She is giving you “the look.” The look so many men would be ecstatic to see. And instead of doing that happy dance in your head and going for the gold, you hesitate. What about your performance issues? Will it work properly? The way it is supposed to, for as long as it is supposed to, and what if it doesn’t feel good?
Welcome to a problem over 60% of cyclist will face at some point. Luckily, if you understand the problem and its cause, you can learn to prevent and/or manage it, so you can be a stud on and off the bike.
Our bike saddles are designed for us to sit on our sit bones. In the area of our sit bones there are nerves and arteries that go to an array of different areas, including the genital area. When we go on long rides we compress these arteries and nerves, killing blood supply and in some cases causing nerve entrapment.
To add to the problem the vast majority of us have standard hard seats with no cushion and a long nosed seat. This puts direct pressure on to the genital area where nerves and arteries are closer to the surface and more susceptible to injury. If compression wasn’t enough, your pelvic floor can easily atrophy with compression causing a weak/tight cycle that restricts blood flow even more.
This is why 24% of cyclists between the ages of 35-53 are diagnosed with Erectile Dysfunction. While these numbers only reflect men, women may also experience genital sensitivity.
• A frequent need to urinate. When you do go, you may start and stop several times.
• Constipation or straining pain with bowel movements
• Chronic low back pain that cannot be explained
• In men – Erectile Dysfunction, painful ejaculation, premature ejaculation, pain in the penis, and chronic scrotal/testicular pain
• In woman – pain during intercourse
Some things you can do for your saddle is to upgrade to a No-Nose saddle. This will take the compression off of the genital area and keep it on the sit bones. Another trick is a gel cushion cover for the saddle. This thick cushion softens the pressure on your nerves and allows blood to flow more freely.
Cross training is always a wonderful idea. For cyclists, we want to work the pelvic floor to strengthen the muscle and improve blood flow. Easy ways to do this include: Pilates, yoga, and martial arts.
Finally, there is manual therapy. This involves visiting a licensed massage therapist or physical therapist to work the adductors, gluteals, and surrounding areas. A.R.T. certification, sports certification, or reproductive certification are a plus when looking for this type of therapist.
Keep in mind genital numbness is not normal for anyone. If not addressed, it can cause serious long-term damage. When you start to feel numb on a ride, stand up out of your saddle to relief the pressure. She will thank you!