A recent document published by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is recommending so called “no-nose” saddles for preventing numbness and SD caused by occupational bicycling. From the document summary:
Workers who ride a bicycle as part of their job may be at risk for genital numbness or more serious sexual and/or reproductive health problems from pressure in the groin (perineum) from the traditional bicycle saddle. NIOSH has conducted studies that have demonstrated the effectiveness of no-nose bicycle saddles in reducing pressure in the groin and improving the sexual health of male bicycle patrol police officers. While most workers in jobs that involve bicycling are men, recent evidence suggests that no-nose bicycle saddles may also benefit women.
A study by NIOSH [Lowe et al. 2004] showed that saddles without the protruding nose greatly reduced pressure in the groin that compresses the nerves and arteries for the genitals. In a more recent NIOSH study [Schrader et al. 2008], the no-nose saddles were associated with pressure in the groin region of 1.02 pounds per square inch. In a typical pressure picture for a no-nose saddle, there is very little pressure forward of the sit bones (see Figure 4). The pressure on the nerves and arteries for the genitals may be even lower than 1.02 pounds per square inch because some of the measured pressure was caused by the back of the thighs making contact with the rounded-off front of the no-nose saddle. The study showed that the no-nose saddle reduced pressure in the groin by at least 65% (see Figure 5). In the 2008 NIOSH study, more than 90% of officers on bicycle patrol who tried a no-nose saddle were still using the saddle after 6 months. These officers believed that no-nose bicycle saddles could be used safely and effectively in their work. Several of these officers said that it took some time to get used to the no-nose saddle because it has a different feel than a traditional saddle.
It would be nice to know how ergo saddles like the Selle An-Atomica would fare in this comparison. Of course, recumbents bypass the issue altogether with laid back padded seats that are nearly as comfortable as a barcalounger.