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Elbow / forearm pain

Old 10-17-17, 06:51 PM
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cmac77
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Elbow / forearm pain

Finally got a bike that fits me well and found no back or knee pain while riding. I went on relatively short rides as i'm new to the sport, but took my first adventure on Sunday morning for a much longer ride and it was amazing fun. Within a day my elbow and forearm starting hurting something fierce. I saw a video where a guy said that to avoid eblow pain you should be holding the handlebars and breaks like a feather, barely grasping them, and supporting your upper body with your abdominals. I understand the importance of core strength for cycling, but this advice seems to be rubish. I don't believe there is a rider or human on the face of the planet that has abs / core that can bear the weight of an upper body for 5 hours without reaching muscle failure repeatedly.

Anyone have any advice or tips that can cure this problem?
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Old 10-17-17, 07:17 PM
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Originally Posted by cmac77 View Post
Finally got a bike that fits me well and found no back or knee pain while riding. I went on relatively short rides as i'm new to the sport, but took my first adventure on Sunday morning for a much longer ride and it was amazing fun. Within a day my elbow and forearm starting hurting something fierce. I saw a video where a guy said that to avoid eblow pain you should be holding the handlebars and breaks like a feather, barely grasping them, and supporting your upper body with your abdominals. I understand the importance of core strength for cycling, but this advice seems to be rubish. I don't believe there is a rider or human on the face of the planet that has abs / core that can bear the weight of an upper body for 5 hours without reaching muscle failure repeatedly.

Anyone have any advice or tips that can cure this problem?
Actually ... that is very good advice. Good core strength is very important for long distance cycling.

And it should be combined with the advice that your bicycle should be set up in such a way that you can do that for long periods of time.

Also ... bend your elbows, don't lock them.
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Old 10-17-17, 07:23 PM
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Are you sure about your fit on the bike? Sounds like you might be carrying too much weight on your hands. You could try moving your saddle back and using a shorter stem.
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Old 10-17-17, 07:34 PM
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Weight on the hands isn't the enemy. Improper support and position of hands with weight on them is. I like a long reach, so much so that I have been acquiring very long stems. Sometimes I have one on a bike that actually wants a little shorter, I I have done a few rides wit a little too much reach. The giveaway is sore elbows from having them too straight.

I hear a lot of "experts" extolling light grips on the handlebars for several different reasons. The veteran racers who coached me 40 years ago made it quite clear that I was to ride with a firm (but not hard) grip anytime I wasn't fully focused on the road ahead (and could see it) or the road surface was anything but good. That meant anytime I was following another rider, following a car, looking around, tired, spacey or just plain late in a ride. In other words, much of the time. Why? Because bad things happen when you hit road debris, potholes or cracks when you don't have a firm grip. Sometimes really bad things costing you weeks and months of training. Compared to the potential losses from that light touch, the penalty of a firm grip just doesn't seem so onerous.

Look at how straight your arms are and not just when you are starting out and fresh and have no trouble with the big bend forward. Look again when you are tired coming home. This can be a matter of too much reach. It may also change as you ride more and get more comfortable with the bend forward. YOu might want to raise the stem perhaps 1/2 cm. (I trust you didn't have the steerer cut down to no spacers on top. A common practice but not a smart one unless you really have your fit dialed in. (And don't plan to get injured or loose fitness.)

You might also look at the handlebar and brake lever setup. I consider those to be nearly as important as seat position. On a new setup, I go for rides with no handlebar tape except some electrical to keep the cables in place. Bring all the wrenches for my brake levers, bars and stem. When I have that close to dialed in, the first tape is cloth tape because you can peel it back, move the brake levers and re-wrap, as many times as you need to.

Hope you can get something from this. Happy riding!

Ben
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Old 10-17-17, 07:49 PM
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That he thinks it is a herculean effort to support the upper body with the core makes me think his fore/aft balance may not be as it should be.

Last edited by Pendergast; 10-17-17 at 08:00 PM.
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Old 10-17-17, 07:59 PM
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You didn't mention the type of bike. My orthopedic surgeon was happy to hear I had a mountain bike, she said the more upright you are the more strain is taken off your arms and shoulders. Maybe your fit is off and you're too bent over and it's putting additional strain on your arms?
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Old 10-17-17, 08:09 PM
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Too much too soon, maybe ?, likely either aggravating the tendon or nerve.

I suffered from this all spring and summer, a shooting pain right below the elbow, turned out to be the nerve. The pain was right up into the hand. Lots of computer mouse usage started it as well as cycling aggravating it.

I’ve 29 riding seasons and just chalk this up to age (62).

I took a vacation, 2 weeks, no riding and no computer, lots of ice and it’s going away.
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Old 10-17-17, 10:04 PM
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Takes time and effort to develop the strength to support your upper body with the hands and arms without pain. I had the same problem with the road bike I got in June -- my first road bike in more than 30 years. Two years of riding hybrids didn't condition me for drop bars.

I began with the handlebar elevated to saddle height. Then added thick foam padding. Meanwhile I worked on arm and upper body conditioning.

By September I was able to lower the bar and remove the thick padding. Road buzz through the thin bar tape was still uncomfortable so I used lightly padded bar tape.

There's still some occasional back and neck pain but that's from an old car wreck injury. But the elbows, wrists, hands, etc., are okay.

If your upper body and arms are completely untoned, start gradually and easily with lots of stretching and little or no weight when flexing and extending the arms -- curls without weight, overhead extensions, etc. Wall pushups are a good way to start with strengthening triceps, pecs, etc. Gradually move to a little weight -- only a couple of lbs, no more than 5 lbs. Then regular pushups, etc. Ditto, abdominal and back strengthening. Start easily, gradually work up.

If your arms and upper body are reasonably well toned from other exercising, a job with manual labor or gardening, etc., you can progress faster in resistance and weight training.

40 years ago when I was in peak condition I could do 50 consecutive pushups, 100 pullups and 200 situps without a break. Those days are long gone. After a car wreck in 2001 broke six vertebrae in my back and neck I did almost no exercise for more than 12 years, other than walking with a cane. So it took a long time to get back into reasonable condition for a road bike with drop bars. But if I can do that over a summer's conditioning at home without special equipment, you can probably get into shape much quicker.
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Old 10-18-17, 12:00 PM
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It may not have much to do with how much weight is on the hands, or how you're supporting the weight, or whether the elbows are bent or straight. If my elbows are frozen in exactly the same position, the same angle, for a prolonged period then they'll be sore. Worse if there's any strain at all on them, still worse if it's an angle that I'm unaccustomed to.

The solution is to change the angles even just a little, from time to time. Then the elbows and wrists will become accustomed to that range of angles, probably strengthening connective tissues, and the pains will subside and not reappear. And when your elbows do become sore, toughing it out doesn't help and could go from bad to worse. Give it time to recover.

BTW I can only recall two times that I was concerned about weight on my hands. One when I was a new rider and trying to figure out hand tingling and other discomforts (weight isn't it), and the other time while my collarbone was healing and I really did need to keep a feather-light touch with that arm. It was a relief when I could ride normally again, with a little bit of weight on both hands on the bars. I really think that's a dead end for your question, and not very important down the road either.
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Old 10-18-17, 06:04 PM
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Thanks all for the replies. I have an 'endurance' bike / road bike. a giant defy, not quite a racing bike but has some nice low drops. I'm in pretty good shape, do cardio, core, and weights at the gym regularly. Based on the advice here, I'm going to continue overall strength training and turn the core workouts up a notch. I'll also check the fit and saddle position and definately give it some time easing into this fun new hobby. It's just so much damn fun I want to be riding now and get to the point where I can hit the road and cover 150 miles if I want to. This really is an amazing sport and it's nice to find hobbies that also help you stay fit and healthy.
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Old 10-18-17, 07:34 PM
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Originally Posted by cmac77 View Post
Thanks all for the replies. I have an 'endurance' bike / road bike. a giant defy, not quite a racing bike but has some nice low drops. I'm in pretty good shape, do cardio, core, and weights at the gym regularly. Based on the advice here, I'm going to continue overall strength training and turn the core workouts up a notch. I'll also check the fit and saddle position and definately give it some time easing into this fun new hobby. It's just so much damn fun I want to be riding now and get to the point where I can hit the road and cover 150 miles if I want to. This really is an amazing sport and it's nice to find hobbies that also help you stay fit and healthy.
You are only riding in the drops maybe 10% of the time ... right?
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Old 10-22-17, 07:40 AM
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No, i'd say i'm probably in the drops half the time if not more. Not a good idea?
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Old 10-22-17, 08:04 AM
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Elbow pain can quite often be attributed to locking your elbows. I see tons of riders doing that.

Forearm? that's tougher, I say yes to loosening your grip on the bars for that one. Also, try moving your grip around more while you ride. Even small adjustments can go a long way to relieving fatigue.
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Old 10-22-17, 08:18 AM
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Originally Posted by cmac77 View Post
No, i'd say i'm probably in the drops half the time if not more. Not a good idea?
It's not necessary. Try riding on the hoods more, with slightly bent elbows.
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Old 10-24-17, 04:46 PM
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Originally Posted by Machka View Post
It's not necessary. Try riding on the hoods more, with slightly bent elbows.
Sounds good
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Old 10-24-17, 04:52 PM
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Are you wearing a backpack?
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Old 10-25-17, 05:35 AM
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Originally Posted by cmac77 View Post
Anyone have any advice or tips that can cure this problem?
I grew some elbow pain a few years ago. Forgot the cause. Anyway, I found a device called a Theraband. Bought one and had great improvements quickly. I still use it daily.

The first time I saw one, I thought - "this can never work". This old dog learned a new trick. It worked for me. No pills, no pain, no problem.

Wishing you a speedy recovery.
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Old 10-25-17, 10:07 AM
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There is a possibility that rotating the bars a bit up or down will relieve discomfort. At least it costs nothing to try it.
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Old 10-26-17, 10:53 AM
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Proper fit ==> Get a recumbent?
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Old 10-28-17, 08:43 AM
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to update i tried all these advices, except switching to a recumbent lol, and all problems are solved. When i took my first ride after a week and a few days - waiting for the pain to subside, I reallized that previously my arms / elbows were locked on my previous rides virtually the entire time. I found that holding the handlebars / grips very lightly wasn't very difficult, and that my upper body seemed to be floating above the bike, and my control of the bike was much better and obviously turbulence from the road wasn't nearly as much. Also in the week that I couldnt ride, I had my bike tuned up at tony's bike repair in saint petersburg for $20, I also checked the fit on the seat and found i needed to raise the seat a little bit, and I cleaned, degreased, and lubed the chain and cassette, and the bike was riding so much better, very smooth, responsive, and fast. Raising that seat just a little bit gave me so much more power. I took the ride that I always wanted to, from my area to downtown St Petersburg, about 21 miles round trip. When it first occurred to me to get a bike i always thought what a great thing to take a ride into downtown st pete. So all is good, thanks everyone for the advice, I can now take my longer rides with no elbow / arm pain.
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