Sex and Cycling: What you need to know

Is it hot in here or is it just my thermal jersey?

Illustration: Britt Appleton

Here at TWC we often have slightly tangental thoughts, like ‘I wonder how many Haribo I could strap onto my bike frame,’ or ‘Why is the word cleat so gross?’. But one question that makes its way into our Google search bar more than any other, is ‘How does cycling affect my bits?’ and, therefore, ‘How does cycling affect my sex life?’

There is a huge amount of information on the topic, and it can all be pretty confusing. So we decided to delve into the research to give you this guide to all things sexy in the world of cycling. Don’t get too flustered.

Cycling (like any exercise), does improve your sex drive

Illustration: Britt Appleton

Look, exercise is good for you. It’s a no brainer. And when you feel better about your work and life because you exercise a lot, you tend to want to get it on a little more often.

A study conducted by Cycle To Work Day discovered all the stuff you already knew about being a commuter: that it makes you a happier human being who can switch off from work more easily and therefore enjoy time with loved ones. Wink wink. 

66 per cent of respondents said their relationships improved after they started commuting, and 39 per cent said it gave them extra energy in the bedroom. And 100 per cent of respondents got a bit flushed when they were asked about their bedroom habits (maybe).

And although the physical benefits of cycling are helpful in bed, it’s the mental space provided by exercise that is the most important. Allison England is the resident sexpert at London’s Coco de Mer, having immersed herself in the erotic industry for much of her life. “Good mental health is really important for good sex,” she says. “You’ll have more serotonin in your body, making sure you feel good and horny.” So keep happy by keeping biking!

Cycling can decrease your downstairs sensitivity…

Illustration: Britt Appleton

There’s been a couple of studies into the effects of being in the saddle on a woman’s area, and unfortunately, the news isn’t great.

There is a general consensus that doing a lot of cycling effects genital sensitivity, with a Yale study reporting “an association between bicycling and decreased genital sensation in competitive women bicyclists.” Narrow saddles and saddles with poorly placed cut-outs have also been linked with decreased sexual sensitivity. But it’s also important to note that all of these studies reckon more research needs to be done in the area.

 … but you can mediate the effect.

In order to put the brakes on the desensitisation of your undercarriage, there’s a number of steps you can take.

First of all, you can not be a professional cyclist. We just mean that unless you are on the bike for more hours in the day than you’re not, your reduction in sensitivity is likely to be slight. 

There is also some research that suggests putting yourself in a less road-like cycling position could also be beneficial (i.e, higher bars, more upright). This is rubbish news for those of you who who never been seen dead on a hybrid, and we are sorry.

And remember, the things that make you more comfortable are likely making your vagina more comfortable too. Common sense stuff, like finding a saddle that actually fits you and that’s putting pressure on your sit bones rather than your hoo haa, makes a difference.

How to: Choose the Perfect Saddle

A quality pair of cushioned bib shorts are also a good idea, as is having a break if you start to tingle. And ensure your saddle is giving you all the support it can, not slanted upwards and putting unnecessary pressure on your perineum.

And there are plenty of other sexual benefits.

Illustration: Britt Appleton

Higher fitness levels because of cycling means increased blood flow – a plus for both women and men in the bedroom. Furthermore, cycling is one of the best activities for cardiovascular conditioning, meaning that your energy levels are probably pretty awesome. Which means… well, that you can go at it for ages.

You’ll be well acquainted with your burgeoning thigh muscles from all the time you spend looking at them in the mirror. Thankfully, the work you’ve put into them, along with the muscles in your buttocks and lower back, are exactly the muscles you use during a session of bump and grind.

Just remember, it’s not all about utilising those abs of steel: “I don’t think that fitness has that much of an effect on sexual happiness,” says sexpert Allison England. “Many gym bunnies and especially guys who are obsessed with their strength and fitness can often be more preoccupied with how high they can lift someone than doing the right thing for the person they are with.” Allison encourages cyclists to ensure their emotional health takes precedence when it comes to sexy times.

Will having sex before a race effect my performance?

Illustration: Britt Appleton

The effect of having sex before a big event is greatly under-researched when it comes to women. But this experiment completed in Geneva, Switzerland did show that, for men at least, “that sexual activity had no detrimental influence on the maximal workload achieved and on the [cyclists’] mental concentration”. It’s widely thought that restrictions on sexual activity, like pre-match bans for footballers, are for psychological rather than physiological reasons.

The internet is also pretty obsessed with an Israeli scientist called Alexander Olshanietzky who is claimed to have said, before the 1996 Olympic games in Atlanta, that “women gets better results in sports competition after orgasm. […] The more orgasms, the more chances of winning a medal.”

Women gets better results in sports
competition after orgasm…

This may be the best quote of all time, but it’s hard to substantiate. It has been quoted by two respectable sources (1,2) and Mr Olshanietzky also makes an appearance in Red-Hot Monogamy: Making Your Marriage Sizzle (it’s like a Christian Karma Sutra). But his credibility is a total unknown. Anyhow – good thing to quote at your partner, right?

What about fertility and sexual health issues?

Illustration: Britt Appleton

So technically the pressure you apply to your genitals during cycling could lead to fertility issues – although it’s important to say that no meaningful research on the topic has been done.

The thinking is that because nerve damage can prevent you from climaxing, and there’s some evidence that orgasmic contractions help you to conceive, that there could be a negative impact on fertility. But aside from that, evidence for fertility issues is negligible.

Do also remember that if you are a serious athlete, it may not just be the bike that puts you at risk. Consuming lots of caffeine (around 5 or more cups a day), which many cyclists do, has been associated with decreased fertility, as has smoking, excessive alcohol consumption and an unhealthy diet.

What does it all mean?

Cycling is good for you. Sex is good for you. Keep having sex and cycling.


All illustrations are by Britt Appleton, whose work you can find more of here. You can buy prints of her Bike Love series here.

Enjoy reading about the sexy side of cycling? You may also like…

How I Came to Love my Athletic Body

The Downstairs Dilemma: Intimate Grooming for Cyclists

Caffeine: How To Use It To Improve Your Cycling Performance


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