Is Biking Bad for the Bedroom?
If the Seat Fits
If the Seat Fits
Serfas, a manufacturer of biking accessories, set out to design
a seat that would shift the rider's weight off the perineum. The result, called
"the Eliminator," has a long groove down its middle and is hollowed out
in front. In April 1999, researchers tested the newly designed seat on 15
regular cyclists, most of whom pedaled between 150 and 300 miles weekly.
The results? Though 80% of those using a conventional seat
suffered numbness, only 14% of those using the new seat did. Serfas now offers
several seat models for street and mountain bikes.
More Studies, More Seats
Specialized Bicycle Components, Inc., of Morgan Hill, Calif.,
also offers seats designed to help men ride safely. Medical designer Roger
Minkow, MD, helped develop the Body Geometry Saddle seat with input from
urologists and police bicycle divisions. The Specialized seat is very narrow
and has a V-shaped wedge cut from the rear.
To test the seat, the firm consulted with Robert Kessler, MD,
professor of urology at Stanford University Medical Center in Palo Alto, Calif.
In March 1999, Kessler recruited 25 cyclists. Each one regularly rode at least
six hours weekly, and all had suffered from perineal pain, numbness, and
erectile dysfunction. The cyclists used the new seat for a month and then
shared their results.
"Fourteen had complete relief, nine had almost complete
relief of their symptoms, one had partial relief, and one indicated no
change," says Kessler. Kessler presented his findings at the 1999 annual
meeting of the American Urological Association.
Diamondback and Avocet Inc. also manufacture seats designed not
to compress the perineum.
A Little Padding Helps, Too
A study presented at the same AUA meeting found that unpadded
seats reduce penile blood flow more than padded seats. The width of the padded
seats wasn't a factor.
"Of course, not every bicycle rider develops erectile
dysfunction, just as not every smoker develops lung cancer," says Taylor.
"But a standard seat is a risk factor."
Other risks, according to Taylor, include being overweight,
having wider than average hips, and leaning forward over the handlebars while
riding -- all of which put extra pressure on the perineum.