Do your hands go numb when riding?
How many times have you been on a group ride when you see riders taking their hands off the bars, and shaking them, trying to restore feeling to their hands or fingers? Have you ever been that rider? While some riders may shrug off this numbness as a normal consequence of cycling, there is nothing normal about it.
There are a number of reasons why ones hands or fingers may become numb when cycling. Numbness in ones hand is caused by compression of the ulnar and median nerve. While this compression can sometimes be alleviated with a good pair of cycling gloves, many times this compression can only be fixed by modifying ones bike fit. When positioning an athlete, it is important to achieve proper weight distribution. Typically, an athlete should have approximately 40% of their weight at the handlebars and approximately 60% of their weight at the saddle. Too much weight on the handlebars may cause numbness. Having ones seat nose-down, or having excessive drop from the saddle may be the contributing factor. Most bicycle saddles are designed to be ridden flat, relative to the ground, not nose-up or nose-down as you may see on the group rides. Having ones seat high and handlebars low may look cool in the catalog or magazines, but it may also be the reason that you are uncomfortable on your bike. Other contributing factors to numbness are bar angle, reach, and how ones brake hoods are positioned on the bar. It is important to have a smooth transition from the bar to the brake hood, creating a flat resting place for ones hands. This can be achieved by placing a straight-edge(ruler) on the bar drop, lowering the brake lever tip onto the straight edge during installation. This method also helps insure that ones brake levers are level. When gripping the brake hoods, wrists should be straight, not bent, relative to the forearm, and there should be roughly 25-35 degrees at the elbow. Lastly, try not to put the “death grip” on the bars. The handlebars should gripped firmly, but not to the point where it can contribute to numbness.
Hopefully these tips will help you make your next ride more enjoyable. If you continue to experience numbness in your hands and fingers when riding, seek out a professional bike fitter.