Colnago became the first company within the cycling industry - as far as we know - to cash in on the growing non-fungible token (NFT) trend in which digital assets are stored on a blockchain, with the digital picture of its C64 bike fetching almost $8,600 at auction in May earlier this year.
The C64 NFT which was put up for sale on the platform Opensea.io isn’t actually a physical bike. Confused? Essentially an NFT is a piece of digital content linked to the blockchain, the digital database that underpins cryptocurrencies.
Notable things that have been sold as NFTs include Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey's first ever tweet on the platform, and back in the cycling world Wout van Aert sold his three biggest wins of 2021 - Strade Bianche, Mont Ventoux and the Champs-Elysees - as digital assets.
Even more recently, Bike Club became the “world’s first blockchain-based cycling club”, with members able to claim one of 10,000 unique avatars in the form of NFTs that cycling artist Rich Mitch has designed, serving as proof of membership.
Back to the first NFT bike... What’s so special about the image of Colnago’s C64? Well, it "combines all 67 years of historic Colnago moments into a unique NTF bike", says the iconic Italian bike manufacturer. The NFT is "becoming part of Colnago history and will never be duplicated".
It attracted just two bids, with the higher coming from user MTD-01, who now has exclusive rights in perpetuity over the image of the bicycle – but won’t, of course, be able to ride it.
What the buyer does get, however, is a digital image of a one-off design that brings together elements of:
However, Colnago came under criticism when the auction opened, due to the environmental impact of the computing power necessary to maintain blockchain technology (rather than the NFT itself).
This article from the Verge explains why blockchain technology and its use to determine ownership of NFTs has such a big environmental impact, mentioning among other things that Ethereum, the cryptocurrency that the Colnago was purchased in, “uses about as much electricity as the entire country of Libya.”