The Bar Sinister: Does Handlebar Level Damage the Pelvic Floor in Female Cyclists?

Sarah N. Partin, Kathleen A. Connell, Steven Schrader, Julie Lacombe, Brian Lowe, Anne Sweeney, Susan Reutman, Andrea Wang, Christine Toennis, Arnold Melman, Madgy Mikhail, Marsha K. Guess

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Introduction. Cycling is associated with genital neuropathies and erectile dysfunction in males. Women riders also have decreased genital sensation; however, sparse information exists addressing the effects of modifiable risks on neurological injuries in females. Aim. This study assesses the effects of bicycle setup and cyclists' attributes on GS and saddle pressures among female cyclists. Methods. Previously, we compared genital sensation in competitive female cyclists (N=48) to that of female runners (N=22). The current study is a subanalysis of the 48 cyclists from the original study group. Nonpregnant, premenopausal women who rode at least 10 miles per week, 4 weeks per month were eligible for participation. Main Outcome Measures. Genital sensation was measured in microns using biosthesiometry measures of vibratory thresholds (VTs). Perineal and total saddle pressures were determined using a specialized pressure map and recorded in kilopascals (kPA). Results. Handlebars positioned lower than the saddle correlated with increased perineum saddle pressures and decreased anterior vaginal and left labial genital sensation (P<0.05, P<0.02, P<0.03, respectively). Low handlebars were not associated with total saddle pressures or altered genital sensation in other areas. After adjusting for age and saddle type, low handlebars were associated with a 3.47-kPA increase in mean perineum saddle pressures (P<0.04) and a 0.86-micron increase in anterior vagina VT (P<0.01). Conclusion. Handlebars positioned lower than the saddle were significantly associated with increased perineum saddle pressures and decreased genital sensation in female cyclists. Modifying bicycle setup may help alleviate neuropathies in females. Additional research is warranted to further assess the extent of the associations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1367-1373
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Sexual Medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Cyclist's attributes
  • Genital sensation
  • Handlebars
  • Pelvic floor and bicycling
  • Seat pressure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Urology


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