Half-Cocked Panic About Bike Saddles

I’ve heard inferences, rumors, and hearsay that bike seats are bad for man parts. I didn’t take them too seriously, but nonetheless I made a mental note to look into it one of these days.

One Of These Days arrived yesterday morning with the first bike-related thing I read:

Philadelphia Inquirer

Standard bicycle seats, it turns out, are hazardous to your health, especially your reproductive health. The bill of indictment includes numbness, hemorrhoids, bloody urine, and impotence.

That was from this article in the Entertainment section of the Philidelphia Inquirer.

The page swelled with scientific information, and not just about cycling.

For example: Did you know about the HP7 virus? Apparently it eats away your nose unless you’re vaccinated with a huge wooden wand. The Franklin Institute has published some research about HP7. I’ll have to read about that later when I have the time.

HP7 Virus
Nosed vs. Noseless: Get Vaccinated Today

But now I know about, not one, but two public health controversies between the nosed and the noseless. Thank you, Entertainment Section.

Still, I didn’t want to go off half-cocked about bike seats. I wanted more information on this menace. I began to think that it might be up to me to write a long and thoroughly-researched article on bike saddles, full of double entendre and penis euphemisms.

But thank God, someone already wrote that article back in 2008. I found “The Best (and Worst) Bicycle Saddles Ever” by Carlton Reid on Quickrelease.tv.

Reid offers not only reviews of saddles, but plenty of counterpoint to anti-saddle hysteria — the kind so matter-of-factly presented in The Philadelphia Inquirer and elsewhere. (I may even reconsider my plans to get a HP7 vaccination.)

To date, however, none of the noseless-saddle inventors have been able to convince the global cycle industry that their designs are practical for the majority of cyclists. Nose-free saddles may be more comfortable, but a "˜standard' saddle has a nose for a reason: it aids steering, a cyclist's inner thighs having more influence over direction and "˜feel' than most people think.


To those minority of doctors who say cycling is bad for sexual health I'd say they ought to bone up on erectile dysfunction and metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome – which leads to heart disease and diabetes and other health problems – can lead to erectile dysfunction. The syndrome is caused by a sedentary lifestyle. Not cycling is a far bigger risk to health – including sexual health – than cycling."

Pro cyclists don't tend to suffer from ED, yet they spend many hours per day in the saddle. They still manage to father children. Their bike fit is good. Ride for long distances on a poorly fitting bike and undercarriage problems will result. Fitting a noseless saddles isn't the best course of action, getting a "˜bike fit' is the first action to take.

Those most of risk of cycling-induced ED are once-in-a-blue-moon cyclists, perhaps overweight and doing a long, sponsored bike ride with inadequate preparation and equipment. These guys pedal for many hours in one position on a badly fitted bike and don't get up out of the saddle. At the end of the ride, they're in discomfort. Obviously.

Stupid Shoes
Stop looking at me that way.

So it’s kind of like just about every other health and safety concern raised about cycling.

As long as cycling is perceived as a non-standard way of getting around, some people will respond categorical horror when the slightest concern is raised.

Think of all of the problems associated with shoes: back problems, knee pain, corns, calluses, and bunions.

Think of all of the orthotic devices you can find on the shelf of a typical grocery store.

Think of the shoes that people buy that are just plain stupid.

Yet, only the kookiest naturists campaign against shoes as a category. And only the slackest slackers advocate wearing slip-on sandals for all occasions–which is the equivalent of recommending noseless saddles for all types of riding.The Big Lebowski: Jeff-Bridges

Just about everyone who wears shoes understands that you get the right shoe for the right purpose, and the shoes have to fit. Yet, transferring this kind of common sense over to a discussion of bike saddles is a little too much to ask of some publications.

Thanks to Richard Masoner of Cyclelicious for the tip about the Carlton Reid article.

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