Medical Facts & Cycling
"...when a man straddles a traditional narrow saddle, there is no blood flow to the penis." Dr. Irwin Goldstein
Male cyclists are the most susceptible to painful pressure on the perineal area. Current research studies from leading urologists documents that sitting on a conventional triangular shaped bicycle seat with just 11 percent of the rider's weight can compress the penile arteries enough to inflame the prostate and cause impotence.
Women cyclist also suffer vaginal irritation, chafing and even numbness when they are riding on a seat that causes most of their body weight to be concentrated in the crotch. Conventional saddles can cause nerve damage in women, as well as vaginal irritation, painful urination, and chafing. Wider bike seats distribute the weight away from the crotch and onto the outer sits bones.
Numbness is Your Body's Warning Sign
"The numbness indicates a 'pressure palsy' on the nerve that accompanies the artery to the penis," explains Irwin Goldstein, M.D., co-director of the Urology Research Laboratory at the Boston University School of Medicine.
"Half the penis is actually inside the body, and when a guy sits on one of these skinny bicycle seats, he's putting his entire body weight on the artery that supplies the penis," Goldstein says. "Skinny seats should be called 'straddles' to remind people who ride them what they are doing to that part of their body."
In his practice, Ken Taylor, M.D., a sports-medicine specialist at Scripps Clinic in San Diego, has seen many riders gradually develop a telltale numbness. "The more they get it, the easier it is to get again," Taylor says, "and the longer it goes on, the more likely it is to cause bigger problems like erectile dysfunction in men or inability to have orgasms in women."
Recent Medical Findings
Goldstein's most recent studies have revealed that it takes just 11 percent of a man's weight to compress the penile arteries flat between the seat and the pubic bone. The arteries usually spring back to their regular shape, but Goldstein asserts that repeated compression may injure the arteries, leading to blockages that could result in erectile dysfunction. "We studied the prevalence of ED in runners vs. cyclists and found a four-fold increase in ED in the cyclists," he reports.