Cycling and erectile dysfunction: do bikes ruin boners?

Written with
Amanda Barge

The myth: cycling gives you physical erectile dysfunction
Mojo’s verdict: fiction (if you’re doing it right)

Cycling is getting more and more popular, with the number of cyclists in the USA increasing from 43 million in 2015 to 52 million in 2020.

However, we also know that many men out there are turning to Google to check whether their cycling habits are having a negative impact on their erections. After all, it’s one of the only sports that involves squishing your bits for long periods of time. 

So, naturally, we thought it was about time we took a serious look at whether guys can get erectile dysfunction from cycling. 

Erectile dysfunction (ED) is when you can’t get or keep an erection. And it can happen to anyone, whether you’re a regular Lance Armstrong or you’ve never made it past stabilizers. 

The assumption that cycling causes erectile dysfunction is pretty common (and pretty understandable, to be honest). But it’s not that straightforward. So, we got a team of experts to break down all things peddling and penises. 

In our line-up, we’ve got:

Does cycling cause erectile dysfunction?

To make a long story short, no, cycling does not cause erectile dysfunction. The most recent study on the subject found that there was no correlation between cycling and long-term erection issues. 

So, don’t throw out your bike. But do be mindful of your member, because some of the impacts of cycling can damage your penis. We’ll get into it later on

Does cycling lead to erectile dysfunction indirectly?

While biking doesn’t directly cause physical ED, we do have to acknowledge that getting on the saddle can have an effect downstairs.

In the next section, we’ll dive into the temporary physical erection issues you could face as a result of cycling – and the potential longer-term psychological consequences that may follow. If this sounds scary, fear not, we know how to fix these problems, too. 

Temporary erectile dysfunction & cycling: what’s going on?

We know cycling doesn’t cause erectile dysfunction, but in some cases it can make it harder to get hard temporarily. 

With some help from Dr Krishnan, we’ve compiled the handy list below, so you know what to look out for.

Genital numbness & cycling

  • Consistent pressure on your genitals and your perineum can make you go numb down there
  • This is because blood vessels and nerves can get crushed while you’re cycling
  • This study revealed that 61% of male cyclists experienced genital numbness
  • If you’ve got a numb penis, cycling could be to blame – and it will be harder to get hard if you don’t have any feeling down there

Pressure on the perineum 

  • Your perineum (aka your gooch, aka the bit between your scrotum and your anus) is super sensitive
  • The constant contact between your perineum and your saddle can cause damage
  • The perineum has important nerves and blood vessels that carry signals and blood to your penis, so if it gets damaged, it could be temporarily more difficult to get an erection

Blood vessel damage 

  • If you’re applying lots of pressure to the blood vessels around your perineum and your genitals, it may be harder for the blood to circulate – and you could wind up damaging the vessels
  • Reduced blood flow to your penis is (unsurprisingly) not good news for your erections, and it can make your penis go numb 

Cycling & nerve damage 

  • Just like your blood vessels, your nerves can get crushed against your saddle
  • Damaging the nerves around your privates will make it harder for your penis to receive messages from your brain telling it to get hard, which then makes it harder to get an erections
  • Men who frequently cycle long distances on unsuitable saddles may experience serious nerve damage or entrapment, and if they don’t make the right adjustments to their cycling habits, they could face longer-term genital numbness and erection issues
  • But, if they follow advice from the professionals, they should be able to keep up the biking and their boners

The good news is that as long as you realize that your genital area is numb or uncomfortable and make some adjustments to your biking setup, you won’t be affected by any official long-term erection issues.

Psychological ED from cycling

We know what you’re thinking – “how can cycling cause erectile dysfunction psychologically?”

Well, if you’re experiencing any of the cycling side effects we’ve listed above, you might have short-term physical issues getting a hard-on, which could lead to psychological ED.

“Unfortunately, just one experience of not being able to get an erection can make you question your erections altogether. These doubts and anxieties can throw you off for much longer than a short-term physical problem.”

Amanda Barge, Psychosexual and Relationship Therapist

You might start to wonder if you’ll ever be able to get it up again, causing you to get nervous before sex. This is known as sexual performance anxiety, and – no surprises here – it’s a real cock block.

This is exactly what happened to our founder, Angus. Young, fit, and healthy, Angus crushed his blood vessels while cycling. This should have taken 6 to 12 weeks to heal, but he developed psychological ED issues as a result, and it took him over a  year to get back on track. 

“A physical problem planted the seed of doubt in my head that my erections might not work. Once I started being anxious about my erections not working, it was a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

Angus, Mojo co-founder

Cycling & erectile dysfunction: treatment

If you’re experiencing physical issues due to cycling:

Don’t worry, this is easily fixed. And, if you make the necessary adjustments, you won’t have to worry about physical ED at all. 

Based on some hot tips from Dr Krishnan and physiotherapist Matt, we’ve outlined the changes you should make to your bike and your biking habits to ensure your sex life stays safe.

  • Saddle: your saddle has the biggest impact on your penis when it comes to cycling setup. Height, inclination, and shape are all super important, so we created a dedicated section below to make sure you get these right
  • Handlebars: there’s some evidence to suggest that lower handlebars reduce the risk of genital numbness in long-distance cyclists, while other sources say you should raise your handlebar height to avoid perineal pressure. We suggest experimenting to see which position feels most comfortable for you
  • Position on bike: try shifting forward and backward when you’re cycling, so you don’t place all your weight on just one part of the perineum for the whole ride. Stand up every 20 to 30 minutes to let blood flow return
  • Have a break if numbness occurs: if you’ve been spending hours every week on your bike and numbness is becoming a real problem, take a little break or cut down on cycling for a while. Allow your nerves to heal and your blood flow to return to normal
  • Seek help from a professional: don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor about your penis worries. If you’re experiencing erection issues, they’ll help you figure out if it’s down to something cycling-related, or if it’s a totally different cause
  • Build up your butt: working on your rear could be the key to reducing pressure on your genitals (we know this one sounds a little silly, so we’ll let Matt explain)
“If you beef up your glutes, then they can take some pressure away from your problem areas because you’ve got more muscle mass there to pad things out. 

The additional muscle mass will really make a difference, and it can also improve power. There’s a reason that these Olympic cyclists have got beefy glutes. If you can shave a few seconds off your times, that’s a pretty big positive as well."

Matt Anstey, Physiotherapist

If you’re experiencing psychological ED after a physical issue:

You’re in the right place. Angus created Mojo because he didn’t know where to turn when his penile numbness sparked psychological ED. 

Now, there’s a tailor-made platform to make sure a short-term physical problem doesn’t spiral into a long-term mental one. 

On Mojo, you’ll find:

  • A dedicated sexual performance anxiety course: use expert-designed techniques to get out of your head, stop analyzing your erections, and have great sex free from erection anxiety
  • Expert advice: tune in to real sex therapy sessions and podcasts to hear from people who know what they’re talking about. Understand what’s going on with your erections and how to fix them
  • Practical exercises: mindful masturbation, pelvic floor exercises, and breathing techniques are clinically proven to reduce anxieties and strengthen your erections
  • Community support: you can vent and pick up amazing tips from real guys while staying anonymous, either on our community forum or on one of our live video calls (webcam optional, don’t worry). It really helps to know you’re not alone out there

Plus, doing sexual wellbeing work isn’t just great for restoring your erections – it could totally revolutionize your sex life. We’ve even got a trial, so you can give it a go, no strings attached. 

“I’m now really grateful that I had erection issues. It made me re-evaluate what I thought good sex was and actually start doing sexual wellbeing work. I’m now having the best sex of my life by a country mile.”

Angus, Mojo co-founder

Best saddle for penile numbness

Everyone’s butt is different, and everyone’s penis is different, so everyone’s ‘perfect saddle’ will be a little different. But there are a few things to consider when you’re choosing your seat.

  1. Saddle width: this is the most important factor in cycling comfort. The back of your saddle should be as wide as the distance between your ‘sit bones’. That way, you’ll be supported and you won’t compress your perineum.
  2. Saddle padding: medium padding is your best bet. Excess padding on the nose of your seat is a bad idea, as it’s likely to squish your genitals more.
  3. Height position: if your saddle is too high, each time you pedal, you could be placing more pressure than necessary on your perineum.
  4. Saddle angle: don’t tilt the nose of your seat up – this will cause unnecessary pressure. Level or tilted down slightly is the way to go.
  5. Specialist saddle types:
    - Cut-out saddles
    leave a hollow section in the middle of the seat, so there’s a gap where your perineum would be pressing down – this reduces any pressure.
    - Nose-less saddles
    have less contact area for your genitals and perineum – this means less pressure and less discomfort.

Cycling & erectile dysfunction: recovery

This part is pretty simple. If you follow our treatment advice and make the right changes to your bike and your biking style, your recovery should be no problem.

“I see plenty of keen cyclists with genital numbness, but men don’t usually open up about it immediately. It’s so important for guys to be open about the issue so they can get it sorted and get on the path to recovery.”

Matt Anstey, Physiotherapist

How to prevent erectile dysfunction from cycling 

Even if you haven’t had any issues, we recommend making sure your bike is set up properly so you can avoid any discomfort or numbness. 

After all, you should be able to bike to your heart’s content without having to worry about losing feeling in your fella. 

What else could be causing ED?

The fact is that almost anything can mess with your erections. If you’re suffering from ED, cycling might have nothing to do with it. 

When it comes to ED, there can be dozens of different causes. Your doctor will help you figure out what’s wrong – so don’t start blaming the bike just yet. 

Is cycling good for erectile dysfunction?

“The benefits of cycling outweigh the potential risks when it comes to ED, for sure.”

Dr Ramesh Krishnan, Urologist

On a physical level, cycling reduces your chances of vascular problems and obesity, and promotes overall physical health. This means that cyclists may be less likely to be affected by some of the most common physical risk factors for ED. 

And psychologically, we all know that exercise has a direct positive impact on mental health. Staying active can help you stay positive, and positive mental health is also key for great erections. 

Cycling and ED: the summary

Make sure your bike is kitted out for maximum comfort, and you’re free to pedal into the sunset – you can rest assured that cycling is not going to physically destroy your erections.

And if penile numbness caused by cycling has given you some short-term penis problems, we have all the tools you could possibly need to make sure psychological ED doesn’t take over. Our trial is here whenever you’re ready. 

Mojo aims to provide useful wellbeing resources to its users; however, you should not solely rely on opinions or advice available on the Website or given by the Community. Always seek advice from a qualified medical doctor or other healthcare professional before acting.

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