Two studies cited recently by a federal agency suggest a bicycle seat with a nose can take the joy out of sex. The title, “Cutting off the Nose to Save the Penis,” summarizes findings that are likely to be reassuring for occupational bicyclists and distance riders who cherish their virility.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) spotlighted research into the impotence and neurological impairment associated with occupational bicycling. In the first of the studies, a team led by Steven M. Schrader, Ph.D., chief of the Reproductive Health Assessment Section of NIOSH in Ohio, recruited bicycle police officers from five United States metropolitan areas. Using these officers as research subjects promised particular insight for the authors. They point out that, on average, each officer spends 24 hours a week on a bicycle.
Noting that many studies associate riding a bicycle with a traditional (nosed) saddle to sexual dysfunction and urogenital paresthesia, an abnormal sensation of the skin, the authors set out to assess the effectiveness of the no-nose design as an ergonomic intervention.
The officers completed four preliminary tests, which included the International Index of Erectile Function Questionnaire. After six months of using a bicycle saddle with no nose, 90 of the men were reassessed. Three had returned to a traditional saddle. The re-testing of the 87 who had stayed with the no-nose design showed that officers were able to use no-nose saddles effectively in their police work, the no-nose design reduced most perineal (groin area) pressure and that penile health improved. One of the tests showed no improvement after six months of using a no-nose design, and the authors conclude that a longer recovery time may be needed.
The researchers published their findings in the August 2008 issue of the Journal of Sexual Medicine.
In a second study cited by NIOSH, published in the journal of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise in June 2004, the same researchers measured the saddle, pedal, and handlebar contact pressure from 33 bicycle police patrol officers pedaling a stationary bicycle at a controlled cadence and workload. The study compared three different non-traditional saddles (without noses) to the traditional race/road kind, which has a long protruding nose. They found the traditional design was associated with more than two times the pressure in the perineal region than the saddles without a protruding nose, and didn’t find significant differences in perineal pressure between the different non-traditional designs.
The two studies did not explore the other recognized ergonomic benefits of nose-less designs. These include a wide seat area for better weight distribution and a shape that cradles the “sit bones,” which are additional pressure points for riders on a traditional saddle.