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How do I manage hand tension after ride as professional musician?

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How do I manage hand tension after ride as professional musician?

Old 11-10-19, 12:49 AM
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josephpiano
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How do I manage hand tension after ride as professional musician?

Hi all! Asking as a professional pianist who enjoys working out and road biking. Any musicians suffer stiffness the day following a ride? For example, if I do +1 hr road biking (or also weight training), the next day, when I go to the piano, I feel a stiffness in my hands, and it takes at least one hour practice for me to regain sensitivity again. I can play the notes, just not with the musical gesture/delicacy/fine motor work of the hands I have to have to play well. I would really like to continue working out and doing fitness but can’t let it interfere with playing. Any suggestions much appreciated! Many thanks.
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Old 11-10-19, 01:41 AM
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I am a brass player and hard riding messes with my ability to control air speed/flow when I play. I donít ride on days that I have concerts
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Old 11-10-19, 05:27 AM
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I have the same issue as a guitarist. Not a pro, but play a fair bit and it is an issue at times.

I have found two hand positions that seem to minimize the stress placed on the hand. I'm sure others will have more wisdom, but these are working pretty okay for me. The key, to me, in both these positions is that they take the stress of handling the bar away from the hand muscles, bones, ligaments, and tendons, and they put that pressure mostly on the wrist. The fingers are free to be completely relaxed, if you wish. And I do. Seems to help on long rides for me.
First position is basically sitting on the curve of the bar.


The interspace between the thumb and index finger rests on the rear-most portion of the hood cover.


Soft part of the hand behind this then sits gently on the curve of the bar.


Thumb and the other four fingers then just hang. It is mostly bodyweight on the soft part of the hand resting on the curve and the areas on either side of it that keeps you in contact with the bar. Easy and quick to fully grasp bar, though, if required.


Second position is drops. Pretty self-explanatory. For me, this is by far the most relaxing and restful position on the bike for my hands. I don't wrap hand and fingers around the bar, unless there's a big pavement defect/pothole coming up, or if I am seriously cornering or in big-time traffic.


Slightly different angle. You can see how comfortable and relaxed the hand appears. Fingers just hang in the air.
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Old 11-10-19, 05:56 AM
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Have you ever been properly fit on your bicycle? While there are any number of reasons for the numbness you are experiencing, an experienced,
professional fitter may be able to help identify and correct at least some of the potential issues.

Suble change to position can make a huge difference.
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Old 11-10-19, 06:55 AM
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How long have you been riding? How long after rides are we talking - two hours later? The next day?

I don't do anything with my hands that requires that kind of dexterity, but if the effects of riding are stretching in to the next day, I'd strongly suspect that your position on the bike could use some tweaking, particularly to unweight the hands. Many people, particularly those new(er) to road cycling, have issues with numbness and even wrist pain, much like the onset of carpal tunnel, and it's often because they're set up too aggressively for their core strength and they're supporting themselves with their hands/arms/shoulders too much.
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Old 11-10-19, 07:20 AM
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Don't screw around with your livelihood. Running is good exercise.
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Old 11-10-19, 08:29 AM
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Just my 2 cents.

I'm type O blood. I donate platelets every 2 or 3 weeks. Sit on a Trima machine for 87 minutes squeezing a stress ball every 3-5 seconds during the draw cycles. By the end of the 87 minutes, the muscles that control that movement are so pumped up that I can't squeeze the ball any more. Can't even make a fist. That movement is very similar to using a brifter to shift gears. After a couple of hours of whacking the levers to change gears the same thing happens. I use friction barcons instead. I also use triples and 5-8 gears in back instead of 2 x 10, 11 or 12.(multiple bikes) Anything to reduce the amount of physical shifting I do.(when I need to change gears)

So, maybe try electronic shifting if you haven't already. Or go old school friction. It's just one movement of one lever or one movement of each lever no matter how gears you need to change. When you think about how many times you change gears over an all day ride, that is a huge reduction in finger/hand movement, especially if the ride is a constant up and down one
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Old 11-10-19, 09:40 AM
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How tightly are you grasping your handlebars? On the road bike, unless you're on bad, uneven surfaces, you don't need to use "GI Joe kung fu grip." But if you're riding for an hour, grasping the bars with white knuckles...that might be causing pain the next day.

Another possible cause/need for the extreme grip (if that's the root cause of your pain) is if the bike isn't tracking accurately. Are you able to ride with no hands, and the bike continues to go straight? Or do you have to maintain a grip on the bars because the bike veers? If it veers, make the proper adjustments so that it doesn't do that. Then, don't grip the bars so tightly, and change your hand positions, and flex your fingers and wrists frequently, while riding.

Dan

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Old 11-10-19, 10:47 AM
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conditioning.

make the hands stronger.bicyclist with arthritis & frequent 6 string plucker I have been using this tool for some 10+ years.have to admit it has resulted in less cramping,discomfort. https://www.amazon.com/GRIP-MASTER-G.../dp/B0085MX3SG
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Old 11-10-19, 11:10 AM
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I donít believe the op is gripping the bars overly tight. Playing piano at professional level is very hard on hands and forearms. I would shy away from riding on days where you have a lot of playing to do. Eventually, you will find the right balance. Weight lifting was causing grip issues in my left hand and shoulder, which was making playing difficult. I started lifting lighter weights and focused mostly on machine lifts. That was my work around. You just need to figure out yours.
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Old 11-10-19, 11:30 AM
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I am a guitarist at times I made my living at it and now repair guitars for a living. Generally the bike has not bothered my hands but if I keep them in one spot and a lot of weight on them it can cause some issues immediately after riding. I can tell you that carpel tunnel is not an issue and most who get it have a pre-disposition to getting carpel tunnel. Others can abuse their hands and never have problems, that has been reported by many surgeons. Bottom line is watch and be careful I love playing the guitar and have some fine guitars but I also enjoy riding a bike, do not want to give that up. I am runner too and you might try that too.
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Old 11-10-19, 11:43 AM
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One technique I have used with some success is meditating and focusing on a specific part of my body. I now get leg cramps fairly frequently. I have stopped more that a few just concentrating on relaxing those muscles.

I second the previous posts re: riding in the drops. No tensioning of muscles is required to maintain grip and even complete surprises like the rock you didn't see don't knock your hands off and lead to the near inevitable (and ugly) crash. I set all my bikes up to comfortable all day long riding the drops. (Yes, a little more back bend then I want to do all day unless I am cursed with having to go upwind the whole time, but you get the idea - I can and do spend a lot of time there.)

Now I have never owned brifters so I cannot comment there. I can say that shifting all I want on downtube shifters has never caused hand issues. In fact, the reaching down and shifting is a nice break from gripping the handlebars and only helps with hand comfort. (And you can look at the skill required to shift downtube shifters as being a little like learning an instrument. Maybe like taking a hand off the keyboard to pull out an organ stop?)

Ben
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Old 11-10-19, 12:35 PM
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Originally Posted by seypat View Post
Just my 2 cents.

I'm type O blood. I donate platelets every 2 or 3 weeks. Sit on a Trima machine for 87 minutes squeezing a stress ball every 3-5 seconds during the draw cycles. By the end of the 87 minutes, the muscles that control that movement are so pumped up that I can't squeeze the ball any more. Can't even make a fist. That movement is very similar to using a brifter to shift gears. ...
Good for you! (My post here is totally off topic. Skip it if you are interested in the OP's question.) You are taking my place. I donated every two weeks in Boston in the early days; late '70s. Resumed donating in Seattle late '80s. Shifted to 5 pairs of donations, platelets, then a week or two later, whole blood 5 times a year. (It was becoming obvious I needed to limit the needles.) In the 90s I started making a point of requesting the most experienced nurse or tech in advance and got to know their names; the ones that were very familiar with scar tissue. 18 years ago, Portland Red Cross's best whole blood nurse told me I should quit donating, that my veins had had enough. So I'm done. Roughly 75 each platelet donations and whole blood. A whole bunch of needles. (Now if the Red Cross had invested in one-arm machines with kinder needles, they'd still have me donating. Oh well. Thank you for doing this.

When I started doing platelets, it was a different world. First, the machines. All mechanical. The centrifuge was right beside me. A glass bowl under glass and I could watch my blood being spun. No pumps whatsoever except to get my blood up to the return bag overhead. I had to donate a full 5 pints but I was a bike racer and could fill the bowl fast! I'd watch the drip from the overhead bag and tell the nurse to go faster or slower based on how I felt with the sodium citrate. (I punched a time-clock those days, It was money in my pocket to show up at the Red Cross late.) I made it a point of pumping fast and getting the return back as fast as possible to never be the last off the machine. Those manual machines were fun! And the nurses loved us donors that were into them and kept a good eye on what was happening.)

The other gift was that the confidentiality barriers between donor and patient didn't yet exist. Most of my platelets went to research,l but when I was paired up with a (usually) leukemia patient, I would learn their names, hospital and room number and get an update on their condition every 2 weeks. (The nurses paid them visits.) I never went but I knew I could. Many years later I went to Puget Sound Blood's annual thank-you banquet for volunteers and 100 plus donations donors. (PSB has a wall with an engraved tree with gold leaves. 100 plussers get their name engraved on a leaf.) Listened to a 19 year girl thank us for the massive amounts of whole blood she needed for a (heart? liver? My memory's failing) transplant for a genetic condition that saved her life. I thought back to those I had helped and felt chills of gratitude.

The other gift I got every once in a while as a complete surprise in those earlier days - heartfelt hugs from strangers. Family members of cancer patients who knew how much I was helping (better than I did).

One reason I don't want to totally kill my veins - if I can ever donate bone marrow, I want the veins to make it possible. I have helped bone marrow recipients with my platelets and wanted to do this for 40 years. If I get the call, I'm all in.

Ben
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Old 11-10-19, 02:14 PM
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I've found that small changes in handlebar position can have a large effect on hand comfort. Alternately, a different shape bar will be more comfortable. My last contribution is, just as some athletes will stretch after a workout, do some hand and lower arm stretching.
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Old 11-10-19, 02:31 PM
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Wow! There's quite a few musicians in here! I'm a guitarist as well, and I've been cycling and playing guitar regularly (pro for many years) for over 50 years. I found out very early on that I needed to move my hands around the bars quite frequently or I'd have problems. As noted above, keeping the fingers as relaxed as possible while also keeping some bend in my elbows really helps, too. The idea is to put the least amount of strain into the hands and wrists. Of course, having the proper bike fit enables me to do this a bit easier but, for the most part, I rarely have issues.
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Old 11-10-19, 03:10 PM
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In addition to the above, try double wrapping your handlebar, or use a shock/vibration resistant wrap.

The cheapest wrap that reduces road vibration is an old tube, cut to strips shaped roughly like bar wrap. Wrap the tube around the bare handlebar, then cover it with whatever cosmetic bar wrap you like. Butyl inner tubes contain carbon black that will smudge everything.

Or try something like Arundel Synth Gecko, a 100% silicon rubber wrap that's soft, thick and very resistant to vibration. It's pricey at around $30, but a great value because it can be reused indefinitely with reasonable care. It doesn't use or need any adhesive -- the wrap adheres lightly to itself and to the bar. It doesn't take a set or permanent curl so re-wrapping is non-critical -- after removing from the bar let the Synth Gecko sit or hang awhile and it'll straighten out.

I double wrapped the bar on my carbon fiber bike this summer with cheap "cork" foam tape on the bar and Synth Gecko around it. Very comfy but I took off the Synth Gecko a couple of weeks ago to borrow for another bike. Since then I've had some minor but noticeable aching in my right thumb joint and base of the palm. The extra wrap really did help.

There are also compression gloves that some users report offer some comfort from strain, arthritis, etc. My only concern about compression gloves would be winter use. Sometimes compression can hinder blood flow and make our fingers and toes more vulnerable to stinging, numbness and even frostbite. We usually need a little air space for efficient body heat and tight gloves thwart that. But for warm weather use it should be fine.
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Old 11-10-19, 03:23 PM
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BTW, for recurring minor to moderate joint pain even after an injury or strain should have healed, try Ted's Pain Cream. It's unique stuff, interesting because it was developed by a neuroscientist specifically to treat his own sports related chronic pain. It uses resveratrol (from grape leaves or knotweed) as a topical rather than orally ingested.

The theory -- apparently valid -- is that it "resets" or reboots nerves that are stuck in pain signalling mode long after an injury has healed. It has no effect on pain from existing injuries, which the developer touts as a good thing. Pain is a useful signal about existing injury or illness, and masking it can hinder healing. But there's no point to lingering pain from old injuries that have healed.

In my experience with Ted's, it works exactly as the developers claim. It had no effect on my pain last year from a then-recent shoulder injury (I was hit by a car). I used the entire tube as directed, but got no relief. The injury was still too recent and took almost a year to fully heal.

But I still had lingering pain in the shoulder and neck, particularly with painful hotspots along my shoulder blade. There were spots about the size of a dime along the shoulder blade adjacent to the spine. When chiropractors touched the spots it felt like an electrical shock, zapping the pain suddenly to level 8 or 9.

I bought another tube of Ted's Pain Cream and applied it as directed, in conjunction with a double headed percussion massager. Within two weeks the pain was significantly reduced. I still use it about once a day. But it's a big improvement and has no side effects, unlike the prescription pain meds and muscle relaxers I used to take. I still have those prescriptions but prefer not to use them since they make me drowsy and hinder my reflexes so I can't ride a bike.

Check the info on the Ted's site. It's pretty detailed but accessible. They're trying to get FDA recognition of resveratrol as an effective topical analgesic. Meanwhile they can't make claims for it, so they add other ingredients that already have FDA recognition -- wintergreen oil, etc. -- but the key ingredient is reservatrol that distinguishes it from other topical analgesics. I was very skeptical, especially after my first unsuccessful usage last year. But it works for me.
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Old 11-10-19, 03:54 PM
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Originally Posted by 79pmooney View Post
Good for you! (My post here is totally off topic. Skip it if you are interested in the OP's question.) You are taking my place. I donated every two weeks in Boston in the early days; late '70s. Resumed donating in Seattle late '80s. Shifted to 5 pairs of donations, platelets, then a week or two later, whole blood 5 times a year. (It was becoming obvious I needed to limit the needles.) In the 90s I started making a point of requesting the most experienced nurse or tech in advance and got to know their names; the ones that were very familiar with scar tissue. 18 years ago, Portland Red Cross's best whole blood nurse told me I should quit donating, that my veins had had enough. So I'm done. Roughly 75 each platelet donations and whole blood. A whole bunch of needles. (Now if the Red Cross had invested in one-arm machines with kinder needles, they'd still have me donating. Oh well. Thank you for doing this.

When I started doing platelets, it was a different world. First, the machines. All mechanical. The centrifuge was right beside me. A glass bowl under glass and I could watch my blood being spun. No pumps whatsoever except to get my blood up to the return bag overhead. I had to donate a full 5 pints but I was a bike racer and could fill the bowl fast! I'd watch the drip from the overhead bag and tell the nurse to go faster or slower based on how I felt with the sodium citrate. (I punched a time-clock those days, It was money in my pocket to show up at the Red Cross late.) I made it a point of pumping fast and getting the return back as fast as possible to never be the last off the machine. Those manual machines were fun! And the nurses loved us donors that were into them and kept a good eye on what was happening.)

The other gift was that the confidentiality barriers between donor and patient didn't yet exist. Most of my platelets went to research,l but when I was paired up with a (usually) leukemia patient, I would learn their names, hospital and room number and get an update on their condition every 2 weeks. (The nurses paid them visits.) I never went but I knew I could. Many years later I went to Puget Sound Blood's annual thank-you banquet for volunteers and 100 plus donations donors. (PSB has a wall with an engraved tree with gold leaves. 100 plussers get their name engraved on a leaf.) Listened to a 19 year girl thank us for the massive amounts of whole blood she needed for a (heart? liver? My memory's failing) transplant for a genetic condition that saved her life. I thought back to those I had helped and felt chills of gratitude.

The other gift I got every once in a while as a complete surprise in those earlier days - heartfelt hugs from strangers. Family members of cancer patients who knew how much I was helping (better than I did).

One reason I don't want to totally kill my veins - if I can ever donate bone marrow, I want the veins to make it possible. I have helped bone marrow recipients with my platelets and wanted to do this for 40 years. If I get the call, I'm all in.

Ben
Way to go! I've been doing it for over 20 years. I'm paying it forward in case I need a fill up someday.
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Old 11-10-19, 10:09 PM
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Aero drop bar. Not just to race or speed. The extra flat parts are sublime for hands.

Also, gel vibe resistant gloves. Perhaps hone the tire size and pressure. Also gel under the bar tape.

Make the legs take more pressure over pavement irregularities like shock absorbers.

All worth it if your hands are part of your primary hobby or livelihood.
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Old 11-10-19, 10:33 PM
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Originally Posted by josephpiano View Post
Hi all! Asking as a professional pianist who enjoys working out and road biking. Any musicians suffer stiffness the day following a ride? For example, if I do +1 hr road biking (or also weight training), the next day, when I go to the piano, I feel a stiffness in my hands, and it takes at least one hour practice for me to regain sensitivity again. I can play the notes, just not with the musical gesture/delicacy/fine motor work of the hands I have to have to play well. I would really like to continue working out and doing fitness but canít let it interfere with playing. Any suggestions much appreciated! Many thanks.
sounds like a weight distribution issue, move your saddle back 5mm try it out, keep moving it back until you no longer feel discomfort on your hand
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Old 11-10-19, 11:41 PM
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Originally Posted by burnthesheep View Post
Aero drop bar. Not just to race or speed. The extra flat parts are sublime for hands.
Or possibly actual aero bars, if it's suitable for the kind of riding that the OP does.

Then there is riding with drop bars in the position that imitates aerobars, though this takes some skillz and some may question the safety factor.

But honestly, if I made my living with my hands, I might question the wisdom of road cycling. I went down and broke my hand once. I never recovered 100% of the dexterity in that hand. Maybe 95%, which doesn't matter to me, but might to a pianist. I know a guy who is an organist who went down and broke two fingers. I'm not sure how he did that - it's not a common cycling injury. But he quit cycling after that. Broken collar bones are pretty common injuries, and having your arm in a sling would put a temporary stop to playing, I"d think. If the OP does continue to cycle, I'd recommend some careful attention to learning how to fall without putting the hands out to stop from breaking his head.

Last edited by MinnMan; 11-10-19 at 11:46 PM.
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Old 11-11-19, 02:37 AM
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Seems I read somewhere some time ago of a highly compensated NBA player (that was windy and redundant) who was whining that he couldn't snowboard under the terms of his 8 zillion trillion billion dollar a month contract. In the NBA, I believe most contracts are guaranteed, but shouldn't someone in that unbelievably fortunate and privileged status in life be going out of his way not to potentially harm his team/employer/the city/the adoring fans who spend $10K/yr. on tickets because of a totally elective leisure activity choice?

I worked with my hands. I started skiing when I was 4. I didn't really have anyone to meaningfully cover for me should I get sick or injured, it was just the way my situation sort of worked out. So, no skiing. Bummer, given that I live an hour from some pretty good slopes. And yet, I did get sick eventually. Extremely ill. And when I finally sort of recovered, I could not perform the duties of my job any longer. The business closed. It was a very humble, small business in the scheme of things, but there were a good number of devoted employees, thousands of customers, lots of vendors, and one big public company I consulted for who were harmed. There is no insurance policy for that kind of act of God.

So, yeah. What I learned from this experience of sort of being on the top of the world in my tiny little area of work one day, to being in multiple hospitals in multiple states for, eventually, multiple years (sadly, true), is that life is essentially and fundamentally unpredictable. Before I got sick, I had always been extremely healthy. Was thin and fit. No tobacco or alcohol or illegal drugs. Worked out. Was happy. Getting sick before I was older was totally not even anywhere in my mind a consideration. I had worked extremely hard to get where I was and everything was gravy. Then, in an instant, it was all over. Poof!

So, I agree wholeheartedly with @MinnMan. Life is crazy, so do what you can to tilt the odds in your favor. If you are a professional pianist who likes to ride, maybe bulk up on disability insurance, as soon as you can. I bought as much disability as the companies would permit me to when I was totally healthy and qualified at age 30. It was obscenely expensive to me then. That decision turned out to be the single wisest business move I have made in my life. It has literally saved my family and kids. So, definitely look into disability carriers if you haven't done so. Buy as much as they will sell you. That would be the route to go if you plan to keep riding in my view, because I can maybe sorta feel a little possible carpal tunnel surgery coming on down the road. If insuring against that sort of fate is not appealing or an option, then I guess you are going to have to decide how important riding is.

Apologies for the length of this post, guys and gals. I have become rather passionate about people protecting themselves against career damage due to illness or disaster.
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Old 11-11-19, 06:54 AM
  #23  
fishboat
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OP..as you age the impact of riding probably won't get any better. A good bike fit and 2x wrapping your bars is a great idea. If that doesn't eliminate your issues, you might consider riding a fast recumbent bike.
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Old 11-11-19, 07:38 AM
  #24  
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Most of the the athletes in the 3 main US pro sports have contracts with stipulations on the physical activities they can/cannot do.

Swimming might be an alternative as well.
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Old 11-11-19, 09:11 AM
  #25  
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Strengthen your core so that you don't put much pressure on your hands. I ride in the lower portion of my bars (drops) probably over 90% of the time and have no issues. My friends laugh at how weak my hands are, too! Here is a pic of my Torelli just so you get an idea the position I ride.

What kind of music played?
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