Cycling is a fabulous sport.
Nothing could be simpler, just you, a bike, and the road.
Of course there are elements of safety that need to be taken into consideration.
A good quality helmet, the right foot wear and, importantly fast drying shorts and shirts to prevent chaffing. Cycling can cause rubbing in certain areas that easily becomes painful and raw and as well as specially designed clothing, there are excellent skin lubricants that can assist riders is their more sensitive areas of flesh.
Those who road race need extra protection, but even for the average cyclist there are plenty of products on the market, such as padded shorts, that ease the impact of friction on the skin.
As well as taking care of your epidermis, regular riders need to think about other contact points on the body.
Which brings us to a rather delicate subject. A common complaint of regular cyclists is the uncomfortable wear and tear on their nether regions.
For the ladies and gents alike, the bang, bang, bang on the pelvic area can be painful. Problems with one’s perineum, numbness and even erectile dysfunction and lowered sperm count can occur when a rider spends too much time in the seat.
Bicycle seats can be made more comfortable through padding, shortening the seat or adjusting the angle, but nothing gets away from the fact that area most likely to be whacked repeatedly or to take the most pressure is also the bit of our body that houses the most sensitive and delicate parts of us.
For men, this presents an extra challenge. Men have more bits to worry about ‘down there’.
In a word, scrotums. The reproductive organs on a male are external, this we all know. Having your genitals rubbed and bounced about can be fun, but when it’s by a bike seat, it’s somewhat less enthralling. Our buttocks are designed to take a lot of sitting down, but a day in the saddle with only your sausage and beans bearing your weight is enough to make even the toughest two wheeler beg for death.
Over the years there have been a number of designers tackling this problem. Cut out saddles proliferate in the market, but these may not be as good as first thought.
As well as the genital pain, there are some serious long term issues for men. Dr Steve Scrader of NIOSH says “While ‘horned or nosed’ (bicycle seats with a horn or nose) bicycle saddles with troughs, grooves, or center cut-outs may feel better because the internal penis fits into this area, the nerve and blood supplies to the penis lie along the sides of the internal penis, therefore the pressure on these key structures actually increases along the edges of the trough restricting blood flow.
Grooved, cutout designs may not be better, and may be worse, than a solid saddle nosed seat”.
A seat called the Moon Saddle – www.moonsaddle.net -offers an alternative with the weight of the rider’s body being borne along a side-to-side crescent shape rather that front to back. This means that the vulnerable ‘bits are left to hang free and take zero direct pressure.
Another market leader, The Spongy Wonder- www.spongywonder.com – offers two padded areas set to support only the buttocks with an empty space in between for any low ranging fruit to relax into.
Both of these products, and the many other similar bike seats available, all look to use the body’s natural pelvic strength, and the hip and pelvic basin, as the most reliable contact point. Whilst this makes a lot of sense, for some, this style of seat may not feel terribly secure.
A vastly different design is the mantasaddle- www.mantasaddle.co.uk
This seat aims to spread the weight bearing away from just the base of the spine and pelvis and offers pressure distribution through the thighs and legs as well as full lumber support. The designers also claim that it offers plenty of cooling circulation to the relevant genitalia. Heat is a well-known producer of rashes and killer of sperm.
Although weekend riders might not worry too much about as long as they remember to pad up and grab a bag of ice at the end of a long day, anyone who takes their riding a little more seriously might consider looking into a seat that saves your seat, as it were.
Having a painful hoohaa due to (bike) riding is not as exciting as it sounds.
On the other hand it does beg the question, did Lance Armstrong have more than one advantage while he was riding on account of his having one less thing to worry about? We may never know. Happy cycling!