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In the (Bicycle) Saddle, Safely

Posted by Harry Fisch, MD on with 0 Comments

Bike riding is the ultimate healthy sport, right? Easy on the knees, great for cardio and strength-building, and relatively inexpensive.

Well...yes..all true. But there's one downside to bike riding that has only recently been getting the attention it deserves: Riding can really mess up your sexual functioning.

Here’s the problem: Bicycle saddle design has remained virtually static since bikes were invented in the 1880s. The classic saddle has a flat-ish area for your pelvic bones (also called the “sitz bones”) and a long nose, which is a design leftover from horse saddles, on which bike saddles were initially modeled. It’s that long nose that is the issue; as many scientific studies have demonstrated, sitting on a typical bicycle seat puts an unnatural amount of pressure on a very sensitive part of your body.

Most guys don’t realize it, but the penis has a “root” that extends into the groin area and provides the penis with a base of support when erect. In a very real sense, then, when a guy sits on a traditional bike saddle, he’s sitting on his penis. The pressure compresses both the nerves and the blood vessels that feed the penis.

In the short term, this compression can cause the relatively common phenomenon of “sleepy penie" – a temporary numbness of the penis. In the long run, however, frequent bike riding can lead to outright erectile dysfunction.

A recent study was conducted of 90 police officers who patrol on bicycle to see whether a novel “nose-less” saddle design could reduce groin pressure and its related problems. After six months of using the new saddles, there was a 66% reduction in saddle contact pressure in the groin and significant improvements in penile sensation and erectile function among the officers. Only one of the officers, at the end of the study, requested a return to the traditional saddle.

The new generation of nose-less saddles are different from saddles you may have seen that have a traditional nose; some have a groove down the middle that is supposed to relieve pressure on the groin area. Turns out, this particular design doesn’t work – the rider’s weight is still being partially supported by the nose and, hence, hazardous compression still occurs.

Several companies are now making nose-less saddles, and I think any guy who bicycles more than occasionally should look into this option. Certainly anybody who rides seriously, either for recreation or competition, should consider a nose-less saddle. It would be a rather sad irony if guys pursuing biking to improve their health ended up harming their sexual health in the process!

Dr. Harry Fisch, Clinical Professor of Urology and Reproductive Medicine, Weill-Cornell Medical College/New York Presbyterian Hospital, is a board-certified urologist and microsurgeon and a leading author on male reproductive health and sexuality issues.  This blog is reprinted with his permission.

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