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Homecoming: Bandit9 Custom Bikes Lands in Saigon

Daryl Villanueva moved to Saigon in 2011 on a 1-year contract for an international advertising agency. A week into his stay, he bought his first motorbike, a Honda Super Cub. A week later, he painted it, and a week after that, he bought his second bike. He had contracted a full-blown case of motorbike fever.

Leaving the agency life behind, he succeeded in building Bandit9, a motorbike shop in Beijing where he and his team crafted beautifully designed motorcycles. Tired of smog-filled skies, Daryl has returned the city that inspired his dreams and is ready to take Saigon’s custom bike scene to the next level.

It all started with a Honda Super Cub. “It was my very first bike and I got it right here in Saigon. I just fell in love with the feeling of riding such a simple, beautiful, classic machine,” Daryl explained.

While riding this Saigon classic, Daryl first explored the city and quickly discovered that these 2-wheeled machines dominate both the Vietnamese roads and psyche:

“The motorcycle community here is what gives the city life. They're like little red blood cells coursing through the city's veins. And when you're in the thick of the action, well, there's just nothing like it. It isn't about speed here. You don't need to go fast to experience the joy of riding. It's not about having a big expensive bike. It's about being a part of a community. It's about being part of something with a bigger purpose,” said Daryl.

When Bandit9 launched in Beijing, it quickly gained notoriety for flipping the “Made-in-China” stereotype on its head. There, they built massive, 750cc+ bikes, tailored for local roads. In Saigon, “where agility trumps power and speed,” they’ll be focusing on bikes with smaller engines (90cc – 250cc). According to Daryl, “In cities like New York, Paris, Hong Kong, Beijing, and Saigon, it's hard to flex all the muscles of a really big bike. So we decided to go with small, fast, agile machines. Although the bikes are aesthetically pleasing, there's a real functional aspect to it. The bikes are designed to get you around with speed and style.”

And this concept seems to be working. Beyond constant press coverage, Bandit9’s existing clientele is comprised of, “Ferrari designers, Porsche designers, film and commercial directors, folks from the design industry and architects,” revealed Daryl.

In Saigon, Bandit9 wants to make its bikes as affordable as possible while maintaining its reputation for unique, high-quality builds. At around US$5,000, their bikes might not be the cheapest on the road, but with limited production runs (9/per model), not to mention some of the most unique bike design you’ll ever see, they’re a value compared with larger custom bikes.

Bandit9’s Saigon shop will be staffed by Daryl, who will lead the design process and business in general, a “talented” mechanic/engineer who will, “help make the designs a reality,” and a creative strategist to, “make sure that we're constantly pushing fresh products to the people.”

How long does Bandit9 plan to set up shop in Saigon? “Indefinitely, said Daryl. “We think Saigon is the future. And we want a piece of the action.”

Based on the designs we’ve seen, “indefinitely” might not be long enough to satiate the appetite of bike-obsessed Saigonese.


Bandit9 Info:

Saigoneer will be working with Bandit9 to create some exciting content in the coming months, so keep your eyes peeled!

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