is there any correlation between bicycling and impotence. i have heard that lots of bike riding can cause impotence. i have a job now that requires strenuous biking for hours on end. will this cause impotence in the future. if yes, how long and how much bicycling does it take? any research on this topic? do those seats with the hole cut out do anything? anything i can do to help out my two “friends” below the belt?


I have heard a connection between bicycling and lowered sperm counts which has nothing to do with impotence.


There have been a number of studies that show that prolonged bicycling can cause impotence. There is a feature article in the May 1, 2002 version of Scientific American but I can’t seem to get it up (hah!) on their website.

The problem arises (hah!) when long, continued pressure on the crotch causes numbness and sexual dysfunction in about 4% of men (some articles mention the pudendal artery- not being a doctor, I don’t even know if such a thing exists).

There was a major article run in Bicycling Magazine (Aug 1997) that caused a bit of a stir. The original research was apparently done by Dr. Irwin Goldstein of Boston University Medical Center. You might try a Google search on something like: bike seat impotence Goldstein.

The answer to this problem is to use wider saddles that place the weight on your arse (ass for you Merkins) rather than your crotch.

hajario As I said, IANAD, but I’m curious. I thought that lowered sperm counts would be a type of impotence? Am I wrong?

Found a CNN article here:

Some bicycle specific shorts have a pad that is supposed to alleviate the pressure problem. I have heard (no cite) that bikes with the lowslung “racer” type handlebars are worse about inflicting pressure due to the posture of the rider. I have no idea if this is true. I recently went through some particularly unpleasant surgery due to a leak in the erection hydraulic system. My urologist said that biking might have been the cause.

The Scientific American article is still on the Google cache - search for “Scientific American” and the title of the article, “Spokes Man for a Hard Problem,” then click on “cache” insatead of the main link. According to the article:

It goes on to say that cyclists and runners aren’t necessarily a fair comparison, since there are more fat cyclists than runners, etc. This is an unpublished study done by Goldstein, the same guy who was quoted in the '97 Bicycling article which seems to have started the whole bicycle/impotence scare. Strangely enough, Goldstein has never published his findings in a peer-reviewed journal. So I’d call that a strong but not conclusive evidence.

The ultimate cure/prevention would be to switch to a recumbent, which I did (but not for this reason). If that isn’t an option, I guess you’ll have to experiment with different postures and saddles. What is your work anyway? Messenger?

By the way Motog, I believe “impotence” in this context refers to erectile dysfunction. Fertility/sterility issues, e.g. sperm count, are separate (though equally worrisome, if not more so).

What job is this?

There is a correlation, but if you’re careful and pay attention to the following points you can avoid any problems that might arise from grinding your perinium on the saddle.

  1. Don’t grind your perinium on the saddle.

  2. Pay attention to saddle height. Your feet should be flat at the bottom of the stroke. If you’re on your toes when the pedal is at the lowest position, your going to be sawing your pelvis back and forth across the saddle. This is not good.

  3. Get a saddle with a notch down the center so your perinium barely even touches the saddle. Experiment with different saddles. It may turn out that a saddle without a notch is the most comfortable.

  4. Use an upright riding posture. If you spend all your time in the drops (the bottom-most part of racing handlebars) you’re going to be spending alot of time on your perinium.

  5. There’s nothing like a good pair of bike shorts. If you’re worried about people staring at your johnson wear either thin gym shorts over the bike shorts or get a pair of “baggies” - regular-looking shorts with a padded liner sewn in. Don’t wear your underwear with them.

  6. Avoid spending huge lengths of time on the saddle. You’re better off if you do a lot of getting off and getting on over the course of a day rather than spending the whole day in the saddle.

Wider saddle with a gel seat should help.

IANAD either. Impotence is the inability to acheive or maintain an erection. Infertility is very low or no sperm count. You can have one, none or both.


Haj, scr4


Re the Goldstein article: Having looked at both the Scientific American article and the Bicycle Magazine article, they look like they might both be based on the same body of work. It is curious that Goldstein has never published them in a peer reviewed journal. It is also curious that there doesn’t appear to be a body of supporting research from other urologists etc.

The fact that most of the case studies were done with people who were serious long distance riders (the main case study in the Bicycle Magazine is based on the editor who was doing over 20,000 miles a year) might also indicate that their sample was pretty skewed.

The stridency of Goldstein’s statements also (in my mind at least) raises questions.

Not to say that the work is dodgy, just that there could be a bit of media hunting going on.

The answer to the problem seems to be pretty straightforward, get a wider saddle with a dip in the centre or ride a recumbent.

[hijack] scr4 what’s it like riding a recumbent? Always wanted to give one a go but have been stopped by two things: First, it would seem to me that they would be a lot harder work given that you can’t use your weight bearing down on the pedals to move you along as you do on a conventional bike; second, the low position on the road has always made me think that you’ve got a better chance of being flattened by a truck that doesn’t see you. [/hijack]

What’s it like? A lot of fun! No more pain in the butt, no more sore arms, and the view is so much better because your head naturally points forward/up.

Hill climbs are a bit slow, especially at first until you develop the different muscles you need. But it’s not hard work. You can’t step on the pedals so you just shift down and spin. As for traffic, some recumbents are fairly tall, especially those made by American companies like RANS and Easy Racers. My everyday ride is a Greenspeed GTO which is much lower, and I’ve had no problem in traffic. As long as I behave sensibly and predictably I don’t feel I’m in any more danger than on an upright bike. Recumbents are safer in at least one respect - it’s much harder to lock the front brake and do a header (i.e. fly over handlebars and land on your head).

Recumbents have some disadvantages though, like price and weight. Test ride a couple and see if you like them. For more info I suggest reading articles and buyer’s guides on BentRider Online, and posting on their message board if you have further questions. And check the “lowracer” section of their buyer’s guide if you’re interested in seriously fast bikes.

As with all bicycle related questions, I first see what Sheldon Brown has to say. Here is his article on saddle comfort. Basically, the idea is to keep your weight on your “sit bones” rather than the area between them. Many new saddles (Specialized especially) use the Minkow Wedge design, which has a cutout in the center, where the soft tissue is.

I use a Brooks Professional leather saddle myself. While it is narrow, and I do spend a fair amount of time down on the drops, the hard leather doesn’t really squeeze up between the bones, so I don’t think it’s too bad. With the big padded gel-filled saddles, leaning at all forward would not really be a good idea. As a basic rule of thumb, the more upright you are (i.e. the higher your handlebars are), the wider your saddle should be.