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Clydesdales/Athenas (200+ lb / 91+ kg) Looking to lose that spare tire? Ideal weight 200+? Frustrated being a large cyclist in a sport geared for the ultra-light? Learn about the bikes and parts that can take the abuse of a heavier cyclist, how to keep your body going while losing the weight, and get support from others who've been successful.

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Old 03-12-08, 03:01 PM   #1
TrumpetMurph
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Question-- Elbow Fatigue and Hand Numbness

Okay, so I'm new to the world of riding a dropped bar bike, and went out for a 10 mile ride today. I noticed that my elbows got really stiff and sore while riding, and also that my hands would start to go numb if I kept them in any given spot on the bars for too long. Is there something I'm doing wrong technique wise, or does some of this come with being a clyde (I'm 240lb, 5'10") and having that extra weight on the hands and elbows while riding? Any insight would be great!
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Old 03-12-08, 03:11 PM   #2
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You need to let your arms flex and absorb the shock. You also need some conditioning to be able to do it.

Also...

Raise Dat Stem!

by Bob Gordon

A flat back is one of the hallmarks of an experienced cyclist, particularly a racer, and over the years I have seen the prevailing attitudes towards rider positioning devolve to the point where if you don't cycle with your back parallel to the ground, you're cast off as a beginner.

But like many other concepts recreational riders adopt, the low back originated in the professional ranks after extensive research in aerodynamics proved this would help the fast go faster. Competitive athletes routinely sacrifice both their short and long term health for the express purpose of winning, but you may have a different agenda.

Lower back disc problems peak the ages of 30 and 50. There are many causes, but if your back pain is exacerbated by riding, it's a good bet the cause is bouncing around on your bike while your lower spine is extensively flexed (loss of lower back arch). A low, forward torso causes the inner portion of the disc (the nucleus purposes) to press back against the outer restraining fibers (the annulus fibroses). This pressure eventually causes the disc to bulge or herniate. The nearby nerves get squeezed, and the next thing you know, someone like me is telling you you have sciatica.

Cycling mitigates some of the problems of a habitually flexed lumbar spine because of the "bridge effect" that's created by resting some of your weight on your hands. But the lumbar region and its soft tissues are still at risk just by being continuously hyper flexed, and if you sit all day at your job, the danger is compounded.

On the flip side, cycling entirely upright does not solve the problem either. True, the inter-vertebral discs and spinal ligaments are in a more neutral position and absorb shock better, but the load is now transmitted axially, which is fatiguing and jarring. Also, in a bolt-upright position you can't use your gluteus or hamstrings to great advantage, which means your thighs (quadriceps) get overworked, you lose a lot of power, the unused hamstrings and gluteal muscles go flabby, and you catch all that wind. It's hard to be happy about all that, racer or no.

There is, however, a position that allows good performance while minimizing risk of lower back injury. I like a stem height and length that puts your back about 50 degrees from horizontal, while your arms and legs bend slightly at the elbows, as shown in figure 2 up there. To achieve this, you'll probably have to raise your bars, and assuming you want to keep the same bar style (as opposed to riding with stingray bars or something), that usually means getting another stem, one with a taller quill or a steep rise to it. If you hit the sweet spot, a photo of you from the side will reveal a nice pyramid composed of top tube, torso and arms.'
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Old 03-12-08, 03:22 PM   #3
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^^
What he said.

The numbness and fatigue comes largely from resting too much weight on your hands. Work on core muscle exercises, because this is where most of your upper body support should be coming from when seated on your bike.
Just raising the stem may not do the trick, though. It will take the pressure off your hands/arms, but if you're not stretched out properly over the top tube, then raising the stem will crunch up your back and hunch your shoulders (which will make those hurt after a while.) When I got fitted for my new bike, I found out that what I needed wasn't to raise my stem from where it was, but actually lower and move it forward to stretch out properly and allow my upper body to rest naturally.
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Old 03-12-08, 03:34 PM   #4
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Did the shop do a proper fitting? If they didn't you need to have one done. Makes a huge difference.
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Old 03-12-08, 03:38 PM   #5
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Thanks for all the ideas so far! I bought the bike online through jensonusa, so I haven't had a proper fitting done. I will also work on core strength, and focusing on letting my core support my weight, not my hands and arms. I'm sure a fitting will help me to maintain good back position, too. Thanks again!
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Old 03-12-08, 03:50 PM   #6
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Just want to add a bit to the previous tips. Some people also just need a bigger grip than the one provided by regular bars. Make sure you have good gloves and if they do not help you might also try increasing the diameter and padding of the handlebar. In the simplest case a second layer of handlebar tape for the upper parts of the bar can help a lot.
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Old 03-12-08, 03:53 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by TrumpetMurph View Post
Thanks for all the ideas so far! I bought the bike online through jensonusa, so I haven't had a proper fitting done. I will also work on core strength, and focusing on letting my core support my weight, not my hands and arms. I'm sure a fitting will help me to maintain good back position, too. Thanks again!
You have to train yourself to ride properly. Locking your elbows while riding will lead to sore elbow. Ride with your elbows slightly, or even very, bent and relaxed most of the time. Your elbows, and legs, will act as shock absorbers but they have to be relaxed to do it. Keep your body pretty steady and let the joints flex to take the blows...even the little ones. This will also force your core muscles to work more to carry the load.
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Old 03-12-08, 06:54 PM   #8
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I'd advise tipping the nose of the saddle up just a bit past level, as the changes your weight distribution to your back and off your arms and hands. However, I've been flamed severely over this in the past, no matter how many years of experience I have fitting bikes and repairing bikes, nor the obvious physical evidence that this actually works. Most of these people will tell you to treat the symptom rather then the cause.
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Old 03-13-08, 02:28 AM   #9
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Hiya, i had that too and tried everything too. i'd say in my opinion if you improve your core muscles it will work itself out. a quick test though, i heard you should be able to hold your position without your hand if you get what i mean. next time you're on your trainer and in your normal position just take your hands off the bars and see if your core can carry the weight. if not you'll have to start doing them sit-sup;-) this worked for me - it could also be fit either??
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Old 03-13-08, 08:00 AM   #10
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^ That is an interesting test. I had not heard that before, but I know what I am going to try the next time I am on my trainer. I'm pretty sure I will smash my head on the handlebars.
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Old 03-13-08, 08:30 AM   #11
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You are probably caring too much weight on your hands. First get someone to check your fit it could be something as simple as seat tilt or seat position that is forcing your weight forward. You may also need a higher, longer, or both stem to bring you a little more upright and shift your weight back onto your sit bones. Talk to someone about this as very minor changes can make a huge difference.

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Old 03-15-08, 08:32 PM   #12
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Was having a terrible time with wrist pain - I finally raised the bars even with the seat. May not look like a racer but I feel great. That and I use Trekking bars - I only found drop bars comfortable in the drops which were too low to be practical.

Have a ton of fitting threads that are mostly wrist listed in my sig.
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Old 03-15-08, 09:07 PM   #13
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I just went through the same problem. I'm not a bike fitter by any means but here is what I did and it worked for me. Start with your seat height. Have someone hold up the bike or mount it in a trainer. Dangle one leg off the bike. Put your other heal on the pedal in the low position with the crank arm following the same angle as the seat tube. Adjust the seatpost so your heal just touches the pedal. Next adjust the seat forward and back. Sit on the bike, hands on the brake hoods, cranks horizontal. Adjust the seat back and forth until you can take your hands off the bars and not strain to hold yourself up. Last adjust the angle of the seat until it is comfortable. I have a brooks and the nose very slightly up was best for me. Check the height of the seatpost again as it may have changed from sliding the seat position. This is what I did and it worked very well for me.
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Old 03-16-08, 07:42 AM   #14
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I just went through the same problem. I'm not a bike fitter by any means but here is what I did and it worked for me. Start with your seat height. Have someone hold up the bike or mount it in a trainer. Dangle one leg off the bike. Put your other heal on the pedal in the low position with the crank arm following the same angle as the seat tube. Adjust the seatpost so your heal just touches the pedal. Next adjust the seat forward and back. Sit on the bike, hands on the brake hoods, cranks horizontal. Adjust the seat back and forth until you can take your hands off the bars and not strain to hold yourself up. Last adjust the angle of the seat until it is comfortable. I have a brooks and the nose very slightly up was best for me. Check the height of the seatpost again as it may have changed from sliding the seat position. This is what I did and it worked very well for me.
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Old 03-16-08, 08:36 AM   #15
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Too much weight on the bars. The elbows pain is the ulnar bone trying to bounce out of the little socket at the elbow. Reduce the reach to the bars. Adjust the saddle to roll the ischials onto the web. That will induce some arch to the lower spine that will absorb some shock while taking some weight off the hands. No offense here, but some of it is because you (we) are just heavy all over. Hopefully, riding the bike will reduce some of that, too. As I lost weight, my setup had to be modified.
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Old 03-16-08, 09:27 AM   #16
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Good posts. Also, TM, since you're new, there are a lot of different muscles in your body that need to become accustomed to the new sport. I'm an old time cyclist, but I've been away from it for a long time, and even tho I do a lot of leg strength workouts, all sorts of new muscles in my legs are so sore now from overdoing my return to cycling. I could hardly walk last night. (But I like that sore muscle feeling!).
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Old 03-16-08, 12:09 PM   #17
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Thanks everyone for the pointers, tips, and tricks. It sounds like the most important thing is getting my body used to riding and in shape, and focusing on proper riding position while I work towards that.
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