The Cycling Column: Mark Twain is wrong?

‘Get a bicycle, you will not regret it, if you live! ‘ wrote Mark Twain. His cynicism is understandable considering the not so comfortable ‘High Wheeler’ he would have been exposed to. Hey, Mark, the bike is always the right choice, isn’t it?

It’s green, healthy, easy, painless and a convenient way of people of all ages and abilities to get their recommended 30 minutes of exercise a day. Similar to swimming, it involves no impact and is load bearing, highly aerobic and reduces the risk of heart disease and strokes.

However, I have found the truth of the positive relationship between man (or woman) and bicycle  can become marred.

The most frequent, sensitive and touchy topic I get asked about always involves the bike saddle and certain pressure points, with the perineum top of the list of annoyances.

With its collection of arteries, vessels and nerves supplying the genital area, it’s no wonder that when exposed to a bike Saddle and the subsequent squeezing, problems occur.

Famously a urologist named Dr Irwin Gold? Claimed in 1997 “There are only two kinds of male cyclists, those who are impotent and those who will be impotent!” is it that extreme?

Throw in chaffing, Saddle sores, numbness and nerve damage and it’s understandable that people are caution about jumping on a bike, and yet these problems are easily managed by applying simple practices and measures.

Pick a wide seat, ideally with plenty of padding. Special gel-filled and shock-absorbing seats are even available. Don’t tilt your seat upward, a position that increases pressure on the perineum.
Be sure your seat is at the correct height, so your legs aren’t completely extended at the bottom of your pedal stroke. For extra protection, consider wearing padded biking shorts.

Finally raise the handlebars so you are sitting more upright and shift your position and take breaks during long rides.

Also people are apprehensive about the UK roads and the attitudes of drivers. Granted our cycling infrastructure could be better, much better. We need to invest in more cycle paths and robust education for both cyclists and motorists.

So whatever excuses others use, (and sorry to Mr Twain) I know that cycling will always be in in my blood and continue to be my healthy and preferred mode of transport. Why not join me.

Scot Whitlock

Editor, CADENCE Cycling Magazine
Whitlock McCann Media Ltd

Twitter: cadencemag  Website:

Author, ‘Simple Words from the Saddle, Simply More Words from the Saddle & The Way of St James’
Twitter: @saddlescot
Columnist at Dorset Eye and Leamington Courier