If you read my book Don’t Let Your Bike Seat Ruin Your Sex Life – Ergonomic Bike Seats And Practical Pointers That Could Save Your Sex Life you will discover that you should care much less about the kind of bike you ride, and much more about just one of its parts – the bike seat. This is because a bad-fitting bike seat could affect your sex-life. In this article I’ll share the scientific studies on cycling-related sexual dysfunctions that I studied while writing the book. Unfortunately most of these studies aren’t free, unless you belong to an academic institution through which you most likely will be able to access all of them at no cost. As a result I can only list the abstracts here.
Very few studies are to be found when it comes to female cycling-related sexual dysfunctions. Most likely the scientists think that since women don’t need to get an erection to have sex, they are considered to be sexually functional at all times. Also it is much more challenging to measure female sexuality and perhaps that’s another reason why not many try to do that. But I did find several scientific studies on females and a few mixed-gender ones, so there is hope.
Table of Contents
- 1 Scientific Studies on Cycling-Related Sexual Dysfunctions in Males
- 1.1 M1. Does Bicycling Contribute To The Risk Of Erectile Dysfunction? Results From The Massachusetts Male Aging Study (MMAS).
- 1.2 M2. Bicycle Riding, Perineal Trauma, And Erectile Dysfunction: Data And Solutions
- 1.3 M3. Bicycle Riding and Erectile Dysfunction: A Review
- 1.4 M4. Influence Of Bicycle Seat Pressure On Compression Of The Perineum: A MRI Analysis
- 1.5 M5. Cycling and Penile Oxygen Pressure: the Type of Saddle Matters
- 1.6 M6. Optimal Protruding Node Length Of Bicycle Seats Determined Using Cycling Postures And Subjective Ratings
- 1.7 M7. The Vicious Cycling: Bicycling Related Urogenital Disorders
- 1.8 M8. An Observational Study of Erectile Dysfunction, Infertility, and Prostate Cancer in Regular Cyclists: Cycling for Health UK Study
- 1.9 M9. Erectile Dysfunction After A Long-Distance Cycling Event: Associations With Bicycle Characteristics
- 2 Scientific Studies on Cycling-Related Sexual Dysfunctions in Females
- 2.1 W1. Women’s Sexual Health: Genital Sensation and Sexual Function in Women Bicyclists and Runners: Are Your Feet Safer than Your Seat?
- 2.2 W2. Les Lanternes Rouges: The Race for Information About Cycling-Related Female Sexual Dysfunction
- 2.3 W3. Women’s Bike Seats: A Pressing Matter For Competitive Female Cyclists
- 3 Scientific Studies on Cycling-Related Sexual Dysfunctions in Males and Females
- 3.1 MW1. Cycling-Related Sexual Dysfunction in Men and Women: A Review
- 3.2 MW2. Interactive Re-Design Of A Novel Variable Geometry Bicycle Saddle To Prevent Neurological Pathologies
- 3.3 MW3. Bicycle Seat Interface Pressure: Reliability, Validity, And Influence Of Hand Position And Workload
- 3.4 MW4.A Field-Based Approach For Examining Bicycle Seat Design Effects On Seat Pressure And Perceived Stability
- 4 More Important Insights
Scientific Studies on Cycling-Related Sexual Dysfunctions in Males
M1. Does Bicycling Contribute To The Risk Of Erectile Dysfunction? Results From The Massachusetts Male Aging Study (MMAS).
By Marceau L, Kleinman K, Goldstein I, McKinlay J
International Journal Of Impotence Research 2001 Oct; Vol. 13 (5), pp. 298-302.
Keywords: Bicycling, Erectile Dysfunction, Risk Factors
Abstract: An association between bicycling and erectile dysfunction (ED) has been described previously, but there are limited data examining this association in a random population of men. Such data would incorporate bicyclists with varied types of riding and other factors. Data from the Massachusetts Male Aging Study (MMAS) were utilized to examine the association between bicycling and ED. Logistic regression was used to test for an association, controlling for age, energy expenditure, smoking, depression and chronic illness. Bicycling less than 3 h per week was not associated with ED and may be somewhat protective. Bicycling 3 h or more per week may be associated with ED. Data revealed that there may be a reduced probability of ED in those who ride less than 3 h per week and ED may be more likely in bikers who ride more than 3 h per week. More population-based research is needed to better define this relationship.
M2. Bicycle Riding, Perineal Trauma, And Erectile Dysfunction: Data And Solutions
By Irwin Goldstein, Alan L. Lurie, John P. Lubisich
Current Sexual Health Reports Volume 5, Issue 1, pp 21-27
Abstract: Significant clinical and basic science advances in the field of sexual medicine have facilitated investigation of the link between endothelial dysfunction and erectile dysfunction. Most sexual medicine practitioners accept the premise that in aging men with risk factors such as increased waist circumference, diabetes, hypertension, hypogonadism, hypercholesterolemia, and insulin insensitivity, a higher prevalence of erectile dysfunction reflects systemic vasculopathy that often first presents as abnormal erectile function. Endothelial dysfunction in the pudendal, common penile, and cavernosal arterial bed can occur secondary to pelvic, perineal, or penile trauma in young men without traditional systemic vascular risk factors. Because some younger men with erectile dysfunction may have underlying vasculogenic erectile dysfunction, sexual medicine practitioners should perform sophisticated testing procedures to evaluate erectile function that can be reestablished with penile revascularization surgery.
M3. Bicycle Riding and Erectile Dysfunction: A Review
By Frank Sommer MD, Irwin Goldstein MD and Joanna Beate Korda MD
International Society for Sexual Medicine 19 JAN 2010
Keywords: Bicycling, Erectile Dysfunction, Perineal Compression, Penile Blood Supply, Saddle
Abstract: For many years, reports in the literature have implicated bicycle riding as causing increased risk of erectile dysfunction (ED). Perineal compression during cycling has been associated with the development of sexual complications.
Aim.: To review current literature on the rationale for ED from bicycle riding and outcome of bicycle riding on erectile function and to present available research on preventative measures specifically regarding bicycle riding.
Methods: A systematic comprehensive literature review.
Results: There is a significant relationship between cycling-induced perineal compression leading to vascular, endothelial, and neurogenic dysfunction in men and the development of ED. Research on female bicyclists is very limited but indicates the same impairment as in male bicyclists. Preventative measures including use of a properly fitted bicycle, a riding style with a suitable seat position and an appropriate bicycle seat can help prevent impairment of erectile function.
Conclusions: There is a need for further research on safe bicycle and bicycle seat design and investigations that address the underlying mechanisms leading to cycling-related sexual dysfunction in both male and female bicyclists
© 2010 International Society for Sexual Medicine
M4. Influence Of Bicycle Seat Pressure On Compression Of The Perineum: A MRI Analysis
By Eadric Bressela, Tracey Reevea, Dan Parkerb, John Croninc
Journal of Biomechanics Volume 40, Issue 1, 2007, Pages 198–202
Keywords: Biomechanics, Cavernous spaces, Impotence, Saddle soreness
Abstract: It is a common belief that bicycle seat pressure compresses neurovascular tissues in the perineum and may lead to perineal and penile pathologies in male cyclists. The purpose of this study was to examine the effect bicycle seat pressure has on compression of the perineal cavernous spaces, which house the penile neurovascular tissues. A second purpose was to identify where peak cavernous compression occurs in relation to a bicycle seat. Five males were assessed for compression of the corpus spongiosum and corpora cavernosa with and without bicycle seat pressure using MRI. Seat pressure was applied using a custom loading device designed to replicate seat pressure recorded during stationary bicycling. The distance between a horizontal midline of the seat and the point of peak cavernous space compression was made on sagittal plane images. Diameter measurements of the cavernous spaces at the point of peak compression were made on coronal plane images. Results revealed that peak cavernous space compression occurred below the pubic symphysis, 40.7(±11.4) mm anterior to the midline of the seat. Corpus spongiosum values in the unloaded condition were 148% greater than the loaded condition (p=0.008)(p=0.008). Similarly, the left and right corpora cavernosa values for the unloaded condition were 252% and 232% greater, respectively, than the loaded condition (p=0.02)(p=0.02–0.03). Cavernous spaces that house penile arteries and nerves were compressed maximally below the pubic symphysis. Because this location of peak compression was not different between subjects, it may be a universal impingement zone that limits blood flow and neural activity to and from the penis. This information can be used to optimize seat design and thus reduce perineal injuries.
© 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
M5. Cycling and Penile Oxygen Pressure: the Type of Saddle Matters
By Ulrich Schwarzer, Frank Sommer , Theodor Klotz, Claus Cremer, Udo Engelmann
European Urology Volume 41, Issue 2, February 2002, Pages 139–143
Keywords: Cycling, Erectile dysfunction, Penile blood supply, Oxygen tension
Abstract. Objectives: Temporary genital numbness is a common side effect of long-distance cycling; cases of impotence have even been reported. Recent reports have shown that perineal compression leads to a decrease in penile blood flow. Reduced oxygen tension leads to penile fibrosis, which works counterproductively to the achievement of an erection. The shape of the bicycle saddle could be a factor affecting penile perfusion. The aim of this study is to find out the influence of different saddle designs on penile perfusion.
Material and Methods: In 20 healthy athletic young men (mean age 26.8 years, range 21–31 years) without history of erectile dysfunction, transcutaneous oxygen pressure (PtcO2), which correlates with arterial and tissue PO2, was measured at the glans of the penis using a transcutaneous measurement device. All men were measured in a standing position before cycling, then during cycling in a seated position on a stationary bicycle. Four different bike saddle designs were used: (A) narrow heavily padded seat; (B) narrow seat with medium padding and a V-shaped groove in the saddle nose (“body geometry”); (C) wide unpadded leather seat; (D) women’s special wide seat with medium padding and no saddle nose.
Results: During cycling in all seats a decrease in penile oxygen pressure could be observed, reflecting perineal compression. But the differences were unexpected: seat (A) mean PtcO2 11.8 mmHg, decrease in initial oxygen pressure 82.4%; seat (B) mean PtcO2 20.8 mmHg, decrease in initial oxygen pressure 72.4%; seat (C) mean PtcO2 25.3 mmHg, decrease in initial oxygen pressure 63.6%; seat (D) mean PtcO2 62.3 mmHg, decrease in initial oxygen pressure 20.3%.
Conclusions: Cycling in a seated position leads to a compression of perineal arteries with a consequent significant decrease in penile perfusion. But, there are unexpected differences between different saddle types. It was possible to demonstrate that the most important factor in safeguarding penile perfusion is not the amount of padding, but rather a saddle width which prevents sufficiently the compression of the perineal arteries.
Copyright © 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
M6. Optimal Protruding Node Length Of Bicycle Seats Determined Using Cycling Postures And Subjective Ratings
By Yi-Lang Chen, Yi-Nan Liu
Applied Ergonomics Volume 45, Issue 4, July 2014, Pages 1181–1186
Keywords: Protruding node of saddle, Posture recording, Subjective assessment
Highlights: No previous study has systematically examined the effects of protruding nose lengths (PNL). We collected body postures and subjective ratings under 5 seat PNLs ×2 handle heights conditions. Different PNLs affected only the trunk angle, and did not affect the other body angles. The handle and the PNL variables had varying effects on the degree of pelvic tilt. When PNL = 6 cm, discomfort was more acceptable and stability was also sufficient for the riders.
Abstract: This study examined body posture, subjective discomfort, and stability, requiring the participants to ride a stationary bicycle for 20 min (cadence: 60 rpm; workrate: 120 W), using various combinations of two handle heights and five seat-protruding node lengths (PNLs). The results indicated that bicycle handle height significantly influenced body posture, and that seat PNL caused differences in the riders’ subjective discomfort and stability scores. The various PNLs affected only the trunk angle (approximately 6°), but had significantly positive (r = 0.994, p < .005) and negative (r = -0.914, p < .05 correlations with the subjective discomfort rating for perineum and ischial tuberosity, respectively. When the participants were seated at PNL = 0 or 3 cm, cycling using dropped handles was less stable compared with using straight handles; however, the handle height did not affect the cycling stability when the PNL was ?6 cm. The results suggest that a 6-cm PNL is the optimal reference for bicycle seat designs.
Copyright © 2014 Elsevier Ltd and The Ergonomics Society. All rights reserved.
M7. The Vicious Cycling: Bicycling Related Urogenital Disorders
By Ilan Leibovitch and Yoram Mor
European Urology, Volume 47 Issue 3, March 2005, Pages 277-287
Keywords: Bicycling, Hypesthesia, Impotence, Nerve compression syndromes
Purpose: Bicycle riding is one of the most popular means of transportation, recreation, fitness and sports among millions of people of all ages who ride on road and off road, using a variety of bicycle types. It is also a readily available form of aerobic non-impact exercise with established cardiovascular beneficial effects. Bicycles are also a common source of significant injuries. This review focuses upon the specific bicycling related overuse injuries affecting the genitourinary tract.
Materials and Methods: MEDLINE search of the literature on bicycling and genitourinary disorders was performed using multiple subject headings and additional keywords. The search yielded overall 62 pertinent articles. We focused primarily on the most prevalent related disorders such as pudendal nerve entrapment, erectile dysfunction and infertility. The potential effect of bicycling on serum PSA level was also discussed in depth in view of its recognized clinical importance. Infrequent disorders, which were reported sporadically, were still addressed, despite their rarity, for the comprehensiveness of this review.
Results: The reported incidence of bicycling related urogenital symptoms varies considerably. The most common bicycling associated urogenital problems are nerve entrapment syndromes presenting as genitalia numbness, which is reported in 50–91% of the cyclists, followed by erectile dysfunction reported in 13–24%. Other less common symptoms include priapism, penile thrombosis, infertility, hematuria, torsion of spermatic cord, prostatitis, perineal nodular induration and elevated serum PSA, which are reported only sporadically.
Conclusions: Urologists should be aware that bicycling is a potential and not an infrequent cause of a variety of urological and andrological disorders caused by overuse injuries affecting the genitourinary system.
© 2004 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.
M8. An Observational Study of Erectile Dysfunction, Infertility, and Prostate Cancer in Regular Cyclists: Cycling for Health UK Study
By Milo Hollingworth, BSc, MBBS, Alice Harper, MA, MSc, MBBS, and Mark Hamer, BSc, PhD
Journal of Men’s Health – Volume: 11 Issue 2: July 11, 2014
Abstract. Background: Cycling is a popular sport among men. Despite its health benefits, fears have been raised regarding its effects on erectile dysfunction (ED), fertility, and on serum prostate-specific antigen levels. This study aimed to examine associations between regular cycling and urogenital abnormalities in men.
Methods: A cross-sectional population study of 5,282 male cyclists was conducted in 2012–2013 as part of the Cycling for Health UK study. The data were analyzed for risk of self-reported ED, physician-diagnosed infertility, and prostate cancer in relation to weekly cycling time, categorized as <3.75, 3.75–5.75, 5.76–8.5, and >8.5 hours/week.
Results: There was no association between cycling time and ED or infertility, disputing the existence of a simple causal relationship. However, a graded increase (p-trend=0.025) in the risk of prostate cancer in men aged over 50 years (odds ratios: 2.94, 2.89, and 6.14) was found in relation to cycling 3.75–5.75, 5.76–8.5, and >8.5 hours/week, respectively, compared to cycling <3.75 hours/week.
Conclusions: These null associations refute the existence of a simple causal relationship between cycling volume, ED, and infertility. The positive association between prostate cancer and increasing cycling time provides a novel perspective on the etiology of prostate cancer and warrants further investigation.
Copyright©2012 Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. Publishers.
M9. Erectile Dysfunction After A Long-Distance Cycling Event: Associations With Bicycle Characteristics
By Joseph R. Dettori, Thomas D. Koepsell, Peter Cummings, John M. Corman
The Journal of Urology, August 2004 Volume 172, Issue 2, Pages 637–641
Keywords: Bicycling, Impotence, Exercise, Hypesthesia
Purpose: We conducted a prospective cohort study to examine the relationship between bicycle characteristics and the occurrence of erectile dysfunction.
Materials and Methods: Subjects consisted of 463 cyclists completing a cycling event of at least 320 km who were free of erectile dysfunction before their event.
Results: The cumulative incidence of erectile dysfunction after the ride was 4.2% (95% confidence interval [CI] 2.4%–6.8%) and 1.8% (95% CI 0.7%–3.8%) 1 week and 1 month after the event, respectively. Bicycle characteristics associated with an increased risk of erectile dysfunction included a mountain bicycle compared with a road bicycle (risk ratio [RR] 4.1, 95% CI 1.6–12.5), and the relative height of the handlebars parallel with or higher than the saddle compared with the relative handlebar height lower than the saddle (RR 3.0, 95% CI 1.1–9.3). Perineal numbness during the ride was experienced by 31% of the cyclists and was associated with erectile dysfunction (RR 4.4, 95% CI 1.6–12.7). Saddle cutouts were associated with an increased risk of erectile dysfunction among those who experienced numbness (RR 6.0, 95% CI 1.3–27.1), but the association was reversed among those who did not report numbness (RR 0.3, 95% CI 0.0–2.5).
Conclusions: If the associations described are causal, then cyclists on a long-distance ride may be able to decrease the risk of erectile dysfunction by riding a road bicycle instead of a mountain bicycle, keeping handlebar height lower than saddle height and using a saddle without a cutout if perineal numbness is experienced.
Scientific Studies on Cycling-Related Sexual Dysfunctions in Females
W1. Women’s Sexual Health: Genital Sensation and Sexual Function in Women Bicyclists and Runners: Are Your Feet Safer than Your Seat?
By Marsha K. Guess MD, Kathleen Connell MD, Steven Schrader PhD, Susan Reutman PhD, Andrea Wang MD, Julie LaCombe MD, Christine Toennis PhD, Brian Lowe PhD, Arnold Melman MD and Magdy Mikhail MD
The Journal of Sexual Medicine Volume 3, Issue 6, pages 1018–1027, November 2006
Keywords: Sexual Function; Quantitative Sensory Testing; Pudendal Nerve
Abstract: Bicycling is associated with neurological impairment and impotence in men. Similar deficits have not been confirmed in women.
Aim: To evaluate the effects of bicycling on genital sensation and sexual function in women.
Methods: Healthy, premenopausal, competitive women bicyclists and runners (controls) were compared.
Main Outcome Measures: (1) Genital vibratory thresholds (VTs) were determined using the Medoc Vibratory Sensation Analyzer 3000. (2) Sexual function and sexually related distress were assessed by the Dennerstein Personal Experience Questionnaire (SPEQ) and the Female Sexual Distress Scale (FSDS).
Results: Forty-eight bicyclists and 22 controls were enrolled. The median age was 33 years. The bicyclists were older, had higher body mass indices (BMIs), were more diverse in their sexual orientation, and were more likely to have a current partner. Bicyclists rode an average of 28.3 ± 19.7 miles/day (range 4–100), 3.8 ± 1.5 days/week, for an average of 2.1 ± 1.8 hours/ride. The mean number of years riding was 7.9 ± 7.1 years (range 0.5–30). Controls ran an average of 4.65 ± 2.1 miles/day (range 1.5–8) and 5.0 ± 1.2 days/week. On bivariate analysis, bicyclists had significantly higher VTs than runners, indicating worse neurological function at all sites (P < 0.05). Multivariate analysis found significant correlations between higher VTs and bicycling at the left and right perineum, posterior vagina, left and right labia. Increasing VTs at the clitoris, anterior vagina, and urethra were associated with age. In bicyclists, there were no correlations between VTs and miles biked per week, duration of riding, or BMI. Composite SPEQ scores indicated normal sexual function in all sexually active subjects. Neither group suffered from sexually related distress.
Conclusion: There is an association between bicycling and decreased genital sensation in competitive women bicyclists. Negative effects on sexual function and quality of life were not apparent in our young, healthy premenopausal cohort.
© 2006 International Society for Sexual Medicine
W2. Les Lanternes Rouges: The Race for Information About Cycling-Related Female Sexual Dysfunction
By Sarah N. Partin MSPH, Kathleen A. Connell MD, Steven M. Schrader PhD and Marsha K. Guess MD
The Journal of Sexual Medicine Volume 11, Issue 8, pages 2039–2047, August 2014
Keywords: Female Sexual Dysfunction;Pelvic Floor Injuries;Bicycling;Pudendal Nerve;Neuropathy
Abstract: Cycling is growing in popularity among women. As in men, it is associated with genital neuropathies and decreased sensation in female riders. However, there is a gap in research and information addressing the relationship between cycling and female sexual dysfunction (FSD) in women.
Aims: To review the literature investigating pelvic floor injuries and sexual dysfunction in female cyclists.
Methods: Searches in several electronic databases were conducted, and relevant articles that met the inclusion criteria were identified for critical review.
Main Outcome Measures: The main outcome measure to be determined was the strength of the current body of evidence in published literature of a correlation between cycling-related pelvic floor injuries and FSD.
Results: Data on FSD from cycling-related injuries in women are limited. Research indicates that bicycle setup and riding equipment may be contributing factors. Women’s ergonomics and physiology interact differently with the bicycle than men’s. Current evidence offers insufficient foundation to recommend various effect-mitigating equipment and products.
Conclusions: While gender-specific cycling products offer a promising direction for protecting women riders, studies addressing FSD and pelvic floor injuries in women cyclists are inadequate to indicate clear etiology or provide treatment recommendations. Current evidence is also insufficient to recommend effect-mitigating equipment and products.
© 2014 International Society for Sexual Medicine
W3. Women’s Bike Seats: A Pressing Matter For Competitive Female Cyclists
By Marsha K. Guess, MD, Sarah N. Partin, BA, Steven Schrader, PhD, Brian Lowe, PhD, Julie LaCombe, MD, Susan Reutman, PhD, Andrea Wang, MD, Christine Toennis, BS, Arnold Melman, MD, Madgy Mikhail, MD, and Kathleen A. Connell, MD
J Sex Med. 2011 Nov; 8(11): 3144–3153.
Keywords: Saddle Design, Saddle Pressures, Pudendal Nerve
Abstract. Introduction: There are numerous genital complaints in women cyclists, including pain, numbness and edema of pelvic floor structures. Debate ensues about the best saddle design for protection of the pelvic floor.
Aim: To investigate the relationships between saddle design, seat pressures and genital nerve function in female, competitive cyclists.
Methods: We previously compared genital sensation in healthy, premenopausal, competitive women bicyclists and runners. The 48 cyclists from our original study comprise the study group in this sub-analysis.
Main Outcome Measures: (1) Genital vibratory thresholds (VT) were determined using the Medoc Vibratory Sensation Analyzer 3000. (2) Saddle pressures as determined using a specially designed map sensor.
Results: More than half of the participants (54.8%) used traditional saddles and the remainder (45.2%), rode with cut-out saddles. On bivariate analysis, use of traditional saddles was associated with lower mean perineal saddle pressures (MPSP) than riding on cut-out saddles. Peak perineal saddle pressures (PPSP) were also lower; however, the difference did not reach statistical significance. Saddle design did not affect mean or peak total saddle pressures (MTSP, PTSP). Saddle width was significantly associated with PPSP, MTSP and PTSP, but not with MPSP. Women riding cut-out saddles had, on average, a 4 and 11 kPa increase in MPSP and PPSP, respectively, compared to women using traditional saddles (p= 0.008 and p= 0.010), after adjustment for other variables. Use of wider saddles was associated with lower PPSP and MTSP after adjustment. Although an inverse correlation was seen between saddle pressures and VTs on bivariate analysis, these differences were not significant after adjusting for age.
Conclusion: Cut-out and narrower saddles negatively affect saddle pressures in female cyclists. Effects of saddle design on pudendal nerve sensory function were not apparent in this cross-sectional analysis. Longitudinal studies evaluating the long-term effects of saddle pressure on the integrity of the pudendal nerve, pelvic floor and sexual function are warranted.
Scientific Studies on Cycling-Related Sexual Dysfunctions in Males and Females
MW1. Cycling-Related Sexual Dysfunction in Men and Women: A Review
By Caner Baran MD, Gregory C. Mitchell MD, MS and Wayne J.G. Hellstrom MD
Sexual Medicine Reviews Volume 2, Issue 3-4, pages 93–101, October 2014
Keywords: Bicycle Riding;Sexual Dysfunction; Erectile Dysfunction; Saddle; Pudendal Nerve; Perineal Trauma
Introduction: The risk of sexual dysfunction due to bicycling has been addressed in the literature for both men and women. New studies have provided information about the prevalence, pathophysiology, and strategies for prevention of sexual dysfunction as it relates to cycling.
Aim: The aim of this article is to review the current literature about bicycle-related sexual dysfunction in both genders, exclusive of that caused by cycling-related genitourinary trauma.
Methods: A systematic comprehensive review of the English-language literature was performed in March 2014 using PubMed.gov, and search terms including (but not limited to) “cycling, bicycle, sexual dysfunction, and erectile dysfunction.”
Results: Several studies have documented a relationship between bicycling and sexual dysfunction. Of the symptoms described, perineal numbness (prevalence of 22–91%) and erectile dysfunction (prevalence of 1.8–50%) are the most commonly reported in the male population. The primary mechanisms leading to these symptoms in both genders appear to be perineal compression of the pudendal nerve within Alcock’s canal and possible trauma. Communications have also postulated that potential cycling-related disruption of the hypothalamic–pituitary–gonadal axis, specifically in testosterone signaling, may indirectly lead to sexual dysfunction. Studies have provided evidence that the rider’s position on the bicycle, as well as different types of bicycle seats, affect the degree of pudendal compression, and consequently the degree of resultant sexual dysfunction.
Conclusions: Although a number of studies have described mechanisms for cycling-related sexual dysfunction, further validated studies are needed to both better describe the dysfunction, as well as to develop strategies for prevention and treatment. Our best evidence indicates that the type of saddle used, as well as the position of the rider, has more effect on resultant sexual dysfunction than simply participation in cycling.
© 2014 International Society for Sexual Medicine
MW2. Interactive Re-Design Of A Novel Variable Geometry Bicycle Saddle To Prevent Neurological Pathologies
By G. Sequenzia, G. Fatuzzo, S. M. Oliveri , R. Barbagallo
International Journal on Interactive Design and Manufacturing (IJIDeM) 24 October 2015
Keywords: Bicycle seat, Interactive design, Cycling, Rapid prototyping, Reverse engineering
Abstract: The saddle is one of the most complex bicycle components providing both comfort and support while pedalling. Several studies have been carried out on bicycle saddles in recent years including medical ones to identify any correlated pathologies, and others to optimize design and sports performance. There are various types of commercially available saddles but they are all fixed geometry. The main identifiers of these designs are their length, nose inclination and the geometry of the support of the ischial tuberosities and pubic rami (wide, narrow, flat, furrowed etc.).
So as the literature suggests, the fixed-geometry saddle on today’s market has only partly resolved the anatomical pathologies related to extended saddle time. Consequently, the aim of this study is to develop, through interactive Re-design methodology, a variable geometry saddle (VGS) prototype for amateur cyclists capable of reducing the onset of saddle pathologies and improving pedalling comfort. The VGS was developed which can be adjusted to the physico-anatomical requirements of the rider as well as to various ride conditions (uphill, flat and downhill). The simple adjusters affect nose inclination and the width of the saddle back. In particular, the nose mechanism allows on-the-fly adjustment. The VGS developed could also allow the cyclist to identify the most congenial subjective geometry to help choose among commercial alternatives. An electroneurograph test on the pudendum nerve was also performed on five male amateur cyclists to see whether there were any effects with a variable saddle geometry compared to a fixed-geometry commercial saddle.
© Springer-Verlag France 2015
MW3. Bicycle Seat Interface Pressure: Reliability, Validity, And Influence Of Hand Position And Workload
By Eadric Bressela, John Croninb
Journal of Biomechanics Volume 38, Issue 6, June 2005, Pages 1325–1331
Keywords: Biomechanics, Perineum, Impotence, Saddle soreness
Abstract: Bicycle seat pressure is often examined by researchers exploring solutions for reducing seat injuries as it is thought a critical determinant; however, a reliable and valid methodology for this undertaking has not been reported. The current study was designed to address this shortcoming and to establish baseline interface pressure measurements for females and males. Participants completed two separate identical bicycle ergometer trials at 118 W in the tops and drops and at 300±82.4 W in top handlebar positions. Seat pressures were quantified from a pressure-sensing mat and the validity of the pressure system was examined through the relationship between known seat weights and the sum of seat pressures. Within trial intraclass correlation coefficients (ICCs) ranged between 0.90 and 0.99 and the between trial ICC values ranged between 0.02 and 0.96. The relationship (Pearson correlation coefficient) between seat weight and the sum of pressures was 0.97. Significant peak pressures were 39% greater in the 118 W top than 300 W top handlebar condition and 29% greater than the 118 W drop handlebar condition (p<0.05p<0.05). The gender comparison revealed that significant male peak pressure values were greater (24%) and that female values were less influenced by the hand position factor. Select within trial pressure measurements were found to be reliable during pedaling and valid statically. Additionally, the results indicated that workrate and hand position were factors influencing seat pressure and that males and females responded differently to adjustments of these factors.
Copyright © 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
MW4.A Field-Based Approach For Examining Bicycle Seat Design Effects On Seat Pressure And Perceived Stability
By Eadric Bressela, Shantelle Blissb, John Croninb
Applied Ergonomics Volume 40, Issue 3, May 2009, Pages 472–476
Keywords: Seat injuries, Perineum, Biomechanics
Abstract: The purpose of this study was to investigate the effect of various bicycle seat designs on seat pressure and perceived stability in male and female cyclists using a unique field-based methodology. Thirty participants, comprising male and female cyclists, pedaled a bicycle at 118 W over a 350 m flat course under three different seat conditions: standard seat, a seat with a partial anterior cutout, and a seat with a complete anterior cutout.
The pressure between the bicycle seat and perineum of the cyclist was collected with a remote pressure-sensing mat, and perceived stability was assessed using a continuous visual analogue scale. Anterior seat pressure and stability values for the complete cutout seat were significantly lower (p < 0.05; 62–101%) than values for the standard and partial cutout designs.
These findings were consistent between males and females. Our results would support the contention that the choice of saddle design should not be dictated by interface pressure alone since optimal anterior seat pressure and perceived seat stability appear to be inversely related.
Copyright © 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
More Important Insights
My book Don’t Let Your Bike Seat Ruin Your Sex Life – Ergonomic Bike Seats And Practical Pointers That Could Save Your Sex Life provides the synthesis and down-to-earth explanation of these studies. It also lists numerous choices of the ergonomic bike seats you can acquire in today’s market.
The core of the book brings forth the issue of a potential damage that your conventional bike seat can do to your perineum, which could badly affect your sex life and, for a few cyclists, may also cause a variety of urogenital disorders. And of course the book tells you what can be done to avoid or minimize the risk.
Such simple but crucial information should come bundled with every bike sold! If you know people who are cyclists, including those who workout on indoor stationary bikes, please share this information with them.
If you find some other relevant scientific studies please share that information in the comments section below. Thank you for caring to share.
First illustration is by Rkclx (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.