Did Leonardo da Vinci Invent The Bicycle?

July 16, 2018
Did Leonardo da Vinci Invent The Bicycle?
Did Leonardo da Vinci Invent The Bicycle?

Leonardo da Vinci may be most known for the Mona Lisa, but cyclists may attribute his greatness to the invention of the bicycle. In 1974, the mystery of who invented the bike was solved for many.

A sketch of Mr. da Vinci’s bicycle made its way into the public eye as part of the artist’s newly restored Codex Atlanticus. As is the skeptic’s nature, however, those who weren’t so sure of da Vinci’s new posthumous claim to fame begged caution.

Many countries have long sought to claim recognition for their invention of the cycle. During World War I, in particular, several forgeries of drawings and schematics made their way around in an effort to attribute the creation of the bike to their nation.

Proper science discredited these claims later down history’s road. Today, it’s widely accepted that the basic 2-wheeler version of the bicycle, a design on which all modern bikes are based, is the product of the genius of Karl von Drais.

Too bad, for da Vinci fans. But really not important for those who are simply a fan of the bicycle. Drais was a civil servant with a technology background. He studied at Germany’s University of Heidelberg.

Even when “Leonardo’s bike” was published, there were forgeries circulating around. Each of them was noted by an identical mark too, a design that showed a non-steerable 2-wheel bike as the predecessor for the steerable, proper version. This myth of order of events came out of France, and historian Jacques Seray disproved it in 1976. Again, unfortunate for Leo followers, da Vinci’s bike also was non-steerable and therefore proof he was not the inventor of the cycle.

When Leo’s bicycle was discovered, the Italians thought they had immense reason to celebrate. Their beloved had just won an invention war, after all. Leonardo da Vinci’s cycle was shown on the backside of a full sheet of original sketches.

A bit of humor finds its way into this story when we learn why a conservator of 16th- century artwork actually folded and glued the sheet shut. He wanted to cover up various “phallic” drawings (as he portrayed them) that were on the back of the sheet.

Many historians, including Carlo Pedretti from the University of California, believe these symbols were in reality drawn by Leo’s students. And, he admitted, the drawings when held up to the light didn’t look very phallic in nature.

So, there was no “Leo’s bike” and no interesting side story. We don’t have any more famous works by da Vinci to discuss, but we do have our version of the bicycle that is cherished by cyclists no matter who the inventor was.

Sixthreezero, obviously, loves bikes – all types of bikes – including cruiser bikes and our popular beach bike, the sixthreezero Paisley Single Speed Women’s 26’’ Beach Cruiser Bike that is a hugely popular model. We’re a fan of single speed bikes like our sixthreezero Teal Single Speed Women’s 26’’ Beach Cruiser Bike and the beach cruiser with gears. We appreciate all cycle designs and know you’ll love our take on one of the greatest inventions ever made.  

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