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Cyclists sometimes experience soreness or numbness in the perineum area—a region extending from the anus to the genitals, and including the buttocks as well.
The right bicycle seat can help eliminate perineal pain. Certain seats are designed to help relieve you of uncomfortable pain or numbness in these areas of your body. Adjustments to your riding style can help as well.
In this article, we discuss some of these solutions, beginning with bike saddles that will protect your perineum.
10 Bike Seats That Protect the Perineum
The lightweight SLR Boost TM incorporates the company’s Superflow technology and manganese alloy rails that offer comfort and structure. The open center channel and lateral frame offer support and reduce the incidence of prolonged perineal pressure.
Perfect for new riders who want to get into intense cycling, the Selle SMP Unisex saddle has a patented ergonomic design that maintains blood flow and ventilates the genital area. The center channel opening eliminates pressure on the prostate and perineal regions to prevent tingling or numbness.
Designed for men who ride leisurely, the Royal Men’s Respiro from Selle includes a ventilation channel that lowers perineal pressure. The company’s Royalgel is incorporated into the saddle’s structure to distribute the body’s weight over the entire surface and give comfort to the sit bones.
A great option for both sporting and general recreational use, the Selle SMP TRK saddle maintains a dropped nose design that enhances support and stability. The comfortable polypropylene shell is made from polyurethane, a soft type of padding. The ergonomic shape and cutout also lessen overall nerve compression.
With its extra padding and a Duron Tec cover, the unisex Novus Superflow Endurance offers better comfort than many other seats for those who take longer rides. Heavier riders will find that the seat’s design generally lowers the incidence of chaffing or rubbing in the groin area.
The versatile Argo Tempo R5 by Fizik offers an improved riding posture for those who want to sit forward without exacerbating perineal pressure. Cushioning around the sit bones adds extra support to make riding upright more comfortable.
The short length and open center cutout of Fizik’s Argo Tempo R3 allow forward-sitting riders to enjoy cycling without additional tension in the perineal area. A great choice for recreational, training, and endurance riding, this saddle distributes weight and has a shortened nose design that improves stability.
The Antares Versus Evo R3 by Fizik combines a reinforcing rail and nylon shell with great zone cushioning, possible through 3D-printing technology. This unisex saddle offers excellent support with a full channel that reduces pressure on the perineum and nearby soft tissue.
Crafted for long-distance rides, the Antares Versus Evo R1 by Fizik combines braided carbon rails, Wing Flex technology, and a nylon shell reinforced by carbon. The full channel supports weight distribution across the entire saddle while lessening pressure in the perineal region.
The PM 2.0 saddle by ISM includes gel and form padding as a unisex option that offers improved blood flow. Created for performance cycling and mountain biking, this seat has a sloped rear and lacks the nose found on some models to reduce numbness in the genital area.
Perineal Pain in Cycling
Riding a bicycle offers many fitness and health benefits. Similar to any form of physical exercise, however, repetitive motions and constant pressure on certain areas of the body may lead to discomfort and, in extreme cases, even injury.
Cyclists sometimes suffer from “saddle sores” and more serious pains in and around their genitals and the perineum. This may start with numbness in the perineal area and escalate into serious urogenital ailments due to a lack of blood flow caused by the compression of the body’s weight against the seat. In some post-pubescent male cyclists, complications from what some people call “cyclist’s syndrome” could also contribute to erectile dysfunction.
The options below may offer you relief.
Adjust Your Riding Style
Before investing a lot of time and energy into adjusting your bicycle or changing gear, you should consider modifying your riding style. This option depends on how frequently and how far you ride your bicycle. For example, if you ride frequently or for substantial distances while experiencing perineal pressure, these options may offer short-term relief but not address your long-term needs.
Certain movements that get you off the saddle may help. Stretching before your ride, while stopped during a ride, or as you ride will temporarily remove pressure from the perineum. Try standing on the pedals every so often, perhaps every 10 minutes or so, to readjust your muscles. Similar to stretching while in bed, this act temporarily redistributes your muscle alignment, increases blood flow in the perineum, and may help reduce numbness.
Change your sitting position as you ride your bicycle. If you are an experienced rider, consider leaning forward and lifting your buttocks from the seat while grasping the handlebars to reduce pressure below. If you take short and infrequent bike rides, changing your posture to redistribute your body’s weight may also create enough movement to alleviate perineal pressure.
Adjust the Saddle and Handlebar Positions
One option you may want to experiment with before deciding to replace the seat is to try adjusting the saddle or handlebars. Part of the pain may be the result of having handlebars that are set too low or far away relative to your height and body frame. If you do try this method, be sure to mark present settings so you can easily restore the original position if the adjustments you make don’t end up working. If this option proves unsatisfactory, consider the others that are listed below.
Before spending money on a new saddle, you may discover that the current one is not at the proper height or in the best position for the bicycle riding style and posture you most frequently use. Especially if you share this bicycle with another person, understand that each person has a different bike fit.
Even people similar in size and shape may prefer entirely different saddles to meet their unique bike fit. Also, if you ride the same bike recreationally on a flat trail one day and aggressively on an unpaved mountain path the next, the path you take and how you bike along it may require different bike fits.
Use a No-Nose Saddle
Using a no-nose saddle leads to a substantial reduction of perineal pressure and genital numbness. Research indicates that internal perineal compression is substantially decreased if riders experience an anterior seat pressure reduction of at least 60%. An article published in the February 2021 issue of Sports Medicine indicates that male cyclists who use no-nose saddles experienced a 71% reduction.
A no-nose saddle has a good chance of reducing discomfort in the perineum. In some instances, however, respondents to the study in Sports Medicine claimed that they did encounter some pressure in the ischial tuberosities, or sit bones, that caused discomfort. Also, the lack of a long, protruding nose on the saddle offered less stability to some of the riders who participated in this research.
The Schwinn Comfort Bike Seat is an example of a highly reviewed noseless bike seat:
Try a Seat With a Broader Rear Saddle Width
Seats with a broader rear section tend to reduce perineal pressure while supporting the cyclist’s buttocks and the two opposing ischial tuberosities. Narrow backs do not offer the same level of support as those with a broader rear width because the sit bones often end up touching the edges of the bike seat. Regular pressure on the bones while using the seat will lead to discomfort.
Adult riders should select a saddle with a rear section that is at least 8 inches wide. Children and riders with a smaller frame may be able to use a seat with a smaller saddle width. There is no ideal measurement that meets the needs of every cyclist, so be sure to select a rear saddle width broad enough to keep you comfortable.
Try a Seat With a Center Channel
Some cyclists falsely believe that a saddle with a bulging center section provides better support. Whatever feeling it may initially offer, the presence of such a bulging center on the seat exerts undue pressure on the perineum between the anus and the penile base or vagina. A better option to reduce perineal pressure is a saddle that has a slot, indentation, or midsection channel.
A gap, cutout, or center channel significantly reduces or eliminates pain in the perineal area. The Fizik Argo Tempo R3 has a cutout that allows you to sit forward without putting too much pressure on sensitive tissue:
While a recreational cyclist who only bikes occasionally may find a regular saddle sufficient, you will experience ample airflow, less numbness and perineal compression, and better flow in your blood vessels if the seat has a center channel.
For male riders, this opening also tends to reduce testicular compression. While the cutout or relief channel lowers pressure on soft tissues and the genital area, you should select a saddle that fits comfortably if you choose this option. A poorly fitting saddle may create a pinching feeling that brings discomfort if you spend too much time on the seat.
Use an Appropriate Cushion
Certain types of padding or cushions may improve your riding experience and limit perineal pressure. A rider’s body receives better support from thicker padding because of the way it redistributes the overall load on the ischial tuberosities, or the sit bones. A comfortable cushion is a great option for the recreational cyclist.
Memory or gel foam offer the best support that conforms to the natural contours of the buttocks. While saddles with ordinary foam may satisfy some riders, gel saddles or inserts tend to encourage you to move back and forth as opposed to resting excessively at the seat’s front. Cyclists who want to keep their current saddle can acquire a seat cover that has gel inserts.
The Zacro Gel Seat Cover is a cover that fits right over your existing seat:
Remember that the liquid-like composition of gel foams is frequently cooler than comparable memory foams, something that would be beneficial while cycling during warmer months or in hot climates. Also, people with lower body weight tend to require less padding. Be sure to choose a type of padding that does not move around when you peddle.
Use a Recumbent Bike
With road bikes, you may move side to side and up and down. But some riders prefer indoor cycling. On certain training bikes, you may feel pain in the perineum area by staying seated for an extended period of time. Remaining in the same seated position may lead to genital numbness.
If you have difficulty finding bicycle seats that protect the perineum, using a recumbent bike may be a suitable option. Studies have shown that when used properly, recumbent bikes apply little or no direct pressure to the perineum or genital area. When compared with a standard seat and bicycle, recumbent bikes have been shown to maintain levels of penile oxygen pressure that prevent pain. This occurs, in part, because cyclists generally ride recumbent bikes in a reclining position.
Wear Cycling Clothing
In addition to the type of saddle or bike you ride, the clothes you wear while riding may have an effect on your comfort in the perineal area. The skin in this area is tender when compared with areas such as your fingers and along joints. Riding a bike—especially in areas with warmer temperatures and high humidity—may lead to irritation, tenderness, and rashes. Shorts or undergarments with seam lines that come in contact with the perineum, buttocks, and ischial tuberosities may annoy and irritate the rider.
Cycling shorts or similar form-fitting sportswear offer a better alternative. With breathable, moisture-wicking material and padding along the rump and groin, cycling shorts lower the probability of irritation and pressure on the pudendal nerve. A major pelvic nerve, the pudendal nerve transmits sensation information from your genital area.
Some cyclists who take extended rides or perform intense workouts also apply petroleum gel or another thick body cream in the perineal area to lower the amount and intensity of friction between the body and clothes.