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Hand pain and numbness while cycling

Old 08-30-11, 11:27 PM
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Hand pain and numbness while cycling

I'm 5' 10", 210 pounds

ride a 56 cm Surly Long Haul Trucker.

If I ride more than 15 miles or so I have numbness and hand pain.

What's up and what can I do?
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Old 08-30-11, 11:50 PM
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Likely to much pressure on your hands, you may wish to try raising your handle bars to close to level with your seat, that would remove some weight from your hands ( and put more on your seat of course ) good gloves may help a little as well.
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Old 08-31-11, 12:02 AM
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Make sure your saddle height is correct. A bit of upward tilt will takes some pressure off your hands. The higher the bar, the less pressure on hands/wrist. Frequently change your hand position on the bar. Double wrapping the bar can help. Padded gloves can help. Aerobars will add a position that has no hand/wrist pressure.

Usually takes a bit of this and that to minimize the problem. May never solve it completely, but can be reduced to manageable. Pretty common malady.
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Old 08-31-11, 12:32 AM
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Are your elbows bent or straight? Are your shoulders hunched up or relaxed? You shouldn't be using much hand/arm/shoulder to handle the bike. Many folks who are somewhat new to cycling tend to hunch up their shoulders, straighten their elbows (or point them slightly outwards) and grip the bars like their lives depended on it. All of these habits are recipes for hand/neck trouble. As far as solutions go, it will be easier to relax the arms/shoulders if you build up your abdominal, hips and lower back muscles. You can take the slow route (lots of riding) or the faster route (leg raisers, leg extensions, weight room work, swimming). Good luck.
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Old 08-31-11, 05:10 AM
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I don’t know if you had a proper fitting to your bike or if you have made some home adjustments. A common problem is with hand pain one seeks a more upright posture bringing the handlebars up and back are common. People also start adjusting the saddle forward, that is a big mistake. Doing that in effect moves the crank back and causes you to lean out over the bars while under way. Doing just the opposite will balance your weight more over your core and take a lot of weight off your hands. You can try it just sitting in a chair sit to the front edge of a chair and have your feet by the legs and lean forward, you will want to fall forward as you bend at the waist. Now slide your butt back and keep feet in same place and you will be balanced over your feet as you lean and not have hardly any weight on your hands. This posture will work your abs more and that’s what you want. It's counter intuitive to move the saddle back to take weight off your hands but it works.

The suggestion of padded gloves, changing hand position, extra padding under bar tape are also helpful. I haven't seen anyone else do this but I buy double sticky foam tape (hardware store) some of it is about a 1/4 thick and have used it at key spots on the bar before wrapping the bar tape. Some bar wraps come with gel padding that’s cut to fit certain places.

They sell an adjustable quill / stem that is quite nice to experiment with it has a long neck so bar height can be played with and changing the stem angle can ease the ride position. They are made to use or you can use it to find what works and then buy a fixed one to those dimensions. I leave mine on because as my core strength is improving I have been bringing the settings down to get out of the wind a little more.
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Old 08-31-11, 06:30 AM
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I suffered from hand numbness for a LONG time, and still do to a much lessened extent. There are several reasons one's hands can go numb.

1) First thing to do is raise the bars. If you get the bar height even with your saddle or even higher, that will take weight off your hands. Carrying too much weight on your hands will definitely make them go numb.

2) I find that I have to constantly shift hand position while riding. I have 46cm wide Nitto Noodle handlebars on all my bikes, and I am constantly moving from hoods to flats to ramp to drops, and then back again.

3) The only gloves I've found which help are the Spenco Ironman gloves. https://shop.spencocycling.com/p-15-tour.aspx They claim that the design of their palm padding relieves pressure on nerves. I thought it was all hype, but they really do help. Looks like they're on sale, also.

4) When you ride a bicycle, you place your shoulder joint into anterior rotation. That can reduce blood supply to your hands, and cause numbness. Most men have strong pectoral muscles and deltoids, so it's easy to overpower the rear deltoid, and allow the head of the humerus to slip forward(or so said my orthopedist). He prescribed rotator cuff strengthening exercises. I do them religiously and my numbness has been greatly reduced.

5) Thick cork tape.

So, change your position, swap to a Nitto Noodle handlebar(wider is better) and shift your hands around perpetually, buy Spenco Ironman gloves, get to the gym and strenghthen your rear delts, and wrap your Noodle in thick tape. That should do it. :-)
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Old 08-31-11, 06:42 AM
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Had the same issue. Got a bike fitting done, and it's almost entirely gone away. Still feel it occasionally, but it's nowhere near what it used to be.
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Old 08-31-11, 07:03 AM
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I used to have these issues when riding "road" bikes. This almost caused me to quit riding. Then I found some different thoughts on bike fit at www.rivbike.com.

Basically Grant Peterson at Rivendell advises getting as big a bike that you can still straddle, then getting the bars way up there.

I bought a Surly LHT following this advise. I now have the bars about 4cm above the saddle and the comfort is really amazing. No more sore neck, back, numb hands etc.

The shop that built my bike thought I was nuts with 8cm of spacers on the stem, that is until they test rode it.
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Old 08-31-11, 07:39 AM
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1. get gloves
2. at mile 10 start changing hand positions, shaking hands out, experiment.

I can get numb hands starting right out the door in five minutes if I'm sitting dead on the bars. My $.02 is that it isn't your bar position but how you hold your body in position. Just guessing that your torso/back/shoulders are getting tired by 15miles and you're not moving your hands around as much then in a few minutes things go numb. See what you can do to get more comfortable by mile 15 so your hand grip is still light. Get perky, pop an energy bar.
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Old 08-31-11, 09:27 AM
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Originally Posted by brianmcg123
I used to have these issues when riding "road" bikes. This almost caused me to quit riding. Then I found some different thoughts on bike fit at www.rivbike.com.

Basically Grant Peterson at Rivendell advises getting as big a bike that you can still straddle, then getting the bars way up there.

I bought a Surly LHT following this advise. I now have the bars about 4cm above the saddle and the comfort is really amazing. No more sore neck, back, numb hands etc.

The shop that built my bike thought I was nuts with 8cm of spacers on the stem, that is until they test rode it.
I hadn't read the Rivendell fitting information but most of it sounds very close to what I believe also. My theory is I have to be somewhat comfortable or I'm not going to ride. When racing sure you want to maximize every possible thing to improve speed and given most racers are at or trying to obtain their top level of fitness. Then there is the rest of us. For many drop bars are about lowering the body and improving aerodynamics. For me they are about that but also that they offer a lot of hand locations. I don’t know if I will ever be back to a horizontal back line but I know even if it's getting to 45 degrees that’s a aerodynamic improvement over straight upright. I personally feel the least hand pressure numbness etc when in the drops and ride in the drops more than half the time on the touring bike. But like the Rivendell fitting instructions say I did it with a frame that’s on the top of my limit a small amount of seat post exposed and in my case I split the difference between the tops and the drops and the saddle height. I kind of used their logic to a degree on the placement of the hoods, but in my case even though I enjoyed the hoods as a hand location when they were proper for me riding on top the leavers were too high to be useful in the drops (STI & shifting smaller hands). Once I had the drops at a height I actually liked to use the hoods didn’t seem to be that big of a deal loosing that position. so I lowered the shifters. When going fast or into the wind I'm on the drops so that’s when I need the brakes and gears handy. if I'm riding more upright on the tops or the "curves" I'm just pacing going slower and not adjusting gears at a moment's notice. I did add a single front brake that I can use from the top location to scrub off a little speed or slow speed stop or to hold the bike while stopped etc. Attached is a photo that shows what many might find excessive as to bar height but it's what keeps me on the bike and pain free.


side view of height
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Old 08-31-11, 10:28 AM
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Originally Posted by bud16415
I hadn't read the Rivendell fitting information but most of it sounds very close to what I believe also. My theory is I have to be somewhat comfortable or I'm not going to ride. When racing sure you want to maximize every possible thing to improve speed and given most racers are at or trying to obtain their top level of fitness. Then there is the rest of us. For many drop bars are about lowering the body and improving aerodynamics. For me they are about that but also that they offer a lot of hand locations. I don’t know if I will ever be back to a horizontal back line but I know even if it's getting to 45 degrees that’s a aerodynamic improvement over straight upright. I personally feel the least hand pressure numbness etc when in the drops and ride in the drops more than half the time on the touring bike. But like the Rivendell fitting instructions say I did it with a frame that’s on the top of my limit a small amount of seat post exposed and in my case I split the difference between the tops and the drops and the saddle height. I kind of used their logic to a degree on the placement of the hoods, but in my case even though I enjoyed the hoods as a hand location when they were proper for me riding on top the leavers were too high to be useful in the drops (STI & shifting smaller hands). Once I had the drops at a height I actually liked to use the hoods didn’t seem to be that big of a deal loosing that position. so I lowered the shifters. When going fast or into the wind I'm on the drops so that’s when I need the brakes and gears handy. if I'm riding more upright on the tops or the "curves" I'm just pacing going slower and not adjusting gears at a moment's notice. I did add a single front brake that I can use from the top location to scrub off a little speed or slow speed stop or to hold the bike while stopped etc. Attached is a photo that shows what many might find excessive as to bar height but it's what keeps me on the bike and pain free.


side view of height
Your bar height is fine, but the position of the brake levers on the bar seems really low. It looks like they need to be moved up towards the top of the bend, to me. I find the sloping ramp of most drop bars causes me to place too much weight on my hands. Have you heard of the Nitto Noodle handlebar? Rivendell designed it. It's hard to describe, but here's a link to the bar:
https://www.rivbike.com/products/show...dle-bar/16-113

The Noodle would allow you to keep your bar at the same height, but it would give you an additional hand position, because the ramp is straight, not sloped. I will say that I spend about 30 percent of my riding time with my hands on the ramp, and with the ramp being flat it keeps me from sliding forward when riding on the hoods.
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Old 08-31-11, 11:50 AM
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Originally Posted by Schwinnrider
Your bar height is fine, but the position of the brake levers on the bar seems really low. It looks like they need to be moved up towards the top of the bend, to me. I find the sloping ramp of most drop bars causes me to place too much weight on my hands. Have you heard of the Nitto Noodle handlebar? Rivendell designed it. It's hard to describe, but here's a link to the bar:
https://www.rivbike.com/products/show...dle-bar/16-113

The Noodle would allow you to keep your bar at the same height, but it would give you an additional hand position, because the ramp is straight, not sloped. I will say that I spend about 30 percent of my riding time with my hands on the ramp, and with the ramp being flat it keeps me from sliding forward when riding on the hoods.
The Noodle bars might help some and I did look at them as a possibility down the road at some point. My problem was with the STI shifters and the hood properly placed and the bars angled properly the hoods were extremely comfortable riding position braking from the hoods was fair and shifting on the right was fair and the left awkward at best and that was from the hoods. With them up that high from the drops I never felt good on the brakes or shifting and for me when I'm down there that’s when I want great control of both. in lowering leavers and raising the bars knowing I was done with the hoods on top (as an experiment) I totally loved the comfort and control in the drop position. it became my preferred hand hold, much like most others with real low bars find riding on the hoods. At that point I padded the bars and retaped them and gave it a try. Right now the bars are tipped a little more than what you see in the photos. (In photos the drops are level with the ground) and now they are down tipped about 5 to 10 degrees, that matches my natural hand angle pretty good.
I think if I do anything I will add a set of "tandem stoker hoods". They are fake hoods used on tandem bikes, and place them at a comfortable location similar to where most people put the real ones. They will add back that other hand location and should be nice when standing climbing also.
Link:
https://velobase.com/ViewComponent.aspx?ID=6dfccf4e-6cc7-4ae2-a975-10c1df2be28d&Enum=118

I will be the first to admit my setup is a bit unorthodox but it works for me. As long as we are on the topic of unorthodox here is what I did on my road bike I just ride for fun a few hours here and there. It has the push button Sora shifters that can't be reached in the drops no matter how you locate them. I think they were designed because most people ride on the hoods most of the time. so I adjust them so I can brake ok from the drops and I don’t feel that great about the hood position braking in a panic stop. This might be a case for Noodles again maybe even a better case from my stand point. But I removed the Cannondale stem and bars because I'm not totally crazy and replaced it with a riser stem and a old set of narrow drop bars that took a trip to the band saw. These bars have a limited number of hand positions maybe (4). They are amazingly stable and ergonomic though. Best hood position I have had and a point right behind the hoods the bar is convex and only a inch from the brake it’s a totally different set of pressure points in the hand. I seldom grab the tops or the curves but they work also. I wouldn’t want this setup on my tour bike as there isn't a real aerodynamic position except doing the elbow bend on down hills. It was an experiment and I still have the old parts in case I try and sell the bike some day.
Chop no Flop Bars

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Old 08-31-11, 12:11 PM
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During RAGBRAI this year I had problems with my hands getting uncomfortable. This year I rode my Surly LHT self contained. After the third day, the long miles brought out the problem...before this I hadn't ridden as long each day for multiple days, so I didn't have the same saddle time.

What I did, and it worked, was raise the nose of my saddle just about an 1/16" to 1/8". It wasn't much, but it was enough to take just the right amount of weight off my hands and tilt it onto my sit bones. All the weight was not removed, I think there is a balance between hands and sit bones that must be acheived. My previous position was just over the "balanced" position. It was a simple fix for me.
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Old 08-31-11, 01:09 PM
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Raise handlebars a bit and tilt your saddle up a bit. You should be able to ride in your "normal" position and be able to remove your hands and still be comforable.

Depending on how strong your "core" is,(I hate that word,makes me think I'm a fruit or vegetable...I'm neither) will decide where your handlebars should be.The stronger your muscles,the lower your bars can be without putting weight on your hands.

Most of your weight should be on your legs,then hiney,then hands.Big muscles in legs,small muscles in hands.

If the seat is not tilted back enough,you put extra weight on your hands trying to keep up on the saddle.

Last edited by Booger1; 08-31-11 at 01:27 PM.
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Old 08-31-11, 01:57 PM
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A bike fitting sounds like a good idea.

When I'm riding, I may get a little numbness in one hand only, but that goes away if I keep changing my hand positions and flexing my hands from time to time.
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Old 08-31-11, 02:55 PM
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Take as much weight off your hands as possible. This might involve lowering your seat post and/or raising your handlebars. Also, using thicker and wider handlebars might help as well.

The EasyRider style would be ideal...

PS.

A nice pair of gloves would be great too.
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Old 08-31-11, 03:03 PM
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On my recent tour, my friend and I both started getting sore hands later in the tour and often very early in the rides. So, there was definitely an cumulative effect. I ride a lot at home, but not nearly as much as on my tour, and I never get sore hands. I know, that doesn't help, but I thought I'd throw it out there.
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Old 09-01-11, 04:27 AM
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I had that problem too, so I cut up a bed roll and wrapped around the handle bars. seemed to help
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Old 09-01-11, 04:50 AM
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I am happier with the less conventional set up
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Old 09-01-11, 05:57 AM
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Originally Posted by Schwinnrider
Your bar height is fine, but the position of the brake levers on the bar seems really low. It looks like they need to be moved up towards the top of the bend, to me. I find the sloping ramp of most drop bars causes me to place too much weight on my hands. Have you heard of the Nitto Noodle handlebar? Rivendell designed it. It's hard to describe, but here's a link to the bar:
https://www.rivbike.com/products/show...dle-bar/16-113

The Noodle would allow you to keep your bar at the same height, but it would give you an additional hand position, because the ramp is straight, not sloped. I will say that I spend about 30 percent of my riding time with my hands on the ramp, and with the ramp being flat it keeps me from sliding forward when riding on the hoods.
Yesterday I mentioned why I lowered my STI shifters and said I might just try a set of tandem stoker hoods. After pricing them at around 50 bucks and not knowing if I did buy them how I would like it I decided why not make a set first. I undid my bar tape back to where I wanted the hoods and made a set out of a old pair of Schwinn suicide brake levers. The ironic part they were on a bike destine for the scrap yard, totally free parts bike that had almost nothing good on it. When I cut the rotten tape back to get the brakes off, I couldn’t believe what I saw (Noodle Bars)! I didn’t change the bars out although I might.

I took the old brakes apart and sawed off the pin that held the suicide levers flush with the hood. I cut an old inner tube and added 3 layers as a boot cover and put them on the bike reusing the old bar tape. It was quick and dirty and when I do fresh tape I will pad the corner a little more.

The bottom line is they worked great and gave me a great very comfortable hood position to ride in. I found a couple different ways to grab them and placing my palms on top of the post gave me even a new idea. Stay tuned for that.





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Old 09-01-11, 11:57 AM
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Your hand pain problem is very common among both veteran and new cyclists, and nearly everyone attempts to fix it with cushy bar tape and/or gel gloves. Those only mask the problem rather than fix the root cause.

I struggled with hand pain through nearly 30 years of cycling, and I'd decided that hand pain was just part of the sport. I used expensive gloves... high tech bar tape... everything. But I ended up shaking my hands and sitting up in the saddle to try to get feeling back in my hands every couple of miles.

Then here on BF I read a single post that ended up being perhaps the most important piece of cycling related guidance that I've ever read. I know that this sounds trite... but it changed my cycling life. I once had to use certain types of gloves... certain bar tape... and I STILL had pain. But following the advice in this single post by DannoXYZ banished that pain... I can now ride with bare hands... gloved hands... bar tape... bare bars... it doesn't matter any more. I rarely have hand pain on even long rides. As a matter of fact, I detest padded gloves now... I wear minimally padded gloves only for purposes of grip improvement.

I'll post a link to the thread, but in case I mess it up, here's how to find the post:

Search this site for a thread named "Thumbs going dead on embarrassingly short rides" and read DannoXYZ's post #30 in the thread. The thread was started on May 19, 2009.

If I ever meet Danno, I'm going to hug him and then buy him a beer and a steak!
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Old 09-03-11, 01:01 PM
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do hand stretches. from what i have read, some people are prone to carpal tunnel etc than others.
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Old 09-03-11, 08:12 PM
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Having an expert evaluate your riding position can give you information that you can't find on an on-line forum. After all, none of us can actually see you, your bike, and your riding habits!

One of my riding companions was experiencing numb hands. After trying all of the normal suggestions of raising this and lowering that, we stopped at a bike shop and asked for help. The mechanic took one look at my friend riding, shook his head, and said there was no solution, as the frame was way too small. We asked what could be done to minimize the problem. He replied, "You can't fix this. You need to start with a bike that actually fits your body!"

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