Friday, June 15, 2018

Time travel? It's possible, on a Royal Enfield

Riding a classic Royal Enfield carries me back to the way things were.
I've often mentioned that I consider my Royal Enfield motorcycle a sort of time machine that carries me back in time as it carries me forward in space.

Riding my Royal Enfield, I can experience something of life in the 1940s, when it was designed, and its like roamed the planet.

The other day, hunting around the house for a pocket book to take on an airplane flight, I grabbed H.G. Wells' "The Time Machine" from the books one of my now grown daughters left behind.

The classic tale of a man who travels into the future has been published and republished so often that there is dispute about which is the definitive version. However, it seems to have been first published in 1895.

Wells himself wrote a "Forward" to a version published in 1931, in which he noted:

"'The Time Machine' has lasted as long as the diamond-framed safety bicycle, which came in at about the date of its first publication."

Why the mention of the safety bicycle? Because H.G. Wells was fascinated by the then new safety bicycle and its possibilities. In "The Time Machine" the fictional Time Traveler mounts a machine equipped with a "saddle," like a bicycle.

H.G. Wells and the safety bicycle.
Bicycles appear in other H.G. Wells fiction. There's even a book about the author's interest in two-wheelers, "War of the Wheels," by Jeremy Withers.

At about the time Wells began imagining traveling in time, England was enchanted by the new found mobility offered by the safety bicycle.

These combined pneumatic tires, chain drive, usable brakes and a riding position near enough the ground to put your feet down.

It was only a short step to add a motor, creating the motorcycle.

It must have seemed to a formerly pedestrian society that the speed of the two-wheeler saved so much time that it virtually was a time machine. If such a device could move you through three dimensions of space, why not through the fourth dimension of time?

Wells thought a traveler so enabled would head towards the future to discover how human life in 1895 would evolve.

In the book things turn out very badly indeed, and the time traveler is lucky just to escape back into his own day.

I suspect a real time traveler would prefer to visit the past. It's safer.

Certainly not all was well with the world in 1955, the childhood days I prefer to wonder about, but what happened then is at least settled history.

My Royal Enfield and I will get to the present time when we get there — and not before.

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