A new study led by Marsha K. Guess, MD, MS, of Yale University School of Medicine provides some insights into how handlebar height can affect the sexual health of female cyclists. The study is published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.
It’s probably not the first thing that goes through your mind when you get on a bike, but bicycle seat neuropathy is a common problem among cyclists. Scientists believe that this condition is caused by the pressures from riding a narrow seat on the pudendal nerve. This nerve is present in both men and women and is responsible for sensitivity in both the penis and clitoris. Previous studies in men have linked seat neuropathy to erectile dysfunction in men. It appears that women also are susceptible to decreased genital sensation as well however, very little has been studied in this regard.
A previous study had been done measuring genital sensitivity involving 48 female cyclists and 24 female runners. This new study did a sub-analysis of the 48 cyclists who were described as “Nonpregnant, premenopausal women who rode at least 10 miles per week, 4 weeks per month were eligible for participation.” What they found was that handlebar placement made a big difference on the amount of genital sensation the women felt. If the handlebar was lower than the seat the perineum saddle pressures increased causing decreased genital sensation. According to the Wiley press release,”Modifying bicycle set-up may help prevent genital nerve damage in female cyclists,” Guess notes. “Chronic insult to the genital nerves from increased saddle pressures could potentially result in sexual dysfunction.”
So for the avid cyclist, the answer may be to to adjust the handlebar a little higher. This will position the body to sit on the tail bones instead of putting undue pressure on the genitalia and risking sexual dysfunction.