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Old 02-03-07, 01:33 PM   #1
jbrams
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My hands hurt! Help with riding position for sore palms please?

After a 20 mile ride the palms of my hands hurt where there is pressure on them from the handlebars. I'm 300+ pounds and 6'0" -- short legs (29" inseam) and a torso to make up the height difference. (yes, my weight is the problem; but I needs a fix for the mean time) I currently ride a hybridized mountain bike (Klein pulse comp with riser handlebars, high pressure hybrid tires with slick center road contact patch, cruddy and old front suspension, sprung brooks saddle [B-67]).

The frame is 17.5". The handlebars are risers mounted to a "Delta Threadless Stem Riser" from REI. to place them yet higher (not adjusted all the way up, really at the base of this stem riser). The stem is 70mm (IIRC) high angle thing (brings the bars up an inch and back an inch from stock). I'll post a pic later if the GF doesn't give me any more chores.

It hurts! Suggestions on what to do? Move the handlebars up on the stem riser? Different handlebars? (I've tried drop bars, and though no one was going to suggest that as the solution, they're right not to, it didn't help much at all [more hand positions was nice, but there was more pressure at each of the new positions] and it's an uncomfortable riding position for me). Would grips like these help?

Also, I'm considering getting a Jamis coda (there's another thread on this in the clydesdale forum), and it would be VERY nice if any new handlebars I get would also fit that bike (comes with flat bars so I believe the comfort level and problems with my hands will be similar).
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Old 02-03-07, 01:46 PM   #2
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Sounds like you are putting too much weight on your palms. I suggest you look closely at your fit on the bike and make adjustments to more evenly distribute your weight between your arms, butt and legs. You want to be gripping the grips with some bend to your arms, not supporting your weight with your palms. Some bar-ends for more hand positions may help too.
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Old 02-03-07, 01:50 PM   #3
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different grips can help- higher bars/lower seat too if adjusted properly. If you try to sit up just a little more than usual you can take some weight off your hands. Changing hand position frequently is good too. Some touring cyclists will put a couple sets of handle attachments on the bars to give many possibilities for gripping. If you're riding road or paved paths you can alternate ways to hold the bars: Ill rotate through 1. stadard grip 2. closed fist with base of palm on bars 3. open hand with only front of palm touching bars (the part just in from where your fingers connect)
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Old 02-03-07, 03:45 PM   #4
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I used to have that problem on an ill fitting bike that I was borrowing. Can you take it in to your LBS for a proper fitting?
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Old 02-03-07, 06:51 PM   #5
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The LBS suggestion by Race_newbie is good, I'll give it a shot.

Chipcom - I agree about the too much weight on the palms, but lowering my seat isn't really an option ... should I try raising the handlebars (the stem height adjuster would allow for an extra 1+" of height. I do have some bend in my arms, and my sitting position is relatively upright. I like the bar end idea too.

Any other ideas folks? I'm looking at some different handle bars too:
http://store.somafab.com/soma3speedbar.html
http://store.somafab.com/nib3allro.html
http://www.somafab.com/arcbar.html
http://store.somafab.com/nimobar.html

And of course sheldon brown weighs in:
http://sheldonbrown.com/deakins/handlebars.html
http://sheldonbrown.com/harris/handlebars/index.html

thanks, keep the suggestions coming please!
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Old 02-03-07, 06:57 PM   #6
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Try tilting the nose of the saddle up 1 to 3. The saddle angle is relative to the weight distribution of your body. Raising the nose up transfers more weight to your lower back, while dropping the nose moves the weight to your arms, hands, and shoulders.
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Old 02-03-07, 08:24 PM   #7
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First thing to do is to try and relax the upper body while on the bike. Sometimes you are tense and don't even know it. Make it a point to try and relax the arms as much as possible during the ride. They should be loose on the handlebars and you should never have a death grip.

Next pay attention to this part of the hand. When your palms start to hurt, try and focus on taking pressure off of this part.



Of course lots of saddle time cures lots of ills, so you need that if you haven't gotten it.

Last edited by Portis; 02-03-07 at 09:00 PM.
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Old 02-03-07, 08:54 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jbrams
The LBS suggestion by Race_newbie is good, I'll give it a shot.

Chipcom - I agree about the too much weight on the palms, but lowering my seat isn't really an option ... should I try raising the handlebars (the stem height adjuster would allow for an extra 1+" of height. I do have some bend in my arms, and my sitting position is relatively upright. I like the bar end idea too.
Nobody is asking you to lower your saddle...but is the saddle fore/aft and tilt adjusted properly? You should set the fore/aft based on the position of your knee and the pedal spindle with the pedal at 3 oclock, not to compensate for reach to the bars. As mentioned, tilting the saddle back can ensure your weight is not sliding forward causing you to support yourself with the bars. Stem angle/height may also need adjusting.

Answer me this, while riding can you remove one hand from the bars and bring it to your chest without having to shift your weight to compensate? If not, that is a sure sign that your arms are supporting too much of your weight. Can you easily ride with no hands AND pedal? If not (if you are able to ride no hands in the first place...some folks can't) it's an indication that your saddle fore/aft isn't optimal.

Note that adjusting saddle fore/aft may require a tiny tweak of the saddle height to keep the same relative height to the pedals, due to the seat tube angle. Having someone like your LBS assist in adjustments is a good idea, but they can really only get you in the ballpark...you may need to make further tweaks as you ride and see the effects. Make those tweaks in baby steps, one at time, testing by riding (or on a trainer) before making further adjustments. Take measurements and notes of your adjustments.
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Last edited by chipcom; 02-04-07 at 11:40 AM.
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Old 02-03-07, 11:31 PM   #9
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My compliments chipcom, that is a nice informational post.

If you are interested in installing bar ends ibrams, I can post a picture of my setup for riser bars. My bar ends are mounted inside the grips to add more hand positions.
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Old 02-04-07, 12:25 AM   #10
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Wow, I'll try to respond to the great information in each of these posts, but first of all: thanks, thanks, thanks!

Quote:
Try tilting the nose of the saddle up 1 to 3. The saddle angle is relative to the weight distribution of your body. Raising the nose up transfers more weight to your lower back, while dropping the nose moves the weight to your arms, hands, and shoulders.
Great description, this makes loads of sense and I'll give it a shot. Currently the saddle is level according to my eyeball. I've read several times (specifically on Sheldon Brown's site) that men tend to believe that pointing the saddle down in front will relieve pressure from their "junk" but that this is not the right adjustment to make and that it should be either level or the front should be slightly higher than the rear. I'll be going for a good ride before the game tomorrow and I'll try to get back to you about whether this have the impact I hope it might.


Quote:
First thing to do is to try and relax the upper body while on the bike. Sometimes you are tense and don't even know it. Make it a point to try and relax the arms as much as possible during the ride. They should be loose on the handlebars and you should never have a death grip.
So far my solution has been to completely relax the upper body as much as possible but just getting up and riding no-hands to shake out the paid a little bit and give the hands a change to breath. But I will try to relax my upperbody over a longish ride and I'll get back to you about whether it seemed to have an impact.

Quote:
Next pay attention to this part of the hand. When your palms start to hurt, try and focus on taking pressure off of this part.
You sure got where the pain is, thanks for taking the time to edit and post the picture it's a helpful reference. What I often do after it starts to get a littel painful is to ride with the upper part of my palm (the part about 2cm below the fingers, 5cm above the area you've circled) to relieve the pressure, or ride no-hands. I'll re-focus on taking pressure off that area, hopefully the adjustments recommended will help.

Quote:
Of course lots of saddle time cures lots of ills, so you need that if you haven't gotten it.
Sure helped with some pain in the butt region, but the hand thing does not seem to change as a result of more time in the saddle. Maybe I just need more, I suppose time will tell.

Quote:
Nobody is asking you to lower your saddle...but is the saddle fore/aft and tilt adjusted properly? You should set the fore/aft based on the position of your knee and the pedal spindle with the pedal at 3 oclock, not to compensate for reach to the bars. As mentioned, tilting the saddle back can ensure your weight is not sliding forward causing you to support yourself with the bars. Stem angle/height may also need adjusting.
Thanks for the detailed reply, I'll try to explain my current setup a little better in terms of fit and make the adjustments you mentioned. My toes are basically under my knee at the 3:00 position. I'll try tilting the seat back a bit and try bringing up the stem height a bit (sitting more upright should put more of the weight on my butt and feet while taking some of it off my hands, right?).

Quote:
All tweaks should be in small (cm) increments and one-at-a-time, tested by riding (or on a trainer) before making additional tweaks. Letting someone knowledgeable (like a LBS) is a good idea.
I'll stop by the LBS tomorrow before an AM ride and ask them to check it out, maybe they have a trainer or something I can use, I'm sure they have something for that (LBS is the Missing Link bike co-op in Berkeley, Ca; GREAT people).

Quote:
Answer me this, while riding can you remove one hand from the bars and bring it to your chest without having to shift your weight to compensate? If not, that is a sure sign that your arms are supporting too much of your weight.
I believe I would be shifting my weight though not substantially (wouldn't move my butt around on the saddle or worry about the front wheel moving around really. I'll give it another shot when my arms are a little more fatigued to make sure I'm not just making the adjustment unconsciously.

Quote:
Can you easily ride with no hands AND pedal? If not (if you are able to ride no hands in the first place...some folks can't) it's an indication that your saddle fore/aft isn't optimal.
Yes, in fact I find it MUCH easier to keep riding and steering with no hands when I am pedeling. I have been riding no-hands a lot as a result of this hand pain situation, just so I can shake and stretch them out while riding. However, thinking about it now while off the bike I do kinds lean back a bit extra to keep from moving forward on the seat ... really it's like I'm standing up and spinning my legs under me like a cartoon running in place before taking off at high speed, must look a little funny really, big fat guy standing up tall and riding no hands with a goofy look on his face and wiggling his hands around like he's pretending they're pencils that look like they're bending when the wiggle just right ... yeah ...).

Quote:
... Note that due to the seat tube angle, if you do have to change the saddle fore/aft, you may need to tweak the height slightly keep the same relative height to the pedals. ...
Quote:
Note that adjusting saddle fore/aft may require a tiny tweak of the saddle height to keep the same relative height to the pedals, due to the seat tube angle. Having someone like your LBS assist in adjustments is a good idea, but they can really only get you in the ballpark...you may need to make further tweaks as you ride and see the effects. Make those tweaks in baby steps, one at time, testing by riding (or on a trainer) before making further adjustments. Take measurements and notes of your adjustments.
I understand you point about needing to make height adjustments after making forward/backward adjustments on the saddle, I'll try to keep the changes small and bring a couple allen wrenches to make adjustments on the road. I'll mark the current points in fine blue sharpie marker to keep a reference point to keep from making any drastic adjustments.

Double thanks everyone, I'm still happy for any more suggestions and I'll get back to you about these adjustments and suggestions mentioned above after a ~25mile ride tomorrow AM. Anyone in Berkeley/North Oakland want to go for a slow ride along the Bay Trail tomorrow at 9am?
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Old 02-04-07, 12:34 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by edp773
If you are interested in installing bar ends ibrams, I can post a picture of my setup for riser bars. My bar ends are mounted inside the grips to add more hand positions.
I've seen those internally mounted bar ends (although I guess they're bar middles this way ), looks like it would be a little too close together, my shoulders are kinda broad and putting my hands closer together is not exactly what seems more comfortable, then again a hard leather seat doesn't seem like it would be more comfortable than a super-squishy gel seat and I've been wrong before. I'll give the previously mentioned adjustments a try and stop by the local recycled bike parts store (the re-cyclery on Sacramento ave in Oakland, about 8 blocks away actually) and see if they have something that looks good (probably for less than $10). But by all means, post a pic of you internatlized bar ends, though they can't be as hip as sheldon brown's double bars:



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Old 02-04-07, 12:49 AM   #12
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One other thought I didn't see mentioned -- do you wear cycling gloves? I find that wearing padded gloves is very important to relieve pressure on my hands.
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Old 02-04-07, 01:31 AM   #13
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I agree with Digital Gee, there are some very comfortable gloves with gel inserts out there. You could carry your entire weight on your palms and wouldn't feel a thing....probably.

Cheers, Ross.
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Old 02-04-07, 01:52 AM   #14
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Gloves seem like a good idea, I'll ckeck them out at the LBS tomorrow. Thanks Digital Gee and Ross dungey!
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Old 02-04-07, 04:47 AM   #15
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Additional helpful post placed here to consolidate info:

Quote:
Originally Posted by DannoXYZ
If your seat is well-positioned for height and KOPS, don't move it! You'll end up with knee and ankle pains.

As for numb hands, there's multiple causes and solutions. We don't have enough data to really make any kind of assessment, so you might want to try all the suggestions.

1. HANDLEBAR HEIGHT - the lower the bars, the more weight you'll have on your arms and hands. Also too short of a reach will also tend to have your arms be vertical with the bars too low, your elbows will be locked and all road shock will pound your hands, arms and shoulders with every road irregularity. I prefer to ride with no lower than a 2" handlebar drop and recreational riders might want to have their bars even with the seat.

2. HAND-POSITION & GRIP probably makes a significant contribution as well. Don't grip the bars so tight! Gripping the hoods/bars tight is compensation for unbalanced positioning. The weight-bearing spot on your hand should be on the heel of the palm:



To really find this spot, do some push-ups and hold yourself up. Notice where the weight is... note that you do not have to grip the carpet to prevent yourself from falling over. Note that you can wiggle all your fingers. The weight-bearing spot is on an imaginary point directly where the forearm bones would extend through your palm.

Now on the bike, place your palm on the bars/hoods so that this spot is directly centered inline with the forearm bones. This spot is not directly over the bars, but rather 45-degrees behind it so that from the perspective of your shoulders looking through your arm-bones, the bars are inline with the bones.

Good way to test is this to release all your fingers, all your weight should be passively supported by the heel of the palm. If you slide off the back of the bars, move your hands up and forward a bit. If you slide off the front of the bars, move your hands back a bit. Finding this perfectly balanced spot will allow you to ride with all fingers loose, try wiggling them all at once. Like this:


Another variation on this is to curl in the fingers and resting the nails on top of the bar.

Couple different ways to rest on the hoods:


You can lightly wrap the fingers over the tops of the hoods or around the side, but no gripping necessary if all your weight is on the heel of the palm.

With no muscles clamping with a death-grip on the bars or hoods, your hands will get more circulation and they'll feel more comfortable. With your hands on the drops, you want them splayed out about 45-degrees like that last photo so that all of the weight is on the outside heel of the palm.

One thing you want to be careful about is positioning your weight in the valley in the middle of the heel. The median nerve and flexor tendons runs through there and putting weight on it will pinch and cause numbness and pain.
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Old 02-04-07, 10:04 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Digital Gee
One other thought I didn't see mentioned -- do you wear cycling gloves? I find that wearing padded gloves is very important to relieve pressure on my hands.
+1 and if you do happen to fall, they'll protect your hands. i actually wear full-fingered even in the summer, even though i am quite adept at keeping the rubber side down!

to illustrate the point that has been made so far, i recently rode a bike with flat bars after riding with drop-style bars for a long time and within a rather short amount of time my hands were very, very sore. i realised that because i wasn't used to the bike, and i was riding through fairly deep snow that i was hanging on for dear life, and thus putting tonnes of pressure on the inside edges (as shown in the picture above) that weren't accustomed to it. so i concentrated on staying relaxed and guiding the bike, rather than forcing the bike.
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Old 02-04-07, 11:27 AM   #17
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Saddle nose angle. B67 needs a bit of an exaggerated upward tilt to keep a rider from sliding off the nose. ratchet up the nose, bro. you should be able to sit & ride hands free without sliding forward.

IMO, Saddle angle is the single most commonly overlooked element when people self diagnose their hand and shoulder pain on a bike.
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Old 02-04-07, 07:03 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bekologist
Saddle nose angle. B67 needs a bit of an exaggerated upward tilt to keep a rider from sliding off the nose.
As other mentioned above, I tried adjusting the saddle angle back about 2-3 degrees past level (front now higher than rear) and this seems to be common on these seats from what I see on pictures others have posted. It certainly helped though I think it will take a little getting used to for my nether regions. Felt better at the end of the ride than at the beginning.

Quote:
Originally Posted by zippered
so i concentrated on staying relaxed and guiding the bike, rather than forcing the bike.
Sound advice, this certainly was easier to do after the handlebars were raised 1" and with the front of the saddle adjusted up a bit (maybe 3 degrees).

I took the bike to a LBS (Velo Sport on University ave. in Berkeley, Ca) and a VERY helpful wrench helped me out, even got out a plumb to check the position of my knee relative to my foot while the pedals were at 3:00 and 9:00 (turned out my seat should have been a bit further back for max pedal power/position). He mentioned that the bike frame was more than a little too small for me (I did get it what I was 15, just over 10 years ago). He mentioned that the stem riser was the best way to deal with the too small frame, but that if I moved it any further back (like with a shorter stem) that the steering would get twitchy (as is it's about 1.5" in front of the fork and with a high angle). So moving the seat back would be better for pedaling position, but then the bars should come back a bit also and that would mean a shorter stem would replace an already short stem so the steering would get a little twitchy. Or get a new frame (long term issue ... maybe 20lbs lighter from now).

He said the bike was adjusted about as far as was reasonable, told me to use the extra height that was available on my stem riser (about 1" higher) and keep adjusting the seat a bit at a time.

I rode 15 miles with the higher handlebars and with the front of the seat tilted up a bit more (raised the seat less than 1cm to make up for the lower back of the seat). Made the brooks substantially more cormfortable, I wasn't slipping forward on it and could easily ride no-hands, but this was an improvement. The handlebars are now about 1.5" above the seat, maybe 2". I sit more upright and my palms did in fact feel better at the end of the ride ... but this was a kinda short ride.

I saw a few gloves at the shop but they were kinda expensive to buy without doing a little research ($30-35 for gloves with gel, $18 with kinda skimpy padding). I'll do some research on which gloves might be best for me (recommendations? I have short fingers and they don't get cold so I'm leaning toward fingerless types, but I'm really out of the loop on this subject). Was out too early for the shop that has more selection (The Missing Link bike co-op) so I'll check there later. Velo Sport also had an Albatross handlebar, but it was 54cm, not the 56cm that I was looking for. I'll try another local store and if that doesn't work I'll head down to Walnut Creek where Rivendell has their shop and I believe they do some retail there.

So next steps:
(1) make adjustments to the seat angle and forward/backward position.
(2) look into different handlebars, like the Albatross
(3) get a pair of gel or other gloves, hopefully with some gap for the nerves going thru the carpal tunnel (rec's?)
(4) Maybe get different toe clips to move my foot back just 1 or 2 cm (current cages are plastic and a bit long, wellgo cheapo stuff very similar to stock ... which I broke ... and then broke again after covering them in JB weld which held up for a few months actually). Recommendations?
(5) Look into a slightly larger hybrid frame (specifically the Jamis Coda with 36h or 40h rear wheel and the Albatross or North Road handlebars) after I lose a couple dozen more pounds.
(6) Other suggestions I missed or that come to mind?

Thanks again and again for all the helpful responses; keep 'em comin' and Go Bears (Berkeley and Chicago)!
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Old 02-04-07, 09:16 PM   #19
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Practice doing sit-ups, scrunches or whatever they call them to strengthen the stomach muscles. Riding doesnt do anything to increase the core body strength, but it will be much more comfortable if you can build it up. Bar ends and gloves should be bought. Try riding with only your finger tips on the bars.
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Old 02-04-07, 11:39 PM   #20
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If you are over toward Vacaville, you could stop at the Pearl Izumi outlet store, they have some pretty fair prices on various gloves.
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Old 02-05-07, 12:12 AM   #21
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Sit-ups, humm, good thinking. I have tried the finger tips idea ... doesn't really get me too far.

I rarely get all the way up to vacaville. But if I do I'll check out the outlet, do you know the address?
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Old 02-05-07, 12:38 AM   #22
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What happens when you use your fingertips on teh bars? Back gets awfully tired?

If you can, get someone to take some pictures of you riding on the bike and get close-ups of the hands so we can see what kind of grip you have on the bars. Gloves with padding will just alleviate the symptoms (too much pressure on the wrong spots), but does nothing to remove the problem of having your hands oriented in a painful position on the bars. I actually ride 70-miles+ without gloves on a bare bar with no tape or padding; although most of the time is spent on the hoods or drops.

Do you have any symptoms of RSI or carpal-tunnel syndrome? Could be a pre-existing condition and the bike-riding just exacerbates it..
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Old 02-05-07, 09:31 AM   #23
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The Somabar All-Rounder is also known as a type of North Road bar. Common on all those old 3-speeds and perhaps the very best handle bar ever made for general use. You have the perfect saddle to go with a set of those. The Ergon grips look interesting - the idea being to distribute the pressure. I had similar problems til I switched to the NR's. Wald #8095 are about $15. They are steel, and are 22" wide, which gives very good contol and shock absorbancy.

I do use drops, too. But, I experience the need to move my hands, whereas with the NR's there is no need. Indeed, there is no other position available, since they are so well designed.

All good advice above, too. Find a fit that allows the elbows to be relaxed, with the wrists in line with the forearms, no locked joints or hunched shoulders. Your grip on the bars should be a medium touch, not a push-up.

Good advice on the saddle tilt as well. An up tilt is desireable to keep you on the weight bearing area, especially with a Brooks. Try moving it forward a tad. It serves to rotate the pelvis more upright so as to take weight off the upper body, thus preventing the long isometric push-up that causes the ulnar nerve numbness and pain. You'll end up with that perfect arched back that acts like a carriage spring, absorbing road shock that would otherwise be taken up by your hands, wrists, shoulders, and neck.

Good luck.
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Old 02-05-07, 09:37 AM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bekologist
Saddle nose angle. B67 needs a bit of an exaggerated upward tilt to keep a rider from sliding off the nose. ratchet up the nose, bro. you should be able to sit & ride hands free without sliding forward.

IMO, Saddle angle is the single most commonly overlooked element when people self diagnose their hand and shoulder pain on a bike.
Ditto! Even tho I prefer North Road bars, I think you can use just about any bars if the saddle is properly adjusted.
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Old 02-05-07, 02:26 PM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DannoXYZ
What happens when you use your fingertips on teh bars? Back gets awfully tired?
Well, no, the pressure generally just then goes to the fingers and they get sore quite a bit faster than my palms.
Quote:
Originally Posted by DannoXYZ
If you can, get someone to take some pictures of you riding on the bike and get close-ups of the hands so we can see what kind of grip you have on the bars.
I'll see what I can do, though it may be a hard during the week.

Quote:
Originally Posted by DannoXYZ
Do you have any symptoms of RSI or carpal-tunnel syndrome? Could be a pre-existing condition and the bike-riding just exacerbates it..
Yes, not probably unrelated ... I've broken my hands and wrists in about 10 different places (5th metacarpel, both wrists twice, dislocated a couple fingers, left arm once during hockey, both pinkies). And two years ago I have my carpel tunnel released during surgery to have a tumor removed from my right wrist (non-malignant, the CT release was just to make room for any scar that might be left, not as a result of prior CT problems). I have a nerve issue related to my elbows - sleep with arms up toward face with hard bend in elbows sometimes causes numbness in pinkies and index fingers, not a problem on the bike though ... really I've never felt numbness on the bike, only soreness). Spoke to RSI specialist about the elbow/finger numbness and he said just grab a pillow to keep from pulling my arms up too close (and DN fall asleep with the GF in my arms ).

Quote:
Originally Posted by jcm
The Somabar All-Rounder is also known as a type of North Road bar. Common on all those old 3-speeds and perhaps the very best handle bar ever made for general use. You have the perfect saddle to go with a set of those.
I was looking at the all-rounder and couldn't tell the difference between it and other north bars, good to know they're basically the same.
Quote:
Originally Posted by jcm
The Ergon grips look interesting - the idea being to distribute the pressure.
Yeah, I'm a little hesitant to plow $20-30 on grips, maybe I can find a more affordable alternative.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jcm
I had similar problems til I switched to the NR's. Wald #8095 are about $15. They are steel, and are 22" wide, which gives very good contol and shock absorbancy.
Is see these at L(used)BS all the time for less then $10, I'll have to start there!

Quote:
Originally Posted by jcm
All good advice above, too. Find a fit that allows the elbows to be relaxed, with the wrists in line with the forearms, no locked joints or hunched shoulders. Your grip on the bars should be a medium touch, not a push-up.
Thanks for the summary of the fitting advice for arms, good to have it in one place. And thanks for all the advice/tips suggestions!
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