If you work in a bike shop, or have hung around one long enough, you surely have heard of JRA stories. They are thinly veiled ploys used to get a shop to warrantee a part that has suspiciously failed. They always start like this:
I was just riding along when...
…and finish with a seemingly innocent scenario that somehow results in the failure of a bike part.
I've used JRA stories myself. Back in the days when Gary Fisher was making bikes with 1 1/4" headsets, I purchased a headset adapter to reduce my headset size to 1 1/8" so I could install my first suspension fork. I must have pressed in the adapter slightly askew (because I used the wood block and hammer technique?) because after about a month of riding on my new fork I noticed a small crack in the frame by the headset.
I took the frame to Racer, who told me to call the company. I did, and before I knew what I was saying, I heard these words come out of my mouth:
"I was just riding along when I saw this little crack in my head tube."
I conveniently left out the part about the improperly installed headset adapter, and he conveniently agreed to warrantee my frame.
Not all JRA stories are fabrications. Nor do they all involve a broken bike part. Sometimes they involve a broken body part instead. Some of the best JRA stories don't involve anything being broken at all. They are about legendary crashes, embarrassing circumstances, epiphanies, chance encounters with celebrities, hard-earned life lessons, or maybe even about meeting your special someone.
My favorite JRA story is a real experience we had on our cross country ride. Mags and I were somewhere in Indiana, just riding along on our tandem bike when a couple in a brown minivan drove up alongside us. The woman in the passenger seat said that she and her husband had done a lot of traveling and they knew how simple pleasures could be so satisfying after a long day. She reached out and handed Mags a five dollar bill and told us to buy ourselves a Coke at our next rest stop.
Then her husband hit the gas and they drove off, leaving us thinking that the most satisfying pleasure of all is a simple act of kindness delivered at exactly the right time.
So what is your best JRA story? Here is your chance to tell the world. I don't care if it's a tall-tale or the honest-to-goodness truth; let's hear it. Embellishment is strongly encouraged.