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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 04-22-12, 10:38 AM   #1
krip
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Big, Old, Out of Shape and Hurting

Hi, new here! Last summer my attempt at joining the biking world was what I would consider a major failure. I am about to begin this years bike season and would like to know your thoughts!
Here is my problem ---- I am 5'7" and my wieght is at 280lbs (that hurt to say) also I am a type II diabetic.
Anyway I began my riding program and during the rides my hands completly fell asleep causing much pain. This and other failures caused me to give up! Something I don't want to do this year!

I ride a Trek 7.3FX --- flat bars

My questions are

1. Am I using the wrong handle bars or bike and applying to much pressure on my hands?
2. Could there be a medical reason for this? Other than carpel tunnel.
3. Is this common and can it be overcome?
4. Should I start out with very short rides?
5. And how long before I should expect be able to see improvement in my overall strength and conditioning.

Thanks

I hope to make many friends here
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Old 04-22-12, 11:00 AM   #2
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The numb hands problem is very common among new riders, especially those who aren't in the best of shape. It comes from putting too much weight on your hands, and could result either from you being in the wrong position on the bike, or having poor posture, or both. Some people still find it a problem even after addressing those issues, but they are a smallish minority.

The first thing to do is check out your riding position. There'll be a queue of people telling you to get professionally fitted, and while this is ideal, it costs money. But it would be helpful to ask someone who knows what they are looking at to have a look at how you are sitting on the bike. It may help to raise your handlebars a bit or shorten the stem so that you are in a more upright position, but it's impossible to advise without seeing you on the bike.

The ideal is to put very little weight on your hands. I've been riding a long time and can take my hands off the bars and keep riding without changing the position of my torso. You can't expect to do that as a novice, it needs confident bike-handling as well as half-decent core muscles, but it's worth having it in the back of your mind as an antidote to the temptation to slump onto your hands when you're tired.

As for how fast you will see some improvement, that entirely depends on you. Take it steady at first, you need to get comfortable. In particular, your backside will need to get used to being on the saddle, and that takes a few rides. But persist. Once you are comfortable-ish, just build up your time on the bike by maybe 10% to 15% per week. Once you can ride for an hour or so at a time you can probably make bigger jumps.

And take encouragement from the folks in here. Many of them have made remarkable changes in their lives, you'll get a lot from them.
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Old 04-22-12, 11:17 AM   #3
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We have height and age (maybe -- I'm 59) in common, though when I started I was "only" 227.5. (Actually, I started at about 210, then GAINED weight after starting... sigh). Thankfully, I've lost 43 lbs of that weight, and should be down to "normal" by sometime this summer.

Anyway, here's what I learned: For us big in the belly guys, the hunched-over position is murder. I couldn't breathe properly, had issues with my hands as you're having. The solution was to - temporarily, for a while - ride much more upright. This isn't a perfect solution because an upright riding position puts a lot of weight on your perineum (aka your "taint"), and subjects parts that shouldn't be pounded at all, to a pretty nasty pounding.

My solution was twofold. The first was to seriously raise the handlebars and bring them in closer - I used a quill extender (which was what my bike needed) and trekking bars. I didn't want to change out the stem for a shorter one because the front brake cable went through it, so I opted for bars that would give me a closer surface instead of just shortening the stem. For your bike, you may be able to find a stem that brings the bars in closer and higher without doing what I did. For now, I'd consider swapping the handlebars you have for "North Road" bars - they get your hands in much closer, and let you ride much more upright. That'll take the weight off your wrists.

The second part of the solution was to use a sprung saddle, to take some of the bumps, and to make it a point to stand up every minute or two, to relieve the pressure on the perineum. Pay attention to any numbness or tingling there ... you don't want that.

As far as ride length is concerned, starting shorter is MUCH better. You didn't say whether you were trying to lose weight or not, or if you're just interested in getting better aerobic conditioning. Though some will disagree, I don't believe you can cycle yourself thinner without reducing your calories. IMHO, the calorie reduction is the the thing that loses the weight, and the exercise facilitates the process - not the other way around.

I'd shoot for a moderate exercise plan - about 45 minutes/day, 5 days per week. You can alternate days between walking and riding. Rides should start out at 5 miles round trip or so, no more than that, and you shouldn't really increase that for a good month or so. At that point, you can build up to whatever distance you can cover in 45 minutes to an hour. Walks should probably start out at about 3 miles or whatever distance you can cover in 45 minutes to an hour.

Get used to spinning the pedals quickly in a low gear - about 80 RPM. That's not only what builds your cardiovascular conditioning, it also helps prevent knee damage, which is nothing to fool around with when you're trying to move a lot of weight around.

Not on topic for a biking forum, but if you do mix walking in with cycling, get really good shoes. Our feet aren't made to schlepp around the kind of weight we put on them. New Balance walking sneakers work for me.
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Old 04-22-12, 11:50 AM   #4
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Tony: I couldn't have put it any better.

To further add to chasm54 strengthening your core IMO is the number one goal for comfort on a bicycle. The more your core supports you the less work your arms and hands will have to do. This takes time but the rewards are very large.
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Old 04-22-12, 12:19 PM   #5
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Krip: You will make many friends here. Post often and feel free to ask any questions here.

I had the same issue when the hands. I took my bike to a shop that I felt was great and that was welcoming and I got a full fit. Some tweaks went a long way. I might suggest you do the same too but find that one bike shop that treats you with respect.

You are on the right track. Keep it up.

On a side note, if you are looking to lose weight, remember that it is 80% what you eat and 20% exercise.
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Old 04-22-12, 12:22 PM   #6
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Chas has some good points. I respectfully disagree with the getting a bike fit. It takes a lot of questions out of the game and, at least for me, it is better to leave the fit up to the folks who do this for a living. I would rather pay the money then waste the time shooting in the dark. But again, that is just me. And at the time, my hands really hurt and I needed to understand and fix it so I went that route.
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Old 04-22-12, 12:24 PM   #7
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1. Am I using the wrong handle bars or bike and applying to much pressure on my hands? - Quite possibly. Flat bars don't give many options to hand positions and may have your arms internally rotated or wrists cocked. You want wrists in a "neutral" position to avoid impingement.

2. Could there be a medical reason for this? Other than carpel tunnel. - If it's the pinkie and 4th finger, it may be the ulnar nerve (not carpal tunnel). Road buzz and death grip on handlebars can aggravate it. Diabetes probably predisposes you to peripheral nerve issues. My neurologist is testing me for arthritis (elbow/shoulder/neck) and vitamin B12 deficiency to see if that is aggravating my numb hands problems.

3. Is this common and can it be overcome? - It's called "cyclist's palsy" for a reason. Vary your hand positions on the bike, shake them out. Follow advice on bike fit/adjustments. Well-designed bike gloves can help. My LBS double-wrapped the bar tape / put padding under the hoods on my drop handlebars where my hands are for 95% of my riding. BTW even a 5mm height increase on the handlebars can make a noticeable difference; and if you raise your saddle 5mm you may need to also raise the bars to match.

4. Should I start out with very short rides? - Always a good idea. Duration/intensity/frequency - start easy and try to not increase more than 10% total each week.
My first bad episode with numb hands came after ramping my ride distance up very fast from max 28 miles/day up to a 50 mile ride. I had to take 2 weeks off the bike so my hands would start working again. Could not hold fork/pencil, open door, work zippers or buttons, hold wad of toilet paper -- you get the drift.

5. And how long before I should expect be able to see improvement in my overall strength and conditioning. -- It depends on duration/intensity/frequency and your current overall strength and conditioning. I am estimating seeing modest results in 3 weeks and continued improvement for at least 5 years if no other factors play in. It can help to focus on the process/journey and make cycling an enjoyable part of your lifestyle. If it's fun, it's easier to keep motivated even when you hit one-step-forward, two-steps-back phases in your progress.

Last edited by nkfrench; 04-22-12 at 12:34 PM.
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Old 04-22-12, 01:31 PM   #8
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I had the hand numbness issue. Raising the handlebars helped me. Also the saddle angle might be an issue, if you're sliding forward on it then you'll put more pressure on your hands.

The bike I have now puts no pressure on my hands at all...it's a feet forward design and all your weight goes on your rump. I don't feel like it's as much exercise as my old bike, but I don't have any hand issues, which is important because I work with my hands.
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Old 04-22-12, 07:52 PM   #9
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I have relatively flat bars on my touring bike, just a couple degrees of sweep. The best investment I ever made was Ergon GC2 grips (GR2 on my MTB also work well, but the GC are more comfortable on the road bike). They have a flat paddle that keeps your wrist in a neutral position. The wrist support can be adjusted independently from the short curved bar ends, which give you an alternate hand position, very similar to the position when riding the hoods on drop bars. Drop bar enthusiasts will cuss flat bars, but I have both and can tell you that with proper set up and the Ergon bar end style grips, a flat or nearly flat bar can be every bit as comfortable as a drop bar.
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Old 04-22-12, 09:27 PM   #10
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Last year I had nerve problems from putting too much weight on my hands. So I just pulled out my summer motorcycle gloves. The padding and reinforcing on the palms removes almost all the pressure and I can feel my little fingers once again. Also getting the bar/saddle position just right takes a lot of the pressure points away,
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Old 04-22-12, 09:51 PM   #11
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I'm about 240. After getting my riding position sorted out, I double wrapped the upper portion of the bars with gel tape (there are also gel foam kits). I also vary my hand position a lot. However, as noted above, the greatest relief comes when your back/core strength develops enough to reduce the load on your hands.
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Old 04-23-12, 12:15 AM   #12
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The talk about core strength is true. It was a game changer for me. Be patient, it really takes time. But, it's worth sticking it out.
I still struggle with what goes in my mouth. It more about that, than the exercise, as others have said.
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Old 04-23-12, 01:45 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by Myosmith View Post
I have relatively flat bars on my touring bike, just a couple degrees of sweep. The best investment I ever made was Ergon GC2 grips (GR2 on my MTB also work well, but the GC are more comfortable on the road bike). They have a flat paddle that keeps your wrist in a neutral position. The wrist support can be adjusted independently from the short curved bar ends, which give you an alternate hand position, very similar to the position when riding the hoods on drop bars. Drop bar enthusiasts will cuss flat bars, but I have both and can tell you that with proper set up and the Ergon bar end style grips, a flat or nearly flat bar can be every bit as comfortable as a drop bar.
Do you have pictures of the grips on your bike? Would love to see them.
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Old 04-23-12, 01:47 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by krobinson103 View Post
Last year I had nerve problems from putting too much weight on my hands. So I just pulled out my summer motorcycle gloves. The padding and reinforcing on the palms removes almost all the pressure and I can feel my little fingers once again. Also getting the bar/saddle position just right takes a lot of the pressure points away,
What gloves are you using?
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Old 04-26-12, 01:20 PM   #15
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Hi Folks -- I have been reading all your great advice and would like to thank everyone for there input. I will be trying to implement a lot of it.
FYI I don't have Gloves YET!
and I will try to put up a picture when I can figure how to do it out!

Thanks Again for everyones help

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Old 04-26-12, 02:00 PM   #16
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I'm a "jump off the cliff" kind of guy. This year when I got started (I rode some last year, took off the Winter, went back to zero) and did a few five milers. The one day I said "Heck with it, I'm going 20" and then did it. It hurt. Yes it did. But I did it. I suggest riding consistently but one Saturday head out five miles and make yourself do the five miles back. Take plenty of water, a sammich, whatever.... just do it.
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Old 04-26-12, 02:51 PM   #17
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At this moment I have a mountain bike and I can not STAND the hand position on the flat bar. Years ago, I put something like these on it and spend almost all the time riding with hands on them. Kind of a pain to shift, but it's worth it.


I wish I had knows about the kind Myosmith was describing. Those look even better.
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Old 04-26-12, 02:53 PM   #18
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I'm in the same boat, or was, but less weight at 225. When I got my 7.5 FX the LBS installed a riser to raise the bars, he said when I get into better shape I can then remove it. Bar ends helped a lot as well, more hand positions. I started out with 5 mile rides until it was easy, then 10, 20 and so on. Six months and I'm now riding 35-40 a day, ride 4 days and rest one. A week ago I started using myfitnesspal.com and I now losing weight.

Good luck, just keep riding and it gets easier.
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Old 04-26-12, 03:03 PM   #19
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Let me try and condense some of this.

First, you need to find a good position on your bike.

Did your bike shop do a fitting? That's where they adjust the saddle and bars.

Next, when you do get the bars higher, a different saddle may be required. See how it goes,
start a saddle thread if you need to.

Someone mentioned walking and NB sneakers. Only thing I wear is NB 812.

Doing more than one activity is called cross training, and it's the way to go.

Alternate cycling and walking. Do each a couple times a week. More is good, but always keep a day off in the week.
Do what works for you, 4 days is enough.

The exercise sessions should last an hour or longer. You don't need or want to kill yourself.

I mentioned walking because it's really, really good for you and free.

Any exercise is good.

Swimming, rowing, aerobics, spinning classes, most anything you like.

Because the best exercise is the one you'll actually do.
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Old 04-26-12, 04:41 PM   #20
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Do you have pictures of the grips on your bike? Would love to see them.
These aren't the Ergon grips, they came standard on my Cirrus Comp, but they are very similar. They look kinda funny, but it does seem to help spread out the pressure very well. The bar ends are pretty nice too, they give me a little option on where I can hang onto. Also, a pair of padded gloves helps quite a bit too.

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