Whoever thought turbulence could spawn an artistic creation that is not only the first of it’s kind, but most likely the most influential piece of artwork in the motorcycle world? Airbrushing takes time and effort, creating an end product that is usually worth applause and appreciation. But the problem is, it’s just not authentic. When it comes to tattoos, we couldn’t possibly add the same weight to our stories with the stick-on type tattoos you buy in a vending machine. We save our pennies and grit our teeth to get the real deal, the body art that we can brag took hours of pain to accomplish. This makes for a much better and more powerful story. This is how the Cheyenne bike, The Recidivist, the world’s first tattooed custom motorcycle, was born.
Inspired by art of tattoos, the Recidivist is a motorcycle that is unique in that the tattoo art was not created with a typical airbrush, but rather tattooed directly to light-colored, cowhide leather, similar to the color of human skin. This skin was then branded directly onto the bike’s tires, tank, seat, rear fender, lamp and other smaller elements. Kult Motor DRP produced the leather itself and the leather was specifically tested with a process of special impregnation that would work well for the tattooing.
Stanislaw Myskowski, the founder of Game Over Cycles or GOC, is the originator of The Recidivist Project. He joined ranks with world famous brand, Cheyenne Professional Tattoo Equipment, to create the epitome of artistic visions on two wheels. Cheyenne would allow GOC to reach out to more people
with the Recidivist project, as Cheyenne is one of the largest tattoo equipment brands in the world. Cheyenne also provided the inspiration to make the customized parts on the bike distinctive. “To emphasize the tattoo theme in the motorcycle, we used real Cheyenne tattoo machines and modified other parts to make them look like Cheyenne brand tattoo machines,” Stanislaw says.
By definition, a recidivist is a person who continues to commit crimes even after being caught and punished, i.e. a habitual criminal. This is where the story of this motorcycle’s ink begins. The designs come together in an artistic vision that references tattooed motorcyclists living a turbulent lifestyle in post war era America. They were active members of the community, yet their lives teetered on the edge of the law. All the
tattoos on this motorcycle are based on a person who spent time in prison, but believed in having a strong character, freedom and individuality. “Of course we do not support or appreciate breaking the law at all,” Stanislaw says. “It’s an artists theme, which allowed us to implement all the visual and technical ideas we wanted to create in this machine.”
Stanislaw came up with the idea to create a motorcycle covered with real tattoos about ten years ago. “I have tattoos and I love motorcycles,” he says. “I consider them both a way to express my own feelings or character. In this project, we wanted to create a motorcycle that would be a combination of the automotive world and the world of tattoos, to express their respective characteristics, not only in the construction, but also in aesthetics. We also wanted this machine to combine modernity with tradition. On one hand, we built a motorcycle based on the most traditional motorcycle brand in the world, the Harley-Davidson – on the other we integrated the mechanisms of tattoo machines to become integral and fully functional elements of the motorcycle’s construction.”
The constructors at GOC began the project with a stock Harley Davidson softtail motorcycle complete with a Twin Cam 96’’ engine. They chose an American-made bike because America is where the custom bike culture was born, thus enabling GOC to pay homage to where it all began.
After fabrication of custom parts by GOC constructors was complete, only the frame and the engine remained in their original condition. All other components were custom fabricated by GOC to include the following: Frame made of C-bars (modified from HD Softail the frame), rear swingarm made of C-bars, front suspension with shock absorbers, steering wheel with shift paddles and handles, brake pump, foot control, rear wing, fuel tank, seat with mounting, engine covers along with engine barrels, air filter and front and rear lamps.
All parts fabricated by GOC were designed to resemble the traditional elements of tattoo machines, while remaining fully functional parts of the motorcycle. For example, if you take a look at the exhaust pipe, you’ll see it looks like a Cheyenne brand tattoo machine and when the bike is started up, the tattoo needles move like the tattoo needles of a real tattoo machine!
To conjure your inner demolitionist, you can also use what appears to be a bomb detonator lever to start the bike. And if you’ve ever been a bar brawl, you’ll recognize that the rear light indicators look like brass knuckle dusters and the front brake calipers will remind you of handcuffs. At your fingertips, you’ll notice the front clutch and brake handles are formed in the shape of butterfly knives, in the reverse form and the brake pump lever is shaped like a section sign.
And if you love old school style, the bike is equipped with a traditional suicide shifter, where the rider has to remove one hand from the handlebar to switch gears.
The Twin Cam 96’’ engine is relatively untouched with the exception of the engine covers, engine barrels, clutch cover and air filter; which were all made by GOC. Connecting chassis to pavement are tattooed Firestone tires.
The Tattoos and the Artists who Inked Them
The retro-style of the bike’s tattoos were inspired by and rooted in the motorcycle community; some are fact, some are fiction. The placement of tattoos was planned from the beginning and none of the tattoos are random. The ink on this motorcycle covers the entire spectrum of the Recidivist’s lifetime to include arrest warrants, guns, cigar, shattered bottle of Vodka, knives, razors and scenes from the times of prohibition. On the headlamp of the motorcycle, a moth is tattooed as “it is always attracted to light.”
Additionally, if you glance at the bike’s front end, you’ll notice a story is displayed in chronological order on the motorcycle’s front wheel – first a bank robbery, then the arrest, then the police putting the perpetrator behind bars, then a visit from a loved one, then the escape attempt and so on, with the only visible color being the card elements on the wheels. You can also find tattoos on parts that aren’t immediately visible such as inside or at the bottom of the motorcycle’s components or the internal sides of the cut-in-half fuel tank.
“The decisive issue for selecting those two artists was the fact that I knew them personally and I knew their creative possibilities, which allowed me to place my trust and confidence in them,” Stanislaw says. He also mentioned that another advantage of having Krzysztof and Tomasz participate in the Recidivist project was that they both run their own studios in the same city located a short distance from GOC. “Because the bike was built and tattooed at the same time, it was very important to have frequent consultations and transport of respective elements,” he says.
The tattooing took place during the last two months of construction, with the final tattoo being completed at the bike’s unveiling at the London Tattoo Convention 2014. Both artists put many hours in the Recidivist’s tattoos, with the final tattoo consuming nearly 40 hours of their time.
Construction of the Recidivist motorcycle took approximately five months and was unveiled to the world on September 27, 2014 at the London International Tattoo Convention. Since then, the bike has won the “Best Paint/Airbrush” award at Custombike-Show in Germany in December 2014.
You’ll most likely see GOC and the Recidivist at shows and competitions in the future, specifically the Polish Championships in April 2015 in Poznan, Poland. If you love motorcycles and you love ink, the Recidivist is a must-see.
About Game Over Cycles
Game Over Cycles is a Polish company that has been creating custom motorcycles since 2012. Before the Cheyenne Bike The Recidivist, the company was most renowned for creating the Behemoth Bike. This bike is a custom motorcycle inspired by and developed in collaboration with the global Polish icon of metal music, Behemoth, particularly the band’s leader, Adam “Nergal” Darski.