Hey, we all like to talk about sex.
So no surprise that the notion of handlebar position and female sexual function would attract some attention.
In this case, it was a March posting in the Journal of Sexual Medicine about a study by a Yale University team. The team surveyed 48 women who ride at least 16 kilometres a week, four weeks per month. The question was: how does handlebar height affect the long-term sexual health of female cyclists?
Pamela Fayerman of the Vancouver Sun picked up on the item and wrote this blog post on Tuesday, suggesting that a more upright handlebar position will help take pressure of the perineum (genital area) and reduce the numbness from regular or long-distance riding.
Since her article links to a Science Daily posting from Monday, which calls the Journal report a "new study," I'd guess that the Science Daily post was her entry point into the subject. Fayerman's article also links to the abstract of the study.
If you were just to read the abstract -- you have to be a subscriber to get the full study -- you would learn that when the handlebars were placed lower than the seat height, the female cyclists who were studied reported an overall increased pressure on the pelvic floor, and decreased sensation at two points: the anterior vaginal area and the left labia.
This blog post in Salamander Hours from back in March, when the study was first released online (clearly they have a bigger budget than Take the Lane does) offers more detail, and explains that the riders were put on a cycle trainer, and that sensation in eight genital areas -- the clitoris, the left and right perineum, the anterior and posterior vagina, the left and right labia and the urethra -- was measured as handlebar heights were adjusted. The abstract concludes that altering handlebar position "may" alleviate the symptoms, and that more study is needed to "assess the extent of the associations."
Since the study says that handlebar height "may" reduce symptoms, and since only two of the test areas were affected, is this enough to indicate a change in handlebar height for those female cyclists who now ride with their handlebar lower than their saddle height?
I think that like so many aspects of cycling, you have to find the setup that is comfortable for you. That there is a study that looks at women's sexual health and cycling is a good entry point for discussion. But one study may not be enough to force a rider to switch from the drops to a Dutch bike.