So I cycled from Toronto to Hamilton last weekend, which may not be far for some people, but it is for me - and so I am very proud of myself. My crotch is a little less pleased than I am.
I hear you have to be careful with bike seats, or (ahem) "saddles," as one expert kept correcting me - like it's offensive to call it a seat for some reason. (Eye roll.)
Seat, saddle, whatever. Those things can get uncomfortable for your delicate bits.
In rare cases, women can lose sensitivity and swell up. For men, it can be more serious, and there's even talk that too much of that long-term pressure on the penile region can make the little admiral stop saluting.
Of course, it depends on how much time you spend pedalling around. Here's how to make sure your cycling days don't, well, bottom out.
What the experts say
"Between the two sit bones is where the blood vessels run that supply blood to the penis. If those are constricted or crushed, you get problems. There are saddle designs out there now that negate almost all of the concern. Not one saddle works for everybody. People's sit bones are different widths apart. Women's biology and physiology is different in terms of where the blood vessels run and where the pressure points are. On a woman's saddle, the nose is much shorter. Talk to an expert. Don't just go for the one with the most foam."
ROBERT JONES, editor, CanadianCyclist.com
"The saddle should be correctly adjusted for height so your knees are about 5 degrees bent at the bottom of your pedal stroke and your knee positioned over your toe in the 3 o'clock position of the pedal stroke. Assuming those factors are correct and the stem is correctly set so you're not leaning too far forward, you should sit with your sit bones fully supported on the bike seat. Most people aren't on the bike long enough to do serious nerve damage. But if you are doing long-distance cycling and you continue to ride with extreme pain, numbness or tingling, that could cause longer-lasting nerve damage. Any seat that fits and is comfortable is the right one for you. You don't need a huge amount of cushioning or an extremely wide seat. You should never be in pain."
TRACY KISH, chiropractor, Westwood Health, Toronto
"There are men whose blood vessels have been destroyed to the point where they've had to have bypass surgery. That is rare and the extreme. In women, the extreme is a terrible labial swelling that doesn't go away. But we're talking 1,000-miles-a-month-type riding. We know that when you sit on a normal bicycle saddle as a man, you restrict blood flow to the penis by 80 per cent. The saddles with the cut-outs do not improve that significantly. Some studies indicate that those are worse than regular saddles. In our work with bicycle police officers, we found that they were able to get erections but those erections did not last as long as men who didn't ride bicycles. With the use of noseless saddles for six months there was some improvement. We recommended that male bicycle police officers convert to noseless saddles. While we have not done a study, there is every reason to believe a noseless saddle would help women as well."
STEVEN SCHRADER, research biologist, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Cincinnati, Ohio
"There are musculoskeletal changes that happen as a result of being on your bike for long periods. If you do anything repetitive for four, five, six hours, you're going to see changes in the soft tissue. Muscles, fascia, tendons get tighter. You can have pelvic, joint tightness, low back strain. Pudendal nerve entrapment is a chronic pain condition. Some patients respond to acupuncture, some to soft tissue work or joint manipulation. Aside from finding the best seat for you, the next best thing is knowing how long your body can tolerate being on the bike. I've had people in with chronic pelvic pain. It's so debilitating. It either takes a lot of cycling or years of cycling. It's cumulative."
LAWRENCE MICHELI, chiropractor, clinic manager, Toronto Athletic Club Sport Medicine Clinic, Toronto