Men who bicycle regularly needn’t worry that the activity will have adverse effects on their urinary tract or on their erectile function, according to a large multinational study in The Journal of Urology.
Participants in the study included 2,774 male cyclists (recreational or intense), who were compared to 539 swimmers and 789 runners. Cyclists were age 18 and older; 968 were age 51 and older.
The study found that cyclists did not report a higher incidence of most lower urinary tract symptoms or erectile dysfunction, regardless of their cycling frequency and intensity, bike or saddle characteristics, or road conditions.
The one serious but rare adverse effect of cycling was a higher risk of urethral strictures, which can interfere with urination. Paradoxically, low- but not high-intensity cyclists had higher odds of urethral strictures compared to noncyclists. The authors postulate that high-intensity cyclists in whom urethral strictures developed might have reduced their cycling intensity and become low-intensity cyclists. Cyclists were also at risk for genital numbness and saddle sores, though this was reduced when handlebars were level with or higher than saddles. These findings don’t mean you should abandon your bicycle, but do pay more attention to good bike fit and riding form (get out of the saddle more), and don’t ignore perineal numbness should it occur.