When you live in Portland—the self-styled "bicycle hub of America"—and The New York Times suggests a link between the wrong kind of bike seat and sexual impotence, that grabs WW's attention.
There it was, an article last month titled "Serious Riders, Your Bicycle Seat May Affect Your Love Life," about what urologists and some unfortunate cyclists already know all too well.
The mechanics are simple. An erection is made possible by blood flow to the penis through the perineal artery, located behind the testicles. Bike seats can put undue pressure on this area, stifling blood flow to the necessary parts and leading to unwanted surprises in the bedroom.
That could be pretty scary in a city occasionally referred to as "Little Beijing" where the Bicycle Transportation Alliance says the number of cyclists making daily bike trips downtown has tripled in the last decade. All told, there are an estimated 10,000 bike trips across the Willamette every day.
So we got to wondering: Are Portlanders disproportionately afflicted with erectile dysfunction, a.k.a. E.D.? With some help from Dr. Eugene Fuchs, a urologist at Oregon Health & Science University, we devised this true-false quiz to test your E.D. IQ. Have at it—answers are below.
TRUE OR FALSE?
1. Daily commutes by bicycle are likely to lead to erectile dysfunction.
2. There is a higher prevalence of E.D. in Portland than in other comparably sized U.S. cities.
3. Bike-seat-related E.D. is often preceded by genital numbness.
4. There are too many hidden causes of E.D. to try to list them.
5. The only way to avoid bike-seat-related E.D. while maintaining a cycling habit is to ride your bike standing up.
As for reports linking E.D. to bicycle riding, Fuchs (that's pronounced "fyooks," people) points out that many of the docs cited in newspaper stories specialize in the treatment of E.D. and are too quick to make the link with bike seats.
"There's a saying," Fuchs says. "When the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail."
1. False. Fuchs is confident that bike commuters have little to fear. Bike-related E.D., when it does occur, tends to affect long-distance cyclists who ride long hours, with little time off the bike seat.
2. False. There are no data indicating Portland has an especially high prevalence of E.D., Fuchs says.
3. True. Numbness in the genitals is the telltale warning sign that it's time to change your bike seat.
4. False. Here's the list of major causes, according to Fuchs: psychogenic (performance anxiety, depression); arterial blockage (often caused by consumption of fatty foods and lack of exercise), and psychoactive medications.
5. False, sort of. While biking standing up may decrease the likelihood of bike-seat-related E.D., a better risk-minimizing solution is to seek out a bike that fits properly and is equipped with a comfortable seat. Standing up every so often on an especially long ride won't hurt, though.