Hand numbness during an extended bike ride is not an uncommon complaint from riders. Occasional numbness during a ride is not a cause for undue concern, but extended numbness after the ride is something to be looked into. Numbness in the hands while riding is typically caused by excessive pressure on the blood vessels and nerves of the hand. This pressure can be reduced a number of ways, many of them inexpensively:
- Pad your handlebars. You can use padded bar tape or you can use gel underneath the bar tape (or both together). There are a number of brands available for this purpose. Specialized Bar Phat can be used to increase the surface area of the bars, reducing the pressure on the hands. They also make Bar Shapers to add surface area to the handlebar for extra hand support. The shapers wrap around the bars, underneath the bar tape, providing a small flexible shelf upon which to rest your hands.
- Pad your hands. Decent gloves are imperative. Not only do they protect your hands, but they’ll reduce the amount of pressure on your palms. You don’t need anything fancy for this, the BG Gel gloves from Specialized are fine for the task and can be had for about $35.
- Reduce your upper body weight and strengthen your core. Any extra upper body weight you’re carrying increases the amount of pressure on your palms as you lean over the bars. As you ride more and watch what you eat, you’ll find your upper body weight is reduced. This’ll also help reduce the numbness!
- Keep your hands moving as you ride. Take your hands off the bars occasionally during the ride (one at a time, please). Shake them out a bit—keeps the circulation going.
- Get a fitting. Making sure that you are properly fitted to the bike may also help you with your circulation. Raising the handlebars, for example, can help reduce pressure on your hands, but this should be determined in consultation with a fitter to achieve the best results.
- Change your handlebars. When dealing with numbness, flat bars are somewhat at a disadvantage, allowing the rider little alternative in altering hand placement (moving your hands to different positions on the bars as you ride helps increase circulation). If you have flat bars, commonly found on mountain bikes and some hybrid bikes, consider having bar ends added to the bars. These give you an alternative position for your hands. If you have a road bike with down bars, then you have lots of places to shift your hands during the ride. Another alternative, which is found on many newer hybrid bikes are ergonomic grips, which work much like the Bar Shapers, providing additional support for your hands. If your bike doesn’t already have these we may be able to upgrade your grips easily. For some bike, such as those with grip shifters, this upgrade is not possible.
If you have any other kind of numbness while you ride, that’ll have to wait for the next article! In the meantime, stop by The Bike Palace, we’ll help resolve your numbness issues and improve your joy of riding!