I saw A Sunday in Hell for the first time on the big screen at the Bicycle Film Festival in Chicago about seven years ago. The movie starts out with this scene.
It shows Francesco Moser's mechanic cleaning and preparing his bike for the 1976 Paris Roubaix cycling race, also known as “The Hell of the North”. The opening scene is mesmerizing as you watch the mechanic carefully clean and adjust the bike to a soft violin score. If you know anything about Paris Roubaix, you understand that these are the final moments before the bike is unleashed into utter Hell. This race has always been one of the toughest and most demanding for both the rider and his bike, spanning about 160 miles of rough, cobbled roads in Northern France. It almost seems futile to take that much care with a bike about to be abused to that level, but such is the job of the race mechanic.
Watching that scene was one of the things that made me want to become a professional bicycle mechanic. There is something really satisfying about cleaning and tuning a bike until it is perfect, even if you know that it is about to get thrashed in a race or on pothole-filled city streets. Between our shop supported racing teams and the hard core Chicago commuters, I have been getting plenty of opportunity to clean and repair bikes over the past few months. I also know that I will see many of those bikes again in the near future after they have been used and abused, and I will take the time to make them as close to perfect as I am able.