Café racers, choppers, scramblers, bobbers, brats. These neat distinctions don’t exist in Bandit9’s design universe. Daryl Villanueva, who builds every bike made-to-order in his Saigon bike workshop, doesn’t believe in following tried and tested formulas either. You won’t find any designs which cash in on popular vintage trends; other custom bike shops already go down that road to commercial success.
A few years ago, the former advertising creative director, who had worked with agencies from Dubai to LA, stopped seeing a future in being told by clients to ‘make the logo bigger.’ Although he’d honed his skills in design, photography and film, his ideas–in service of risk-averse clients–had largely felt like one big compromise. Dreaming of a way out is a familiar sentiment among creatives who see their work go to waste, but the adman remembered the freedom of the road and decided to follow it full-time.
Now, there aren’t any account execs or clients lurking over his shoulder, micromanaging every creative detail. It’s just him, the team, and the workshop. Unlike in the ad world, where campaigns are fine-tuned to sell a product to a specific target market, in the workshop the bike-building process is a lot more fluid. The models don’t start as fully realized blueprints; instead he experiments with ideas, materials, details, finishes–‘discovering’ the bike’s identity over time. A prototype is typically completed after three to four months.
It seems as if Daryl’s years in the advertising industry have paid off after all. Bandit9’s custom bikes tell a story unlike any other out there on the market. When you spend almost every waking hour either designing or looking for creative inspiration, you know exactly what it is you want to say. It’s just that now he applies everything he knows to building motorcycles.
Avid sci-fi aficionados may be familiar with Bandit9’s design narrative, particularly those interested in a different, darker take on the future. The EVE MKII, commissioned by the M.A.D. Gallery in Geneva, looks extremely sleek at first impression. The bike’s handcrafted front cowl and streamlined steel unibody foretell a cool, efficient future. Daft Punk could ride the MKII to play at your house. But underneath this cool veneer, the engine reveals a roaring steampunk past.
This retro-futuristic appeal can also be found in the two other versions of the EVE. Limited to 9 units in total like all Bandit9 models, the EVE also comes in two other high-end finishes: the EVE Liquid Black is dipped in black chrome, while the EVE Alchemist comes with champagne gold plating.
EVE Liquid Black
Our future may yet turn out to be more dystopian than a Disney movie but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it in luxury. The Alchemist model mesmerizes with its many handcrafted details: the Tuscan marble gas cap encased in a brushed bronze bezel, the hand-stitched seat covered in Italian leather, the speedometer with a custom dial and casing.
And while things are looking good–their bikes are exhibited in Stockholm’s MC Motorcycle Collection, the Haas Motorcycle Gallery in Dallas and soon in the prestigious Barber Motorcycle Museum, among others–Bandit9 doesn’t remain stuck imagining one definitive version of the future. The previous model EDEN, with its chrome or gold-plated steel unibody, titan headlight with gold trim, cognac brown leather seat and beautifully sculpted exhaust, speaks of a more promising utopian future.
But you can’t always resist the temptation of the dark side. Literally. With their upcoming Harley Davidson model, Bandit9 temporarily goes to war with its steampunk roots. The triumphant Dark Side has a unibody tank, a bullet-shaped fairing which wraps around a magnified LED headlight and turn signals, and a liquid cooled 750cc Revolution X V-Twin engine. A very low stance adds comfort and makes it easy to ride this stylish counterpart to the Dark Knight’s clunky Batpod. Conceived in the solitude of a Saigon workshop, this isn’t a reboot for commercial reasons. Bandit9’s bikes imagine a different future for the motorcycle industry.
This story originally appeared on Esquiremag.ph.
*Minor edits have been made by the FHM.com.ph editors.
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