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 white 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 4 bikes; a ten year old carbon-fiber Orbea road bike, a new GT Grade 105 gravel and commuter bike, a 20 something year old Specialized Sirrus that's my old dirt and commuter bike, and now serves as a spare and a trainer bike, and a 30 year old Ross MTB that I don't ride enough. All of them have Brooks saddles, which should tell experienced cyclists a little about me. I created this blog to write about cycling, perhaps to inspire others to ride. I commute to work by bike year round, ice permittine. It's a 32 mile round trip, so a good week sees me doing it 3, maybe 4 times. 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'm a senior editor at Fine Homebuilding magazine.
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