When I was growing up, never once did my mom ask about my sperm count. Nonetheless, your mother may not be too far off base. Motorcycle exhaust greatly reduces sperm count in lab rats, and long-distance bicyclists have been found to suffer from reduced sperm count due to overheating of the testes. But you’re missing the bigger picture here — having sperm does you no good if you can’t deliver them.
The real danger is what is refer to as erectile dysfunction, or, for the really squeamish, ED. Earlier research focused on the potential risks to men’s nether regions from bicycling. Here the root cause seems to be compression of the perineum — the patch of skin and muscle situated between the two major anogenital landmarks. Parking your perineum on a bike seat, particularly a narrow one, for too long apparently puts so much pressure on critical nerves and blood vessels that some male riders find they can’t get it up. A metastudy found that more than half of male bicyclists suffered from genital numbness, and between roughly an eighth and a quarter said they suffered from the dread ED. Female cyclists don’t have it any better, reporting numbness, difficult urination, pain, and difficulty achieving orgasm. It’s not obvious motorcycling would have similar effects. Motorcycle saddles are generally much larger and better padded than those on bicycles, and you’d think the shock absorbers on a motorcycle would help insulate the rider from harsh road vibration.
Among bikers aged 50 to 59, a staggering 93 percent had ED, compared to 42 percent of the controls. A subsequent study of 150 Japanese motorcyclists by the same authors found that not only was the rate of ED more than three times greater among motorcyclists than the control group, but there was a clear link between their ED and other lower urinary tract disorders.
What causes these problems? Sure enough, the likeliest culprit is constant vibration, from both the engine and the road. Research on those occupationally exposed to what clinicians call whole body vibration, or WBV, including forklift operators and bus and truck drivers, has found they’re prone to problems ranging from low back pain to spinal degeneration and herniated disks. Studies of motorcycle riders suggest they can exceed recommended WBV limits in a quarter of the road time it would take a car driver. Impotence isn’t the only thing motorcyclists have to worry about. All that vibration can lead to finger, hand, arm, and shoulder injuries.
So what should you do about it ?
Before you ride ensure that you are properly kitted, make sure you are wearing the right gloves, boots, helmets and jacket. You should definitely consider ear plugs and for love of your ‘balls’ wear tights that pack it well.