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Thread: Numb Hands

  1. #1
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    Numb Hands

    I am back into cycling after many years off.

    About me..I am male 44, 5' 8", 250lbs (working on it , riding a 54 Orbea Aluminium with Carbon forks and rear...

    My concern is 30 minutes into my rides I start getting the dreaded numb hands/fingers.

    I was wondering if my handlbars are too far away and or low?

    Thank you for any suggestions.

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    You may be putting too much weight on your bars and need to raise your bars a little. It is good to switch hand positions often on rides. If you continue to have problems (or want to get it resolved faster) consider a professional bike fit.

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    Or, your saddle is pitched with nose down? That would cause your weight to shift forward.

    Or, your saddle is too far forward. Moving it back will shift your weight off your hands more.

    Hard to say without a photo of you on the bike, of course.
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    Faster but still slow slowandsteady's Avatar
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    Things that may help.

    Move saddle rearward
    Tilt nose of saddle up little by little
    Higher bars
    Better gloves
    Lots of sit ups or crunches
    "Ride lots." -- Eddy Merckx

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    Senior Member globecanvas's Avatar
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    Ditto on move saddle back (to move your center of gravity back, and take pressure off your arms), and raise bars.

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    Keep your elbows bent all the time when you are riding. If you have trouble doing this, then figure out what is wrong with your riding position. Improving your core strength can help a lot.

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    Senior Member DannoXYZ's Avatar
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    Have someone take a picture of you on the bike in the position you're in most of the time. Especially the hands. Whatever you do, DO NOT hook your thumbs over the brake-hoods with straight forearms and rest your weight between the thumb and forefinger. That's a very sensitive area with lots of nerves:


    Contrary to popular belief, the longer your reach to the bars, the less weight you have on your hands. Imagine if you had your hands fully forward and horizontal, there'd be hardly any weight on them at all. However, your seat should be positioned for optimum leg-angle and extension, NOT for reach to the bars. If you need longer reach to the bars, get a longer stem, do not slide your seat back (that can introduce all sorts of knee problems):



    Now the main issue with your hand-pain is how you position your hands on the bars. Imagine drawing a line extending your forearm bones past your hands. That line should land on the bars or hoods to carry your upper-body weight. You want to bend your wrist and rotate your palms inward so that the weight is on the heel of your palms instead of on the thumb. There can be multiple causes of numbness, but I think in your case, it's primarily with how you position your hands:

    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 or even higher.

    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. You should be able to freely wiggle ALL your fingers, including the thumb.

    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. I can ride a hundred miles with bare handlebars and no gloves without any problems. It's just a matter of balancing your weight on parts of your hands that's tough and avoid the tender spots. Here's some other riders with their hands positioned for no-pain riding (notice the bent wrist and forearm bones aimed at the hoods or bar):



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    I'm 5'7" and ride a 130mm stem on a 52cm bike (short legs) and I have altered my fit many times to optimize ride comfort. I find that with a more aft position saddle, I hunch over more, causing more stress on my hands (as my colleagues above have mentioned above). For my body type, I find that a centered position saddle is optimal only if I have my back as flat as possible (working progress).
    I would definitely recommend trying out different fits (stem purchase may be needed) until you find one of your liking. Good luck Side view pic of yourself goes a long way.

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    Folks....well WOW and thank you all for the wonderful suggestions. So here is what I have done so far:

    - I have scheduled a bike fit with our most respected shops in my city.
    - I flipped my handlebar stem to have it +7 vs. -7 degrees.
    - I moved my seat back a tad.

    Result: I rode for 68km this past Saturday (July23rd) and had little to no numbness

    I will stll see the pro for fitting and try to implement more of your suggestions...especially, trying to avoid the pressure on the medial nerve and trying different hand positions.

    I thank you all once again for your immediat advice.

    Respectfully,

    Denis

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    Senior Member travelerman's Avatar
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    DannoXYZ,

    Your post is some of the best and most informative advise I have read since I restarted regular cycling a year ago - I have suffered from numb hands and popping thumb joints in the past (and I always wear cycling gloves). I recently got back from a morning ride, and while it's going to take a little re-educating to change the hand positions I have used for the past 22 years, the difference in comfort and numb-less-ness after one relatively short outing is obvious and much appreciated.

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    Danno,

    I tried your hand contact point suggestions and moved my seat back just a bit. It greatly reduced my discomfort. When I did get numb hands it was usually due to me resting on my hands wrong.

    Thank you.

  12. #12
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    Great thread and excellent posts. I learned early on that my posture was part of the numbness. Once I bent from the hips and reduced the amount of pressure my hands were applying to the handlebars, it became much easier to ride. Nice info!

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    Two-Wheeled Aficionado ColinL's Avatar
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    I am new to road bikes and do not have hand/wrist pain yet, but I've had all the repetitive stress issues due to my computer-centric desk job and I just wanted to say THANK YOU to everyone for posting this information, particularly DannoXYZ. I didn't know the best way to grip the bars and if you're doing it wrong pain is definitely a matter of *when*, not if.


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    Spinning Zen Intrepid's Avatar
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    Great thread. Great advice from DannoXYZ and I noticed the difference immediately on my ride this past weekend. I had been applying the weight/pressure between the forefinger and thumb previously and suffering for it. Heel of the palm Folks!
    Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished. ~ Lao-Tzu

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    I run into the same numbness issues, thanks for the comments and suggested corrections to action, very informative and helpful. DannoXYZ thanks very much for a terrific analysis, truly the type of information a forum should offer, without the sarcasm and arrogance that turns off those of us asking questions and just wanting to better learn and enjoy the sport, thank you!

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    Also new to road biking and had some similar problems. I found that the real solution is to get the weight off your hands and wrists by varying hand position and more importantly, improving your core strength to support your upper body rather than using your arms to support your weight. I also thought that it was fit related, but when I had a professional fitting, very little was changed in my position. But the fitter did give me some tips on riding that helped a lot. On my last 1.5 hour ride I had no problems with numbness. Gripping the tops of the bars rather than riding the hoods specifically helped a lot in my case.

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    excellent pictures. This thread I linked too has really helped me out, but in the process of doing what has been suggested I find I now need a longer stem on my comfort oriented Felt Z85 so I've ordered one. I didn't think I'd want to be low as a bike noob, but it seemed to really increase power naturally and without pain.. but with the need suddenly of a longer stem.. when in position I can see the hubs in front of the handlebars and feel like I need more stem length... perhaps because of the way that particular comfort frame is designed. Anywho going from 110 to 130 or 140 and reevaluating. There seems to be more then ample room to turn a comfort bike into an aggressive one and vice versa as a bike noob. Once I figure out what I really like, if what I like trends towards being lower and more aero, I'll keep that in mind should the time come to upgrade. That's a ways off yet though. My LBS wasn't all that helpful in all honesty. But hey the first bike is always a learning experience. I'd never have wanted the aggressive riding bike at the time

    http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread...tion-Discovery
    Last edited by dissident; 07-28-11 at 05:55 AM.

  18. #18
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    I think DannoXYZ's post deserves it's own sticky even. Great information for a topic that comes up quite frequently.

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    Two-Wheeled Aficionado ColinL's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dissident View Post
    when in position I can see the hubs in front of the handlebars and feel like I need more stem length... perhaps because of the way that particular comfort frame is designed. Anywho going from 110 to 130 or 140 and reevaluating.
    You may also be on too small of a frame. 140mm stem is, uh, huge. My first question would be if your top tube is long enough for your torso & arms.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dolanp View Post
    I think DannoXYZ's post deserves it's own sticky even. Great information for a topic that comes up quite frequently.
    Yes, this thread seems to have helped many with a common problem and illustrated the solution well.

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    thank so much for all the useful info! i've been having the same problem and i'm gonna put this info to pratice. again thank you!

  22. #22
    khosch khosch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dolanp View Post
    I think DannoXYZ's post deserves it's own sticky even. Great information for a topic that comes up quite frequently.
    I absolutely agree!

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    The issue I'm encountering with the short reach bar trend is no place to put the heal of the hand, without scrunching up or overlapping the first index finger knuckle. The lateral bends are too close to the hoods. The template in the photos above demonstrate the issue well. A narrower palm may not have the same problem with available space. I had to turn the hood straight ahead to force a change in hand/wrist angle, it's not the best solution, but it'll do till I find a different bar. One of the things I prefer about the Nitto Noodle bar is the rearward sweep of the top bar; the bend can start & end earlier, leaving a short straight ahead section transitioning to the rear of the hoods.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Werkin View Post
    The issue I'm encountering with the short reach bar trend is no place to put the heal of the hand, without scrunching up or overlapping the first index finger knuckle. The lateral bends are too close to the hoods. The template in the photos above demonstrate the issue well. A narrower palm may not have the same problem with available space. I had to turn the hood straight ahead to force a change in hand/wrist angle, it's not the best solution, but it'll do till I find a different bar. One of the things I prefer about the Nitto Noodle bar is the rearward sweep of the top bar; the bend can start & end earlier, leaving a short straight ahead section transitioning to the rear of the hoods.
    You took the words right out of my mouth! I just got a Specialized Roubaix which comes with Specialized Expert Alloy Shallow Bend bars. The lateral bend is sharp and shallow and immediately transitions into the sharp down bend. There is no bar sticky out backwards from under the hood, it's already curving sharply toward the stem. So there is no place to put the correct part of my palm. On the hoods my finger collide with the "point." Moving back so my thumb and fingers surround the point, the correct part of my palm rests in a valley between hood and bar, with my weight on the bar on a point toward the wrist from the correct part of the palm, and it's not comfortable.

    I didn't know about the Nitto Noodles but searched for a few hours and ended up buying a Orbea Zeus carbon bar on Ebay because it looks like it has a straight section of bar between lateral and down bends:
    http://www.orbeaproshop.com/products...=20&product=68
    http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll...m=140612235132
    That straight section is slanted down in the Orbea site picture, but in this pic is is angled up:
    http://www.orbea.com/us-us/bicis/mod.../#presentacion
    and I will angle it up even more. It may put the flat section at the wrong angle, but it this works for the hoods, I will start hunting in earnest for a bar with this straight section that doesn't, even if I have to give up the flat top bar.

  25. #25
    Senior Member Werkin's Avatar
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    I prefer 46cm width, which narrows options even further in 31.8 clamp size. I've been using this bar recently http://www.syntace.com/index.cfm?pid=3&pk=1838. The 100mm reach XL has more room for wide hands than continuous bend compact bars. It is not available from US vendors at this time.

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