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  • What effect does cycling have on the bladder?

There is some information online:

Beginner Triathlete

It is not uncommon to have genitourinary symptoms caused by prolonged contact with the bike seat. These symptoms can include numbness and tingling, erectile dysfunction, hematuria (blood in the urine), overactive bladder, and even a transitory decrease in sperm production.

Livestrong

Bicycle riding combines two key triggers of female urinary tract infections -- friction and bacteria. If you're a woman and an avid cyclist, understanding the mechanics of infection and taking the right precautions can minimize the chance you'll contract a UTI during during this physical activity. If you're a male cyclist, little if any evidence shows a direct link between bike riding and infections, but the mechanics of cycling can aggravate another condition with symptoms mimicking bladder infections.

Pacific Urology

While the physical and mental health benefits of cycling are clear, there can be negative urological consequences.

(although that seems to be more about sperm count than anything else.)

Opinions seem to be contradicting, though. Is there anything conclusive?

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    The above is basically about it. The vast majority of cyclists suffer no problem other than some external irritation and maybe a little general soreness until they get "conditioned". I have chronic kidney stone problems, and cycling actually seems to help a little. Commented Jul 30, 2015 at 11:56
  • You can always change to a recumbent if you have persistent problems with saddle sores, genitalia or urinary tract infections.
    – Michael
    Commented Nov 20, 2023 at 10:09

5 Answers 5

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The ways in which exercise in general promotes good health is generally well understood and appreciated and shared between athletes. However, the adverse affects can vary greatly between individuals and is often overlooked, ignored, and can even become a source of shame and feelings of inadequacy. That is not good! and a logical-medical viewpoint, balancing the benefits and not-so-benefits, must be maintained.

My personal story - I used to jog and suffered from unknown leg pains, inability to sit without pain for more than 15 minutes, increasingly slow running, etc. - finally had an MRI and could see with my own eyes the slipped disc. Fortunately, the direction of the slip meant that I could cycle without pain so I quit running and took up cycling. The pain in my legs disappeared after a year. I can cycle for endless hours whereas I could run for no more than three hours before the pain became too great. Then I had trouble with sebaceous cysts on my behind after randonneur mega-rides. In the end I had two operations to have cysts removed over 3 years. After optimizing saddles, riding position, pedals, bib shorts, chamois, chamois creme, and removing pork and beef and minimizing other animal fats and sugar in my diet (animal fats replaced with coconut oil), I can with a confidence of 99% get through a 600 km ride without ass/crotch pimples that might become sebaceous cysts later.

How this applies to your question:

Don't ignore your symptoms treat them with respect and keep actively changing parameters to test how the symptoms can be minimized. Nothing is guaranteed, but you are allowed to try.

Opportunist bacteria in the crotch is likely to increase during cycling due to heat and friction - in the case of a woman there is a direct large channel from the crotch to the bodies interior so it makes sense that (depending on the individual) bladder infections could increase. That doesn't mean you are defeated however, there are many possible parameter changes that might help you overcome this obstacle.

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You likely won't find anything conclusive, because the required testing would be so varied.

Anything done poorly can cause problems. Any sport lends itself to an increased chance for injury. However, proper technique and equipment generally alleviates some, if not most of that risk.

In cycling, proper hygiene, attire, technique and bike fit are all important. Keeping your skin clean (before and after rides). During rides (especially longer rides) chamois cream of some sort can help immensely. Bike shorts are made for a reason: they work. They should also be clean, however. Other attire is also important. Overdressing and sweating yourself out only creates a breeding ground for bacteria. Remember body odor varies from person to person, but is largely caused by the flora on the skin. No reason to build it a Disneyland unnecessarily.

A properly fitting seat and bike will minimize friction and irritation. These factors can cause surface skin damage which then leads to infection (saddle sores, etc) after the skin begins to break down.

If you are referring to bladder infections, I think it would be a long road with a lot of ignorance to get there. While females are generally more prone to UTIs, and cycling could increase the risk of those, the steps necessary to reduce the risk are quite easy and really part of basic hygiene. Getting a UTI and then ignoring it long enough for it to hit the bladder would require an additional step of disregard.

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  • Actually, what most people call "body odor" is caused by fatty acids in the sweat. These fatty acids are produced only by special sweat glands in the underarms and groin area, and as they oxidize in air they become more "fragrant" -- has nothing to do with bacteria. Commented Jul 30, 2015 at 22:31
  • en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Body_odor In addition, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Limburger. Similar bacterial strains cause the similar smells. Commented Jul 30, 2015 at 22:36
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Female cyclist here. I had awful overactive bladder due to riding. 30x per day peeing only drops and getting up over 8 times a night. Misery. I wore padded shorts, fresh undies before and after riding. Prompt showers. Ten trips to doctors with blood always in my urine, but no bacteria. Quitting cycling was my only hope. I quit and my symptoms improved after a few months. Now I only get up once in the night to pee.

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    Hi, welcome to bicycles. This certainly sounds miserable, and I'm sorry you had to give up cycling, but it also seems much more extreme than a normal outcome, and perhaps not as general an answer as the asker was looking for.
    – DavidW
    Commented Nov 13, 2023 at 23:01
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For amateur men cyclists, likely no effect if everything on the frame is properly adjusted (the review article below emphasizes the importance of the adjustment that depends on many factors). For female, there may be problems after multiple hours of riding.

If found the research work involving a total of 22 healthy male amateur bicyclists. The recruitment criteria were age between 40 and 50, bicycling period of more than 1 year before the study, three or more times of cycling per week, and 30 minutes or more of cycling duration per time. The controls were 17 healthy male marathoners (so not cyclists) from an amateur marathon club. They conclusion is that

bicycle riding seems to have no statistically measurable effect on lower urinary tract symptoms or sexual functioning in men, at least in amateur recreational bicyclists.

The research work seems properly done with statistical tests and no obvious conflict of interest. The study does not include women and cyclists who already have relevant disorders or do very long rides.

The study also says that while there are many general talks and opinions, as of the time of writing (it was in 2011) there is surprisingly no real measured data on the topic.

There is also a review article here that says the danger exists for female riders, with issues found after 2 hours of cycling, and another after "long distance each week". This review article also says that road bicycle may be better than mountain bicycle because it allows more grip changes during the ride.

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    There's a big gap between their minimum 3×30 minutes per week and your "very long rides" into which the majority of keen and/or club riders would fit. Many such riders would have a ride of around 3 hours at least once most weeks with occasional longer rides
    – Chris H
    Commented Nov 20, 2023 at 16:07
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I get hematuria since I had a TURP. The TURP was not caused by riding the bicycle, I've only started to get back to riding in the last year and I had a long break, 25 + years, from riding before my TURP.

In my mind I have two option, one is minor surgery the other is experimenting with bicycle parts.

So far a change of saddle and seat post is working for me. I prefer the later as I think I've already had enough surgery.

It's like the others said, it's hard to be conclusive, but there are ways to solve a problem, any other sport would have their down-side which would need to be looked into.

This is what works for me.Seat post and Saddle combo Saddle

enter image description here

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  • Yes, bending front of the seat somewhat down somewhat contra-intuitively may be a good idea to do. Mine is also so adjusted.
    – nightrider
    Commented Nov 27, 2023 at 11:03
  • Sorry, the photo of the seat post with saddle does not reflect the saddle angle correctly as the set post tube is around 73 degrees but having said that the saddle nose does look lower than usual. It's really the saddle and suspension seat post that are most effective in reducing discomfort and in my case bladder disorders. This is a good video from the Bicycle Academy regarding the saddle. youtube.com/watch?v=ngQHwX4hHrc
    – MindDBike
    Commented Nov 28, 2023 at 2:18

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