Question: I’m 47 and have been riding and teaching spinning classes for six years. I do five classes each week, and I race or do long group rides on weekends. My problems are crotch numbness and slight impotence. I went to a urologist who suggested I stop riding, but I don’t want to. I’ve had my bike fit checked and I use a Specialized Body Geometry saddle. Any ideas? — Roy W.
Coach Fred Matheny Replies: If your bike fit is right, then take a look at saddle compatibility with your anatomy and your riding style.
Many riders, including myself, have had good luck with the Specialized saddles. But every crotch is unique. Try different seats to see if the numbness stops. The Terry Ti, Koobi, ISM, and the Selle Anatomica are popular. A number of long-distance riders use old-fashioned leather saddles such as the Brooks B17 with great success. These don’t have pressure-relieving cutouts or grooves like the saddles mentioned, but they conform to your anatomy and are wide at the rear to support your sit bones.
We also have a couple of terrific eBooks on saddles and the science of saddle design, anatomy and blood flow: Finding the Perfect Bicycle Seat, and The Illustrated Guide to Bicycle Seats. The author of those books, Joshua Cohen, also has some related videos in the Health section of the site.
Do you have the same seat on your spinning bike as on your road bike? Most spinning bikes have fairly cushy gel saddles that often make pressure problems worse. As the gel gets compressed by your sit bones, it wells up in the middle to put pressure on penile nerves and blood vessels.
You say you’ve had a good bike fit, but make sure this applies to your spinning bike, too. Also, some fit systems put the handlebar pretty low in relation to the saddle. This makes you lean over and puts additional pressure on your soft tissue. A higher handlebar might help.
Finally, be sure to move around on the saddle to shift the pressure points. And stand at least 20 seconds every couple of minutes. This isn’t excessive if you’re already experiencing problems. Don’t sit and grind away for minutes on end whether you’re in spinning class or out on the road.
If these ideas don’t work, you might want to consult a urologist who has a better understanding of cyclists and bike riding. Avoid those whose only solution is to give up the sport.