Your bike is destroying your penis. Unless you are a woman. In which case it's destroying your vagina. There is a solution. But nobody wants to use it because it's embarrassing. It doesn't have to be. We're here to help.
When you sit on a traditional bike saddle, you put an enormous amount of pressure on your perineum. Which is exactly where pressure isn't supposed to go. As the New York Times reports
"There's as much penis inside the body as outside," [reproductive physiologist Dr. Steven Schrader]told me. "When you sit on a regular bike saddle, you're sitting on your penis."
More precisely, according to Dr. Schrader's measurements, you are putting 25 to 40 percent of your body's weight on the nerves and blood vessels near the surface of the perineum. "That part of the body was never meant to bear pressure," Dr. Schrader said. "Within a few minutes the blood oxygen levels go down by 80 percent."
That sounds bad, and it is. When you spend prolonged amounts of time in the saddle, it can cause genital problems. From full on erectile dysfunction, to erections that won't last as long, to numbness in the nethers (which affects both men and women). And this isn't just limp speculation, it's backed up by hard science. The proof, as the Times reports, is in a couple of horrifying-sounding devices.
Dr. Schrader has documented the results with the help of a couple of pieces of equipment, the biothesiometer and the Rigiscan.
"The biothesiometer is a device in which the men set their penis into a trough, and it slowly starts to vibrate," he explained. "They push the button when they can feel the vibration. While it sounds delightful, it's actually not. The Rigiscan is a machine the men wear at night that grabs the penis about every 15 seconds to see if it's erect. It's not as pleasant as it sounds, either."
The RigiScan, an instrument used in the male research program, measures penile tumescence and rigidity continuously. It has two loops, one to be placed around the base of the penis and the other towards the tip, that tighten every fifteen or thirty seconds.
OK, so that sounds terrible. But it led to an interesting discovery: The problem is easily solved with a no-nose saddle. Unfortunately, nobody wants to use a no-nose saddle because it's sort of like announcing "I have a problem with my penis." There are some compromises, however. Here are a five saddles to suit any style that won't ruin your junk.
Adamo Time Trial What it is: An open-nose saddle that still lets you use your legs to help steer your bike for performance on the road, but with sloped front arms and open space beneath your perineum to protect your penis. Who it's for: Racers and performance-oriented cyclists and triathletes. Price: $US225
Spongy Wonder MK9 What it is: A noseless split saddle with foam cushions that's width adjustable to fit your sit bones. Who it's for: Mountain bikers and the cyclocross set who want to ride aggressive trails. Price: $US135
Moon Saddle What it is: A long, crescent-shaped saddle sans nose that cradles your sittin' bones. Who it's for: Gadget and tech-savvy riders who want a crazy-looking conversation seat backed by science. Price: $US90
RealSeat What it is: Basically, it's a bench that rides atop your seatpost. Who it's for: Commuters and recreational riders who use their bikes as transportation, not for performance Price: $US80-$US100
Comfort Saddle What it is: A full suspension saddle that sways back and forth with your pelvis as you ride. Wheeeeeeee! Who it's for: People who don't care about the energy loss inherent in a swaying saddle. Comfort riders, sunday peddlers, beach cruisers, stoners. Price: $60 (plus shipping fees from the UK)