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Long Distance Competition/Ultracycling, Randonneuring and Endurance Cycling Do you enjoy centuries, double centuries, brevets, randonnees, and 24-hour time trials? Share ride reports, and exchange training, equipment, and nutrition information specific to long distance cycling. This isn't for tours, this is for endurance events cycling

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Old 11-03-06, 12:16 PM   #1
howsteepisit
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Bar Tape - Numb Fingers

I have a long time problem with the last and ring fingers on my left hand going numb during rides. The numbness kind of comes and goes, as it will happen after 20 miles, but will occur off and on over a century ride, but not worst than after 20 miles. I know its an Ulnar nerve compression issue, had it for years. I am losing weight, and trying to strengthen my core and that helps me not lean so much on my hands, but fatigue happens on long rides. Tried several kinds of gloves, some better some worse. I use one layer of Cinili(sp) Cork bar tape. For longer rides I need to address this issue. SO I was wondering what kind of bar tape, and how many layers you long distance riders use. Anybody using Specialized's Phat Tape? I have had really mixed results with Specialized stuff, some of it works for me and some doesn't. Their Body Geometry is not my Body Geometry.
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Old 11-03-06, 12:31 PM   #2
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The best cure is to raise your bars up to within an inch of your saddle. A more upright riding position reduces the pressure on your hands. If that is unacceptable to you, then consider bolting on a set of aerobars so you can give your hands some time off the bars.

I also like either Specialized Body Geometry or Louis Garneau gloves. Something with large separate pads for each side of the palm. But raising the bars is the most effective solution.
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Old 11-03-06, 02:01 PM   #3
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Bars are up that high. Does not really releave that much "pressue" The BG gloves ae the worst (one of the non-body fit parts for me). I really think the main problem is a weak set of core muscles, as I do not have to lean forward very much before I cannot support the weight of my torso.

Last edited by howsteepisit; 11-05-06 at 11:01 AM.
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Old 11-03-06, 02:43 PM   #4
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I like Bar Phat, the Giro version isn't as nice IMHO. Size of hands and shape of bar comes into it.
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Old 11-03-06, 04:20 PM   #5
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I'd second aero bars, especially for your solo rides; get a pair of clip-ons and try 'em for a couple of rides. You can use them in group rides but you have to be careful.

I am far from an expert, and I think core workouts are good anyway, but I don't think they'll help you here. It's the riding position and posture that will change how much pressure you put on your hands. You may need to put the handlebars above the saddle by an inch or two, that will shift the pressure away from your hands and down to your buttweessimo.

What about riding on the hoods? Hoods should put pressure between the thumbs and forefingers, not the ulnar.
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Old 11-03-06, 04:42 PM   #6
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I like the Specialized Bar Phat. Not only do they provide some shock absorbing, they also increase the diameter of the bar, making it more comfortable for my somewhat large hands. The gel sacks have far out lasted the original tape. Although they can have a leakage problem, mine are contained by a layer of electrical tape securing them to the bars. They will be good for a long, long time.

Core strength is very important. It helps for you to be able to take weight off of your hands. I know I am getting tired when my core gives out and I start to slump onto the bars. Try to "perch" on the bike (Machka's term, I believe) rather than sit on the bike like a sack of potatoes (my term).

Bike fit is also important, not only the height of the bars, but also the reach and their angle.
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Old 11-03-06, 06:19 PM   #7
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I have had good luck with these gel pads from Nashbar. I put them under the bar tape on the tops of the bars.

Gel Pads

You also should notice some improvement with the core excercises. I would do some lumbar extensions.
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Old 11-04-06, 10:00 AM   #8
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Cinelli makes cushoned cork tape that feels really good but bar tape is more for vibration control and not nerve protection; thus try some gel gloves, these help take the pressure off your nerves in your hand that are going to sleep.

Also raising the bars will help take the pressure off your hands more by shiffting your body weight back to your butt where it belongs and not on your hands.
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Old 11-04-06, 05:34 PM   #9
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I put the aztek padding on my bars under the tape. It's a bit annoying to put on, but it does give you some nice extra padding.

I have big hands - if you have small hands it might be too big.
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Old 11-04-06, 06:31 PM   #10
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numb parts

I ride with bars 1 to 1.5 inches higher than the saddle and use old school leather gloves and cotton tape. When I had a different more modern road bike that wouldn't allow me to get the bars high enough I had numb hands almost instantly. You might also look into how far you are reaching......I know I have a short reach compared to my overall height. I have added moustache bars to my most recent bike and while they sit a little lower than my drops bars they are closer to me and I find them very comfortable. Aerodynamics aside there is no real good reason to have super low race orientated bar height for a long distance rider. You might also consider trying out a recumbent bicycle. My own recumbent never gives me numb hands and I can ride it faster than my upright bikes. At the end of the day, neither my hands nor my nether parts are sore or numb...ever!
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Old 11-05-06, 07:37 AM   #11
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I've gotten good results with wrapping a layer of inner tubing beneath my tape. Fattens up the bar and keeps me from gripping it to tightly.
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Old 11-05-06, 09:36 AM   #12
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One time, I wrapped big "bumps" on to the the tops of my bars, right at where they begin the bend to the hoods. The bumps added pressure to the palm area of my hand away from my wrist and "cured" my discomfort.

I did this along time ago, when I had gone from riding 4,000-5,000 a year to 10,000+, but by the next year, I was fine and never did it again.
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Old 11-05-06, 09:39 AM   #13
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I agree with all who recommend raising the bars and increasing the diameter with padding or gel. However, if you do that, you may need to re-think your saddle type as well. If you shift weight onto the saddle, and it's not a weight-bearing type, you'll just tire quicker and start doing isometric push-ups on the bar without even knowing it. That is, until you stop your front wheel with your chin.

My Sequoia came with some kind of bar padding under the tape. It's ok, but so far I have found nothing as comfortable for short or long distances than Ye Olde North Road handlebars. I have them on my Trek 520 and another old MTB for road work. I don't have the guts to put them on the Sequoia

On core strengthening: It's probably helpful, but I have the feeling that all you need to do is ride. The muscles you use for cycling will take care of themselves. I don't even stretch and I have no problems except if I use Sequoia with the drops. BTW, I am definitely a century rider, so I come at this from that perspective.

Something that doesn't get mentioned in this oft visited subject: Riding a bike is not a natural human activity. It's utilizing a machine. Walking, short distance running, and ambush are what we excel at. There is bound to be some aspect of tissue irritation when we get serious about riding. Some of this we just have to live with - like my body wide arthritis, carpal tunnel and compressed discs. It hurts worse if I don't ride and I have modified my bikes to suit.
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Old 11-05-06, 04:19 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dobber
I've gotten good results with wrapping a layer of inner tubing beneath my tape. Fattens up the bar and keeps me from gripping it to tightly.
That can work and is a good idea. But you have to be careful not to get the bar diameter too large because some people's hands will ache due to the increase bar diameter in combination with using gloves. Back in the day when they use to make a black foam padding you put on bars then wrap those with bar tape, I tried it and found my hands ached all the time; thinking I needed to break my hands into the increase size, I rode that way for about 5,000 miles till I got tired of the pain and ripped off the foam.
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Old 11-06-06, 08:03 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard Cranium
One time, I wrapped big "bumps" on to the the tops of my bars, right at where they begin the bend to the hoods. The bumps added pressure to the palm area of my hand away from my wrist and "cured" my discomfort.
I kind of did something like that on my P8, at the ends of my modified bullhorns. The extra thickness works, although I am a bit above the brake levers at the most comfortable point. I also wear a set of
padded gloves. Makes all the difference. My hands go numb easily, even on MTB straight bars. I like the gloves. They're fingerless, mesh backed, and have a terry patch to wipe sweat out of your eyes. The open fingers work great for brake feel. No loss of steering feel either.,,,,BD

Mine are like this, only the back is black mesh, not tan. My hands never go numb anymore....
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File Type: gif pushglove.gif (54.6 KB, 11 views)
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Old 11-08-06, 02:15 PM   #16
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Numb Fingers

Bar tape + padding and gloves will help relieve numbness but wan't resolve the problem, you need to look at:
- your reach and position on the bike. Slight changes (mm, not inches!) can make a huge difference.
- weight shift: while riding with hands on top of the bars or hood, you should
not lean much weight over the bars. Your core, not bars, should support your torso.
- keep a slight bend in your elbows that help absorbing shocks
- the way you hold your bars, not too tightly, and change position often from top to hood to drops.
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Old 11-08-06, 03:26 PM   #17
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Some different things to try

Your handlebars may be too close to you. Try lowering them a wee bit &/or a longer stem. Try tilting your saddle back a little tiny bit. Try raising your saddle a little tiny bit.

Make all adjustments in VERY small incriments!
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Old 11-09-06, 07:28 PM   #18
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Just using two layers of thick bar wrap works for me. Sure, this is not very aero dynamic but it works very well if you are not racing at top speeds. No need for expensive fancy brands. The thicker bar is a sound princple as it spreads the force on your hands out over a larger area. Also, because the wrap is continuous it is the same everywhere on the bar so moviing hand positions all have the same benefit.

Also, no need to get rid of your current bar wrap. Just tape over the current wrap with very thick foam wrap.

However, this will not fix any bike fit problems. But if your bike is comfortable for 20 minutes it is probably close to being right.

Also, many cycling gloves put the padding in the wrong location and can make pressure on the nerve in your palm even worse. THere should be a cut out or recess to relieve pressure on the ulnar area.
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Old 11-14-06, 10:14 AM   #19
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Hand numbness

Sounds like you've been given good advice. I've had that problem and resolved it by buying a smaller frame bike. I was reaching too far on the old bike and consequently put too much pressure on my hands and shoulders. But if you're looking for a quick fix, buy a length of foam pipe insulation, usually used to insulate hot water pipes, etc. It's cylindical and sliced open on one side to allow it to fit over a rounded pipe or handlebar. Cut several pieces to desired length .It will add extra thickness and cushioning and went not in use can be stored on the seat tube. It's not fancy but works.
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Old 11-17-06, 10:29 AM   #20
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If you have numbness, it's a good indicator you're putting pressure on an area. I agree that's it's more likely that the bars are either too low or too far forward/backward, than being a bar tape issue(as someone else said, it's there to provide grip and vibration dampening, not so much to relieve pressure).

Try finding a Look Ergostem, that'll allow you to move your bars in/out and up/down to help you find your perfect position.
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Old 11-20-06, 05:55 PM   #21
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Just re-read teh OP, and would say this: ring and pinkie finger numbness are definitely signs of ulnar nerve irritation or compression. As you know, that nerve travels in a path from your neck, through your elbow and down to those fingers.

Compression anywhere along that pathway can cause those symptoms. Just some of the causes can be mechanical and relate to overall position of the upper body, such as neck, shoulders, arm/elbow, wrist position, etc. It's not the same thing as localized numbness from excessive or prolonged pressure, like what we typically experience with hands or, um, butt.

Might be worth it to see a good sports medicine doc to figure out what is going on, and work to stretch, change body mechanics or your position.



YMMV, not a real doctor, but I did drink at a Holiday Inn once...
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Old 11-24-06, 10:57 PM   #22
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Triple Tape

After tearing finger ligaments I put a gel layer along the bars and then still double taped the top of my bars--and have left it alone all year. The Spence (sp?) Ironman Gloves are great but with the above setup I also wore unpadded BMX gloves on some doubles when fingers were in a hard brace with no problem. Also make sure to change your hand position frequently. Good luck.
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Old 11-24-06, 11:46 PM   #23
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Lot of good ideas have been presented. Question where do you keep your hands most of the time you ride? On the bars all the time? Hoods, drops or tops?
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Old 11-25-06, 12:44 AM   #24
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http://www.zadeh.co.uk/publications/...ession_246.jpg

If you look at the picture in the link above, I would change the angle of the drop bar (lower the front) to match your natural hand position angle when you reach out, say...like for a hand shake. The rest of the article has helpful tips.

As far as handlebar tape, I use a cork wrap and then use Easton All-Sports Grip, Tennis or Racketball handle grip tape/wrap over it. Grip tape/wrap is only about $5.00 at a local shop. If you like leather wrap, Easton Leather Sport Grips is only $8.00. Know a few that use Viscolas BlackMaxx Vibration Damping Gloves and like those better than gel gloves (about $10-20.00) and lighter weight too.
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