Meet Beijing’s new bike builder

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“Building bikes in China is an adventure similar to Frodo’s journey to Mordor,” says Daryl Villanueva, an art director turned custom bike builder in Beijing. Using Chang Jiang 75s — a WWII-era copy of a Soviet copy of a 1938 BMW R71 — as a base, he’s hoping to create a new style of custom motorcycle designed by and for the Chinese market. The bike you see here is the first product of his new company, Bandit9. Dubbed “Loki,” it’s a do-it-all standard that improves on the original in every way.

“With Loki, I wanted a more aggressive stance and simplified streamline compared to a standard Chang Jiang,” describes Daryl. “So, I lowered the frame and added large wheels with upgraded brakes and suspensions. I fabricated new fenders for Loki to expose more of the tire, trimmed the seat bracket and angled the position of the tank to streamline the bike’s silhouette. The forest green with milk pinstripe is a combination inspired from a 60s Jaguar. It’s smooth.”

“My favorite feature of the bike is the sound. Loki’s got a mean roar, thanks to the shortened pipes that were reshaped to look like a bamboo shoot. It gives Loki a lot of character.”

“Chang Jiangs were originally designed to be sidecar bikes but I didn’t want the sidecar to drag down the potential power of Loki. Now with its reduced weight, it’s surprising how powerful the bike is.”

The start
“I’ve always been fascinated with motorcycles but my mom would never let me have one. So after moving away from home, I finally got my first bike – a 50cc Honda Cub. It. Was. Amazing.”

“Riding motorcycles, well in this case a scooter, was exactly how I imagined. It felt like freedom (and not because I was rebelling against mom).”

“I started tinkering with the Cub. The first piece of ‘design’ I ever did was to simplify the paint job and turn the bike into a solid white color. I wanted to hide the structural gaps to make it look smooth. It was a small change but something clicked inside. I went on to do larger bikes with more difficult customizations.”

“I come from an art background. I’m not an engineer. I wasn’t raised in a garage where Dad taught me to put the parts together. So my approach is naturally different. I treat the frame like a canvas and I just start doing my thing. A completely organic method. I usually decide on the attitude of the bike and stick with that throughout the build. Not everything goes as planned, especially in China, but that’s what makes the build exciting and the bike unique. It almost builds itself. And you can sense that when you look at the bike. Everything works together without effort.”

“I’m incredibly thankful to have the fusion of marketing and creative experience. I know what makes a great photo – the composition, the light, the colors, the mood etc., a quality injected in all my Bandit9 photography. But the most important piece of knowledge the advertising industry has engrained in me is the importance of branding. Everything I do, from the design of the bike to a post on the blog, upholds the Bandit9 brand.”

Chang Jiang
“Like most old bikes, Chang Jiangs need a lot of TLC but are very reliable if they get the attention they deserve. They’re military bikes designed to withstand all sorts of weather.”

“But why Chang Jiang? Two reasons:
1. Nobody customizes Chang Jiangs. Bandit9 will own this space and make it cool to ride a Chinese bike.
There’s an idea shared locally and globally that Chinese products suck. The Chinese believe that foreign brands are cooler – Harleys, Hondas, etc. I’m fighting to change this misconception by reinventing the Chang Jiang with the help of Chinese craftsmen. And I will do everything I can to make sure the world sees the talent behind Bandit9 and China.”

“I moved to Beijing because of my advertising career. The first thing I did when I arrived was look for a bike. I didn’t even have my apartment yet. But Beijing is a sea of sidecar bikes and electric scooters. I met with a few of the builders here but the extent of their customization was altering the paint-job. The bikes lacked ingenuity and personality. So I opened up my own shop – Bandit9. I created the company to show the people here the creative possibilities.

I’m not well versed in motorcycle laws in Beijing. I’m sure rules exist. But the reality in Asia (and I love this) is that the rules can be bent as long as it’s not a danger to others. Building a custom bike is not a danger to anyone. I think other governments can afford to take a few pointers from this side of the world, especially about loosening up.”

“There are pockets of beauty in Beijing – areas that will leave you in awe, if you pay attention. I don’t need the to drive 3 hours away to enjoy riding. I go for midnight bike rides and try to catch long stretches of road to myself. There’s a feeling of serenity – quite like meditating.”

“Bandit9 works with several craftsmen to achieve the unique qualities of the bike. The details are hard to replicate – in fact, I don’t even know if I can make the same bike twice. Our sources are not your typical motorcycle shops.”

“This is most evident with Magnus, the second bike that will roll out of the Bandit9 garage. The twin lights are from a hardware shop in which the bulbs were replaced to match the wattage of a standard headlight. The seat was by done by a shoemaker. He lives in one of the old neighborhoods of Beijing. I was amazed by his skill so I had a friend help me translate what I wanted.”

“It gets frustrating when things don’t go as planned – colors come back inaccurate, the leather is not to spec, the raw materials arrive 3 weeks late. I try my best to manage these aspects of the build but the people I’ve looked to for advice tell me, ‘Hey, it’s China.’”

  • Jon B.


  • Van Doan

    Not to be aggravating, but it seems many of these quotes were poached. Source?

    • Wes Siler

      Really? You think we’d plagiarize someone? I conducted an email interview with Daryl over the last couple of weeks. Everything you read on HFL is the original work of professionals.

      • je

        You lost me at professionals. Thankfully it was at the end of your sentence.

        • Grant Ray

          Don’t you get sassy, buddy. I have friends in KC that will happily hunt down your Buell and cover it in My Little Pony stickers.

          • Thom

            Geeze Grant . I hope you’re not referring to me as I just ran out of my supply of ‘ My Little Pony ‘ stickers . Got some’ My Kitty’ ones left though if that’ll do .

            Or better yet , just got in a whole bunch of PETA stickers . ‘People Eating Tasty Animals’ that is . This IS KC you know !

            Let me know . Glad to be of service :o)

            ( Buell eh ? Well that won’t be too hard to track down in this city )

          • Artful

            Say the word. No charge to print 1000 of them if someone posts pictures of the aftermath.

            • Thom

              Guess its all in Grant’s hands now

          • je

            My little pony, seriously? Nice!! It will go well with my raptor Jesus sticker :)

            • Thom

              Hey … I got a whole case of WWJD stickers to go with that if you’d like ;-)

              ( talk about hijacking a thread … but what the heck .. a little jocularity from time to time’s a good thing )

      • Van Doan

        Ah, I remembered where I saw it. No plagiarism, just a consistent themed message.

        • Eric

          Not surprising given;
          “But the most important piece of knowledge the advertising industry has engrained in me is the importance of branding.”

  • DoctorNine

    I like it. That said, I’d advise a little different front wheel brake line routing.
    Otherwise, looks like a nice ride.

    • Scott-jay

      Brake line troubles me, too.
      Good, good!

    • The other Joe

      Yeah, it seems way too close to the exhaust. I think down along the fork would have been better.

  • Mark D

    Very cool, now I want to hear it in action. Also, its kind of funny when traffics cops in a Communist country are less uptight than the ones in the good ‘ol US of A. Just keep a Tibetan flag off it, and you’re good to go.

    • Miles Prower [690 Duke, MTS 1200]


  • Troy R

    Very unique culture and piece. Stunning Photos.

  • dux

    Looks tough. Nice colors

  • BMW11GS

    Very neat! I think this helps to counter the idea that Chinese people can be individualistic and expressive rather than a soulless group-think prone society.

  • oldblue


    Low key.


  • scottydigital

    Loki, if you are interested, next time I am in Beijing (December), we should get a drink. I have a good opportunity for the both of us.

    If interested send me an email. Cheers.

    • Wereweazle

      But Loki is a motorcycle…

      • Mr.Paynter


      • Bronson

        That’s OK. I talk to motorcycles all the time too.

        • Thom

          Doesn’t everybody ?

          • scottydigital

            I thought I typed Daryl (long day)…..

  • slash5alive

    I love this. The bike looks great. I wish the best for this guy. Keep plugging away!

  • Beale

    I’ve always dug the look of the Chang Jiang motor but never really considered them because of almost nonexistent support in the US.. Will these be US bound?

    • Thom

      According to another article I read elsewhere ….. yes . If the other folks are correct that is .

  • Martin

    This reminds me of the line of new “modern classics” that BMW isn’t making because apparently they don’t have a clue.

    I love the Triumph modern classics, but every time I see an old BMW or knock off, I long for what could be

  • Gene

    Plunger rear suspension? In 2011?

    • The other Joe

      It ‘s a knock-off of a WWII era bike.

      • Thom

        No …… they ( Chinese ) just never bothered to update the bike . Not a Knock Off but a brand new bike , built the very old ways . Think Ural minus the updates and you’ll have it right

  • Thom

    I’ve seen this guys work elsewhere and its good stuff

    Talk about taking what you’ve got and making it better rather than whining about what you cannot have , this guy is it .

    Love customs , but stuck in China with the only ready supply of classic M/C’s being the ubiquitous Chang Jiang ?

    Use your creativity and build something brilliant out of it

    e.g. to use the Nike quote ” Just Do It ” A lot of folks here in the US could learn a thing or two from Mr Villanueva ;

    Quit your bitching and just build something !

    Two thumbs up to the man and his bikes

  • Chris

    The article was cool, and the bike looks rad. It would have been nice to have a bit more background on Villanueva & the start of Bandit9, but nice work none the less.

    • Miles Prower [690 Duke, MTS 1200]

      There were a few unique sentences in other articles linked off the Bandit9 blog, but for the most part, all of the articles were very similar in terms of how Villanueva described his aspirations and goals.

  • Core

    “It gets frustrating when things don’t go as planned – colors come back inaccurate, the leather is not to spec, the raw materials arrive 3 weeks late. I try my best to manage these aspects of the build but the people I’ve looked to for advice tell me, ‘Hey, it’s China.’”

    That’s sad in a way.

    Anyways, cool article.