Why you should care
Because these aren’t your average bikes.
If you ride a motorcycle, you’ve probably thought more than once about customizing your bike. Maybe an aftermarket exhaust for more horsepower. Perhaps that Corbin saddle to make longer runs more comfortable. Or maybe it’s a new ride altogether, one that looks like it was dragged kicking and screaming from a dystopian future urban landscape — a custom work of rolling art.
That’s precisely what Daryl Villanueva of Bandit9 builds. He always loved bikes but was unhappy with what was on the streets, Villanueva told OZY via email. So after 10 years in the advertising industry, which left him drained of creative energy, the 30-year-old Filipino-born entrepreneur created a custom bike shop called Bandit9. Currently based in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, he originally started the business in 2011 in Beijing as a move to get final say over his work and look to the future of motorcycling, because, as he puts it: “We’re really far behind with what we’re capable of imagining.”
What Villanueva has imagined so far is a series of motorcycles that take their inspiration from his love of Hollywood sci-fi, cyberpunk and fashion trends. And get this: There’s only nine of each design created. Why? To keep the bikes “relatively rare and unique,” Villanueva explains. The other reason: The motorcycles, which take 10 to 14 weeks to be hand-built, are partially assembled from the guts of other bikes, often using whatever can be scrounged locally. This approach also means that the Bandit9s — ranging in price from $6,000–$19,000 (excluding shipping) — are often more affordable than ones built by custom shops in the U.S., which can start at $20,000 and become stratospheric depending on the specifications.
Wes Siler, Gizmodo writer and a self-described reformed motorcycle journalist, says Villanueva’s designs are the perfect response to America’s “ridiculous relationship with the motorcycle,” and that Americans buy bikes with big, powerful engines “to compensate for their”—well, we’ll trust you to finish that sentence. With top speeds of 50 to 62 mph, some of Bandit9’s most recent machines aren’t suitable for U.S. highways. But to some, that’s a good thing. Siler says the bikes “will be much more at home in dense urban traffic than a custom Hog will ever be.”
As with any custom bike, there are caveats. Like repairing it if something breaks. If the problem’s with the tires, chain, brakes, suspension or engine, almost any mechanic can help, Siler says. The bodywork is a different story: “The only guy that’s going to be able to fix it is Daryl.” Owners also need to make sure their bikes are street-legal, something Villanueva makes clear is not his company’s responsibility, explaining that it would be impossible to make the bikes meet every local licensing requirement. But Siler says that all custom bikes face this potential challenge, regardless of where they come from: “They’re not more or less legally gray than every single Harley you hear riding past your house at night.”
If you want your own two-wheeled custom art piece, preordering has begun for the L-Concept — a bike that looks like a Colt 45 and a jet engine fused together in a chroming bath. Don’t forget: There will only be nine ever made.