Cycling and some delicate issues

“Men’s health and riding a bicycle for protracted periods has long since been a ‘delicate’ issue: one that, whilst having been the subject of increasing study over recent years, was the original raison d’être behind our saddle designs.”
John Kenney / Founder: RIDO saddles

There’s been a lot of talk about the link between extended time cycling and prostate cancer over the years, culminating in last year’s University College London study headline grabber by lead author Dr. Milo Hollingworth. He declared a measurable increase in the risk of being diagnosed with prostate cancer for those men over 50 who cycled over 3.76 hours per week and more so in those men who cycled for more than 8.5 hours per week. Worrying! It has to be said, however, that this was a relatively small sample study and that in his defence the author does end his report with “whether this is a definitive association related to causation or diagnosis remains to be seen and warrants further investigation”.

The prostate’s location at the center of the groin places this sensitive gland directly over the narrow section (known as the ‘nose’ or ‘horn’) of conventional bicycle seats (saddles) and there’s a lot of downward pressure bearing down over such a small area. Prostate cancer causal link or not, this perineal stress between the anus and penis can aggravate prostate inflammation (prostatitis) from other causes, may cause numbness, incontinence and even temporary erectile dysfunction whilst older cyclists with benign prostate enlargement may suffer increasingly severe symptoms. In essence, reducing pressure on the perineum or groin area can only be a good thing.

Add to this the long accepted fact that undue pressure on the perineum from cycling can often give rise to inflated PSA (prostate specific antigen) blood protein levels, one of two key test indicators of the onset of possible prostate cancer. Abstinence from cycling for a day or two prior to a PSA test or just a zero-perineal-pressure saddle avoids any spurious results.As many as one-in-seven men will contract prostate cancer at some point in their lives making it the single most common form of non-skin-orientated cancer found in the male population today. Although only 1 in 10,000 under age 40 will be diagnosed, the risk rate shoots up to 1 in 39 for ages 40 to 59 and 1 in 14 for ages 60 to 69. More than 65% of all prostate cancers are diagnosed in men over the age of 65.

Thankfully approximately 90% of all prostate cancers are detected in the local and regional stages and as a result the cure rate for prostate cancer is very high. Virtually 100% of men diagnosed at this stage will be disease free after five years. By contrast, in the 1970s, only 67% of men diagnosed with local or regional prostate cancer were disease free after five years.

Before, during and after treatment exercise is widely recommended as a significant help in the recovery and healing process but, if cycling is your sport of choice and its consequential perineal trauma is to be avoided at all costs, what do you then do because, chances are, continuing with your existing bicycle saddle is only going to do more harm than good.

Nose-less saddles are an option, of course,  but steering your bicycle can be a bit unnerving as there’s nothing to lean against as you take bends. It’s rather like sitting on a football. There’s nothing between your thighs and nothing to slide forward onto. When you turn your hips, the bike doesn’t turn with you. You feel like you’re on a perch, separate from the bike instead of at one with it.

Grooves and holes in saddles have also been an option for many years but when you bear in mind the pressure intensity of the upper body weight bearing down on a small thing like a bicycle seat, to reduce the surface area of the contact zone in such a way can only really amplify that strain.

For several years now the patented Pressure Shift Geometry of RIDO saddles has assisted countless cycling enthusiasts continue their passion by not only retaining that much needed saddle nose but by distributing this downward pressure away from the perieum and onto the sit bones. Specifically designed to give both lift (and thereby pressure relief on the perineal area) and variations in the impact zone between rider and saddle, you have the choice as to how much pressure, if any, you want to bear down on that sensitive area of your anatomy simply by slightly adjusting the saddle’s angle of tilt.

Testimonies to reductions in PSA levels and the complete negation of any perineal trauma whatsoever as a direct result are plentiful (see Customer Feedback ), whilst post-op patients have been able to get back on their bikes without the worry of undoing their surgeon’s good work.

This also suggests, of course, that the adoption of the R2 saddle in advance of the higher prostate cancer risk age band can only be of benefit to men who love to cycle and just want to enjoy the uninhibited freedom of being able to ride as far and as long as their legs and fitness level will take them.

“Riding a bicycle can aggravate the prostate and cause other health problems in men. The design of the standard bicycle seat can rub against the prostate during the pedalling process. A comfortable saddle is key.
Finding a comfortable saddle may be difficult and experimental, but once found it’s a friend for life”
Dr Chris Oliver, Councillor CTC Scotland & Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon / February 2014  / / Twitter @cyclingsurgeon

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