Cycling: Also unsafe for your sex life
|New York Times|
This isn't really news. After all, I tried to warn my many friends in the cycling community---yes, that's a joke----about this problem way back in 2005. Like the radically flawed method the city had of counting cycling accidents, we didn't learn about this issue on Streetsblog or from the Bicycle Coalition. Both ignored it. For that matter, you didn't learn about either issue from the Chronicle, the Examiner, the Bay Guardian, or the SF Weekly:
by Carrie Weisman
If you ever thought the damage caused by riding a bike was limited to a sore behind, there’s some bad news for you. According to a study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, spending too much time on a bicycle doesn’t just make your genital area sore, it can actually desensitize the whole zone.
For years, there’s been talk of the ways in which the sport affects men's reproductive organs. Cycling requires men to place a significant amount of weight on the perineum (the area between the scrotum and anus). Experts say that pressure can cause pain or numbness—and in some cases impact the individual’s ability to achieve an erection. "The earliest warning sign is numbness or tingling," Irwin Goldstein, director of San Diego Sexual Medicine, told WebMD.
Athletes aren’t the only ones affected. In 2008, Steven M. Schrader, a scientist at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, uncovered the risk facing bike police officers. According to Schrader, the average officer assigned to bike duty spends around 24 hours a week on his bicycle. Officers reported experiencing a level of genital numbness as well as increasing incidents of erectile dysfunction. A 2009 CDC report holds that over 40,000 workers in public safety occupations ride bicycles as part of their job.
In 2006, researchers decided it was time to shift their attention onto women. After comparing a group of female cyclists to a group of female runners, researchers were able to confirm that cycling can cause the same kinds of problems in women as it does in men. “There is an association between bicycling and decreased genital sensation in competitive women bicyclists,” they wrote.
In 2012, researchers decided to take another crack at the subject, but this time they were looking at the bike itself. After inviting a group of 48 female cyclists who each cycled a minimum of 10 miles per week into the lab, researchers realized that part of the problem circled back to where the handlebars were set in relation to the saddle.
The lower the handlebars, the more pressure was placed on the genital area. The more pressure the area was under, the less sensation the women experienced. But while adjusting the bike set-up is one obvious solution, it goes against a standard of competitive racing: positioning the handlebars lower than the saddle for the sake of speed. Other bike-based exercise regimens require people to adopt the same setup.
Some experts, like Schrader, suggest cyclists start using a bike saddle without a protruding nose, also known as a “no-nose saddle.” According to WebMD, the seats are designed to redistribute the weight to "the sit bones of the buttocks." In his article "Cutting Off the Nose to Save the Penis," Schrader writes, “Studies have shown that no-nose saddles result in signiﬁcantly less restriction in penile blood ﬂow compared to traditional saddles.”
There are other ways to protect your privates, like wearing padded shorts, adjusting your posture and changing into loose clothing after spending time on the bike. Some cyclists apply anti-chafing cream to avoid chafing and soreness as well.
Fortunately, the issues that can come out of biking are often temporary and almost always reversible. So long as you acknowledge any issues that may arise and take appropriate measures to correct them, cycling shouldn’t kill your sex life.