In days gone bye we called it JRA - Just Riding Along. It referred to what mechanics and shop assistants encountered when a customer walked in to their shop or workshop with a bicycle that was not working properly. Depending on your experience and tenure in the industry this "not working properly" could range from gears not shifting properly to bad braking, noisy drivetrain, wonky wheels, loose fasteners and even bent, cracked or broken frames.
And inevitably, the customer had nothing to do with the failure!!! He or she was just riding along when the damn thing stopped working!!!
While workshops exist to repair and service bicycles for the cycling public, there exists also an undercurrent of "responsibility" for occasions when bicycles stop working. As in riding along ....
1. Manufacturers defect.
If you've had the experience of buying a new bike you likely had given to you a plastic holder with a bunch of documentation in it - this the more likely as the cost of the bike went up. Inside this was inevitably a document setting out the Manufacturers Warranty terms. Warranty covers you in the event of a manufacturing defect in the bike and pretty much all manufacturers specify clearly the duration of the warranty and it's terms, including who pays for the freight and fitment of replacement parts. So how many of you are familiar with the terms of your warranty? Few, if any. You should also not think you automatically get protection under the Consumer Protection Act for instances falling outside of the Manufacturers Warranty.
Suffice to say that cracked frames, broken drivetrains and wonky wheels, in fact most of the problems encountered by workshops fall outside these warranties. If, like me, you have lots of experience dealing with these issues you can pretty quickly separate warranty issues from misuse, overuse or abuse. Claims that a frame broke, or a derailleur bent, or some other mischief befell the bicycle while the rider was just riding along are common. Occasionally, and I stress, very occsionally, these claims are actually true. Most times though, they aren't. It takes experience and knowledge to differentiate one from the other. And where justified, manufacturers are more than willing to step up to the plate to remedy any defect. This is what keeps them in business, after all.
Dealing with iffy or dishonest claims is always a tricky situation, as are what might seem to be borderline cases. Here, tenure and experience are the best answer.
2. Fair wear and tear.
So things fall apart, typically, the more we use them and the harder we use them. Mechanical things, like bicycles, require periodic maintenance and in the event of accidents or incidents, often require repair. This is often an overlooked aspect of bike ownership, particularly with the rise in popularity of mountainbiking. Also, with the rapid increase in the cost of bicycles there seems to be a misunderstanding that if a bike costs you your pension, it should go forever. Just not true.
Expensive dual suspension mountainbikes are particularly prone to this: When you're trying to give a rider the best performance possible, technology gets stretched and materials get pushed to their limits. This inevitably brings with it an actual increase in the frequency of maintenance to retain the performance edge and maintain the lifespan of the products.
3. Running out of talent.
We can run out of road, we can run out of traction, we can run out of grip and have a fall. Most times, though, we run out of talent. Modern bicycles, from high tech carbon laminates on frames and wheels, to advanced rubber compounds on tyres, complex hydraulic damping on long-travel suspensions and the most advanced electronic gadgetry including being able to tune your electronic shifting through your computer or cellphone, and we have it all. The "arms race" of competing manufacturers has given us machines of breathtaking complexity, ability and performance. Included though is also the ability of that machine to very quickly transport us to places we have no business being!! Places requiring waaay more talent than we actually posess. I don't suppose we can blame the manufacturer or salesman for that matter - most times they are simply giving us what we are demanding.
Is this the price of technology??