Although most people would probably laugh at the title of this article, the topic of Erectile Dysfunction and infertility is very serious amongst cyclists.
There are several factors to look at when attempting to answer this question, such as saddle type, saddle position, riding position, and even your bib shorts.
So let’s get into it.
- Is Cycling Bad For Your Genitals?
- How Do You Protect Your Balls When Cycling?
- Can Cycling Make A Man Infertile?
- What Is Cyclist Syndrome? How Long Does It Last
- How Do You Ride A Bike Without Hurting Your Butt?
Is Cycling Bad For Your Genitals?
Cycling is an excellent exercise that provides athletes with improved cardiovascular fitness without impacting their body’s joints like other sports such as running. But can putting in long hours on the bike really lead to erectile dysfunction?
Well, according to a special report published by Harvard Health titled, “Erectile Dysfunction: How medication, lifestyle changes, and other therapies can help you conquer this vexing problem”, the answer depends on several factors. (Source)
A recent study out of Massachusetts concluded that in some specific circumstances, cycling might have adverse effects on the nerves and arteries around the penis that may lead to future erectile problems. The study determined that those men who cycled more than 3 hours a week were at most risk.
One of the primary reasons they found was that the saddle places persistent stress on the perineum, between your genitals and anus. The constant pressure produced by the saddle can damage nerves and reduce blood flow resulting in the tingling sensation that every male cyclist has experienced.
But hang on a second, is it really that serious! So is Cycling bad for Genitals ?
Researchers concluded there was no evident correlation between long hours in the saddle and erectile dysfunction in a 2014 study from the Journal of Men’s Health which concluded that there was no connection between cycling and erectile dysfunction.
While the contradiction is confusing, this study utalized a convincing methodology and set of data comprising of 5,300 male cyclists who were asked to complete a questionnaire with questions like how many weekly hours they spent in the saddle, the type of weather they generally rode in, and whether or not they had experienced erectile dysfunction in the five years previous.
Check out this post on how Ice baths can help mare fertility and muscle recovery: How Many Ice Baths a Week You Should Take? Does It Work & What To and Not To Do!
How Do You Protect Your Balls When Cycling?
There are a few strategies you can look at if you’re still concerned about the possibility of Erectile Dysfunction and infertility.
The Shape Of your Saddle
A study out of Europe showed that riding a saddle with a V-shaped nose and narrow in width resulted in an 82.4% reduction in oxygen to the penis. The study suggested opting for a broader saddle to help absorb the bumps as you’re out on the road. Saddles filled with Gel also make excellent options for those looking for added protection and comfort.
Here is the one that worked for us for more than 4 years in all my races, from short to very long 180km ironman distances. The trusty “Prologo Kappa Space T2.0 Saddle”
For more on this, check out our post TT/Tri vs Road Saddle; Why Are Triathlon Saddles Different & When To Use Them?
Adjusting The Height Of Your Handlebar
The same study also concluded that handlebars that were “parallel” with or “slightly higher” than your saddle increased your chances of developing Erectile Dysfunction.
Comparatively, handlebar heights that were lower than the saddle showed a reduction of Erectile Dysfunction. I would highly recommend setting an appointment with your local bike fitter to find the best position for you and your private parts.
What Type Of Bike Are You Riding?
Stationary bikes were found to be most beneficial for alleviating pain and tingling primarily due to their reclined seated position. So should you kick your road bike to the curb? Not at all. Heed the advice from above, and you’ll be more than comfortable cycling for years to come
Can Cycling Make A Man Infertile?
The same above study provided evidence showing no direct relationship between cycling for more than eight hours a week and infertility.
The participants were divided into the following groups, 3.75 hrs, 3,76-5.75 hrs, 5.79-8.5 hrs, and over 8.5 hrs. The men who partook in the study were recruited through various cycling magazines and were asked to participate in an online survey. The lead author Mr Hamer explains that one should proceed with caution when looking at the results. (Source)
Mr. Hamer also went on to say, “Moderate levels of cycling are associated with many other favorable health benefits, so the benefits likely outweigh any risks.”
For more on this, we recommend that you check out our post ” Does Running, Cycling or Swimming Kill Testosterone? How To Deal with It!“
What Is Cyclist Syndrome? How Long Does It Last
The term “cyclist syndrome” refers to irritation of the pudendal nerve and or the pudendal neuralgia. Its also known as Chronic Pelvic Pain in men, Chronic Pelvic Pain Syndrome, and Chronic Nonbacterial Prostatitis. Most men who fall into this category don’t suffer from infection but do suffer from pelvic pain lasting three months or more.
It’s believed that cyclist syndrome affects up to 8% of men in the United States. Some of the symptoms are:
- Discomfort in the sit bones
- Pain when sitting in the saddle
- Discomfort in the genitals
- Discomfort in the anus
How Do You Ride A Bike Without Hurting Your Butt?
Every cyclist has experienced a sore bum at some stage when out on the bike, but are there strategies to help alleviate or mitigate the pain entirely?
Shorter Rides To Start
One of the best ways, particularly for beginners, is to start with rides that are shorter in duration. Your bum, just like any other part of your body, takes time to get used to the constant pressure caused by the saddle; don’t worry, though; it won’t take long; you’ll soon be riding for hours.
Change Your Position While Riding
Ask any avid cyclist, and they tell you that this is the best strategy for alleviating pain and keeping your bum from getting sore. Try to move around on the saddle as much as possible without disturbing too much of your pedal stroke.
Getting up out of the saddle is my personal favourite. It keeps your bum from getting sore and activates different muscle groups helping to improve your overall cycling.
Correct Bib Shorts
My daughter laughs every time I wear my bib shorts because she thinks the chamois makes my butt look like a monkey, but let me tell you, cycling on a road bike would be unbearable without the chamois.
The chamois acts as a cushion for your bum and provides valuable comfort and protection on long rides. Be sure to find shorts that fit correctly. In my experience, tighter shorts are better as the loose material causes chaffing on the inside of your thighs.
And finally, be sure to wash your bib shorts after every ride; this helps keep the bacteria out while keeping the chamois nice and soft.