Bike FAQs

How To Stop Numb Hands When Cycling?

correct answerThe Short Answer is:
Numb hands while cycling can be prevented by adjusting your grip on the handlebars to reduce pressure on your hands. You can also try changing your hand position frequently, wearing padded gloves, and adjusting your bike's fit to ensure that your weight is distributed evenly. Additionally, using a saddle with a cutout or a channel can help to relieve pressure on your perineum, which can contribute to numbness in your hands.

Cycling is a great way to stay active and enjoy the outdoors, but it can be frustrating when you experience numbness or tingling in your hands during a ride. This condition is common among cyclists and can be caused by a variety of factors, including nerve compression, poor bike fit, and riding position.

In this article, we will discuss how to stop numb hands when cycling by providing tips and tricks to prevent and alleviate this issue. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced cyclist, these solutions will help you enjoy your ride without discomfort.

Understanding the Causes

Numb hands while cycling can be caused by various factors, including pressure on nerves, handlebar and grip position, and vibration and road shock. Understanding these causes can help cyclists prevent hand numbness and maintain a comfortable and safe riding experience.

1. Pressure on Nerves

  • Compression of the ulnar nerve: The ulnar nerve, which runs to the outer two fingers of the hand (ring finger and little finger), can become compressed and irritated within or distal to Guyon’s canal, due to the pressure exerted on the hand on the handlebars. This compression is even intensified when riding on rough terrain.
  • Compression of the median nerve: The median nerve, which runs to the other three fingers, can also be compressed during cycling. Gripping the handlebars places direct pressure on this area, causing numbness and tingling in the thumb, pointer finger, middle finger, and half of the ring finger.

2. Handlebar and Grip Position

  • Wrist hyperextension: When cycling, people often have a hyperextended position of the wrist resting on the handlebars or hoods, contributing to neuropathy by compressing and stretching the nerve as it passes from the wrist to the hand.
  • Same sustained pressure on the wrists: Changing the position of your hands throughout a ride to avoid putting the same sustained pressure on your wrists the whole time can help relieve pressure on the nerves.

3. Vibration and Road Shock

  • Excessive vibrations: Over-inflated tires, small wheels, and skinny tires can cause more vibrations in the hands. These vibrations, combined with the pressure on the nerves, can lead to hand numbness and tingling.
  • Road shock: The hands and wrists absorb vibrations from the road, which can tire, tighten, and ache the hand and wrist muscles. Finding the right road bike tire pressure or mountain bike tire pressure can help reduce road shock and minimize hand and wrist pain.

Importance of Addressing Hand Numbness

Hand numbness caused by cycling is a common issue that can have significant implications for cyclists. Addressing this problem is important for several reasons:

  1. Preventing long-term damage: Hand numbness is often a result of excessive pressure or stress on the nerves in the hands and wrists. If left unaddressed, this can lead to more pronounced symptoms and even nerve damage. Taking steps to alleviate the pressure and reduce hand numbness can help prevent long-term damage to the nerves.
  2. Improving comfort and enjoyment: Cycling with numb hands can be uncomfortable and even painful. By addressing the underlying causes of hand numbness, cyclists can improve their overall comfort and enjoyment of the sport.
  3. Enhancing performance: Hand numbness can affect a cyclist’s ability to maintain a secure grip on the handlebars and control the bike. By reducing hand numbness, cyclists can improve their performance and feel more confident on the road or trail.
  4. Maintaining safety: Numb hands can make it difficult to operate the brakes and shifters effectively, potentially compromising a cyclist’s safety. Addressing hand numbness can help ensure that cyclists can maintain full control of their bikes and respond quickly to changing conditions.

Bike Fit and Setup

To avoid hand numbness while cycling, proper bike fit and setup are crucial. Here are some key factors to consider:

1. Proper Bike Sizing

  • Ensure that your bike is the right size for your body. A bike that is too big or too small can contribute to hand numbness.

2. Adjusting Saddle and Handlebar Height

  • The drop from your saddle to your handlebars should be appropriate for your body. A greater drop increases the risk of hand numbness due to the additional weight on your hands. You can adjust this measurement by lowering your saddle or raising the handlebars.
  • Check your saddle position. If it is too high or tilted forward, it can cause you to put more weight on your hands, leading to numbness. Adjust the saddle height and angle to achieve a comfortable position.

3. Reach and Stem Length

  • The reach, which is the distance between the saddle and handlebars, should be appropriate for your body. If the reach is too long, you may be putting too much weight on your hands, leading to numbness. Consider a shorter stem or a handlebar with a shorter reach to transfer weight back into the saddle and legs.
  • Experiment with the position of your elbows. A slight bend in your elbows can help absorb shock and reduce pressure on your hands.

4. Riding Technique and Core Strength

  • Maintain a neutral spine and engage your core while riding. This helps to take some pressure off your hands.
  • Avoid bracing, which is using your hands, arms, and shoulders to push yourself back against the saddle. Instead, focus on using your abs and glutes to support and stabilize your torso weight, keeping weight off your hands.
  • Periodically change your hand positions on the handlebars to relieve pressure and improve blood flow.
  • Solving hand numbness can be a trial-and-error process. If you are making changes to your bike fit, do so gradually, or consult an experienced fitter in your area. If the numbness persists, consider visiting a medical professional.

Hand Positions and Grip Techniques

Hand numbness while cycling can be caused by various factors, including high pressure on the outside of the hand, high pressure on the carpal tunnel, and laterally overstretched wrist. Here are some hand positions and grip techniques to avoid hand numbness while cycling:

  1. On the Drops: When riding on the drops, make sure to maintain a relaxed grip on the handlebars, avoiding excessive pressure on the outside of the hand. Consider using ergonomic grips that are specifically shaped to properly position your hands and help release pressure points.
  2. On the Hoods: While riding on the hoods, try to keep your wrists in a neutral position and avoid excessive pressure on the carpal tunnel. Use grips with a relief wing placed far on the outside to provide relief for the carpal tunnel.
  3. Tops of Handlebars: When riding on the tops of the handlebars, ensure that your wrists are not laterally overstretched. Consider using handlebars with a more back sweep for a natural hand position and a 16° back sweep for a more stretched riding position.

In addition to these hand positions and grip techniques, there are other measures you can take to reduce hand numbness while cycling, such as:

  1. Loosening your grip on the handlebars to let your fingers and wrist act as shock absorbers.
  2. Squeezing your thighs against the tank or the sides of the bike to take weight off your hands, wrists, and arms.
  3. Doing hand exercises and stretches to relieve pressure on the median nerve and alleviate symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.
  4. Using handlebar weights to dampen vibrations.
  5. Adjusting your bike’s ergonomics, including the placement of your arms, hands, torso, seat, thighs, legs, and feet, for a more comfortable riding position.

Handlebar Types and Materials

When it comes to preventing numb hands while cycling, the type and material of your handlebars can play a significant role. Here are some key considerations:

Handlebar Types

  • Drop Bars: These are the most common handlebars on road bikes and offer multiple hand positions, which can help reduce pressure on the hands and wrists. However, they may not be suitable for all riders, especially those with back or neck problems.
  • Flat Bars: Commonly found on mountain bikes, flat bars provide a more upright riding position and a wider grip, which can help distribute pressure more evenly across the hands.
  • Aero Bars: Primarily used in time trials and triathlons, aero bars allow riders to adopt a more aerodynamic position by resting their forearms on pads. While they can reduce hand pressure, they are not suitable for all types of cycling.

Handlebar Materials

  • Aluminum: Aluminum handlebars are lightweight, stiff, and relatively inexpensive. They can help absorb road vibrations, reducing the strain on your hands and wrists.
  • Carbon Fiber: Carbon fiber handlebars are even lighter than aluminum and offer excellent vibration-damping properties. However, they can be more expensive and may not be as durable as aluminum.
  • Steel: Steel handlebars are less common but can provide a more comfortable ride due to their natural vibration-damping properties. However, they are heavier than aluminum or carbon fiber.

By choosing the right handlebar type and material for your cycling needs, you can help alleviate hand numbness and discomfort during your rides.

Gloves and Padding

When cycling, it is common to experience numbness in the hands, which can be uncomfortable and even painful. One way to prevent this is by wearing gloves and padding.

Gloves can help to reduce the pressure on your hands and provide a cushioning effect, which can help to prevent numbness. Look for gloves that are specifically designed for cycling, as they will have padding in the right places and be made from breathable materials to keep your hands cool and dry.

In addition to gloves, you can also use padding to prevent numbness. This can be achieved by adjusting the position of your handlebars or adding padding to your handlebar tape.

You can also use gel pads or foam inserts to provide extra cushioning for your hands. It is important to experiment with different types of padding to find what works best for you.

It is worth noting that while gloves and padding can help to prevent numbness, they are not a cure-all solution. It is important to maintain good posture and grip on the handlebars, as well as take regular breaks to stretch your hands and arms.

By combining these strategies, you can reduce the likelihood of experiencing numbness and enjoy a more comfortable cycling experience.

Suspension and Dampening Systems

Suspension and Dampening Systems play a crucial role in reducing hand numbness while cycling. Excessive pressure or stress on nerves can cause numbness, and biking affects the median and ulnar nerves, which can lead to hand numbness. Here’s how suspension and dampening systems can help:

  1. Bike Tune-up: Reducing vibration is key to preventing hand numbness. Ensure that your bike’s suspension is in good working condition.
  2. Suspension Stems and Seatposts: These systems, such as the Redshift Shockstop Suspension Stem, are designed to smooth out road imperfections, reducing fatigue and strain on the hands, fingers, and wrists. They use swappable elastomers of varying densities to dampen the feeling of the road or gravel, creating a smoother ride.
  3. Handlebar Grips and Tape: Consider using thicker, softer grips that are also tacky for mountain bikes, and bar gel with thicker tape for road bikes. Ergonomic grips can also help properly position your hands and release pressure points.
  4. Carbon Bars: More expensive, but they can dampen vibrations and reduce nerve stress.
  5. Proper Weight Distribution: Ensure that your weight is properly distributed on the bike, with not too much pressure on the handlebars.
  6. Hand Position: Change the position of your hands throughout the ride to avoid putting the same sustained pressure on your wrists the whole time. On a road bike, alternate between holding the drop bar, hood, and flat portion of the bar.
  7. Gloves with Gel Inserts: A good pair of cycling gloves with gel inserts can help cushion key areas of your hand, absorb vibration, and take pressure off nerves.

By incorporating these suspension and dampening systems and following the tips mentioned above, you can reduce hand numbness and enjoy a more comfortable and enjoyable cycling experience.

Riding Techniques

Hand numbness is a common issue that many cyclists experience, especially on long rides. It is usually caused by a nerve in the wrist or elbow being compressed due to the riding position or sustained pressure on the hands. Here are some riding techniques that can help you avoid hand numbness while cycling:

1. Relaxed Grip

New riders often grip the handlebars too tightly, which can contribute to hand numbness. Try to relax your grip and avoid excessive pressure on the handlebars. This will help to reduce the compression on the nerves in your hands and wrists.

2. Shifting Weight

Shifting your weight while riding can help to relieve pressure on your hands and wrists. Engage your glutes and core when pedaling to take some of the body weight off your arms. This may be challenging at first, but it will get easier with practice.

3. Regular Hand Movements

Change your hand position frequently during a ride to avoid putting the same sustained pressure on your wrists. On a road bike, alternate between holding the drop bar, hood, and flat portion of the bar. This will help to relieve and prevent numbness in your hands.

By incorporating these techniques into your cycling routine, you can reduce the risk of hand numbness and enjoy a more comfortable and enjoyable ride.

If you continue to experience hand numbness, consider getting a bike fit or seeking medical help from an occupational or physical therapist.

Stretching and Conditioning

Hand numbness is a common problem for cyclists, especially on long rides. There are several ways to prevent hand numbness while cycling, including pre-ride hand and wrist exercises and staying hydrated. Here are some tips to help you avoid hand numbness while cycling:

1. Pre-Ride Hand and Wrist Exercises

Performing some simple exercises before your ride can help prevent hand numbness. Here are some exercises you can try:

  • Neurodynamics: This is a set of simple exercises that can help prevent hand numbness. One exercise involves gradually bending your wrist until your fingers point downward, and then gently tilting your head toward that arm. Then, turn your wrist until your fingers point upward and tilt your head in the opposite direction. Repeat this exercise 10 times per arm.
  • Stretches: Stretching your hands and wrists can also help prevent hand numbness. One stretch involves holding your arm out in front of you with your palm facing down. Use your other hand to gently pull your fingers back towards your wrist until you feel a stretch. Hold the stretch for 15-30 seconds and then release. Repeat on the other hand.

2. Staying Hydrated

Staying hydrated is important for preventing hand numbness while cycling. Dehydration can cause your blood to thicken, which can reduce circulation to your hands and increase the risk of numbness.

Make sure to drink plenty of water before, during, and after your ride to stay hydrated. In addition to these tips, there are other things you can do to prevent hand numbness while cycling, such as switching up your hand position, sitting back in your seat, and investing in a pair of cycling gloves.

If you experience persistent hand numbness, you may want to seek medical help from an occupational or physical therapist.

When to Seek Professional Advice

Hand numbness while cycling is a common issue that many cyclists experience. In most cases, it can be resolved by making simple adjustments to your bike fit, posture, and hand position.

However, there are situations where it may be necessary to seek professional advice. Here’s when you should consider consulting a medical professional or a bike fit specialist:

  1. Persistent or worsening symptoms: If your hand numbness persists or worsens despite making adjustments to your bike fit and posture, it may be a sign of an underlying issue that requires professional attention.
  2. Frequent or severe symptoms: If you frequently experience hand numbness during your rides, or if the numbness is accompanied by pain or tingling sensations, it’s a good idea to consult a professional to rule out any serious conditions.
  3. Inability to find a solution: If you’ve tried various solutions, such as adjusting your bike fit, changing your hand position, and using padded gloves, but the hand numbness persists, a professional bike fit or a consultation with a physical therapist may be necessary.
  4. Pre-existing conditions: If you have pre-existing conditions, such as carpal tunnel syndrome or ulnar nerve entrapment, that make you more susceptible to hand numbness, it’s advisable to seek professional advice to manage your symptoms and prevent further complications.

In most cases, hand numbness while cycling can be resolved with simple adjustments and self-care measures. However, if you’re unsure about the cause of your symptoms or if they persist, it’s always best to consult a medical professional or a bike fit specialist for a proper diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

Frequently Asked Questions Related to the Topic

Do bike gloves help with numbness?

Wearing cycling gloves can help prevent hand pain, numbness, and strain while cycling. The padding in the gloves can provide support and help cyclists avoid numbness in their hands.

Gloves can also reduce friction between your hands and handlebars, which could otherwise cause blisters. They can add grip and comfort, absorb moisture, and help maintain a steady grip, especially on bumps in the road where your hand might easily slip off the handlebars.

In addition, gloves can protect the skin on your hands, particularly in the event of a crash. Therefore, wearing cycling gloves can help with numbness and provide extra comfort while cycling.

Conclusion on How To Stop Numb Hands When Cycling

In conclusion, hand numbness while cycling is a common problem that can be caused by excessive pressure or stress on nerves, poor circulation, vibration, cold weather, and nerve damage.

To prevent or reduce hand numbness, cyclists can take several measures, including adjusting their hand position, relaxing their elbows, riding with a bend in their elbow, investing in a pair of cycling gloves, stretching, and cushioning the pressure points with padded handlebars, handlebar grips, or padded cycling gloves.

It is also important to stay hydrated, wear padded gloves, and use padded handlebar tape to prevent hand numbness or handlebar palsy. Cyclists who experience persistent pain or numbness in their hands should stop cycling and seek medical attention.

Finally, it is worth noting that some people are more prone to hand numbness from cycling than others due to anatomical variations, and they may need to take extra steps to optimize their setup.

Charlotte Barnes

Charlotte Barnes is a trailblazing mountain biker who is passionate about exploring the great outdoors on two wheels.

Alice Eleanor

Alice Eleanor, a seasoned pro who has been cycling for more than two decades. Alice Eleanor’s extensive knowledge of biking equipment and techniques has helped countless riders optimize their biking experience.

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