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Hand pain--afraid to pull the trigger on a road bike--HELP!(16 posts)

Hand pain--afraid to pull the trigger on a road bike--HELP!Quitter
Jun 29, 2001 11:48 AM
Hi, all. Great site you've got here--lots of helpful advice and friendly people. I hope you can help me now with my question.

I gather from reading the posts that all roadies deal with aches and pains of some sort, but I think that when it comes to hand pain, I am in a special category. I use my hands all day long on the computer, doing layout, and that results in pained hands.

A few years ago, I had a Trek 330 racing bike, and when I rode it on an easy 40-mile group ride with my dad and uncle, it beat the hell out of my hands. They went numb, they ached, they hurt in ways I have never experienced before.

Now, I'm riding a mountain bike with suspension fork, easily riding 30 miles on the weekends with no hand trouble to speak of, but I want to go faster--I want to get a road bike. But no test ride is going to be long enough to give me a feel for what's going to happen to my hands over the long haul. (And even the short test rides kind of feel like the old hand strain is coming back--something about the hand positions on a road bike just might not agree with me.)

So I guess what I am asking is, if you have special hand problems, particularly tender hands like mine, have you found anything that makes life on a road bike liveable? I want the additional speed, but not if it's going to leave me numb and unhappy all the time.

Some specific questions: (1) will a steel frame tend to be easier on my hands than an aluminum frame, given that so many reviewers consider the ride of steel (in general) to be easier and more buttery? (2) Are there good gloves that can protect the 'crotch' between thumb and index finger, where I tend to feel a lot of pressure when riding? (3) Will different handlebar tapes make a difference? (4) Is a carbon fork more forgiving? Are there particular forks I could use to reduce the pounding on my hands?

Sorry for the long post. Thanks for any suggestions you might have. I really think I want to get a road bike but am afraid to pull the trigger because I don't want to get stuck with another pain machine like the Trek 330 turned out to be. (I also realize that that bike might not have fit me right; when I bought it, I had little idea what I was looking for and I found it at a yard sale....)

Anyway, thanks.

re: Hand pain--afraid to pull the trigger on a road bike--HELP!sidley
Jun 29, 2001 12:24 PM
I would humbly defer to other posters who might have similar experience with hand numbing, but I have not heard of many roadies experiencing the same kind of hand pain that mtbers do. With a properly fit bike coupled with proper riding technique, I don't think hand pain/numbing should bad enough to stop you from enjoying road riding. In fact, I would be bold enough to say that barring any unique medical condition, you should not have much pain at all.

Steel frames are indeed more supple but to allez err.. . sorry . . . allay your fears be sure to get a carbon fork. If that isn't enough, then you could also get a carbon handlebars. If that isn't enough you could get aero bars. If that isn't enough, then I would consult a hand specialist.

Further, be sure to get good gloves. My new pearl izumi gloves are awesome I don't remember what model they are but they were about $35
Fit will matter the most in developing a balanced stance thatbill
Jun 29, 2001 12:37 PM
avoids over-stressing your hands (or any other part of your body). Materials are often enough irrelevant, with the differences designed around (and, in any case, the differences on relatively shorter trips less relevant than on longer trips) with the possible exception of lower end aluminum, which is going to beat you up a bit everywhere. Most of what else you seem to have picked up has enough truth -- carbon helps absorb vibration, gloves help, etc.
I think that you first need to look to your stance and balance on the bike and how unforgiving YOU are being. Most of my upper body problems went away when I loosened up. After fit, if you keep a steady but light grip on the bike and are properly fitted to the bike so that you are balanced, the other stuff is going to help on the margins but not make a huge difference. If you can't make it work with the basics of fit, stance, and balance, I think that you have a problem beyond what those other improvements are going to address. Maybe special gloves or something; I don't know.
Jun 29, 2001 12:54 PM
Sounds like you may have had too large a drop from your seat to your bars on your earlier Trek. Putting too much weight on your hands can cause the symptoms you are complaining of. Here are some possible solutions, some of which are repeats of what others suggest:

1. Get a professional fitting. Make sure to tell your fitter of your previous problems.

2. Try double wrapping your bars.

3. Carbon fork/bars

4. Find an LBS that will let you test ride a bike for a couple hours, if possible.

5. Find an LBS that will let you swap out stems etc. after a few weeks so you can dial in your fit.

6. I have had hand numbing problems in the past. They all went away once I quit wearing over padded gel gloves. I think it's the same as with seats. More padding is not necessarily better.

Good luck!
Jun 29, 2001 1:52 PM
7.) No more spanking

Sorry, had to do it
Uhh...uncalled forkenyee
Jun 29, 2001 3:11 PM
RSI is a serious problem.
If you work with computers and you have this problem, it affects your livelihood...and your paycheck...and any physical activities (biking, tennis, etc.). It's not a fun thing to have.
If you ever had it and got that response from someone after you mentioned it, how would you feel?
re: Hand pain--afraid to pull the trigger on a road bike--HELP!MikeC
Jun 29, 2001 1:22 PM
Two ideas: when I ride hard, I never get numb hands. I think my more aggressive posture makes my arms, shoulders, torso, etc., take some of the weight off my hands. When I'm lazy, I lean on the bar too much, and sometimes get numb. In other words, don't just use your hands to support your upper body, condition the body to support itself a little.
Second, while I'm not a fan of Specialized's Body Geometry saddle, I do like their padded gloves. For me, they make a BIG difference.
Good luck!
More suggestions...Stampertje
Jun 29, 2001 2:35 PM
- Flat bars. Some road bikes have come out with flat bars, and shimano makes road shifters for flat bars. You loose some hand positions, though. There are many more shapes of bars out there, too (touring).
- Suspension. Why not? I'm not sure if there are any more road specific forks, though. Or a suspension stem.
AerobarsJerry near St. Louis
Jun 29, 2001 2:50 PM
I also have hand problems. Tried different gloves, tape, changing positions et al. Aerobars are my answer. I put the elbows on the pads and give my hands a rest.
re: Hand pain--afraid to pull the trigger on a road bike--HELP!Lone Gunman
Jun 29, 2001 3:03 PM
Here goes!! Yes on the steel IMHO, yes on the CF fork, there are gel gloves out there that may have the padding you are looking for. Cannondale a few years ago had a road bike suspension fork, don't know what happened to it though. Your problem could be a muscle strength or body positioning problem or wrong size frame and/or stem, too much weight forward on hands, arms, shoulders. Try repositioning hands often or aero bars to change things up further.
Thank you all for the suggestions. This is helping a lot. <nm>Quitter
Jun 29, 2001 3:40 PM
Another ...whygimf
Jun 29, 2001 5:06 PM
My hand pain has decreased dramatically by raising
the bars to 4cm below the seat nose. (yes I have the
luxury of a dinosaur quill stem...)
I have also slightly changed the leveling of the bars themselves.
I've noticed too the more I can keep the back of my hands
in line with my wrists (vs. "cocked") = less numbness.
Consistent moving of my hand positions helps.
Have someone who 'knows' to check your position on the bike.
A cm change in any fit dimension on a bike is huge.
See you on the pavement.
re: Hand pain--afraid to pull the trigger on a road bike--HELP!Jofa
Jun 29, 2001 7:59 PM
I wonder whether this is a worry more of anticipation than anything else; but that is no reason why it shouldn't be posted.

I work on computers during the day as well and I wouldn't expect this to affect my riding comfort. The reason is that the stresses the hand encounters are so different. The risk from computer use is of cumulative movements causing friction between and inflammation of the tendons in the carpal tunnel of the wrist, as fingers are expected to work precisely, independently, and repetitively all day. On the bike however, the hand is a blunt instrument expected only to support the rider's weight and occasionally to operate a simple lever. If you have pain in your hands after normal working days at the computer then I recommend that you consult a specialist in this field.

If you also encounter hand pain from cycling then it is likely that your position on the bike isn't ideal. You don't describe your pain precisely, but the cause usually is either that the rider is taking too much weight on their hands, causing numbness; or that he is gripping the bars too hard, also causing numbness, and invariably also because he is taking too much weight on his hands and is subsequently feeling uneasy. Any injuries which you feel you have sustained from your computer use should have ne effect.

The frame material of a bike in my opinion is of zero consequence in these matters, nor is the frame design. If 'ride quality' is an issue, then this can be catered for with variations of tyre size and pressure, and as you say handlebar padding... but if you can find a position in which you feel comfortable, then that's enough.... and you have: you say you've been riding an mtb. People were happy on bikes long before carbon forks came along, though you'd pe pushed to find a bike without them now.

I say, pull the trigger: voice your concerns to the nice man at the shop, and buy a road bike that fits. Then ride it and enjoy yourself.
A couple of things...DINOSAUR
Jun 29, 2001 9:10 PM
I fractured the two middle matacarpals of my right hand in an industrial injury at work in 1995. I have about 86% usage of the hand. My hand bothers me from time to time, it gets stiff when I ride, especially in the winter when the temperatures drop. Four things that helped me were (1) Snug fitting gel gloves. (2) Cushioned bar tape (3) Good setup with your bike that equally distributes your weight (4) Changing hand positions frequently. In the winter I wear long fingered gloves (I couldn't ride without them).
Hand exercises might help also. I used those little rolls of plastic putty that your can roll up into various shapes and work your hand muscles. Most sporting good stores sell them (Big Five).
Also, I ride an al bike and it doesn't bother me.
Of course if none if this helps, seek medical help, but I don't see any reason why you can't ride.
A couple of things...bear
Jun 30, 2001 8:42 PM
same here,,when i ride hard or hils I have no pains,,when I cruise and take it easy I put more weight on the hands and they tingle like crazy,,i try to get in a balance position and use my hands to balance me not to rest my torso on them,,,bend more and take the weight off our hands and you be more areo too to boot.
re: Hand pain--afraid to pull the trigger on a road bike--HELP!wink
Jun 30, 2001 8:39 PM
Forget the Road Bike and go with these new Super Hybrids. Specialized make a model called Sirrus. They have Body Geometry goo handles really cuts down on hand pain and vibrations. Plus the thing moves and you will easily stay up with road pack.