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4444 Design’s “Red/Black” Chang Jiang

Posted on October 29, 2011 by Andrew in Bobber, Classic. 16 comments

If The Punisher was a Red Army assassin, he’d ride one of these. Probably

It’s funny how the world works. Two weeks ago we would have laughed if someone had told us that Chinese bikes would be featuring heavily in our upcoming posts. But here we are two weeks later and presto change-o here’s our second sweet-ass Chang Jiang straight outta downtown Beijing. This one’s the result of some hard work by ex-pat Thomas Koehle and his shop, 4444 Design. The more we hear about these “Changs” the more we’re liking them. Cheap and reliable with a design that essentially hasn’t changed since before WW2, the bike is common as smog in China and amazingly (for a Westerner, at least) you can by spares directly from the Red Army. How cool is that?

It doesn’t matter how many times we see them, we still love those cylinder heads

“My name’s Thomas. I’m located in Beijing China since mid of 2007 working for a international car manufacturer. All around here in Beijing mainly foreigners ride those old Ex-Chinese Army Chang Jiang bikes. The technical design of those Changs actually is based on old R71 Beemers – back in the 1930s right before WW2 Hitler gave the drawings to the Russians (the had an alliance before Poland was invaded) and they still produce similar bikes – today known as URAL or DNEPR. In the 60s & 70s the Russians forwarded the drawings to China.”

“I was hot on one of those vintage looking rides. A lot of shops around BJ restore them but not any sign of real “customizing” – just changing colours and playing around with chroming and polishing. Not what I was looking for. I had my own ideas but most of the stuff/parts I would need ain’t available in China. Although a lot of stuff is produced in Taiwan, still it is pretty difficult to get parts here.”


“I buy NOS engines which are still available
surplus from the Chinese army”

“So I imported most of the parts of my Red/Black ride via suitcase on business trips to Europe or as oversize luggage. It took plenty of time to get all the parts here and each time I showed up with motorbike stuff at the customs the guys wondered what to do with all those parts. Imagine someone hanging around customs with 2 fat whitewall tyres on the luggage trolley. That was me…”

Harley footboards find a new home in Communist China

“Friends got attracted by my creations so I sold some of them. The more rides I finished the more parts i needed and so on. The “business” does not really pay the rent but more a hobby and each bike I finalize I use to finance the following ride. Not counting in the hours of search for parts, ideas, playing around with opportunities and trying new things. So far I’m the only one converting the 19 inch wheels of the Changs to 16 inchers with donuts.”

From Hitler via Stalin and Mao. Must be good for your ego, then

“Since I started modifying Changs I have finished 5 custom bikes and a couple of WW2 repro Beemer-sidecars. My next project will be a bobber with springer front end, modern Beemer engine and some other gimmicks which I will do together with another bike builder here in BJ. For all my customs I usually leave the engine and gearbox untouched. I buy NOS engines (which are still available surplus from the Chinese army) or ones with low mileage. The 24 hp boxers are pretty reliable so a full check, cleaning and proper maintenance is enough.

The whole project starts with a sketch, then I check whether the coming owner is satisfied and then start hunting for parts. The Red/Black ride initially was meant to be for my wife. Such a bike usually adds up to about 50.000 Rmb (approx. US $8,000) which ain’t that much for a personally customized ride. Too expensive for the average Chinese national so most of my rides go to foreigners, exported already to NZ, France and Germany.”

Red/Black alongside another of Thomas’ creations

In our communications with Thomas, he’s let us have a sneak peek of his latest Chang – one that he’s named “Diablo”. If the powers that be at the Great Red People’s Party for the Glorious Advancement of Ancient Chinese Two-Wheeled Motorised Transport Department in Beijing receive the duly submitted paperwork, in triplicate, then expect even more of these Red beauties in the very near future, fellow comrades.

  • Chucksspeed

    Thomas’ work is top shelf! He’s a good guy, and it’s cool to see someone working these CJ’s.  They sound even better than they look – something about a flattie on a straight pipe just sounds so right.  

  • Prinsepe87

    Nice work brother. (Robert, a Royal Enfield rider from Seoul Korea)

  • Paul

    Not a far of the red with white walls, but that all-black example looks pretty awesome.

  • Ugh


  • Carbon-arc


  • JasonB

    Whoa…well done. Can you just picture a group of riders hanging out, and the owner of this gets asked “what’s your ride, bro- Harley, Indian, Triumph?”
    “Ummh, Chang Jiang”
    Kinda falls flat, eh?

    • Uh, no. No it doesn’t. How could a bike like this EVER “fall flat?”

  • Jacktaylor15

    anyone else think the greasy, leaky old engine looks out of place among the immaculate paint job and other shiny bits that have obviously had work put into it? i dont really get why you would put all this effort into pretty-ing up this thing while not doing atlest a little engine stuff.

    • S.Marrs

      completely agree. the stuff here is usually pristine. love the fat wheels, but not really a fan of the wild colours.

      • NYCGuy

        whats so greasy? where? guys comon, its a nice built period. not all bikes featured on pb is straight from the factory floor. i love this bike more so because the builders have given life to a Chinese brand that we all usually right off.

  • Ranhoff

    Big props to Thomas for calling his company 4444. I’ve always wanted to open a store with that name in China. In Mandarin the word for 4 is similar to the word for death so its considered bad luck, and in a culture that relies so heavily on luck they take this pretty seriously. Way to challenge the culture. 

    Awesome custom as well. Building anything custom in China takes so much effort. I am sure its much more challenging building there as compared to many other places in the wrold. 

  • Zekerigg

    sweet bikes my dad wants one like crazy. i only have one problem with them 24 hp on a massive bike like that? also how do you get through Asian traffic with that big of a bike? do you just drive it like a car? again really nice works and i like the colors i don’t know why but i do.

  • pals!

    thank you for such a lot of positive feedback …

    actually those 24 hp engines are designed for sidecar-setup – torque is enough for the solo to speed the bike and with a different gear ratio the speed is satisfying even on highway

    altough fast riding in china ain’t recommended – roads around BJ are pretty good and just around Beijing you find a lot of hills and nice landscapes for cool rides

    THX once more also to the guys from PIPEBURN!


  • That guy

    I’m sorry, but I’ll be the one to say it.  You don’t see a lot of Chinese built bikes on Pipeburn and the like because the manufacturing culture in China emphasizes quantity over quality.  Every chinese scooter I’ve ever seen has been a tremendous pile of throw-away crap.  This is a really nice looking bike, but I wouldn’t ride it.

  • I like the all black a lot better.. sorry

  • Chuck Mekong

    Don’t worry about negative replies from macho men. Their knowledge is lacking. They would not say “I wouldn’t drive a lunar rover on the moon because a Harley is better.” They don’t know China. Foreign bikes in China cost three times what they do elsewhere. Cost of living in China is 1/6 of the rest of the world so wages here are less. Many highways here are single lane and jungle on either side. Driving a Ducati, even if you could afford, would kill you in the first week, when a bus came around a blind corner and sent you over a cliff. Custom bikes can’t be registered in China so you don’t see any choppers/bobbers on the road. The new Chinese bikes are pretty good. This guy must have been looking at some designed for the peasants. Rigid Chang below.