“A Sunday in Hell”: Clicks and purrs

This week’s quote from “A Sunday in Hell” isn’t a quote. It’s a bunch of sounds.

It’s the film’s opening scene. A mechanic with Italian great Francesco Moser’s team is preparing one of the rider’s Benotto bikes for the battle ahead. First, there’s the rapid “click, click, click, click, click” with a “purrr” mixed in – the sound of a chain going through a Campagnolo drive train. Next comes the “swish, swish, swish” of the mechanic using a paint brush to remove dirt and grime from the crank and derailleurs as he turns the crank. The deep, woody sound of a cello fades in. He “clicks” and “snaps” the brake levers a couple of times to make sure they’re adjusted and responsive. Then, there’s the “tap, tap, tap” as he uses the end of wooden hammer grip to knock a front brake into place. He snaps in a front wheel, and with a quick flick of the wrist, he installs the rear wheel. He starts turning the crank again and the drivetrain starts purrring again and “clicking” and “snapping” as he starts shifting the gears.

Check it out here on Youtube:  Sunday in Hell

I don’t know why but it’s one of the most memorable parts of the film. Even non-cycling fans who borrow the DVD from me say – without any prompting – they really liked the intro (Perhaps that’s all they watched!). It’s wonderful the film doesn’t open with one of the super stars. The first person to appear is one of the many unsung heroes in the sport: a mechanic who works behind the scenes under much stress and pressure.

I love the authoritative way the mechanic handles the bike. I don’t have much talent with wrenches. I always approach repairs and maintenance with trepidation. My every move is tentative, with zero confidence and a fear I’m going to screw up something. But Moser’s mechanic handles the machine as if it’s at his mercy and must obey him. He cleans and assembles the bike just like a Special Forces commando would strip down and build up his rifle for the millionth time. The bike is treated like a weapon, a collection of parts – designed by a logical mind – that should go back together without any fuss when done by confident, steady hands. It gives me hope that someday I’ll be able to do it.

Incidentally, check out the great article about bike washing at Belgian Knee Warmers.

Posted: January 3rd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: "A Sunday in Hell", Campagnolo | No Comments »

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