Cycling and Urology | Health on the saddle – Selle Italia
Cycling and Urology

Cycling and Urology


We met Dr. Daniele Porru, Consultant Urologist at the University Hospital of S. Matteo di Pavia, to gain some insight into the links between avid cycling and a healthy functioning urinary tract.


The link between Urology and cycling has received little attention from scientific literature so far, however, several studies have been carried out and they have investigated some disorders of the male and female genital area and urinary tract to find out if there is any connection between them and the pressure exerted by the saddle on the perineum.

Just to get things straight, we should point out that cycling is a healthy activity from all points of view. It is a superb form of exercise for the respiratory, cardiovascular and musculoskeletal system.

But to get back to any links this sport might have with urological issues, we must first take a closer look at the innervation of the cutaneous perineal area.

The pudendal nerve, which is made up of both motor and sensory fibres and therefore defined as a mixed nerve, branches off both into the posterior end of the perineum as well as into the external genitalia.

Excessive compression of this nerve, or repeated microtraumas to it, can bring about a tingling sensation and loss of sensitivity around the crotch, with a feeling of discomfort right the way up to the pubic symphysis.
And how does cycling come into all of this?

To answer this question properly, we need to take into account the saddle structure and the shape of the pubic symphysis, which can vary from person to person. Obviously, body weight also plays a role in this, as does the seating position. Each one of these factors, and a combination of them, can affect the perineal tissues in different ways.

At any rate, existing studies show that the saddle structure is of vital importance.

Whilst statistics show that padding (regardless of how thick it is) seems to have little impact, the size and the shape of the saddle can make a difference. A properly sized saddle chosen to fit the width of the pelvis and a central cut-out to relieve excess pressure helps to guarantee a proper seating position with an equal distribution of body weight across the two sit bones. This reduces compression of the perineum.

Basically, scientific research demonstrates that there is a statistically significant difference between properly contoured saddles and traditional ones when it comes to this kind of disorder.


Should disorders of this kind be cause for concern? Any advice?

In general, this kind of ailment is temporary and reversible; should it become chronic, there will be a personal predisposition, meaning that there is another underlying risk factor. Riding a bike is simply a trigger for this condition and, at this stage, the person will have to book a visit with a specialist.

The areas that need to be looked at are the shape of the pelvis or spinal column, asymmetrical limbs, previous trauma to the pelvis or past sacro-coccygeal injury or prostatic hypertrophy. All these problems can be aggravated by compression.

In any case, it makes sense to pay great attention to anything that bothers you over the first few kilometres of the ride and make a mental note of when the symptoms first appear. In other words, it is one thing if problems set in after an hour and quite another when you start having troubles well past lunchtime. In any case, it is best to call it a day if you feel any discomfort. At a later stage, try a different tack by changing saddle and getting one which fits your physical shape more closely.

Ultimately, there is no need to panic: any symptoms should not be cause for alarm. In these cases, cycling activities should not be abandoned but rather adapted to your individual needs. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.






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