I know it seems like just yesterday we were talking about women orgasming all over the gym, which might have made you take a spin class or pull out the ol’ 10-speed. But it might have been good to know this first: while going to the gym might be good (fun) for your vagina, riding a bike might be bad.
Researchers are piggybacking off a 2006 study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine that found that “female cyclists had less genital sensation compared with a control group of female runners. As a result, some scientists believe that female cyclists probably are at similar risk for sexual problems as male riders.” The 2012 study focuses on whether there are specific factors that influence soreness and numbness among female riders. (Thanks for racing to that one, researchers. We’ve been waiting. Pins and needles.)
Now let’s keep in mind, the researchers are talking about people who cycle “a minimum of 10 miles a week, but typically much more.” I actually don’t know many people who ride ten miles a week. We all typically fall into three camps: There are the people who take spin classes and pedal way more than 10 miles because they’re athletically masochistic. There are the people who use their bikes to commute and rack up more than 10 miles in no time, even if it’s just because they realized 3/4 of the way in they left their leftover lasagna in their refrigerator at home and had to go back. And there are the people who gave up biking in 1989 when their mom made them start wearing a bike helmet and they never went back. (Hi.)
So we’re probably dealing with the people who ride “much more.” But those ladies brought their bikes to the labs, and the researchers observed them, noting how the women had their bikes set up — the handlebars and position of their seats. As the women pedaled, they reported whether they felt soreness, numbness or tingling from the seat, and a device was used to measure sensation in the pelvic floor. They found: women on bikes with lower-than-seat handlebars felt more pressure in their perineum and had decreased sensation in the pelvic floor.
If your handlebars are lower, you have to lean forward and put more weight on your perineum. So if you notice yourself riding and putting more pressure there, maybe flattening your back, or if you use one of those road or track bikes with a dropped bar, you may be showing the warning signs for lower genital sensation, which could lead to suckiness in general, and as this NYT article suggests, “sexual health problems.”
So I guess we know what this all means: The Wicked Witch was right. (About the bike thing! Not the killing Toto thing, jeez!)
It also means, I guess, there are 4 ways to save your vagina: 1) Stop riding bikes (I got that one covered, guys), 2) take up running, 3) alter your handlebars Wicked Witch style (which is awesome), 4) attempt to apply less pressure down there while riding.