Question: I’m a 34-year-old new rider. I love cycling, but my wife and I want a family and I’m concerned that my bike seat will cause problems in that regard. Please give me some guidelines for saddle choice and riding technique to make sure I stay healthy “down there.” – Randy F.
Coach Fred Matheny Replies: Don’t be overly concerned, Randy. Most men don’t have any functional problems caused by riding. In fact, most authorities now agree that cycling, because it improves the cardiovascular system, is less of a risk factor for impotence than a sedentary lifestyle.
The keys, as you indicate, are saddle choice and riding technique.
Choose a bike seat based on your anatomy. If you are big with a wide pelvis, you’ll want a saddle with a wide rear sitting area. Lightweight, weasel-hipped riders can get away with narrower saddles.
A Professional Fit is Always a Good Idea
To learn more about your specific anatomy, and for help in setting up your bike to best fit you all the way around, check with your local bike shop or independent fit expert. Fitters have various devices to measure sit-bone width, reach, discover any leg-length discrepancy, etc.
Also make sure your riding position is correct – another benefit of a professional fitting. Specifically, excessive seat height means your pelvis will rock side to side as you pedal, grinding your soft tissue across the nose of the saddle on each pedal stroke. That’s a recipe for all kinds of problems.
Be sure your saddle is horizontal. If the nose tilts up, it can press into your crotch and cause numbness. A saddle tilted down continually causes you to slide forward and push back, a motion that also irritates the perineal region.
Proper Riding Technique is Also Important
Think about how you ride. Spending most of the time seated and grinding away puts inordinate pressure on the crotch. Stand up at every opportunity – on short hills, when exiting corners and accelerating away from stop signs.
Change your sitting location, too. Slide to the rear of the saddle on hills, sit squarely on your sit bones when cruising the flats, move toward the narrow nose only for brief periods when you want to go fast.
If you have aero bars, don’t dwell on them for minutes on end. It’s tempting to do that once you’re in a good groove, but you need to stand every few minutes to restore circulation.
Finally, a couple of great resources can be found in RBR’s eBookstore: Finding the Perfect Bicycle Seat and The Illustrated Guide to Bicycle Seats, both by Joshua Cohen. Cohen combines his extensive knowledge of biomechanics (he has a Master’s degree in Biomechanics and Human Movement Science), anatomy (he’s also a physical therapist), seat design (he designed the Kontact Anatomical Saddle, and the latest saddle research.