Helmets protect your head. Knee and elbow pads protect your joints. But what about your balls? Although biking is a great way to stay fit, many studies agree that too much cycling can overcook a man’s balls.
Some History and Horses
Saddles have been known to disturb men’s reproductive system for longer than you’d think. Hippocrates, an ancient Greek physician known for his contributions to medicine, observed how horseback riding affected males, specifically Scythians, a nomadic and horse-riding people — yeehaw. He noted that men who rode horses more often and for longer distances would be ‘unfit for intercourse’ and ‘forget about sexual passion.’ In more technical terms, Hippocrates noticed that these equestrian heroes experienced erectile dysfunction and libido, which are indicators of reproductive problems and other serious medical conditions, like stress, heart disease or diabetes. Although Hippocrates did not inspect Scythian testicles, he understood that the combination of balls and saddles made for more than just a good horse ride.
A Triple Threat
1. The Gear
Exercising in general naturally increases the body’s internal temperature. Exercise paired with tight clothing is a whole new level of ‘hot.’ You’re basically wearing a really tight speedo, helping your balls defy gravity. Unfortunately, tight gear is usually what bicyclists (especially competitive cyclists) wear, and rightly so — tight clothing makes you more agile and swift like a bike. However, a heated scrotum is not ideal for fertility. It is generally accepted that higher scrotal temperatures can cause deleterious effects on spermatogenesis. Studies have shown that sperm concentration and count plummet when balls are overheated. So give your buddies a chance to breathe and let them do what they do naturally: hang.
2. The Bike
How a bike is built can also impact fertility. Where the handlebars are and the shape and material of the saddle can determine what parts of your body will bear the majority of the strain during a ride. Most bikes have narrow saddles made with hard padding that causes extreme discomfort and stress. Handlebars are sometimes positioned at heights that put even more pressure and heat on the pelvic and testicular areas. All of that is just bad news for your balls. Not only do cyclists wear tight fitting clothing that alone can increase temperatures down there, but rubbing up against a hard slab of leather certainly doesn’t help.
Sadly enough, one study has shown that it can get even worse. The combination of a hard saddle and the constant movement of thighs against the same area can cause torsion of the testis — Ouch! Without any medical treatment or repair, this kind of injury can result in significant damage to male fertility.
3. The Ride
Studies show that the longer and the more often you ride your bike, the more likely your scrotal temperature will drastically increase. Many competitive cyclists and triathletes not only practice regularly for hours on end, but their races can literally span an entire day. This kind of stress on the body, including the reproductive system, can cause major damage to fertility measurements. In one study that measured both spermatic parameters and exercise routines, experts found that men who biked more than five times a week had lower sperm concentration. In addition to the tight gear and build of the bike, the time spent biking only adds to the amount of heat your balls are exposed to.
What Should You Do Now?
Recreational riders are usually not in harms way, but serious cyclists may need to make more adjustments to how often their rides are and with what equipment they choose to use. If conceiving a child naturally is a goal of yours, you may want to consider alternative forms of exercise, or at least cut down on riding that saddle.
If parting with your two wheeler is just too much, there’s some new equipment out there that could help. Since cycling has seen an increase in popularity, some companies have created new saddles that are less harmful to the testicular region. Most of these saddles are made of softer padding and designs that are meant to reduce stress and pressure on your balls.
Otherwise, take a break from cycling and give your balls a chance to cool down.
- Southorn, Tom. “Great Bals of Fire and the Vicious Cycle: A Study of the Effects of Cycling on Male Fertility.” The Journal of Family Planning and Reproductive Health Care (2002): 211-13.
- Jung, A.,Taylor, John A., Tzu-Cheg Kao, Peter C. Albertsen, and Ridwan Shabsigh. “Bicycle Riding And Its Relationship To The Development Of Erectile Dysfunction.” The Journal of Urology 172.3 (2004): 1028-031. P. Strauß, H. J. Lindner, and H. Schuppe. “Influence of Moderate Cycling on Scrotal Temperature.” International Journal of Andrology(2007): 403-07.
- Gebreegziabher, Y., E. Marcos, W. McKinon, and G. Rogers. “Sperm Characteristics of Endurance Trained Cyclists.” International Journal of Sports Medicine 25.4 (2004): 247-51.
- Vaamonde, D., M. Da Silva, M. Poblador, and J. Lancho. “Reproductive Profile of Physically Active Men After Exhaustive Endurance Exercise.” International Journal of Sports Medicine 27.9 (2006): 680-89.