Cycling is often regarded as a healthy and enriching sport or pastime. However, it is important for male cyclists to know that the issue of choosing a bike should not be taken lightly, especially in the best interest of their sexual health. Erection difficulties are among a range of possible sexual and health problems caused by riding the wrong type of bicycle.
Vinod Nargund, consultant urological surgeon from St. Bartholomew’s and Homerton Hospitals in London, England, is able to offer some valuable advice and insight to this issue. There are a few problems to watch out for when checking if you are riding the wrong kind of bike. Signs to look for include genital numbness, soreness and irritated skin in the groin area, as well as erection problems. Regular cyclists have a higher risk of testicular damage and impairments in testicular function. On the other hand, mountain bikers exhibit higher scrotal abnormality levels than on-road cyclists. Cycling too frequently or for longer durations than ideal will even cause changes in sperm function in some men. This is due to excessive heat being generated in the pelvic area of men who cycle a lot. As of now, scientists have not confirmed any general link directly between the act of cycling and male infertility. Although, it still has been noted in many male cyclists and therefore is recognized as a potential side effect that can arise.
How does it all make sense? Nagund explains that the bicycle saddle has direct contact of the perineum, making contact just behind the scrotum, which is where nerves and blood vessels enter the scrotum and penis. This area is the perfect breeding ground for infection because it is sensitive, and has hair follicles, sweat and sebaceous glands. The most traumatic cycling injuries include abrasions, chafing, bruising and damaged hair follicles. Even sweating in this area can lead to soreness and skin problems. Numbness can affect men’s abilities to achieve erection as the pressure of the saddle may reduce the blood supply to this area and put pressure on nerves in the penis. Shockingly, Nagund notes that over 60% of male cyclists who have participated in research studies have reported genital numbness. Although, the incidences of numbness and erectile problems are higher among those who regularly cycle over longer training distances.
How do we fix this problem? Nagund stresses that not only is choosing the right bike essential, but it is also important to rest intermittently during prolonged and vigorous cycling. Another important factor is the level of pedal resistance, as riding with too much resistance adds to health problems in the groin area. One more thing that male cyclists can do to protect themselves is to adjust the saddle height, fore, aft position and pad the saddle to ease saddle-related injuries and skin irritations.