You’re a bike nut living in a strange new city for your job. The custom bike scene there is pretty dire. You feel weird, like a addict who’s dealer just got a non-refundable ticket to the big Lexus dealership in the sky. Slowly you realise that if anything is going to be done, you’re going to have to do it yourself. Do you (a) spend a whole bunch of cash to import a sweet ride from back home and then spend the same amount of coin again bribing local officials to turn a blind eye to the missing indicators and complete lack of fenders, (b) sell your soul and buy a Harley Nightster Fat Boy Bob ’48 XL1200S Limited with the fringed leather saddle bags and gold plated gattling-gun exhaust tips, or (c) ignore the fact that you are a stranger in a strange land with very little local knowledge and language skills and start your own damn shop? Well, please say a big “Ni Hao” to Daryl Villanueva or as we like to call him, Mr. (c).
“Beijing is full of sidecar bikes and scooters, and it’s pretty rare to come across true custom bikes here. Bike builders here claim to make custom builds, but the only difference is the paint job. Since I’m completely obsessed with custom bikes, this bothered me. I had to do something.”
“I built bikes for myself when I lived in Saigon but never thought of taking it to a completely new level – opening up my own shop, Bandit9. Loki is Bandit9’s guinea pig project. I needed to see the possibilities and how far I could push my ideas here in China. Loki is based off a Chang Jiang 750, an old Chinese military bike. They’re heavy-duty bikes, designed to withstand the elements.”
“Building the bike was a challenge because of the language barrier and because my partners are not used to the level of redesign.”
[superquote]“What’s cool about China is there are no noise regulations”[/superquote]
“I tried to focus on the details of the bike. The customised leather seats sit lower and streamline the profile. I added springs under the seat to make the ride more comfortable. The 19 inch rims and Firestone tires are uncommon to CJ750. The fenders were customised to fit as snug as possible. I also upgraded the suspension and added disc brakes. One of the most important things for me is the roar of the bike – it sounds like an animal. What’s cool about China is there are no noise regulations. I chopped off the muffler and reshaped the exhaust pipe to look like a bamboo shoot.”
“The shape of the bike is lower compared to a normal CJ750, giving it a more aggressive stance. The forest green tank with milk pinstripe and matte black frame is a combination inspired by a classic Jaguar; a colour great in sunlight and slick at night.”
“Bandit9, as a brand, believes it’s more fun to be a pirate than a sailor. Bandits, pirates and outlaws are the kings of style and innovation and I want Bandit9 to take the lead in custom bikes in China. There are a lot of gifted craftsmen here; they just need to be introduced to the possibilities.”