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Male bicyclists: A way to protect (ahem) private parts

August 7, 2008 |  4:11 pm

When a research study in a peer-reviewed journal appears with the title "Cutting Off the Nose to Save the Penis" ... well, forgive me, but I've got to take a look. (You can peek too, but only the abstract is free.)

Bike1 That some male bicyclists can suffer sexual dysfunction, including impotence and problems maintaining an erection, was an idea once scoffed at but recently proven, according to a story by Bill Becher in the Los Angeles Times. Now, researchers for the first time have shown, in an August article in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, that using a no-nose bicycle saddle can alleviate those annoying side effects of pedaling on a traditional bicycle saddle, whose long nose can rub men the wrong way.

Some 90 bicycling police officers from five metropolitan areas in the U.S. volunteered to give up their traditional saddles for the no-nose variety for six months. Before they were given the new bike seats, they were given questionnaires regarding their erectile function, underwent computerized pressure measurements at points of contact on the bike, and were hooked up to sensitive machinery to measure overnight nocturnal erections.

Then they rode the noseless saddle for half a year and were retested on the same measures. There was an average 66% reduction in saddle contact where it mattered most. Those reporting genital numbness decreased to 18% with the no-nose, from 73% with the traditional bike seat before the study. And they reported increases in erectile function.

Dr. Irwin Goldstein, a San Diego urologist and editor of the journal, was one of the first researchers to link cycling and sexual dysfunction. In an editorial accompanying the study, he wrote, "For the first time, we have a prospective study of healthy policemen riding bikes on the job, using wider, no-nose bike saddles.... Not only did their sensation improve, their erectile function also improved."

And first author Dr. Steven Schrader of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health in Cincinnati said in a press release: "Different saddle designs may require some re-learning of how to ride a bicycle, but the health benefits to having unrestricted vascular flow to and from the penis and less penile numbness is self evident."

I should say. It apparently was self-evident to most of the 90 volunteers in the study. Only three of them returned to traditional bike seats after the study was over.

--Susan Brink

Photo: Traditional and crotch-protecting seats, courtesy of I. Martin Bicycles

Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times

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