During the past 4 years of bike fitting, 75% of my clients have expressed that hand numbness is a real issue they deal with while riding. I’ve found there to be 2 main possibilities for this. From speaking with cyclists who contend with this issue, 50% are impacted from applying too much pressure on their hands and the other 50% are wearing their jerseys too tight; sometimes the numbness can be a combination of both. If you suffer from hand numbness don’t worry, you are not alone.
Prevention For the Win
Vary Your Hand Position. Periodically place your hands in a different position while you are riding. Try moving your hands to the hoods, keep your hands on the drops, or rotate one hand at a time to the outside of your palm and rest it on the handlebar. You can even flex your fingers/hands open and closed if that helps. If you are a little unsteady on your bicycle, steadily move your hands to a different position one at a time. That way you will always have at least one hand in a stable position on the handlebars at all times.
Wear Gel-Padded Gloves. A perfectly designed glove is the Ultra Gel by Performance Bike. Any glove from Giro (i.e., LX) will have a similar design. Look for a glove that has a recessed ‘pocket’, and some that will protect your nerves and arteries from getting pinched. For more comfort, search out a glove that has a thicker padding.
Add a Double-Layer of Handlebar Tape. Here is a tape trick that no one really does, but that really works for hand pain: Next time you need to wrap your handlebars, buy 2 packages of handlebar tape (4 rolls in total). Set 2 full rolls aside to be used for each side of the handlebar. Take the 3rd roll and cut it exactly in half so you end up with 2 half rolls. Take one of the half pieces and, starting at the back of the hoods, wrap the tape around the handlebar until you get to about 1-2” from the stem. Repeat for the other side. Once complete, you should have only the top of the bars covered with new tape. Using one of the full-length pieces, wrap tape around the bars as normal. Once complete, the tops of the bars will have double padding and be very comfortable on the hands.
Get a Bike Fit. Sitting on a bicycle is like sitting on a teeter-totter, if the stem is too low, your weight is shifted forward and onto your hands, arms, shoulders and neck. When the stem is raised, your weight goes back onto your saddle, removing weight from your hands, arms, shoulders and neck. So, a pro-level bike fit is the way to go if you want maximum comfort in your riding position.
Treat Yo' Self
Here are solutions for treating numbness due to pressure. Move down the list depending on the severity of your symptoms: R.I.C.E – Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation Oral or Topical non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication (NSAIDs) to reduce pain and inflammation. Wrist Splinting – a wrist splint might help as it gives your wrist support and adds compression to your wrist and hands. Consult your Doctor – For severe nerve injury, surgical decompression of the nerves may be needed.
I’ve noticed my fingers going numb some of the time. It’s always the same course, same bike, same riding style, same position, but the only thing that was different was the cycling kit, specifically the jersey. In one instance, my jersey felt a little tight so I reached under my right armpit and pulled on the jersey to give it a little slack. Immediately the numbness in my right hand and fingers went away. I found that the elastic in the jersey compresses the brachial artery and ulnar nerve causing your hands and fingers to go to sleep. Next time one of your hands and/or fingers go numb, reach under your armpit and stretch out the jersey a little. I have told this to all my bike fit clients, and half of them have replied that this is the cause of their numbing. I hope this article helps you attain more comfort while cycling so that you can better enjoy the sport.