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Old 05-24-10, 08:25 AM   #1
CharmCityCycle
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Damaging my hands?

Hi all. I hope this is the right section for this. Anyway, I've just gotten back into ridding, and finished building up the first iteration of my new (to me) old bike. I've been on it for about three weeks and am loving it. I really got back into this for utilitarian purposes, that is to cut back on driving, but I'm also trying to get back in shape. Anyway, when I'm just riding around the city from one place to another my hands feel fine. But when the weather is nice, I go to a nearby park and ride laps around the man made lake there, so as to get some cardiovascular exercise, which I desperately need. To make a long story short, after a few laps my hands begin to ache. I can only suppose that I am putting more weight on them. I try not to, but it's hard to avoid when I am going all out. I guess I should mention that I am using mustache bars which I really like, but which I suppose could possibly be part of the problem. The little bit of pain doesn't really bother me, but I play a few different kinds of stringed instruments, and since I've started riding I can barely fret a note with my pinkie or ring finger. It's really remarkable/alarming. After only a few weeks, my pinkie especially, completely refuses to bend to my will. It will just kind of lock up, and refuse to stretch out. Anyway, any thoughts/help would be appreciated. Are gloves the answer? Do I need to give up my beloved mustache bars, and try something else? This is my first road oriented bike (I always road mt bikes and then hybrids as a kid/teenager), and I like the somewhat more aerodynamic position (though my bike has a fairly relaxed touring geometry, so we're not talking some really aggressive racing tuck), but if needs be, I would rather go back to a completely upright type bike, rather than mangle the nerves/mussels/whatever in my hands.
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Old 05-24-10, 08:30 AM   #2
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What bike do you ride?
Road bike drop bars would give you many different places and ways to place your hands.
My average ride is 70 miles. I keep changing my hand positions all the time.
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Old 05-24-10, 08:32 AM   #3
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It is sometimes on those longer rides when you're not changing positions very much that you begin to notice pain and other problems that you don't necessarily notice on a shorter hop.

What bike are you riding? What frame size? How tall are you?

FWIW, I had similar trouble a couple years back. I finally just bought a bunch of stems and bars and experimented until I found a combination that worked. I found that I have to be careful about how much weight I have on my hands. I tried different riser bars until I found a rise that yielded a good balance--not too much weight on the hands without putting me bolt-upright.

I also went to a shorter stem.

My solution might not work for you, but finding a way to raise the bar is one way to shift your weight rearwards and off from your hands.
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Old 05-24-10, 08:46 AM   #4
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The bike is an '84 Trek 620. I'm 6'2" and the bike has a 61cm frame. I'm using the nitto dirtdrop stem (short reach/high rise) with the mustache bars, and I have the bars set at about the same height as the seat. As I said, I really like the mustaches, but they might not be ideal for riding around the track. I think part of the difference may be that when I am riding around town, I am going up hills often enough, at which point I tend to move my hands back along the bend of the bars. But when it comes to riding fast on a flat surface, the only position which seems to really work, is to be all the way forward. I'm thinking it must be the different riding style or hand position, because I can go for a two hour relaxed ride, and feel fine, but forty minutes around the track results in pain and numbness.
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Old 05-24-10, 08:52 AM   #5
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All the pics I found show the 620 with drop bars.
Keep riding. You may need more miles to get in a better fit condition.
I became very fit after 10,000 miles my first year.
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Old 05-24-10, 08:53 AM   #6
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no matter what kind of bars, if you keep your hands in the same place, you can get muscle tension that restricts the blood flow and your hands start to go to sleep. That's the same thing for anybody.

The answer is not to give up your favorite bars, or even to get gloves unless you want them...all you need to do is to remember to take a hand off the bars and move it around every 15 or 20 minues or so. Learn what kind of movements work best for you (I like to just put my arm behind my back, but that's because my tension is in my shoulder) but you have to remember to stretch a little every so often before your hand goes numb
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Old 05-24-10, 09:10 AM   #7
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Thanks to everyone for the advice. I think I'm going to try a few things. I'm definitely going to buy some gloves. I also have a second bike coming (Raleigh Super Course), which I will leave the drops on, and see if they are any easier on the hands. I prefer the position my mustache bars put me in to any drops I've ever tried, but on the off chance the drops create less numbness, I might have to switch the 620 back to its more traditional bar setup.

10Wheels, you may very well be right; it could be largely a matter of conditioning. It definitely would be easier on my hands if I were at 190 or so, where I probably should be, rather than 215. I just don't want to permanently damage anything in the meantime. And I don't want to mess with my ability to play guitar, mandolin, etc either.

And I will certainly try to take your advice veloGeezer. I definitely have been moving back into my more upright position at the end of the bars every two laps or so, but I usually get frustrated with the wind resistance in that position, and move forward and onto my palms again almost immediately. I guess I should try to take it a little easier.
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Old 05-24-10, 09:13 AM   #8
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Get gloves with NO Padding. The padding becomes hard and puts pressure where you don't need it..
I have 20,000 miles on a pair of mechanix gloves.
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Old 05-24-10, 09:24 AM   #9
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Try adjusting the angle of your bars. A little change can often make a lot of difference. The bars on my Specialized Hard Rock would hurt starting at about the 3 mile point. I changed the angle slightly, and haven't felt any pain since.
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Old 05-24-10, 11:34 AM   #10
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I gave up on mustache bars on my "main" bike because of the limited hand positions for longer rides. They're on my singlespeed now, which rarely goes more than eight or 10 miles, and I like them there. I ride mainly on the tops of the drop bars, and mustaches don't have a position comparable to that.
Couple of things to try:
Raise the bars. If they're significantly lower than the saddle, you'll be propping yourself up all the time and put pressure on the nerves.
Change stem length. Grant Petersen at Rivendell says 'stache bars generally take a shorter (horizontally) stem than drops. Worked for me.
For a quick fix, try flopping the bars over. Looks doofus, but it raises them and may help you figure out what you need.

EDIT: Just read your second post, which I somehow missed the first time through. Hang onto that Trek--my singlespeed started life as an '84 620. I converted it to SS when I bought my Rivendell Atlantis (also a steel frame, with similar geometry). I love the Atlantis, but it cost nearly $2000 five years ago. The Trek was $150 at a garage sale, and if I were pressed, I'd have to admit that I don't see THAT much difference....

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Old 05-25-10, 09:39 AM   #11
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+1 for changing to "conventional" drop, to give you more hand positions. Riding more is good, but it sounds like you're pinching a nerve, because your most frequent hand position puts pressure somewhere that your body doesn't like. Adjusting the angle of your current bars could solve the problem, or might only help a bit. It could solve your problem, but it might only delay the onset of the "pinch".

Other suggestions are good also:
- unpadded gloves (or really, gloves with some padding are fine, but you don't want the kid with the little padding "pods" on them, because they can actually concentrate pressure on particular spots).
- shorter and/or higher stem
- adjusting your seat forward a tad
- padded bar tape (if you don't have it already)

I know I'm repeating others' posts. Just summarizing.
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Old 05-25-10, 12:46 PM   #12
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You can consider adding extra gel pads under the handlebar tape too.
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Old 05-25-10, 03:56 PM   #13
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The type of pavement can make a big difference. "Grainy" asphalt, chip seal or slurry seal, can transmit a harmonic vibration through the fork to the bars, and it can irrtitate the heck out of the ulnar nerves in your hands. Small cross section tires run at high pressures only make the problem worse. Sometime when you are riding there, pay close attention the the bars. Is there a "hum" vibration in them? If so, think about fatter tires and a shock fork. They are your best bet. bk
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