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Old 10-07-06, 11:09 PM   #1
stea1thviper
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problems with numbing fingers

Hey everyone,

My dad (53) has been riding his bike for the past 3-4 months now and was complaining to me about numbing fingers that would make it impossible to ride any longer than 4-5 miles. At the time he was on a mtn bike so I told him a properly fitted road bike would fix that problem because it certainly helped me when I was in his position. Plus road bikes are awesome =). But anyway, so I just built up a road bike for him and he once again has these tingling numbing issues in his hands. He and my mom have been remodeling the house now that I moved out, and he does alot of the work himself. I was wondering if maybe this was putting too much stress on his hands, making riding all the more uncomfortable. Or maybe perhaps he just needs to play around with the saddle height/stem length? Anyone with experience with this I would greatly appreciate. I was really looking forward to riding with him on a 40 mile loop along to coast of socal when I came home for the holidays. Thanks.
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Old 10-07-06, 11:53 PM   #2
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Barring any special physical problems unique to your dad, the usual advice is wear good gloves, try shock absorbing gel tape, change hand positions often, rest your weight on different parts of the hands (the "heel", the side, between various fingers), keep elbows flexed, bring the saddle up to seat level or so to put more weight back on the seat and off the hands. If your dad is experienced and flexible enough (I'm 59), an aero bar can really rest the hands, too. This is one of those things were tiny changes in position can make real changes in comfort. Sometimes, I think, we are sometimes simply born with sensitive or easily aggravated parts of our body. But its worth trying all of the aboved.

Our recumbent friends will, as they often do, suggest a 'bent bike for real hand comfort.
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Old 10-08-06, 01:56 AM   #3
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microadjustments & movement

Stealth:

Many of us 50+ers have dealt with numbing fingers after/during a ride. For many of us, getting the 'fit' & angle between seat & handlebars was key, for others just moving around on the bike (standing up, having at least 2 hand positions, etc.) helped, adjusting weight distribution between seat & bars have ALL been part of addressing this issue. If you search this thread you'll find some very articulate explanations of the Numb Fingers syndrome.

On my steel MTB converted to road/commuter, I had to raise the stem, add good barends, go through 3 saddles, wrap both flat bar & barends with good thick padding and remember my riding position needed to be adjustable & flexible. For example, I would be riding along, pushing the cadence & realize I'd held the same hand position for at least 10 minutes without moving. That was not necessary, just a riding habit that would cause then the numbness to start.

CC's recommendation of good padded gloves is completely correct as well. I finally took my MTB in to the LBS where we spent an hour getting everything 'fitted' - this is on a bike that is too small for me but has been modified such that now I can ride comfortably for up to 4 hours. Also as your dad rides more, his positioning and way of riding will change (like getting used to the seat...?) so slowly tweaking the bike's configuration to match his comfort/fitness level will help a lot.
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Old 10-08-06, 06:53 AM   #4
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I was having trouble too, so last week I installed a set of Aztec pads that I got from Performance. I rode a century yesterday with no numbness at all. You might try try them.
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Old 10-08-06, 07:17 AM   #5
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Tell him he need to relax his grip and unlock his elbows while riding. It's very common for new and many experienced riders to stiffen.

He probably rides with his hands on the brake all of the them too. Take a deep breath and let every part of your uppper body sag and unlock elbows.
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Old 10-08-06, 07:41 AM   #6
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This may sound silly but it works for me! Don’t grip the bars with your thumb. Just place your thumb beside your other fingers and cup your other four fingers around the bar supporting your weight in the palms. Of course, when you need to use the brakes get your thumb around the bar! I think this prevents me from tightly griping the bar so my hands are relaxed when I am not using my thumbs. My bike Elmer from childhood days taught me that trick.
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Old 10-08-06, 07:58 AM   #7
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All the posts preceding this one offer good advice on places to start. It is most likely an issue of too much pressure and/or vibration on the hands/palms. The distribution of weight between the seat and handlebars is critical related to too much pressure. Generally speaking, the more bent over one is, the more the seat needs to be back on the seat rail. Stand with your back and legs against a wall and try to bend over at the waist. You can't do this unless your rear end can move backwards in direct relationship to the amount you are bending. Hence, many riders are out of balance because their seat is not back far enough. Additionally, most riders fare better with their seats set so that they are level or with the nose slightly up. This places more of the weight on the rear and less on the arms and hands. Good gloves, two layers of bar tape of other padding can also help. With the arms bent at the elbows you're using them as shock absorbers of sorts. So, there are lots of good places to start in addressing this. Hope your dad gets it worked out soon.
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Last edited by NOS88; 10-09-06 at 08:05 AM.
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Old 10-08-06, 09:16 AM   #8
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I read all the suggestions, and all seem very well thought out. I also experience numbness in my fingers on occasion. Having ridden road bikes since the early 80's, this has been a recent occurence. I have traced it back to the way one of the bikes is setup. It is an unforgiving Scandium frameset which translates much of the road through the frame to the seat and bars. I don't have this problem with my other framesets which are steel, CF, and titanium. At first I attributed the numbness to the frame, but after experimenting with more compliant parts (CF bars, fork, more forgiving wheels, etc.) I have come to a variety of conclusions. The parts selection is definitely critical, but the setup itself is the most critical, a slight up or down of the saddle (no slope to the saddle is imperative for me.) or bars is the most effective way for me to eliminate the numbness. I measured the other bikes and tried to emulate the setup with this particular bike. I still experience numbness on occasion with this bike, but I have eliminated it for most rides by careful setup, and constantly changing my hand position while riding.
I also reserve this bike for rides of 50 miles or less.
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Old 10-08-06, 09:44 AM   #9
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Being another that has this problem whenever I increase my mileage, I agree with most of the advice here. But especially the advice to not grip with your thumb, just keep it parallel to the other fingers. Another thing that helps a lot for me I haven't been mentioned, is keeping my wrists straight and not let the hands rotate up.
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Old 10-08-06, 10:06 AM   #10
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thanks for all the great tips everyone. i will be sure to pass this all down to my dad. it's great to know that this problem has many possible remedies.
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Old 10-08-06, 06:48 PM   #11
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Thanks from me too. I'm having the same problem. Took a 45 minute ride today, my longest in nearly 30 years, and my hands went numb on me twice.

I have an 80's city bike, a forecursor to today's hybrids, but without quite as much of an upright sitting position. I have to lean forward a bit and the weight begins to hurt my hands within 6-8 minutes. I've raised the handlebar to its maximum height, adjusted the saddle to give me my most upright position, purchased padded bike gloves, and have tried changing my hand positions and shaking them from time to time. This has helped a little.

On my first few rides my saddle was killing me too. I installed an add-on seat cushion and between that and riding a few times to get more used to it, that is no longer a problem. After 45 minutes today I was fine, whereas 3 weeks ago a 5-minute ride was painful.

But my hands aren't coming around so easily. Right now the pain in my hands is the only thing making my rides unenjoyable.

I might have to switch to a full hybrid or crank-forward. I've taken 5-10 minute test rides on both and they were wonderful.
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Old 10-09-06, 07:48 AM   #12
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For some people, it could be a question of neck position on a road bike - if there are cervical disc problems. Leaning forward, trying to look up - that kind of thing.
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Old 10-09-06, 08:08 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tom Bombadil
Thanks from me too. I'm having the same problem. Took a 45 minute ride today, my longest in nearly 30 years, and my hands went numb on me twice.

But my hands aren't coming around so easily. Right now the pain in my hands is the only thing making my rides unenjoyable.

I might have to switch to a full hybrid or crank-forward. I've taken 5-10 minute test rides on both and they were wonderful.
I would suggest a 45 minute test ride. Someone really should ride with you to observe your technique.
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Old 10-09-06, 08:12 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by capejohn
I would suggest a 45 minute test ride. Someone really should ride with you to observe your technique.

Very good point. The eye of an experienced cyclist can be very helpful.
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Old 10-09-06, 08:30 AM   #15
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Last season I had this problem; this season my hands are fine, but I have problems with my feet!

For me, getting more flexibility so that I could stretch out a bit helped me ride lower which took weight off the hands. Also, both my bikes have "flattop" type road bars - one set more or less conventional, and the other FSA K-Wing. Both help provide a good "platform" for resting your hands. A lot of my problems initially came because the reach was a little far for me and I ended up placing my hands with the "slot" of the heel of my hand on the "corner" of the bars. That slot is where the nerves run, so it was compressing the nerves, causing numbness.

One trick I used at first was to cut out a piece of a Dr. Scholl's insole (gel) about the size of a coaster and put it in my gloves in that slot area (whicj usually doesn't have any padding). Until I got everything else worked out, this was quite effective. I don't use this padding anymore, though. For me, it was a matter of getting the fit dialed in.
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Old 10-09-06, 10:29 AM   #16
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All of the above works well for me. Not mentioned yet, but effective for dealing with some disc compression problems and the related pressure on nerves, is to work on your core muscles. Since going through physical therapy for a back injury, my hands seldom go numb, partly because my core is much stronger. This also relates to riding relaxed -- stronger core means I'm not putting near as much pressure on the arms to "hold my body up." Buy your dad an exercise ball and ask him to do core exercises during the football game.
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Old 10-09-06, 10:57 AM   #17
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What core building exercises are you doing? I have chronic hand numbness, and know I have a weak core. I could use some ideas on core strengthening.
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Old 10-09-06, 11:24 AM   #18
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core exercises

Check out this link for good variety of core exercies --
http://www.back.com/articles-exercises.html

This is the site my therapist suggested to start with. Has basic to advanced.

He also suggested swimming -- low impact but great workout. While in the pool, he gave me a long list of core exercises to do while grabbing the side of the pool. Not only helps with the core, but greatly improved my flexibility. Basic stretches are also an important component.
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Old 10-09-06, 11:28 AM   #19
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It's time to think recumbent. bk
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Old 10-14-06, 11:36 AM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tom Bombadil
Thanks from me too. I'm having the same problem. Took a 45 minute ride today, my longest in nearly 30 years, and my hands went numb on me twice.

Thanks for the suggestions offered here. I went out this morning and rode for 50 minutes. Used some of the techniques in this thread and the pain in my hands was considerably lower. No numbness at all. Much more enjoyable.
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Old 10-14-06, 03:11 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tom Bombadil
Thanks for the suggestions offered here. I went out this morning and rode for 50 minutes. Used some of the techniques in this thread and the pain in my hands was considerably lower. No numbness at all. Much more enjoyable.
I have a Blood circulation problem in the extremities- Hand and feet. Exercising the hands while riding before the pain comes in helps and on the feet- I am used to pulling up on the pedals for about 100yds every 5 miles or so. I also find that aspirin will thin the blood and aid circulation so always carry a couple with me when riding.
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