Cycling is a great form of exercise. However if you’re getting into it in a big way, and especially if you’re a man, there are some health concerns that need to be kept in mind. Cycling demands long hours of sitting on a hard narrow seat and a bicycle seat that has not been fitted correctly for you may put excess pressure on your perineal region. Your perineum is the part of your body that contains your genitalia and anus. The risks are greater for men than for woman primarily because a man’s sensitive bits are located outside the pelvis.
Your posture determines whether excessive pressure is being exerted on the perineum. Generally, slower riding would mean you sit backwards and therefore your body weight is distributed backward through your sit bones (Ischial Tuberosities). These bones are designed to bear the body’s weight naturally and take the load away from the perineum.
Unfortunately this posture is not a biomechanically efficient position, which is why competitive cycling requires an anterior pelvic tilt with your weight forward to maximise the torque that your legs generate through the pedals. But this position puts a lot of pressure into your perineum.
This excessive pressure can cause prostate problems, numbness in the perineum, boils, cysts, infections, and even impotency in men. However, most of these issues can be avoided with some precautions.
No leather sofa
Make sure you get your bike fitted with a good quality seat. Invest in a good gel or cut away seat, which the pros use.
Be a little shifty
Shift your position on the seat regularly. Stand up when pedalling uphill or lift your buttocks off the seat and grip it gently with your thighs when going downhill. These positions take pressure off your perineum, allow blood flow to the region and shift the pedalling work to different muscles so the load is shared a little more evenly by leg muscles.
Bacteria love to breed in warm, dark and moist places. Sweaty cycling shorts provide just that environment so wash your cycling shorts after the ride and dry them well. You could also buy two pairs and use them alternately.
Seams to be a problem
Another thing to watch out for while buying cycling shorts is whether there is stitching in the crotch area. Good shorts will have almost no seams in this region as they can cause rashes. You could also go commando under your cycling shorts. Why? Well, underwear has seams too, doesn’t it?
Do not ignore sciatica or numbness in your perineum as this means you’re not sitting correctly on your seat or you need to change seats.
Cycling is a great sport that’s low impact on the knee and hip joints. Just take these precautions and you’ll have a fantastic time!
Matthews is a physiotherapist with the Mittal Champions Trust