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   Prashanto Banerji - Features Editor - The Sunday Indian
Prashanto Banerji
Features Editor - The Sunday Indian
[29 July 2007]

Pedaling Phallacies

A trip to a Swiss ski resort in the summer can be an unnerving experience for most men. Zermatt is a quaint little town at the foot of the iconic Matterhorn made famous by skiers, snowboarders and other winter lunatics of a third kind. But even in summer, there is little respite for fragile male egos on this mountain paradise.

Sputtering and wheezing like spasming asthmatics, my wife and I climbed (hauled her and clambered up might actually describe it better) a tiny grassy hillock. But before I could bask in the glorious light of athletic prowess and my wife�s admiring glances, we were passed by a bevy of obscenely well-muscled mountain bikers in neon pink and green tights (looked like absolute pansies if you ask me, but my wife was so busy looking, she didn�t bother asking) as they rode up an impossibly steep slope, and with such ease that they even turned to wish us a cheery �bonjour!� without even breathing hard. As I watched my wife watch those pansies in pink ride off, I ran after a straggler, kicked his dainty lycra clad behind off his fancy bike, shook him hard and screamed into his ear �You know what?! There are only two kinds of cyclists; those who are impotent and those who will be. So which one are you?� Actually I didn�t really do that but if they weren�t so darn big, I just might�ve. As we left the bouncing behinds behind and trudged our way along the trail, I repeated those famous words to my wife, and just to confirm that I wasn�t just being jealous, I confessed that the smart quip wasn�t mine but a respected urologist�s named Dr Irwin Goldstein who wrote these words for the �Bicycling Magazine�. And fellow husbands, if you�ve ever had a sinking feeling tinged with a dash of livid green while you watched the lady of your life oohing and aahing at dashing polo players as they rode past, tell them I told you about Hippocrates who described the Scythians thus, �They are the most impotent of men, (for perhaps) the constant jolting of their horses unfits them for intercourse.�

So all that that saddle-bound machismo is good for is a shriveled manhood. Thank god for small mercies and smaller saddles. Anyway back to the good doctors Hippocrates and Goldstein. You see, I wasn�t too bad on a cycle not too long ago. In fact I planned to ride all the way to Ladakh and show up my neighbour who believed he was an adventurer just because he happened to have been to that moonscape in the mountains on a motorcycle. So I started training and researching for my epic journey and possible career as a cycling professional. Initially, all I would read about was how many millions these riders would earn, how the Tour de France was the third largest sporting event in the world and how Lance Armstrong became a legend and� Hang on Lance Armstrong, did you say?! The guy who got testicular cancer? Yikes! Was there a connection? And then came an article that quoted the venerable Goldstein claiming that there was possibly a link between the pressure exerted on a male cyclist�s perineum (that�s the name for the place you couldn�t imagine there might�ve been a name for between the well� er� and the umm.. unh�; well we�re talking about a saddle, so you know where�s what) and impotence. Yes you read it right. Cycle too many miles and you might end up getting..er.. shall we say a little �soggy� down there.

The theory is that tiny flint like saddles, whether on a horse or a bicycle, �traumatise� the perineum and might damage the supply lines of the male reproductive organ, resulting in temporary or even permanent impotence. (However, the concern over cycling causing testicular cancer is as yet unfounded.) Millions of hours and dollars of research later, softer saddles with more accommodating designs seem to be a solution according to one group while others � including Dr Goldstein at a relatively recent conference � insist, that Dr Goldstein was wrong in his hypothesis the first time round and cycling perhaps always was as healthful as it was initially trumped up to be.

Incase you are waiting for the last word from yours truly before resuming your morning rides around the children�s park, here�s the consensus � Cycle less than three hours a week and you get to enjoy all the benefits without having to worry about �going soft�. Europe loves cycling and is (coincidentally?) creaking under the weight of an ageing population with low birth rates. The Chinese cycle everywhere possible and yet one in four earthlings is Chinese and as for the Swiss, can�t really blame them for cycling everywhere. I mean when their buses have routes called �Extra fahrt �*and insist on having �fahrt plans� for their passengers, I can understand why they eschew public transport and risk the dreaded �I� everyday. The jury�s out on this one so stick to the <3hrs/week fahrtplan gentlemen, and as for the ladies, don�t you get too smug now. You never know what I�ll dig up next.

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