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October 06, 2005

Perils of perineum

Those of us who enjoy riding a bicycle, especially those of us of the male persuasion, generally do not include among the enjoyable aspects of bike riding that special feeling we achieve between the legs. Urologists have been warning about this for nearly a decade, but now we have it on the authority of the New York Times (motto: "we give our reporters crotch pads before they go to jail") that "traditional bicycle saddles, the kind with a narrow rear and pointy nose, play a role in sexual impotence."

The reason is that the saddle puts pressure on the "perineum," which some of us didn't even realize we had. Never one to avoid undue alarm, the Times reports:

The research shows that when riders sit on a classic saddle with a teardrop shape and a long nose, a quarter of their body weight rests on the nose, putting pressure on the perineum. The amount of oxygen reaching the penis typically falls 70 percent to 80 percent in three minutes. "A guy can sit on a saddle and have his penis oxygen levels drop 100 percent but he doesn't know it," Mr. Cohen said. "After half an hour he goes numb."
Aiyeeeee! Well, as if you couldn't figure out that this was undesirable, the article continues:
Dr. Goldstein added, "Numbness is your body telling you something is wrong."
How do doctors know this stuff, anyway? Well, there are tests that have been done. And the article wants you to know exactly what those tests are:
Researchers are using a variety of methods to study the compression caused by different saddles. One method involves draping a special pad with 900 pressure sensors over the saddle. The distribution of the rider's weight is then registered on a computer. In another technique, sensors are placed on the rider's penis to measure oxygen flowing through arteries beneath the skin. Blood flow is detected by other sensors that send a "swoosh" sound to a Doppler machine.
What I want to know is who volunteers for these tests?

I would guess that those of us who ride hybrids are probably better off than those who ride road bikes. The handlebars of road bikes are lower, and one tends to lean way forward when riding them, which puts more pressure on the perineum.

The article notes that certain police departments are experimenting with what are known as "noseless" seats for their bike-mounted officers. But the moral seems to be simple: Keep that nose out of your crotch.

Your mother could have told you that.