Bicycles and "The Time Machine"


(Above) Sketch of a "Time Velocipede" by designer Alain Gadbois

Some have assumed that Wells may have been thinking of a bicycle-shape when he originally envisioned the physical design of his Time Machine. This assumption is based on two points: first, Wells appears to describe the seat of the Machine as a saddle. Secondly, Wells was an avid cyclist and is often shown riding or posed next to his bicycle.


- Wells scholar
François O. Beaulieu

H. G. Wells, with his wife Jane. "The writer-laureate of the cyclists," according to biographer Michael


When I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair for the future of the human race.
- H. G.Wells

Whether by chance or design, the first line in George Pal's "The Time Machine" is delivered by a man riding a bicycle.

'Scuse me, Mr. Filby!
Cyclist who nearly runs Filby (Alan Young) over in the opening scene of "The Time Machine" (1960).

This still of a pleased George Pal on the set of "Destination Moon" (1950) with his personalized bicycle suggests that Pal had an interest in cycling, even if only to travel around the studio lot.


Wells's humorous bicycling novel of 1896, "The Wheels of Chance," concerns itself with a chance meeting between two cyclists. On the set of "The Time Machine," cyclists met by chance yet again.

Mike Hiltner, an amateur U.S. cyclist and Olympic road racer, had won the 1958 California State Championship prior to attending Santa Monica City College. At college, he saw a notice posted on a bulletin board calling for movie extras under 5' 6" in height.
Hiltner answered the call and was cast as one of the Eloi in Pal's film.

Someone in the MGM publicity department got wind of the fact that there was a celebrity in the midst of all the blonde-wigged Eloi and set up a photo op with Hiltner and Yvette Mimieux, which resulted in the recently re-discovered picture seen
at right.

"I only vaguely remember Yvette," says Hiltner, who now is known by the name Victor Vincente of America. "In those days, I was so naive and timid, and had no social skills - though I was always attracted to women."

According to "The Quotable Cyclist," Victor went on to become became an "early icon" of mountain biking.

As Victor Vincente of America, he set a U.S. cross-country record, was '64 and '65 California champion - as well as 1965 National champion. "

"I was on the Olympic teams in 1960 Rome, and 1964 Tokyo," Victor reports.

What's Victor Vincente of America up to these days?

Traveling a few times per year to visit friends and putting in lots of miles on the bike (still a main interest in his life, closely rivaled, he says, by his "pursuit of women," thus making Yvette "the one who got away").

At sixty, he jokingly refers to himself as a "retired old geezer when at home."

"All in all, " Victor says, "I am enjoying being alive more than ever."

(Below) MGM's original caption for the Mike Hiltner Photograph.

(Left) Original illustration for H.G. Wells's "The Wheels of Chance (1896)

The "Wheels of Chance" indeed!

"You must not think that a strain is put on coincidence...Indeed, it was a highly probable thing."

H.G. Wells, "The Wheels of Chance."


Don Brockway, December 12, 2001 (updated October 12, 2004)

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