Please Don’t Tell Me to Be Careful

It’s a refrain every cyclist has heard: “Be careful!”

I know people mean well, but every time I hear it, “Be careful!”, pisses me off just a little. Do people think that idea never would have occurred to me otherwise? That’s a little insulting. Or do they think that my intention when I clip into my pedals is to be reckless? That’s a little insulting too. And if the person actually thinks that their directive has any chance of changing my behavior, well, they don’t know me very well.

I think that the words, “Be careful!”, mainly mean the person hasn’t thought about the meaning. Cycling has risks. So does sitting on the couch. I’ve done the research and the mental calculus. Sure, I’ve left some skin on the road and perhaps broken a bone,  but these things are within my tolerance for risk, particularly when balanced against all the benefits cycling dispenses.  When some non-cyclist tells me to be careful, I think they’re projecting their own fears and ignorance on me. Rather than try to understand the rational thought process that led me to embrace cycling, they’re content in their own cocoon.

Sometimes I answer facetiously, “Where’s the fun in that?” But maybe I should ask, “Why? Why should I be careful? What does that even mean?”

Whenever someone says, “Be careful!”, some dark part of me wants to respond, “I am being careful. Careful not to get fat sitting on the couch. Careful not to stop having fun just because I’m getting old. Careful to avoid buying a second car.” But I don’t say these things because, as when someone says, “I’ll pray for you”, I know they’re just trying to find a way to connect with me, to mesh their world with mine in a positive way.

Still, rather than, “Be careful!”, I’d much rather people said something along the lines of, “Have a great ride!”


About swampyankeecyclist

I'm Andy Engel, just a middle-aged, middle-class guy from Roxbury, Connecticut. I've been married to my best friend since 1988, and we have two grown sons. I like riding bikes, and my biggest accomplishment is the 180K D2R2. I own 5 bikes but my go-to rides are a 2016 GT Grade gravel and commuter bike and a 2016 Specialized 650b hardtail mountain bike. Additionally, I have a 2000-something carbon-fiber Orbea road bike, a 1990-something Specialized Sirrus that's my old dirt and commuter bike and which now serves as a spare and a trainer bike, and a 1985 Ross Mount Hood MTB. All but the 650b have Brooks saddles. I work from home now, but used to commute 32 miles round trip to work by bike year round. I was a carpenter and still love building things, but regular paychecks, insurance, and vacation time lured me into journalism. I've written a couple of books on carpentry, and I've been an editor at Fine Homebuilding, Fine Woodworking, and Professional Deck Builder magazines. Currently, I manage construction events at the JLC Live and Remodeling Show trade shows. Additionally, my wife and I run Transylvania Guest House, an Airbnb. Find us on Instagram. Come stay with us and I'll show you some great cycling.
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