Sarah Partin

Sarah Partin

Women who spend a great deal of time on bicycles or in spinning classes may experience genital numbness if the handlebars are too low, according to Sarah N. Partin who led the research study while a graduate student at the Texas A&M Health Science Center (TAMHSC) School of Rural Public Health.

The study recently published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine shows that moving handlebars lower than the seat resulted in more pressure on the perineum, which is the area between the opening of the vagina and the anus.

“Riding in a more upright position takes pressure off the pelvic area and places it on the sit bones,” says Ms. Partin. “Women who enjoy riding might want to bring their handlebars up some. It may not look as cool or be the most aerodynamic way to ride, but it could help them avoid problems.”

The study included 41 women who rode their bikes at least 10 miles per week with their handlebars positioned lower than their seats.  Researchers recorded the way each woman set up her bicycle and then the bikes were mounted on stationary trainers so that seat pressure could be measured while the women were riding.  Sensitivity was measured at different genital locations.  Finds can be found at ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22390173

“We are designed to sit on our butts, but that isn’t what happens when cyclists lean forward,” says  Steven Schrader, Ph.D., of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) who assisted with the study as well.

Additional contributors included Kathleen Connell, M.D., Steven Schroader, Ph.D., Julie LaCombe, M.D., Brian Lowe, Ph.D.,  Anne Sweeney, Ph.D., Susan Reutman, Ph.D., Andrea Wang, M.D., Christine Toennis, Arnold Melman, M.D,  Madgy Mikhail, M.D., and Marsha Guess, M.D

— Rae Lynn Mitchell