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Half-Cocked Panic About Bike Saddles

by Ted Johnson

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.

 
Burley nomad 269

9 Responses to “Half-Cocked Panic About Bike Saddles”

  1. BluesCat says:

    One thing I DO have to agree with is the idea that the little sliver of material that is a road bike saddle can NEVER be comfortable stuck up there, messaging your prostate mile after mile. The ONLY thing beneficial those abominations do is keep the seat post from straightening out the first foot or so of your colon.

    In general, though, I agree with you that the whole “Bike seats are DANGEROUS” turgid rhetoric is based on pretty flaccid logic.

    (C’mon now, you KNEW that was comin’, right?)

  2. norm says:

    Well you really do have to choose and adjust your seat properly, and it makes a difference whether you’re more, um, erect or crouched over in the saddle. *cough*

  3. John Heylin says:

    I made the switch to noseless a few years ago and have never looked back. Never go numb, never uncomfortable, and I love the way it pushes you forward to put more weight on the pedals.

    The seat was recommended to me by a guy I bought a touring bike from. He’s biked all over the world and finally he started having (cough cough) problems. Turns out he had built up scar tissue on his urethra, the doctor said he could never bike again. He said “screw that” and switched to noseless, has never looked back.

    I love not being numb while biking, or the pain of when you start to get tired and maybe sit on the seat a little harder. So what if I can’t pedal without my hands on the handlebars due to balance issues, I’ll take that over a broken unit any day.

  4. Bob P. says:

    I have almost 3,000 miles on my Velo Plush, which came with my Surly LHT. No numbness. My junk still works.

  5. Ted Johnson says:

    Consider that, for me, a big day of cycling is when I go about 10 miles. Could that be why I don’t even know about this numbness problem? Or could it be that I’m lucky to have good saddles on the various bikes I use?

    I shall return to the saddle issue in a future post–because I’m still breaking in my VO Model 3 Touring Saddle–and I’m sure that readers have been losing sleep thinking about my butt ever since I first mentioned it.

  6. Chuck says:

    Ted,

    You don’t ride enough.

    My daily commute is 35+ round-trip. I’ve never had issue on saddles with a horn, but then again, I’ve always ben conciencious of “proper” bike fit.

  7. jessica says:

    I got my boyfriend a new bike seat for his birthday and he loves it! It was from http://www.cyclexpress.co.uk which was a really good website!

  8. Chris Stefan says:

    Personally I’m a fan of Brooks saddles. No hard parts under the seat to press into your more sensitive bits.

    I’ve recommended Brooks saddles to a number of cyclists who’ve complained about trying to find a saddle they found comfortable. Every single one has become a Brooks fan as well and won’t ride a bike without one or a similar leather saddle.

    Now not every Brooks saddle is appropriate to every bike, rider, or riding style. But this is why they offer such a wide selection of models. For most riders the B17, Flyer, or B67 seem to do the job.

  9. Joe Maki says:

    I’ll agree with most that a saddle is not dangerous, as far as we know :) I’d also like to point out that 3 cyclists I know (myself included) were diagnosed with prostate cancer in their early to mid 50s. This disease is common among men in their late 60s and 70s, not so much for 50 year old men. We’ve all been active riders for 25-35 yr. Coincidence? I sure hope so. I’d hate to see a plague of PC hit those folks who fell in love with cycling during the bike boom in the ’70s.

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