Erectile dysfunction and cycling

Moderate exercise done on a regular basis generally improves functions of the body, however, after cycling some men have reported penile impairment and short-term impotence resulting from reduced blood supply and nerve compression in the area of the perineum. (In men, the perineum is the area between the scrotum and the anus.)

Analysis of results from a large (1700 men) study called the Massachusetts Male Aging Study has shown that cycling fewer than 3 hours a week was not associated with erectile dysfunction, but cycling more than 3 hours a week may be associated with erectile dysfunction.

Men should take care to ride a properly fitted bicycle and make sure they have a comfortable saddle. Try to position the seat so that it minimises pressure on the perineum. Pointing the bike seat downward a little, or buying a wider seat with better support for the pelvic bones, may help prevent this problem. Narrow seats are said to put the most pressure on the perineum.

A 2004 study of 463 cyclists completing a 320 km-plus cycling event showed that features associated with an increased risk of erectile dysfunction were:

  • riding a mountain bike rather than a road bike;
  • having the handlebars higher or parallel to the saddle compared with lower than the saddle; and
  • in those who suffered perineal numbness, having a saddle cutout.

If cycling causes numbness or tingling in your penis, take a break and adjust your riding position.

Last Reviewed: 8 August 2012
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References

1. Marceau L, Kleinman K, Goldstein I, McKinlay J. Does bicycling contribute to the risk of erectile dysfunction? Results from the Massachusetts Male Aging Study (MMAS). International Journal of Impotence Research 2001; 13: 298-302.
2. Dettori JR, Koepsell TD, Cummings P, Corman JM. Erectile dysfunction after a long-distance cycling event: associations with bicycle characteristics. J Urol 2004: 172: 637-41.
3. Sommer F, Goldstein I, Korda JB. Bicycle riding and erectile dysfunction: a review. Journal of sexual medicine 2010; 7: 2346-58.
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