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Does Bicycling affect Women's Sexual Health?

Jun 14, 2017

China’s bike-sharing boom has put millions of new bicycles on city streets, and after decades bicycling is becoming popular in China cities again.

Bicycling is fun and convenient, but have you ever thought of the effects it might bring to your health?

Spending time on a bicycle seat, which has been linked to erectile dysfunction in men, may also be a hazard to a woman’s sexual health, a study shows.

A study at Yale, published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, shows that riding bikes decreases women's sexual sensation.

The theory behind the connection is that sitting on a bikeseat puts pressure on the genital area which can result in numbness, pain and injury. When you sit on a saddle for extended periods of time you compress the nerves and blood vessels in the area between the anus and the genitals, and it turns out this happens whether you are man or woman. 

The latest study looked specifically at what about bikes affect soreness and numbness in women. The participants were 48 female bike riders who cycled at least 10 miles a week, though many biked much more.

The riders brought to the lab their own bikes, which were then mounted onto a stationary machine. The subjects were hooked up to a device that measured sensation in the pelvic floor, and they then rode on the bikes while reporting on feelings of numbness, soreness and tingling.

The main finding was that the lower the handlebars, the more physical effects the women experienced, likely because low handlebars required the women to lean forward, which in turn put more pressure on the perineum, which is made of soft tissue.

The problem was most likely to occur when the rider assumed an aerodynamic racing position in which she leaned far forward with her back flat.

If you ride in a more up-right position you will put pressure on the back part of the sit bones (the widest part). When you ride in an aerodynamic position you put more pressure on the soft tissue area surrounding the genitalia. 

The goal is to find a seat that matches the cyclists anatomy (width of your "sit bones", and style of riding so that pressure on the genitalia can be reduced.

To prevent pain and irritation the perfect bike saddle should support the pelvis, the saddle must be wide enough to support a cyclist's "sit bones" so that as little pressure as is possible is placed upon the soft tissue area between the sit bones and the genital area. 

In addition to raising handlebars, no-nose bike saddles also alleviate or eliminate the problem. 

Such bike saddles, in which the rider rests only on the pelvic "sit" bones, don't require the rider to put any pressure on the perineum.