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Commuting Bicycle commuting is easier than you think, before you know it, you'll be hooked. Learn the tips, hints, equipment, safety requirements for safely riding your bike to work.

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Old 02-01-08, 10:17 PM   #1
mbologna
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Flat Bars - Sore Hands?

I have been commuting a couple of times per week on my new Jamis Coda. I really like the bike but my hands get sore, even after just a mile or two. I wear padded gloves, but this does not seem to help much. I am used to a road bike with drops and riding on the hoods, so some of this could be getting used to the upright position and flat bars. Any recommendations on how to make the grips more comfortable? Any experience with replacement grips? Thanks!
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Old 02-01-08, 10:53 PM   #2
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I definitely feel for you --I love riding in the hoods and when I swapped my bike to a flat bar it felt very odd. If you are having hand pain I would possibly consider Ergon grips, or a knock off. The Ergons are a bit pricey but from my brief experience they are quite comfy. Do you have large or small hands? maybe you want thicker or thinner grips....and of course a more upright riding position would be easier on your hands.
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Old 02-01-08, 11:21 PM   #3
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I have flat bars on the bike I commute on and it was a matter of getting everything adjusted correctly now I have no problem with hands filling that way. This included seat height, bar angle rotating it for my wrist when in riding position and height of bars. I'm sure several other things may help but this helped me.
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Old 02-01-08, 11:59 PM   #4
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Check out your seat position. You may find that you have the seat to high and to far forward. It doesn't take much to make a difference in balance. Your carrying to much weight on your hands.
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Old 02-02-08, 12:07 AM   #5
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You should be able to put weight on your hands and not feel pain. So, the post prior to mine is, dare I say it, going down the wrong track.

It has been known for a long time that flat bars put pressure on the outside heel of the hand. I, too, suffer from this. Remedies include padded gloves and ergon bar grips, but my finding is the only real solution is to try different bars.

I don't think flat bars are design for long road trips. Mountain biking is very dynamic with out of the saddle climbing and technical downhills. That's where flats work.

I am trying to figure what works for me, too, thinking the Nitto Albatross/North Road will be a good option. I just don't use the drops, but I do like hoods. Last but not least I'll try putting some drops on.
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Old 02-02-08, 12:08 AM   #6
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I got Ergon grips because I was having wrist pain, and I haven't had it since. Occasionally I do get pain in my palm, but so far it's been only occasional and hasn't lasted long.

So I'm not sure whether to recommend them or not. I'm a big fan of mine, but my problem was different from yours. If you have an REI or another store with an accommodating return policy nearby, you could always try them for a week or two and see if it makes a difference.
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Old 02-02-08, 12:15 AM   #7
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I hear ya. I broke my neck and sore hands and shoulders have been a problem since.
What I found to work:



Ergon grips help a lot. The flair better distributes your weight through your hand.

Changing your bars for some with a little sweep such as the on-one mary will also alleviate a lot of pain and fatigue.
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Old 02-02-08, 11:32 AM   #8
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+1 re. one of the Ergon grips, as pictured above. I had various 'hand pain' problems when I started riding again; really resolved when I switched to these last year.
FWIW, a couple further observations on this:

1. Yes, drop bars inherently offer varied hand positions, but you can get this (minus the drop position [even then, just drop your elbows into a head-wind!]) with a combination of a flat bar and good quality bar ends. That, + the Ergons, has proved to be what works very well for me.
2. Many, many people, much more commonly in Europe etc. than in N.A., do long-distance riding/touring on flat bars in some configuration or other. I don't buy the 'inherent on-road superiority' of drop bars over flats; it's very much a matter of personal preference/riding style, seems to me.
3. You can suffer from ulnar neuropathy (classic "cyclist's palsy") just as easily on drops as on flats.
4. One more thing to consider: OP, you don't mention your age etc., but anyone much over 30 can easily already be developing mild osteoarthritis symptoms; one of the first places this shows up is in the base joint of the thumb; if you are using rapid-fire shifters on your Coda, you MIGHT be experiencing pain from the repetitive thumb motion of rapid-fire. I went through this a few years ago, and it took a while to figure out (sports doc.) what was going on. Got so bad I couldn't ride; switched to grip-shift, problem completely gone.
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Old 02-02-08, 12:31 PM   #9
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I am no expert at these things, but have experienced a similar problem with drops and straight bars. Go out and read Sheldon Brown regarding seat angle and other adjustments and the impact it can have on your hands. Saddle position impacts posture and weight balance between saddle and hands.


Angle

The angle of the saddle should be pretty close to horizontal. Some men prefer the front to be slightly higher than the rear; some women prefer the front slightly lower than the rear, but extreme angles should be avoided.

If the saddle is nosed up too far, it is likely to increase pressure on the soft tissues, and cause all sorts of problems.

If the saddle is tilted down in front, the rider will tend to slide forward onto the narrower part of the saddle. Women who are riding on saddles that were designed for men frequently tilt their saddles down. This will relieve some of the discomfort from the saddle itself, but creates new problems: The downward slope of the saddle causes the rider to tend to slide forward, and this can only be counteracted by pressure on the hands. Thus, poorly-angled saddles often are the cause of wrist, shoulder and neck problems, due to carrying too much of the rider's weight on the hands.

The angle and the front-back position are both adjusted by the clamp on the seatpost.

Front-back position

Saddles are also adjustable back and forth. Ideally, this adjustment should be made to set the saddle at the correct distance behind the bottom bracket, so that you are pedaling at an efficient angle. The conventional wisdom is that, when the pedal cranks are horizontal, you knee cap should be directly above the pedal spindle. See Keith Bontrager's article on this topic.

It is generally considered a Bad Idea to tinker with saddle position to adjust the reach to the handlebars; it is better to adjust this by replacing the handlebar stem with one with a different reach, or by buying a bicycle with a different length top tube.

The angle and the front-back position are both adjusted by the clamp on the seatpost.
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Old 02-02-08, 03:36 PM   #10
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I suggest reading this before you start changing stuff to fix a problem that may be posture induced:
http://sheldonbrown.com/pain.html#posture
The sections on "Fingers," "Hands," "Wrists," and "Posture" may be particularly insightful. They were for me.

Oh, yeah. I also suggest marking with a permanent marker before making adjustments. This way if you don't like the new position of something, you have a reference point to take it right back to where it was, or make another adjustment.

Last edited by CommuterRun; 02-02-08 at 03:43 PM.
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Old 02-04-08, 10:42 AM   #11
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I am trying to figure what works for me, too, thinking the Nitto Albatross/North Road will be a good option. I just don't use the drops, but I do like hoods. Last but not least I'll try putting some drops on.
I switched to a northroad bar not too long ago after running a flatbar w/barends for about 3 months. I've done a 40 mile and a 30 mile ride with it so far and it's been really good on my hands/wrists. The tradeoff is a more upright position, which slows me down a bit, but not so much that I would go back to the flatbar. I'm planning on using the bike for a 40 mile R/T commute 2 times a week so I think slow and steady will be better for me.
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Old 02-04-08, 11:15 AM   #12
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I'd start by seeing a bike fitment professional.
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Old 02-04-08, 11:46 AM   #13
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I hear ya. I broke my neck and sore hands and shoulders have been a problem since.
What I found to work:


I second these, Ii use them with bar ends to give me a lot of choices and grips

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Old 02-04-08, 11:57 AM   #14
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I switched to a northroad bar not too long ago after running a flatbar w/barends for about 3 months. I've done a 40 mile and a 30 mile ride with it so far and it's been really good on my hands/wrists. The tradeoff is a more upright position, which slows me down a bit, but not so much that I would go back to the flatbar. I'm planning on using the bike for a 40 mile R/T commute 2 times a week so I think slow and steady will be better for me.
North Roads rule. Or, something like the On-One Mary bars, which is a derivative. For the most natural position, they are about as close to human perfection as you can get - unless you demand a higher performance design. MTB flat bars are designed for maximum wide grip control in tight situations found on trails - period. As such, they do not lend themselves to long ride comfort. It is rare that a rider can get comfortable with them over any road ride beyond 35 miles. People can spend whatever, trying to keep using those flats, but the wrist pronation will eventually introduce carpal problems and sore elbows at the ulnar socket. Only apes can maintain that kind of twist and get away with it for long.

North Road bars and their variants allow the entire arm to rest in a natural position without that bend in the wrist - the one that forces the heel onto the bar of flats. When properly setup, there is a crook in the elbow and the carpal bones are alined with the forearm. Billions have been made over the decades, with drops being the defacto bars for racers and those who get hooked by the marketers. I'm not saying drops don't do a good job getting riders out of the wind, but I don't think many people really depend on that low position that much.

If I were looking for a non-drop option, it is ther NR I go for every time.
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Old 02-04-08, 01:52 PM   #15
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Ergon grips on a riser bar...... worked for both me and my better half
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Old 02-04-08, 03:28 PM   #16
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North Roads rule. Or, something like the On-One Mary bars, which is a derivative. For the most natural position, they are about as close to human perfection as you can get - unless you demand a higher performance design. MTB flat bars are designed for maximum wide grip control in tight situations found on trails - period. As such, they do not lend themselves to long ride comfort. It is rare that a rider can get comfortable with them over any road ride beyond 35 miles. People can spend whatever, trying to keep using those flats, but the wrist pronation will eventually introduce carpal problems and sore elbows at the ulnar socket. Only apes can maintain that kind of twist and get away with it for long.

North Road bars and their variants allow the entire arm to rest in a natural position without that bend in the wrist - the one that forces the heel onto the bar of flats. When properly setup, there is a crook in the elbow and the carpal bones are alined with the forearm. Billions have been made over the decades, with drops being the defacto bars for racers and those who get hooked by the marketers. I'm not saying drops don't do a good job getting riders out of the wind, but I don't think many people really depend on that low position that much.

If I were looking for a non-drop option, it is ther NR I go for every time.

I've been eyeing the North Roads for some time. Can you tell me how they do with saddle above bar rigs? I have not seen one like this yet. I don't mind being put more upright, but I do like my current angle, just not the bars. Maybe Marys would be better, but the North Roads look super comfy!

Thanks
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Old 02-04-08, 03:44 PM   #17
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Billions have been made over the decades, with drops being the defacto bars for racers and those who get hooked by the marketers. I'm not saying drops don't do a good job getting riders out of the wind, but I don't think many people really depend on that low position that much.

If I were looking for a non-drop option, it is ther NR I go for every time.
I think it's a misconception that drops are for racers. Think of it as having two options for the angle of your back and neck that you can change when you get sore from being in one position for a long time. There's no law that says you have to have the drops set really low.
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Old 02-04-08, 04:46 PM   #18
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Could your grips be too thick? It requires less energy to grip a smaller diameter bar. The fact you have less weight on your hands due to the upright position may be making you grip too tightly.
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Old 02-04-08, 10:24 PM   #19
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I have found the Cane Creek Ergo bar end grips work really well for me. I have found that I really never user the flats except to get closer to the brakes. Knowing what I now know, for me flat bars just don''t work for commuting/around town.
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Old 02-04-08, 11:35 PM   #20
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+1 Ergon. The ones with the horns on them are really nice, i've been using them for a while now - good results with both flat and riser bars, and from what i've seen they translate over well to just about any MTB bar.
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Old 02-05-08, 11:44 AM   #21
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Climbhoser:
I wouldn't recommend them for below the bar setup. But then, I can't recommend any bars with limited hand positions to be set below the bars. The whole concept is to get weight off the hands, and, to position your supporting structure (hands, wrists, arms, shoulders, etc) so that they are in a relaxed posture for a majority of the time you are on the bike. Placing the bars above the saddle does require that the rider compromise on some aspects of efficiency for ther sake of tissue health and comfort. I set my NR's at about saddle height, with the grips angled about 10degrees down, or nearly flat. I alsom use a Brooks B67, which is designed to compliment a more upright posture.

Using an old school MTB or just about any modern bike will not set you bolt upright liike the old 3-speeds. That's because the 3-speeds were very much shorter in the top tube than more recent bikes.
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Old 02-05-08, 11:53 AM   #22
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I suddenly developed sore hands (thumbs, actually) after switching to flat bars. Sometimes, they would give me such a sharp pain later when at work that I would almost drop what I was holding, or I would shout in pain.

Not saying this is the OP's problem, maybe it's different, but I did some reading and found lots of other to get this problem, only to have it disappear after a while.

Mine's gone, but I have to say that I also changed handlebars to "trekking bars" that gave me more hand positions. I was able to make the transition myself, and it cost me only $25 for the bars and less than $10 for the tape.
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Old 02-05-08, 11:55 AM   #23
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Correct. I was oversimplifying a complex subject for the sake of time. I could have said that drops were originaly designed for racers, and that hasn't changed. However, the multple hand positions available has made for an amazing array of models to choose from these days. I also use drops, and I ride in the drops alot, due to exactly what you are saying - you don't have to have them set low. In fact, many tourists set them quite high. I do it simply because that allows my aging back to be comfortable in the drops for up to five miles or so.

I must still say, though, that NR's and their cousins provide the most natural hand position available on any type of handlebars. One can choose other types, but soon discover that you are squirming about all over the place trying to find that sweet spot.

NR types allow that spot to be dial-in, thus, the rider is more comfortable from start to finish in most cases. I don't feel the subconscious need to feel around for another hand position when I'm using the NR's. I've ridden several centuries using NR's and have no complaints other than an aging body. The same is true of my well-setup drops, however.
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Old 02-05-08, 12:10 PM   #24
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I have been commuting a couple of times per week on my new Jamis Coda. I really like the bike but my hands get sore, even after just a mile or two. I wear padded gloves, but this does not seem to help much. I am used to a road bike with drops and riding on the hoods, so some of this could be getting used to the upright position and flat bars. Any recommendations on how to make the grips more comfortable? Any experience with replacement grips? Thanks!
I had the same problems with flat bars until I recently added some Forte bar-end grips from Performance. They're $12 on (constant) sale and completely solved the problem by providing alternate hand positions. I found that I liked them better installed upside down and angled toward me. This gives me the option of riding in a fully-upright position which maximizes my view of traffic, and their view of me, while also providing support to my forearms when I'm riding in the lower position. I find that I have much better situational awareness in a fully-upright position. Riding upright approximately doubles the surface area visible to cross-street traffic and helps them differentiate me from other vehicles.
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Old 02-05-08, 12:14 PM   #25
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Badger1

With respect, I must offer a slightly different view about those Euro tourists on bikes. There seems to be a cultural aspect to the way they do it over there, which helps explain why they use the flat bars so much. When I go over there, the predominant theme among the natives is that they are hopping from gasthof, to village, to inn, to who knows whatever small interesting point along the way. In other words, they stop alot - as in frequently.

Americans, Canadians, and in my experience Aussies, tend to go long and aim for a nightly destination. Sad, but true. It may be that we have to use the time more efficiently due to our shorter vacation times or something, but Americans go for broke, taking lots of sanpshots along the way. It's the same thing here in the US and Canada - we put on much more distance in a year and tend to ride much faster than our Euro cousins. Thus, my comments about the explosion of drop designs.
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