To any woman out there who has spent more time fidgeting around on the bike seat during spin class or on a road ride in an attempt to calm that screaming vagina, we feel your pain. Biking can be pure torture on our lady parts. Up until now, studies about the hazards of biking and sexual health have been primarily focused on men and the link to erectile dysfunction, but alas, someone has recognized that the other half of the population has suffering genitals too. And good news–there is something we can do about it.
When you sit on certain bikes, you are essentially sitting on your vagina. That’s because bike seats are designed in such a way that our body weight typically rests on the nose of the seat, and sensitive nerves and blood vessels in the genital area get compressed. The result? Numbness, tingling, pain and a whole lot of discomfort–even when you urinate after you get off. And forget about any kind of sex any time soon.
Published online in The Journal of Sexual Medicine, a group of Yale researchers tried to shed some much-needed light on why this happens to women–and more importantly, what we can do about it. For their study, 48 female riders who cycled at least 10 miles a week were evaluated. The women took their personal bikes and saddles into the lab and were monitored on when they felt soreness using a device that measured sensation in the pelvic floor.
What they found was that it’s not necessarily the amount of time spent pedaling that made the biggest difference–it was the positioning of the handlebars. Women on bikes with handlebars positioned lower than their seats experienced more pressure in an area of soft tissue called the perineum, and they had decreased sensation in the pelvic floor.
In general, the lower the the lower the handlebars in relation to the saddle, the more pain. Why? Because this position forces us to lean forward and put a greater percentage of our body weight on our vagina and surrounding area–something riders on a road bike or triathlon-style bike encounter more because of the aerodynamic–or flat back–position they are in.
So other than just sucking it up and praying that our vaginas toughen up over time, there is one thing the researchers recommend: a no-nose seat. These specially-designed saddles put pressure on our sit bones (buttocks) which are much better equipped to handled it. And if we don’t put the weight on our sensitive parts and the nerves and blood vessels there, there’s likely to be no pain there.
They may look funny, but hey, why go on crushing our crotch when we don’t have to, right?