Tech exclusive: Colnago developing Da Vinci's flying bike

Revolutionary transportation more than just a pipe dream

Colnago founder and managing director Ernesto Colnago sensationally revealed that the Italian bike manufacturer has spent the last few years working towards the production of a prototype of a flying bicycle that is partly based on drawings done by Leonardo Da Vinci in the 15th century.

Colnago confirmed his development team has been working on this incredible innovation after rumours started to circulate during the recent Taipei bike show.

Initial designs for the machine that is likely to revolutionise transport planning across the world were based on Da Vinci's plans for a human-powered ornithopter, an aircraft that flies by flapping its wings like a bird. Drawn up in the 1480s, Da Vinci's drawings sketched out a machine in which the pilot lies down on a plank and works two large, membranous wings using hand levers, foot pedals and a system of pulleys.

Over the subsequent five centuries many attempts have been made to produce a working model of Da Vinci's designs. All have ultimately failed due to over-reliance on human muscle power, primarily in the arms.

However, Colnago's team of expert engineers have hit upon a simple modification to the Da Vinci's original design that, they say, makes their version of the ornithopter a viable mode of transport. For the moment, they are refusing to give precise details of this modification but it is rumoured to stem from developments made during recent years in recumbent/human-powered vehicles. In other words, Colnago's engineers are producing a machine based on leg rather than arm power.

Colnago was tight-lipped about when the machine will receive its first public airing but did not deny reports that it would be used during a stage of the Giro d'Italia. Indeed, a number of Italian riders have admitted to taking part in training sessions with the almost silent craft tracking and filming them from above.

"Unlike race helicopters, you can completely forget it's there," said one Colnago-CSF rider. "I think the riders will welcome its introduction because it will get rid of the constant clatter of helicopters and we'll be able to hear ourselves think again."

One key problem that Ernesto Colnago did admit needs to be resolved is the question of what to call the new prototype. At the moment its working title is the ColnaGo-Up. Fans should are encouraged to post their own suggestions in the comments box below, with a free flight in the ColnaGo-Up on offer for the best suggestion.

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