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Fifty Plus (50+) Share the victories, challenges, successes and special concerns of bicyclists 50 and older. Especially useful for those entering or reentering bicycling.

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Old 07-15-11, 10:29 AM   #1
des dekker
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reentry, hand numbness

Although not quite 50 (within spitting distance, though) I thought that this would be an appropriate forum for my query.

A lifetime runner, I took up biking about a year ago to try and lessen the pounding and jarring on my ever aging joints. After a week or two of craigs list lurking I bought the following:



My criteria: Price, fit, carbon fork, and its italian = cool.

I am now happily riding 25 miles once or twice a weekend and thinking of a century or maybe a charity ride. I seem to be able to maintain about 16-17 mph, solo, so maybe I'll try some group rides. The problem is that after 15 miles or so my hand goes numb and I have to take it off and shake it every 15 mins or so. I dont know if its road noise or riding position. LBS says the bike fit is good, when queried about possibly raising the handle bars a bit (less weight on wrist, I thought, also might help lower back) they said not possible (well without new fork, I guess.)

So my question(s):
1) Am I doing myself damage? Should I "Just suck it up and shake your hand every 15 mins, ya' wimp."
2) Would larger tires help? Say ditch the current 23 for 28 (will they fit on Aksium Race rims?)
3) Should I really think about getting a bike with more relaxed geometry? If so just buy a frame (like Scott CR-1) and use the components off this bike (dura-ace, shimano ultra) or sell this one and buy another used?
4) I read somewhere that handlebars down/ass up provides more power from quads an hamstrings (along with obvious areo advantages), true or just an excuse for masochism?
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Old 07-15-11, 10:47 AM   #2
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You'll see this appear in many places...... there are only three contact points with the bike: hands, rear end, and feet.

Given that reality, fit is often a matter of getting the right balance. While your bike might be a good fit, it may not be dialed in to your particular needs. Generally, numb hands mean there is too much pressure on them. I would suggest making very small adjustments to the angle of your seat before raising the bars. A very slight (sometimes as little as 2 to 3 mm) shift of the seat's nose up can shift your hips enough to take weight off your hands. If it doesn't work you can always move it back. I just made such an adjustment yesterday after having disassembled the entire bike for cleaning. After reassembly and on the first ride, I was abut 12 miles into it when I realized my hands were getting numb. I stopped and adjusted the nose up just a hair and everything was fine. As a second thought, are you wearing cycling gloves?

Oh, and welcome the to 50+ forum.
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Last edited by NOS88; 07-15-11 at 04:07 PM.
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Old 07-15-11, 11:22 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by des dekker View Post
shake it [hand] every 15 mins or so
Doesn't seem excessive to me. Do this and change your hand position often.

Quote:
Originally Posted by des dekker View Post
...handlebars down/ass up provides more power from quads an hamstrings
Partly true. I sense that the lower body position engages more of the butt muscles (gluts, etc.). It doesn't seem to give me more power from my quads, but assists the quads, yielding a balanced engagement of all the muscles involved. Some may disagree with me. I'm just stating what I've noticed or perceived.
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Old 07-15-11, 11:56 AM   #4
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Some gloves, like Specialized BG gloves, have firm pad over the ulner? nerve in the hand to help prevent numbness. They also make a deeper padded road glove with gel insert but some find this too much padding.
You may wish to try better gloves to see of that helps.
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Old 07-15-11, 12:22 PM   #5
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Gloves come with padding in different places from Manufacturer to Manufacture and within the models of them. I had bad hand numbness about 3 years ago and went on a ride to a bike shop that had a good array of gloves. They started from cheap to banl loan in price so I started at the cheapest and went up till I found a glove that gave padding where the pain was.

Now this was not bad fit- or anything like that. It was just that aging years meant that I needed a bit of extra help.
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Old 07-15-11, 04:03 PM   #6
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Also consider the levelness of your handle bars. I had the same problem that you have. After several different sets of gloves and minor seat adjustments I raised the level of my bars so they are approximately 2mm higher in the front. Now I don't feel anything till I hit mile 50 or so and I think that is just core muscles getting tired. Just like yo0ur seat adjustments go small.
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Old 07-15-11, 04:56 PM   #7
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When I first got into cycling about 3 months ago I was riding a Schwinn hybrid that was not fitted properly in fact it was not fitted at all. I simply bought it off the rack and began riding to see if I would like cycling and want to continue with it. I experienced numbness in the hands after 3 or 4 miles of riding and could not shake the numbness no matter what. In fact, I tried to embrace the numbness, tried to convince myself it really wasn't that bad.

As it turns out, I really love cycling so I bought a road bike from a bike shop. They properly fit the bicycle to my height and torso and since I've been riding the properly fitted roadie... NO NUMB HANDS! Amazingly true!

Last edited by teachme; 07-15-11 at 04:59 PM.
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Old 07-15-11, 05:05 PM   #8
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Gloves come with padding in different places from Manufacturer to Manufacture and within the models of them. I had bad hand numbness about 3 years ago and went on a ride to a bike shop that had a good array of gloves. They started from cheap to banl loan in price so I started at the cheapest and went up till I found a glove that gave padding where the pain was.
This. I find that I am very particular about gloves. I need the right ones to avoid problems.

I need padding across the entire heel of the hand. But the fashion the last 5 years has been to leave the center unpadded. But that's bad for me: I get pains shooting up my wrist.
Pearl Izumi made good gloves but changed; then I found some Specialized gloves that worked. They recently changed them too but I bought a few pair befiore the change.
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Old 07-15-11, 06:02 PM   #9
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Welcome.

I just ride faster when my hand gets numb. It doesn't eliminate it (I dont know if you can), but It gives me something else to think about.

First, check your reach (seat to handlebars). There are several arcane, confounding calculations available to get to this number, which you can google. Or you can just use the old fashioned way: When you lean forward and reach into the drops, the front wheel hub should be obscured by the handlebars themselves.

Second, try shifting your seat position around and tilting it slightly nose up.

Tinker around with these two positional adjustments until you can "float" on your sit bones, posting on the seat. You don't ride the seat, you pivot on your sit bones.
You're trying to just balance there, without feeling like you are tipping forward. This takes the weight off the arms, which is where the numbness originates.

Then, pedal faster.

PS Cycling will soon have you giving up on running. Work at this seating business til you get it right.

Last edited by dahut; 07-15-11 at 06:30 PM.
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Old 07-15-11, 06:11 PM   #10
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I found that larger drops from the saddle to the dropbars increase hand pressure. The ironman brand gloves seem to have better padding for hand pain. I also use aerobars on a couple bikes, putting weight on the forearms and stretching out more. Dropbars with multiple hand positions also helps.
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Old 07-15-11, 06:52 PM   #11
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I had lots of hand pain for a few years, particularly after a few hours on the bike. My pain was on the outside of my right hand. This year I've been trying to keep a modest bend in my elbows rather than a straight arm pushing/clinging to the hoods. It takes a bit more core strength but takes a lot of stress off of the hands. I've also started to ride more on the flats of the bars with bended elbows and ,while it was weird at first, it has become my climbing position. I don't wear gloves. I'd recommend getting your seat set up so that you can almost ride without hands (I'm too scared to actually do that with clip ins) so as to take the weight off of your hands. Then ride with slightly bent elbows and switch positions frequently. I'm really not the guy to go to for advice, just saying that it has been working for me. Everything else still hurts plenty, but my hands are ok.
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Old 07-15-11, 08:11 PM   #12
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My first advise to you has been already mentioned; get a good bike fit done. My second is to relax your shoulders when you ride. This will cause your elbows to bend and keep the pressure off the bars. You don't need a death grip on the bars to ride, you only need to have enough pressure on them to steer. If you find your shoulders are shrugged up when riding, I'll be willing to bet that your arms are stiff as well. Relax your shoulders, bend your arms and get a good pair of gloves. Several have mentioned the Specialized gloves. I use their BG Pro series gloves and they are very nice. If you have drop bars with STI shifters, ride on the hoods. That also helps bend the elbows.
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Old 07-16-11, 01:23 AM   #13
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I discovered two things that helped.

1) Keep the weight off the hands. Grip the bar or hood lightly with almost no weight on the hands.

2) Keep the wrist in a neutral position. Check the arm, wrist and hand position, if the hand is not straight with the arm (back of hand to arm), the angle on the wrist creates pressure on the nerves and reduces blood flow, this create numbness in the hand and fingers. Try moving the fingers or rolling the hand around the bar or hoods to keep this angle straight as much as possible.

If I feel numbness, it's because I got lazy and find the arm to hand angle is bent. At least this has helped me. This is just good ergonomics, which should help reduce pressure points.

good luck
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Old 07-16-11, 10:23 AM   #14
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I, too, am having problems with hand numbness. I know what is causing it in my case. I am spending too much time in the drops and am gripping the bars too tightly. I just started riding in April, and only started riding on the roads three weeks ago. When I am in unfamiliar situations, I tend to stay in the drops because I feel more stable, more in control, with the lower center of gravity. I am still anxious about riding on the roads, and that is why I am spending so much time in the drops. Over time, I am starting to move up to the hoods and other postions on the 'bars, and it is helping with the hand numbness. I do note that I seem to be able to ride further each week before the numbness develops--that is progress. One good sign--in each of the previous two weeks, the numbness was worse in my right hand. I rode almost 21 miles today and had virtually no numbness in my right hand. However, by the end of the ride I had bad numbness in my left, almost to the point where I couldn't activate the muscles in my hand. I am guessing that due to the experience of the previous two weeks, I over-compensated with regard to keeping the weight off my right hand and ended up causing problems with my left.

It definitely is a work in progress...
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Old 07-18-11, 12:08 AM   #15
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I've had the same problem and as for advice? Pretty much all of the above, Lots of good stuff there.

Tweaking the seat position to take some weight off your hands.

Gloves are big help here but I'd wear them anyway. After you crash a couple of times, you'll know that you should wear gloves. I use the Specialized gloves and they work well for me.

Moving your hands around from time to time can really help. The rougher the road, the more you should move your hands around. Try not to grip so hard.

The biggest thing that helped me? Getting off a cheap aluminium frame and going full carbon, more specifically to an endurance bike frame instead of something really stiff like a crit bike. The streets and roads where I ride are full of frost bumps and chewed up pavement that resemble cobblestones. That solved about 90% of my problems right then and there.

The other alternative would be for me to go to a steel or TI frame.
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Old 07-18-11, 08:30 AM   #16
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Thanks for all the replies. Should have mentioned that I have gloves w/ gel pads for the base of the palm. I will try tipping the saddle nose up a bit. What is the thought on moving from 23 to a 25 or 28 tire, wouldnt that be effective in dampining the road noise? The modest increase in weight would seem an acceptable cost.
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Old 07-31-11, 01:01 PM   #17
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I am one of the new riders who has posted recently about suffering numbness of the hands. As the length of my rides as increased, the problem has been getting more severe. Last weekend, I left home intending to do a 20+ mile ride, but I had to call it quits after 10 miles because my right hand became so numb that I could not actuate the gear shift lever. What was worse was that several times later in the week I felt a slight "pins-and-needles" feeling in that hand. Since I am a computer programmer, I cannot afford to have any longterm nerve problems in my hands.

Today I took my bike back to the bike shop where I purchased it to have my fit checked out. I went on a Sunday because I know the salesman who sold me the bike works then, and this individual has a tremendous amount of road riding experience.

When I described the symptoms I am having and how the bike feels when I ride it, he suggested a completely counterintuitive solution: lower the handlebars! He said he came up with this solution when I told him I am spending 90% of my time in the drops because the bike "feels unstable when I am on the hoods."

I told him to go ahead and make the change. He removed the spacers underneath the stem and flipped the stem upside down so it is now angled down. I had taken my gear with me so I could do a test ride and evaluate any changes. I did many laps in the large parking lot directly behind the store and the bike certainly felt better. Riding on the hoods now feels like the proper position on the bike; I noticed that my elbows are now slightly bent--as they should be--when my hands are on the hoods. Also, that "squirrely" feedback I was getting from the front wheel is gone. Of course, I will want to put many more miles on the bike before I declare this change as the final solution, but I just wanted to share this story that sometimes lowering the handlebars might be the solution to a hand numbness problem. I'll revisit this thread after a couple of weeks of riding with this change.
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Old 07-31-11, 01:57 PM   #18
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Numb hands get talked about a lot here on BF.

The simple answer is get your body weight OFF of your hands/wrist so as not to pinch the ulnar nerve in your wrist.

Sit more upright.
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Old 07-31-11, 03:10 PM   #19
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If all else fails, there is always the recumbent option: Hand/wrist discomfort not an issue. I stopped searching for the perfect gloves when I stopped riding safety bicycles.
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Old 08-01-11, 07:25 AM   #20
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I found that larger drops from the saddle to the dropbars increase hand pressure. The ironman brand gloves seem to have better padding for hand pain. I also use aerobars on a couple bikes, putting weight on the forearms and stretching out more. Dropbars with multiple hand positions also helps.
My bike came with aero bars on it. I bought it used off Craigslist, (2010 Specialized Allez) I LOVE it, the first thing I thought was, "I'll take those off when I get it, sell them maybe" , after a couple rides I got down on them, tricky at first,,, did a couple times, a mile or so each time.
Then on my last solo ride of a measly 22 miles, my hands, (really just the right one I guess) started having some numbness, I also was riding the last 7 miles or more into a 3-5mph head wind.... I got down onto the aeros, and rode there for probably 5+ miles, it helped with the wind, and also alleviated the hand issue. Changing position helps allot, I guess without aeros you have three positions you could use, all the way down, up on the brakes, or in the middle? (Can't use in the middle with aeros easily,, I have just rested my hands on the elbow pads and gripped them some, but not the most comfortable position....)

Oh, and all my riding so far has been without GLOVES!!! (Not that I don't think I need them, just haven't bought any yet! LOL)
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Old 08-01-11, 08:35 AM   #21
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Try some gloves. Changing positions regularly is good.
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Old 08-02-11, 10:44 AM   #22
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I have the same problem but I know exactly what I need - INCREASED CORE STRENGTH.

I was having a fitting done a few weeks ago and I mentioned that it felt like there was a lot of weight on my hands. While pedaling, the fitter asked me to let go of the bars and keep pedaling. I fell straight forward - not enough core strength to hold myself up. He said I should be able to let go and keep pedaling without moving my upper body. So I got a Swiss ball the other day and am going to start working with it.

My goal is to be a better, stronger cyclist, and I guess this is just the next step in the process.
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