Rookie Commuter: Sensitive on my seat

 I have yet to walk into someone’s house and instead of normal chairs and couches, they have bicycle seats on which to watch TV, eat dinner, and complain about the stiffness in their buttocks.  

Riding a bike is fun, but sitting on one is not.  I can’t speak to the trials and tribulations women face when in the saddle, but I can attest to the horrors that meet men when they choose to make biking a part of their day.  A tingling numbness, in regions where there shouldn’t be a tingling numbness.

The numbness is caused by a compression of the perineum, the area between your two waste depositories, which is packed full of nerves and arteries.  This can lead to difficulties, especially for guys, as I found out in my perusal of the internet.

With blood flow constricted in a man’s nether regions, an important function is impeded.  A failure to rise to the occasion, an inability to set sail, a falling asleep in the starting blocks, if you will.  Consider my alarm at stumbling across this little tidbit.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health tested noseless saddles on police bicycle patrols in a sample of cities.  According to a New York Times article on the subject, several police officers found noseless saddles more comfortable, due to weight being placed on the sit bones rather than the perineum.  

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A noseless saddle, this one being an ISM Sport Bicycle Saddle. You will notice, it is lacking a nose…

But in my lackadaisical research, I found there are those disputing the arguments of others.  So perhaps there isn’t a worry for men on bikes.  But comfort is still a problem, especially for me.  And considering the potential repercussions of ignoring the previously mentioned claims, I was looking to fix my sitting situation.  I can’t, however, go out and buy a new bike seat right now because– and I hate continuing to bring this up– I’m broke.  So as much as I’d like to try a noseless saddle, I’ve had to make do with my own ingenious ingenuity.

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The cradle for my butt cheeks, featuring my roommates tall bike in the background with a much comfier seat than mine.

The seat I use is the one that came with the bike.  A thick foam sucker, it’s shaped a bit like a banana and puts me to sleep, which is not what you want when biking.  And not what I ever want in the areas where I’m sleeping.  So I took a box cutter and dug out a strip of foam down the middle, to alleviate some of the pressure on my essential nerves and arteries.  There are seats with this feature from the get-go, but, you know, knock knock, who’s there, I’m poor.

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And just like that, my undercarriage is singing sweet songs of serenity.

I also had to readjust my seat, and was helped at Full Cycle, as I mentioned in my previous column.  There is a sweet spot where a seat needs to be, not too angled up, not too angled down– the goal being to get your weight off of that sensitive spot and onto your sit bones.  Goldilocks has a perineum too, you know.  The bolt, or screw, or some other hardware that I don’t understand, is located right under my seat, so maybe yours is there as well.  Try loosening it and adjusting your seat to meet your needs.  
There is already enough stress in life, so avoid adding it on your most sensitive areas.

Becca Heaton

Becca Heaton is the program coordinator and editor for BikeLife Cities' city magazines and website. An avid cyclist, Becca is "embarrassed" to share that she has 5 different bikes... and she rides them all!

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