"There are two kinds of cyclists: those who are
impotent and those who will be."
That claim was made by Dr. Irwin Goldstein, a prominent urologist in "Bicycling Magazine" a few years ago.
The jury's still out on the subject of whether bicycle riding causes impotence, largely because there has been no qualified or scientifically acceptable studies carried out on the link between impotence and bicycling.
Sure, there is plenty of anecdotal and clinical evidence to confirm that long-term or endurance cycling causes numbness and discomfort in the genital region, but does that equate to long-term cycling impotence?
A survey conducted on participants in a Norwegian endurance bike race found that 20% of the competitors reported penile numbness lasting from a few minutes to a day or more following the event and that 13% of competitors reported temporary impotence.
To counter Dr .Goldstein's widely quoted claims, Dr. William D. Steers, chairman of the Urology Department at the University of Virginia School of Medicine had this to say:
"This whole [cycling-impotence] thing is really out of proportion. In China 90 percent of the male population cycles, and they don't seem to have a problem maintaining the population."
Part of the problem lies in the fact that the saddle on the narrow and hard bicycle seats favored by long distance and endurance cyclists pushes into the perineum (the area between the penis and anus) and compresses the nerves and major blood vessels that supply the penis and ultimately control and maintain an erection.
Manufacturers are now experimenting and producing radical new saddles, designed to relieve the pressure and give more support to the perineum. The most popular range is wedge shaped, with contours to create a "cushioning" effect and divert the pressure from the perineum to the buttocks. The seats can be adjusted to adapt to the rider and are now made from softer (jelled) materials designed to reduce discomfort.
Putting the issues about the connection between long-distance bicycling and cycling impotence aside, falling onto the horizontal crossbars is definitely a cause for concern! This type of injury can lead to priapism - a condition where the penis remains erect for a prolonged period of time. Priapism can lead to permanent impotence if not treated immediately, so it's important to seek medical assistance as soon as possible.
In a more recent interview, Dr Goldstein expressed concern about the number of teenage bicycle riders who were consulting him with impotence problems. This is primarily due to blunt trauma injuries that occur when performing the daredevil cycling stunts favored by the "generation X-ers".
In the event that impotence DOES occur as a result of bicycling, there are a number of treatment options available.
Given the conflicting opinions about the connection between riding your bike and impotence, it's important to remember that the health benefits of bicycling far outweigh any fears you may have about impotence.
The rise in blood oxygen levels brought about by participating in an aerobic activity like bicycling produce feelings of intense wellbeing and increased sexual vitality, so our advice is to get on your bike!