Introduction: Bicycling is associated with neurological impairment and impotence in men. Similar deficits have not been confirmed in women.
Aim: To evaluate the effects of bicycling on genital sensation and sexual function in women.
Methods: Healthy, premenopausal, competitive women bicyclists and runners (controls) were compared.
Main outcome measures: (1) Genital vibratory thresholds (VTs) were determined using the Medoc Vibratory Sensation Analyzer 3000. (2) Sexual function and sexually related distress were assessed by the Dennerstein Personal Experience Questionnaire (SPEQ) and the Female Sexual Distress Scale (FSDS).
Results: Forty-eight bicyclists and 22 controls were enrolled. The median age was 33 years. The bicyclists were older, had higher body mass indices (BMIs), were more diverse in their sexual orientation, and were more likely to have a current partner. Bicyclists rode an average of 28.3 +/- 19.7 miles/day (range 4-100), 3.8 +/- 1.5 days/week, for an average of 2.1 +/- 1.8 hours/ride. The mean number of years riding was 7.9 +/- 7.1 years (range 0.5-30). Controls ran an average of 4.65 +/- 2.1 miles/day (range 1.5-8) and 5.0 +/- 1.2 days/week. On bivariate analysis, bicyclists had significantly higher VTs than runners, indicating worse neurological function at all sites (P < 0.05). Multivariate analysis found significant correlations between higher VTs and bicycling at the left and right perineum, posterior vagina, left and right labia. Increasing VTs at the clitoris, anterior vagina, and urethra were associated with age. In bicyclists, there were no correlations between VTs and miles biked per week, duration of riding, or BMI. Composite SPEQ scores indicated normal sexual function in all sexually active subjects. Neither group suffered from sexually related distress.
Conclusion: There is an association between bicycling and decreased genital sensation in competitive women bicyclists. Negative effects on sexual function and quality of life were not apparent in our young, healthy premenopausal cohort.