If you’re a biker of the non-motorized kind, you’ve probably come to a spot where you wish there were a ferry or other means to get across a body of water where no bridge exists. Well, you’re in luck. Italian engineering company SBK Engineering has come up with something ingenious: The Shuttle-Bike is a clever contraption that fits into a backpack until you need it, then inflates to provide you with an instant “bike-boat” that will safely convey you across said bothersome body of water!
Weighing in at around 24 pounds and able to achieve a cruising speed of a little over six mph, the Shuttle-Bike requires only about ten minutes of your time to magically turn your bike into a pedal-powered boat. Just think of the possibilities: tooling all over the Netherlands without having to search for a crossing over the many watery interruptions in your ride; cruising the canals of Venice sans serenade; off-roading anywhere, without the worry of getting stuck on an unmapped peninsula; or even commuting, without having to endure bridge or tunnel traffic.
The Shuttle-Bike project began in 1992 in Vigevano, Italy, a town not far from Milan—where Leonardo da Vinci perfected many of his brilliant inventions—and was developed with an eye to safe navigation, a stable structure and ease of maneuverability, even in very demanding situations.
The mention of da Vinci is, naturally, deliberate. Not only was he an incredible artist, but his imagination provided the details for a host of inventions, from calculators to engineering projects, armored cars to musical instruments, flying machines to submarines. The far reach of his fields of study is almost unbelievable—botany, sculpture, chemistry, architecture, physics, zoology, civil engineering, painting, geology, hydrodynamics, geometry and anatomy, to name a few—in short, he was the quintessential Renaissance Man. Approximately forty years ago, the Codex Atlanticus was discovered, the largest collection to date of da Vinci diagrams and notes. Much to the chagrin of bicycle enthusiasts everywhere, the rumors that sprang up—that a drawing depicting a bicycle-like design was found amongst the papers—turned out to be a hoax. But it was a nice thought.
The Shuttle-Bike is more than a nice thought, though; it has been adopted for a wide variety of commercial and leisure-time uses, including personal exploration, resort rentals and search-and-rescue operations. (Take time for another thought: “Why didn't anyone think of this before?!")
And if you’re picturing yourself getting blue in the face from trying to inflate the pontoon-like apparatus, worry no more: No lung-power required. Once you are faced with a watery quandary, you simply unpack the Shuttle-Bike kit and use pedal-power to inflate the floats on the spot—kind of like using an exercise bike. Utilizing a set of universal clamps, the kit adapts to almost any bike, snapping together when needed. Once on the water, streaming along is very much like riding on dry land: The handlebars control the propeller/rudder, and the bike’s gears allow you to find the best cruising combination. The Shuttle-Bike can safely carry a load of 275 pounds; in rescue conditions, even someone weighing nearly 450 pounds could be transported to safety.
Possibly the best news of all is the Shuttle-Bike’s portability—a lightweight, compact backpack turns into a pedal-powered watercraft that is truly amphibious. Da Vinci would be proud.