It’s normal to feel sore and tender after a long ride in the saddle: After all, cycling isn’t the most forgiving sport for your undercarriage.
And for years, people believed guys who crammed their junk into compression shorts, then endured the crushing force of long, frequent rides, would take a hit to their sexual function. Men would suffer erectile dysfunction, urinary issues, even infertility.
But, aside from cycling being a pain in the butt (and crotch), intense and recreational rides have no negative impact on a man’s sexual or urinary function, according to new research published in the The Journal of Urology.
In the study, researchers compared male athletes across cycling (2,774), swimming (539), and running (789). Men completed questionnaires via sports clubs and Facebook ads, including the International Prostate Symptom Score and National Institutes of Health Chronic Prostatitis Symptom Index.
All answered how frequently they experienced urinary tract infections, genital numbness, and saddle sores, while cyclists answered additional questions about their the type of bike and saddle they ride, the angle and height of the saddle and handlebars, how often they wear padded shorts, what kind of surface they typically ride on, and how often they ride.
At first, researchers hypothesized pressure on the perineum (the area between your pubic arch and coccyx) and micro-trauma caused during cycling could hurt men’s junk. But after cross-referencing injuries across activities with and without perineal pressure, researchers found all men had comparable sexual and urinary health. Some cyclists were more prone to urethral strictures (when swelling or injury blocks urine flow), but for the most part, cyclists were healthy.
High-intensity cyclists (those who’ve been riding for over two years, and train more than three times per week, averaging 25 miles per day) actually had better erectile function than low-intensity cyclists (those who swim or run but don’t cycle on a regular basis).
The type of bike and terrain (gravel, pavement, etc.) didn’t give way to more injuries, but those who had their handlebars lower than the saddle did increase their odds of suffering saddle sores and numbness. Though standing more than 20% of the time reduced the instances of numbness.
“We believe the results will be encouraging for cyclists,” lead study author Benjamin Breyer, M.D., said in a press release. “Cycling provides tremendous cardiovascular benefits and is low impact on joints. We believe the health benefits enjoyed by cyclists who ride safely will far out weight health risks.”