I love being me. I love being the guy that my friends describe as “nuts” when it comes to cycling and I love being the guy that friends and family alike turn to when they have questions about eating, exercising and especially cycling. It’s not all fun and games though. Every once in a while someone will come up with a question that requires a bit of research.
My mother-in-law has a brother-in-law who rides a lot. In fact, he’s ridden all the way from South Carolina to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan – in one trip that took more than a month, a journey of over 1,000 miles. Over the Christmas vacation he was up visiting family and he got to talking with my mother-in-law about the concern of cycling causing an enlarged prostate…
Now, I knew studies show no tie between cycling and prostate cancer, but I didn’t know anything about problems related to an enlarged prostate. I explained what I’d read about cancer, but that I’d get back with her about the rest…
As I understand it from reading multiple studies, articles and posts about the prostate, my original research into cancer was confirmed – no link. However people who are susceptible to prostate problems can experience enlarging due to cycling, especially after really long rides and if rest and recovery time is not included in these people the consequences can be quite dire (including infections).
So, you give any cyclist three guesses as to the culprit and they’ll only need one: The saddle. Not only does the style matter, the padding (as any knowledgeable cyclist will tell you) is one of the biggest contributors. The more padding you have on that saddle, the worse off you’ll be. The best saddles are anatomically made, specifically men and women’s saddles with a groove up the middle or the two-pad style saddles with no nose.
There is some misinformation out there, or maybe just misunderstood information that I do want to deal with quickly. I bumped into this article, a FAQ for prostate cancer – specifically number 4:
“4. Q: Can the sport of bicycle riding increase the likelihood of BPH, prostate cancer or other prostate problems?
A: Prolonged cycling on a hard seat is thought to affect potency by injuring the pudendal arteries that supply blood to the penis. Cycling can also traumatize the prostate, causing an elevation in the PSA level. No evidence, to my knowledge, shows that cycling can increase the risk for benign prostate enlargement or prostate cancer.”
That statement is technically a correct and incorrect answer at the same time. As I understand the science from what I’ve read (and through personal experience), the correct way to structure the response would be this: Prolonged cycling on an improperly fitting saddle that blocks or damages the pudenal arteries [etc., etc.]… My saddles – all of them – were specifically sized and chosen to fit my sit bones and aggressive riding style so that I’m sitting on bone, not the soft tissue that houses the pudenal arteries and my saddles are very hard (maybe two millimeters of padding). They are also, when used with properly fitting and appropriate (read that expensive) cycling specific shorts, exceptionally comfortable over long distances (100+ miles). Here’s where the original sentence takes a turn for the worse though (at least as has been explained at length by several industry pros): Soft saddles have a tendency to staunch blood flow more because they form around the sit area so that the rider’s weight is distributed over the entire saddle rather than just on the sit bones. In fact, my hard road saddle is vastly more comfortable over 100 miles than my softer mountain bike saddle is over 30 miles for just this reason.
Now, I’m going to leave this post here because the last thing I want to do is give some damned politician enough rope to hang a new stinkin’ law around a padded saddle to save us all from prostate cancer.
What’s that you say? I just wrote that research shows cycling isn’t linked to prostate cancer? Yeah, I know but when was the last time a politician ever let facts and reality get in the way of championing legislation that hangs an industry they deem evil for the betterment of mankind? You ever eat salt? Yeah, the doofus in charge of New York City outlawed that. I can just see the commercials now:
Did you ride a bicycle? Have you suffered from prostate cancer? You may be eligible for benefits if you became sick or even died as a result of riding a bike. Please contact us at 1-800-EVL-BIKE for a free phone consultation, a service of Dewey, Cheatum and Howe*.
Hell, I may have already written too much. I miss the good old days of tarring and feathering shysters.
*For the Lefty Extremists: Parody, not to be taken seriously. Please do not attempt to dial 1-800-EVL-BIKE, I don’t even know if it would connect. In fact, I won’t even bother checking – I made it up as a joke. To the best of my knowledge, Dewey Cheatum & Howe is not a real law firm. It’s a play on words and is used on a regular and consistent basis on NPR (NPR is the US equivalent of the BBC – Car Talk is the show that uses DC&H). If you really needed this disclaimer, let me know in the comments section…so I can pray for you.
UPDATE: As if on cue, I picked up a couple of new pairs of shorts, the other important part of cycling comfortably. I now own 4 pair of Specialized shorts ranging from high-end down to mid-grade and went through a review of all four here.