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When we see the images of the scores of supremely fit cyclists racing in the Tour de France, we see power. We see fitness. We see lots of Spandex and sleek, technologically sophisticated athletes riding sleek, technologically sophisticated bikes.

New Saddle Prevents Common But Little-Publicized Health Issues of Bicycle Enthusiasts

We don't hear about testicular cancer and erectile dysfunction in male cyclists or perineal inflammation and cystitis in female cyclists. The new no-nose saddle is designed to prevent crotch-related problems in both sexes, but, surprisingly, cyclists are showing very little interest.

The classical elongated bicycle seat has always caused multiple problems for the male anatomy. The male cyclist's privates are pressed against the nose of the seat. Reproductive physiologist Dr. Steven Schrader told the New York Times that 25% to 40% of body weight is pressed against the nose of the bicycle, cutting off 80% of circulation to the penis in men and the vagina, cervix, and perineum in women. Parts of the body that simply were never intended to be crushed are subjected to intense pressure for hours at a time.

As early as 2005, the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was advising employers of cyclists (such as police and park patrol officers who ride bikes) that a no-nose saddle would shift body weight from soft tissues "down there" to the pelvic bones, which are much better able to withstand compression. Strangely, very, very few police patrol organizations and no international racing teams have adopted the new bicycle seats.

The reason so few professional cyclists are adopting the new bicycle seats is that permanent damage may already have been done. In a 2008 report entitled Cutting Off the Nose to Save the Penis, Dr. Schrader reported the results of switching to the no-nose saddle by members of the mountain bike patrol team of the Seattle Police Department.

Before the bicycle seats were switched, over 75% of male bicycle patrol officers reported numbness while riding. After the introduction of the no-nose saddle, fewer than 20% of male patrol officers reported this problem.

When the male officers were hooked up to biothesiometers (a vibrating trough in which the penis is placed to measure sensitivity to sensation), penile tissue was found to be more sensitive to touch after using the no-nose saddle. But when male officers were hooked up to rigiscans (a device that squeezes the penis every 15 seconds all night to measure erectile function), testing found no improvement in erectile function.

Dr. Schrader believes that this result may indicate that erectile dysfunction caused by riding a bike with a traditional saddle may be permanent—and if that's the case, why would male professional cyclists want to advertise their sexual disability by adopting new and untested equipment?

There are similar problems for female cyclists. Dr. Kathleen Connell and Dr. Martha Guess, who practice urogynecology at the Yale University Hospital, report that up to 60% of female cyclists experience urinary tract infections and genital numbness, pain, or tingling. They recommend a "cut-out" saddle for female cyclists, but they also find few takers. Bike shops are loathe to sell the saddles, because they don't want to remind their customers that their sport may cost their sex lives.

If you have been biking an hour a day or more for years it may be too late to reverse the damage. If you are just starting out, however, consider the Bi-Saddle, Hobson Easyseat, ISM, or Spiderflex, all available online.