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Friday, 4th Dec 2020

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Cycling Clinic

Q My bike has straight handlebars, and when I ride for more than a few miles my hands start to tingle. If I continue it can start to get quite uncomfortable. Is there something wrong with the bike?

A This is quite common, and I found the same problem when I joined the club and started riding slightly further than was normal for me.

It is caused when the vibrations from the road travel straight up to the handlebars and squash the nerves in your hand a bit.

With 'straights' it is normal to ride with the heel of your hand on the actual bar grips and your fingers lightly on the brake levers. In this position the bar grips press between the two pads on your hand by the thumb and the little finger, and this is just where the nerves go.

To reduce this pressure you can try not to lean on the bars but support yourself by your back muscles, and let your arms flex at the elbows. Stiff arms carry the vibrations. Raising the handlebars can help you to straighten up. You can also try changing your hold by wrapping your fingers round the bar except for the first two on the brake levers. This rotates your hand and lets the pressure pads on your hand do the work.

So much for what you can do for nothing !

Your handlebar grips may be simple hard rubber tubes, in which case new grips that are a bit spongy and shaped to fit a hand, will help a bit.

Many cyclists wear fingerless gloves during the Summer, with padded areas on the palm. With Winter coming up you will find proper gloves with fingers and padding a great benefit. Both types of glove are readily available and don't need to be very expensive.

Changing your hold, as mentioned earlier, is helpful but there are not too many ways you can hold a steel tube, in effect. You may see bikes with 'horns' sticking up at the ends of the bars. These give the rider a totally different hold. Your wrist will be rotated 90 degrees, and your weight will be shifted off your hands a lot. The only disadvantage is that you will not be able to rest any fingers on the brake levers, but they are not far away, and anyway it is not necessary to hold the brakes all the time.

Most riders find that they don't need horns, but it becomes a matter of personal taste.

Finally, as with most activity related discomforts, once you have made sure you are not doing things wrongly, your body will get used to it, and the problem will pretty well go away.

I do not recommend that you go out and spend a lot on accessories all at once, try one thing at a time.

To sum up:

  • ease the weight off your hands from time to time by sitting up straight
  • change the way you hold the grips
  • get padded gloves
  • get padded rubber grips
  • get 'horns' fitted
  • Get used to it!
By: 
Mike Skiffins, Portsmouth CTC
Posted on Wed, October 25 2017