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  1. #1
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    Hands numb from riding. Switch bars?

    I rode the GAP a couple weeks ago and I'm just now regaining feeling and strength in my hands. They alternated between hurting and going numb on the ride and when I returned home, even after the numbness subsided, they are still weak.

    I'm wondering if switching bars would help. I have a Trek 520 with the seat about 2 inches higher than the bars. Would a more upright riding position help reduce the stress on my wrists/hands?

    I saw some folks riding Novara Safaris with the funky wrap-around bars. Are those bars available as aftermarket?

    Would hi-rise mountain bars be a better solution? Most of my daily riding is city commuting.

    Or maybe the best solution is to simply cork my current bars with thicker bar tape?

    I love cycling but this problem has kept me out of the saddle for two weeks. I need a fix quick.
    Last edited by wildergeek; 11-07-10 at 08:56 PM. Reason: Title poorly worded

  2. #2
    Senior Member oban_kobi's Avatar
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    I love my "funky wrap-around bars", trekking/butterfly bars. I got mine here. Whichever bars you choose, you'll have to switch brakes/shifters, or possibly use shims with the ones you currently have. Loads of hand positions, and a bit more upright. I would hesitate getting straight bars, they'll hurt even worse with only one hand position, two if you count the brakes "hoods". You could also try double wrapping your bars, I'm considering doing that or using gel packs under the tape, around 80k my hands started hurting from the pressure.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Doug64's Avatar
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    Just curious-- Is your seat level? If it tilts downward the tend the tendency is to slide forward putting pressure on your hands. raising the bars or shortening you reach might also help. Good gloves and bar tape are also nice.

  4. #4
    Member BridgeRider's Avatar
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    Personally, I've always used drop bars, and would not want to change. You could check out Sheldon Brown's article on handlebars: http://www.sheldonbrown.com/deakins/handlebars.html Or maybe it's simply an adjustment/fit problem: http://www.peterwhitecycles.com/fitting.htm There are dealers who use the proprietary Fit-Kit system (http://bikefitkit.com); years ago, that worked for me.
    Last edited by BridgeRider; 11-07-10 at 10:13 PM. Reason: url correction

  5. #5
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Trekking bars use the mountain bikes controls as they use 22.2/7/8'' tube. I happen to like mine.
    so, if there are cable travel issues as running road brifters and mountain front derailleurs and visa versa.

    thats something to sort out .. thumbshifters bridge the gap.

  6. #6
    I'm Carbon Curious 531phile's Avatar
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    Other good alternatives to that funky "trekking" bar is the nitto moustache bar. Also check out the On One Mary Bar which has 40 degree sweep for a more natural/neutral wrist position. Both bars will give you a more upright position. One disadvantage would be being less aero for highwinds and going faster. I think the On One Mary Bar is discontinued but I've seen it listed on some eCommerce sites, so maybe not.

    Quote Originally Posted by avner View Post
    I loled. Twice. Then I cried. Then I rubbed one out and cried again, but thanks for sharing.

  7. #7
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    Is sounds like you have too much weight on your hands. Make sure your bike fits you properly before changing handlebars.

  8. #8
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    While many are able to use flat bars with no problems, all else being equal, flat bars are not as ergonomic as other bar options and may exacerbate your pain/numbness issues. I wouldn't recommend flat bars as a solution to your problem. It sounds like you have too much weight on your hands and swapping to flat bars won't help this. (unless they are riser bars)

    Options I recommend:
    -Adjust your saddle. Experiment with sliding it back 1-2cm, this will shift weight off your hands. Make sure the saddle is level or maybe nosed up a bit if that's comfortable. (OTOH, I ride with my saddle nosed down for back/comfort reasons)
    -Try a more upright position. You can do this by messing with spacers (assuming a non-quill stem), running a shorter stem, a stem with a greater rise, or handlebars with a rise.
    -Increase/decrease padding. Do you have padded or gel cycling gloves? Single, double, gel wrapped handlebars? Round or ergo shaped grips? Padding makes some people's pain/numbness better, some worse. Change things up.
    -Whichever type of handlebar you settle on, make sure you have multiple hand positions. Get bar ends for any flat bars you purchase. Some folks are just susceptible to hand issues and multiple possible hand positions is an important method to combating pain/numbness.

  9. #9
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    +1 on setback .. You can take weight off your hands by moving your saddle back,
    along with raising the bars.

    shorter extension stem, so bars are a closer reach

    Saddle same height as bars, or nearly so, is good, IMHO.
    Last edited by fietsbob; 11-08-10 at 10:09 AM.

  10. #10
    Patria O Muerte!
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    Quote Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
    +1 on setback .. You can take weight off your hands by moving your saddle back,
    along with raising the bars.

    shorter extension stem, so bars are a closer reach

    Saddle same height as bars, or nearly so, is good, IMHO.
    Isn't moving the saddle back and shortening the stem contradictory?
    When people are free to do as they please, they usually imitate each other.

  11. #11
    Bicycle Lifestyle AsanaCycles's Avatar
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    no doubt that the fit to a bike, is a huge factor as to how much pressure you end up putting into your hands.

    fit can be adjusted thru a variety of ways.

    the problem with a road groupo is that the control levers often times limit the choices in handle bars.
    as do the choice components, and mating them to shifters.

    personally I use a MTB groupo
    on two of my MTB's I use a set of Titec H Bars with Ergon GP1 grips
    the other an inverted set of On-One Mary Bars, with Ergon GP1 grips

  12. #12
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Isn't moving the saddle back and shortening the stem contradictory?
    No , It's moving the center of gravity/ mass of body, back without needing to stretch out further..

    old people are not as flexible as you kids.

  13. #13
    Macro Geek
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    It may be a matter of fit rather than handlebar design that will make the critical difference. I know someone who gets numb hands from long distance riding because the frame is too small. There is not enough room to get everything in the right places!

    A visit to a bicycle store with someone who has experience fitting people to bikes might be the ticket. Some do it for free. Others charge. (The best $100 I have ever spent was an hour with a kinesiologist who made micro adjustments to my bike, and "cured" 20 years of cycling-induced knee problems.)

  14. #14
    Patria O Muerte!
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    Quote Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
    No , It's moving the center of gravity/ mass of body, back without needing to stretch out further..

    old people are not as flexible as you kids.
    I'm not flexible at all, it's my main problem with road cycling. But I started taking yoga for just that reason :-)
    In any case, I still don't get how moving your center of gravity towards the back in relation to the bike, helps with his numbness. I mean, doesn't moving the bars after sliding the seat backwards, negate the effect by keeping the distance the same?
    When people are free to do as they please, they usually imitate each other.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by FidelCastrovich View Post
    I still don't get how moving your center of gravity towards the back in relation to the bike, helps with his numbness.
    That is because you are looking at it in the wrong way. You are moving your weight backwards in relation to your feet, this puts more weight on your sit bones and less on your hands

  16. #16
    Bicycle Lifestyle AsanaCycles's Avatar
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    maybe 2 pictures would help
    1. bike
    2. you on bike

    (maybe just lean against a wall for the pics)

  17. #17
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    Wow, lots to digest. When I was shopping for this bike (a Trek 520, in case I forgot to mention that), it was between the Trek 520 and the Surly LHT. I do recall feeling like I was more upright on the Surly. Maybe I made the wrong choice.

    That said, I am really confused about how moving my seat back, thus forcing me to lean forward farther to grip the bars, will reduce weight on my hands. Seems like it would make it worse.

    Confession time: I'm a Clydesdale, weighing in around 260 pounds. It could be that the bike is fitted perfectly but my tree trunk torso is just too much weight for my wrists to support for long periods.

    I'll experiment with the seat position a bit. Even if I stay with the drop bars, should I try out a different handlebar stem?

  18. #18
    Must... ride... more... Phil_gretz's Avatar
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    Core Work

    Quote Originally Posted by wildergeek View Post
    Confession time: I'm a Clydesdale, weighing in around 260 pounds. It could be that the bike is fitted perfectly but my tree trunk torso is just too much weight for my wrists to support for long periods.
    The feedback so far has been spot-on relative to proper fit. Check that first...

    Next, two words: Core Work

    During the winter months, take time to focus on your core strength - abdominals, lower back, upper back. There are various in-home exercises that you can do (Core Synergistics by Beachbody.com, for example) that will ultimately give you the strength to hold your upper body posture while riding, so that the weight on your hands is diminshed. Another factor is the balance between feet, sit bones, and hands. More pressure and strength in the lower part "lifts" the rest of you off of the bike for periods of exertion.

    Add to the core work a few hours a week on the trainer - with the goal to raise your muscle capacity for higher output. The extra conditioning will pay dividends when you get back on the bike in the spring.

    Just my thoughts. PG

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by wildergeek View Post
    I'll experiment with the seat position a bit. Even if I stay with the drop bars, should I try out a different handlebar stem?
    Yes you might be able to get your drop bars 1 or 2 inches above the seat (vs the current 2 inches below), then you get very similar feel to flat bars with the advantage of more positions. 2 inches lower is way too low for me (given my flexibility). My current bike is about even and I'm slowly getting used to it...
    بیژن
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  20. #20
    Senior Member Northwestrider's Avatar
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    Butterfly bar and consider raising stem height

  21. #21
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    I disagree with the suggestion to move the seat to fix an upper body problem. In general, I think you can't solve this problem w/o fitting help, preferably a professional or medical bike fit. This is worth paying for.

    The seat height and fore/aft position needs to be set up relative to the bottom bracket. Don't try to adjust reach to the bars and relative bar height by altering seat position, you're just asking for knee problems. For seat height look to the amount of bend in your knee, for fore/aft, look to "Knee over Pedal Spindle." You may be able to make minor comfort adjustments for your hands with saddle angle or saddle selection, if you are compensating for an uncomfortable butt by putting too much weight on your hands.

    Adjust reach/height of bars by adjusting stem length & angle.
    ...

  22. #22
    Senior Member Jtgyk's Avatar
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    In reference to seat position and weight on the hands/handlebars, do this experiment first.
    when you are riding, see if you can easily raise your hands (weight) slightly off the bars. If you find that you are having difficulty doing this, your balance is too far forward...meaning you need to shift your weight back more to maintain balance. THAT's how moving your saddle toward the rear can help take pressure off your hands.

    If you can raise up easily then saddle position is probably not your problem and you my want to raise your bars closer to level with your seat.

    It's like standing with your back against a wall and trying to bend over to pick up something in front of you...you will fall, as your weight will be too far forward and you can't counterbalance by moving your hips back. (use to be one of my favorite challenges to my Boy Scouts...told them they could keep the $20 bill if they could pick it up without falling or bending their knees. Never lost a $20 bill in 10 years, and it kept them focused & occupied)
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  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by valygrl View Post
    I disagree with the suggestion to move the seat to fix an upper body problem. In general, I think you can't solve this problem w/o fitting help, preferably a professional or medical bike fit. This is worth paying for.

    The seat height and fore/aft position needs to be set up relative to the bottom bracket. Don't try to adjust reach to the bars and relative bar height by altering seat position, you're just asking for knee problems. For seat height look to the amount of bend in your knee, for fore/aft, look to "Knee over Pedal Spindle." You may be able to make minor comfort adjustments for your hands with saddle angle or saddle selection, if you are compensating for an uncomfortable butt by putting too much weight on your hands.

    Adjust reach/height of bars by adjusting stem length & angle.
    valygrl, I have to disagree with your disagreement. I apologize upfront for being disagreeable. First, I disagree that professional help is necessary in this case, helpful certainly, but not necessary. Many many people are able to follow a few rules of thumb, experiment with their fit, listen to their bodies and discover an improved fit that better suits their body and riding style.

    Speaking of "rules of thumb" I think it may be inappropriate to invoke "knee over pedal spindle" in this case. Without getting into it, (see Bontrager's article http://www.sheldonbrown.com/kops.html) KOPS is most appropriate with a more aggressive powerful position. The OP shouldn't let KOPS keep them from finding a saddle position that works for them. Afterall, adjusting the saddle is a great first attempt at resolving their fit issues, as it is quick and free, unlike the process of swapping stems and handlebars.

    As a peace offering, I second your mention that the OP may be compensating for an uncomfortable butt by putting too much weight on their hands.

  24. #24
    Senior Member Cyclebum's Avatar
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    Have a qualified lbs person help with this. And/or:

    Fiddle some with the saddle position. Easy to do and cost nothing. Nose down is bad if you're not stetched out.
    Double wrap the bar for cushioning and better ergonomics.
    Raise the bar to just below or even with the saddle to reduce pressure on your hands and wrist.
    Switch hand positions often.
    Add aero bars for another comfortable, aerodynamic position where there is no hand/wrist pressure.

    Good luck.
    The bicycle is one of the great inventions of mankind. Delights children, challenges young men to feats of daring, and turns old men into boys again.--Me

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Enthusiast View Post
    valygrl, I have to disagree with your disagreement. I apologize upfront for being disagreeable. ...
    Hey, we can disagree without being disagreeable. You weren't, I didn't mean to be, hope I wasn't!
    ...

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