Why You Should Get a No-Nose Seat: "When You Sit on a Regular Bike Saddle, You're Sitting on Your Penis."

no nose bicycle seat erectile dysfunction prostate image seat
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Image credit Lloyd Alter

John Tierney of the New York Times has never been my favourite science columnist, but he appears to know his bikes and commutes 16 miles a day. He uses a no-nose seat, calling it a "no-brainer." He asks:

Why, if you had an easy alternative, would you take any risk with that part of the anatomy? Even if you didn't feel any symptoms, even if you didn't believe the researchers' warnings, even if you thought it was perfectly healthy to feel numb during a ride -- why not switch just for comfort's sake? Why go on crushing your crotch?

He wonders why nobody is listening.
The science is pretty convincing. Tierney writes:

When I tried a no-nose model for my 16-mile daily commute, it was so much more comfortable that I promptly threw away the old saddle. But over the years I've had zero success persuading any other cyclists to switch, even when I quote the painfully succinct warning from Steven Schrader, the reproductive physiologist at Niosh who did the experiment with police officers.
"There's as much penis inside the body as outside," Dr. Schrader told me. "When you sit on a regular bike saddle, you're sitting on your penis."
no nose bicycle seat erectile dysfunction prostate image pressure

More precisely, according to Dr. Schrader's measurements, you are putting 25 to 40 percent of your body's weight on the nerves and blood vessels near the surface of the perineum. "That part of the body was never meant to bear pressure," Dr. Schrader said. "Within a few minutes the blood oxygen levels go down by 80 percent."

But even though NIOSH studied the issue and concluded that there was a problem, Tierney finds that few cyclists are paying attention and that most are in denial, or claim that you cannot properly control a bike without a nose on the seat. There is certainly an element of conservatism and resistance to change; when I wrote No-Nose Bicycle Seats: Are They The Answer to Erectile Dysfunction And Prostate Problems Among Cyclists?, one commenter noted:

Cyclists are snobs.
What I mean is that they are NOT open to non-traditional solutions... I ride a Softride, and have tried no-nose, and currently use an ergonomic. I have been literally laughed at for the Softride, for the ergo, and for the no-nose. And I didn't invite these: bikers passing me on the road, typically. I would bet even the seats disparaged by the previous article works great, but fell victim to cyclist snobbery.

Tierney also suggests that people are embarrassed to talk about the issue. He describes how one inventor of a seat took it to a store and was told ""This saddle screams out: I've got a problem. Who needs that in a bike shop?""

Perhaps things have changed, or the riders are older in Toronto than in Portland. But when I went into the Urbane Cyclist they had a whole rack of no-nose seats, and salespeople who could talk intelligently about all of them. For I think the first time ever, I agree with John Tierney: it pays to protect the perineum.