Bike riding is a great way to burn calories, get your heart rate up, and have fun, but it can also cause problems for men.
Dr. Craig Niederberger answered some of our readers’ questions who are concerned about the problem. Dr. Craig Niederberger is the head of the Department of Urology at the University of Illinois.
So can long-term bike riding actually cause sexual dysfunction in men? Isn’t it just an urban myth?
Yes, absolutely, that was the first question in our study. Bike riding causes the compression of the small arteries underneath the man’s bottom that go directly into the penis and cause erections.
Unfortunately, bike riding does do that in a really effective way over all of the seats that we’ve tested so far.
Researchers looked at the amount of pressure on the bicycle seat in previous studies, but your focus was more on the rider. Why?
I really don’t care what the seat feels like – the seat isn’t the thing getting directions. I care about what the rider’s pressure is down from below on his actual arteries. This has been possible only about three or four years ago, and this technology allows us to measure the pressure that a bicycle seat puts on a man’s bottom. So, you can measure what is on the bicycle seat, but that’s not really what counts.
What are the long-term health risks? Is sterility also an issue?
Sterility probably not, the testicles seem to do quite well in bicycle riding, but it’s the little arteries that are compressed by the bicycle seats themselves which seem to be the real issue here. And down the road, this can cause problems with erections that can be permanent.
What we found is that many of the seats which claim to protect men don’t do that. So, the message that I would have to men is if you have a seat that you like right now – keep riding, don’t switch to something just because it says that it protects your erections, your prostate, and all of your organs down there.
Speaking of seats, there’s so many on the market already, but you’re working on a new one. How is yours different, and when do you expect to have a prototype ready?
We’re still working on it. One of the things that we found is that different men respond to bicycle seats in very different ways. So whereas one bicycle seat might be less problematic for one man, a different man with a different body type has a completely different response.
We’re working on a seat that sort of adapts to all men, and it’s in very early stages, so I would say expect a prototype within one to three years.
Is there a difference between men who ride more casually and then those that do long-distance cycling?
What I would say the one thing that we’re finding is that, and it makes perfect sense – sitting on the bicycle seat itself is the problem, so if you find yourself sitting a lot on the bicycle seat, then you’re probably more at risk than if you’re up in the air a lot.
So, depending on your own riding style, the more you’re actually on the seat, that’s probably where the problem was.