just as corrosive in town as water can be on the trail.
You can tell how many years a Dominator has left by assessing visible corrosion. Inspecting things like paint, leather condition of the seat, and rubber on the handgrips, to tell how much exposure to corrosive elements is endured is the first step to determining how many years it will last.
The most crucial factor in the life span of a Honda Dominator is following the routine maintenance as specified in the owner’s manual.
That means more than just changing the oil and filter; a routine inspection includes:
- dealing with the air filter
- brake fluids
- lubricating chains and side stands
- inspecting critical engine components and
- Inspecting torque specs on various nuts and bolts
- Checking and adjusting valve clearance
- And this list is not conclusive; check out your year-model Dominator’s Owner’s Manual for a complete service schedule based on mileage intervals. A convenient chart will specify what all each service entails.
Is the Honda Dominator Reliable?
The Honda Dominator is as reliable as any 90s dual-sport bike, if not the most reliable. The Dominator has a powerhouse of a motor and rugged frame, but its long-term reliability is affected by its owner’s care for the engine.
Caring for the engine of your Honda Dominator is the most significant factor in the bike’s performance and reliability.
For example, a Dominator that goes tens of thousand miles between oil changes, for example, isn’t going to be as reliable as a Dommie that’s maintained according to the owner’s manual.
We’ve said it a few times, but it bears repeating:
- Maintaining your Honda Dominator per the schedule outlined in the owner’s manual not only determines the lifespan of your motor but it’s also the most critical determiner of how reliable your Dommie will perform both in town and on the trails.
- Checking, cleaning, or replacing your air filter is essential for any Dominator, but especially important after long days ripping up dust and dirt.
Does a Honda Dominator Last Longer Than Other Motorcycles?
A Honda Dominator lasts longer than other dual-sport motorcycles of the era because of its powerhouse NX650 motor. The same engine used in the ultra-reliable FMX650, the Dominator is less expensive but longer lasting than the competition.
The Honda NX650 Dominator’s secret to lasting longer than other bikes is its gear-driven counterbalance system that smooths out the engine-power impact on the ride.
The ultra-dependable NX650—a four-valve motor with a compression ratio of 8.3:1 gets pushed against by dual chain-driven camshafts, which has been proven to run for over 20 years in some cases.
Another longevity trick Honda snuck into the Dominator against the competition is its power train: a straight-cut-geared-primary and a wet clutch in a 5-speed transmission that cranked the back wheel via a #520 chain.
What Typically Breaks First on a Honda Dominator?
The components that typically break first on a Honda Dominator are seized brake calipers, corroded tailpipes, and frame damage incurred during aggressive off-roading.
- Another common place your Dominator will sustain damage is on the forks due to furring.
- Be aware of chipping and wearing on the Dominator’s engine cases.
- Aggressive trail riding and stunting can lead to broken tire spokes.
As you can see, most of these problems have to do with rough riding off-road—if properly maintained and ridden per its intended use, a Honda Dominator will run and run without a problem.
4 Great Tips to Make Sure Your Honda Dominator Will Last Long
Here are four strategies to keep your Honda Dominator running for years:
1. Keep Your Honda Clean—Use Honda-Approved Cleaning Products
Keeping your Dominator scrubbed free of grime and dirt after long off-road rides is an effective tactic to extend its life span, but using corrosive cleaning chemicals is counterproductive. Use products approved for use on Honda motorcycles to be sure you’re expanding your Dommie’s life, not reducing it.
2. Ride Your Dominator Often, Properly
- Avoid starting your Dominator in below-freezing temperatures
- Avoid idling your Dominator for long periods in sweltering weather
- Avoid redlining your Dominator both in town and on the trails
- Don’t stunt-ride your Dominator, especially on aggressive trails.
3. Follow Honda’s Suggested Schedule for Regular Service Maintenance
Service your Dominator per the owner’s manual schedule, every 5,000 miles. Prep, tender, and winterize your dependable dual-sport before storing it for long periods.
4. Store Your Dominator Out of the Elements
Store your Dommie away from the sun’s UV rays and moisture when it isn’t in use. A rugged tarp is fine but indoors is preferable. That said, take care not to store your precious little dual-ripper near corrosive chemicals, as airborne chemicals can shorten your bike’s life.