Numb Hands (July 30 update)
The current poll shows this is a much more serious problem than we all probably thought. So I thought I had better write a much more comprehensive article covering all the bases. This is almost entirely new, so even if you have read it, read it again! I've organized these into Difficulty steps based on a combination of effort / time and money required. This means they aren't in an order of necessity. For example, you really should go to Setting Up Your MTB to get the handlebar height (many people ride with their handlebars too low, putting too much upper body weight on the hands), handlebar tilt, and general bike setup right. Onward...
Difficutly - Five seconds / Free
Wear a different shirt! I'm serious. I was out riding today and I noticed how tight the short sleeves of my favorite riding jersey were. Way too tight! They were fine when I started, with my arms at my sides and not pumped from exercise. An hour later my biceps were being squeezed! My trail solution was to move the ends of the sleeves above my biceps and this helped some. I headed straight back to my truck. There I changed into the loose short sleeve shirt I was wearing while driving and headed back out on the bike. Big difference! Wear a jersey / shirt that leaves a little slack when you are PUMPED from exercise and with your arms forward in a typical riding position.
Difficulty - Five minutes / 10USD
Get a good pair of grips! Vibration retards blood flow and continuous vibration over a long period of time can seriously retard blood flow. So use soft grips such as Oury grips. Oury grips also help cure people of gripping the handlebars too hard. We sell them here. Click here! I've been using them for over a decade and never found anything better.
Difficulty - One or two hours / Free - 200USD
Go to Setting Up Your MTB and go through Cockpit Length and Handlebar Adjustments. I will be re-writing those articles to take into account a great deal of new research, but they are still pretty good as they are. A notice will go out when they are updated if you are on one of the mailing lists. The point here is, you don't want too much of your upper body weight leaning down on your hands. Your cockpit length and handlebar height should stretch you out into attack position, using more of your back to handle your upper body weight and taking a lot of the front wheel impact indirectly, instead of your hands and arms taking that impact directly. So less weight on your hands means they'll take less abuse. It'll also help with numerous handling issues. This section may or may not require the purchase of a new handlebar or stem. Heck possibly even a new bike!
Difficulty - One or two hours / ??USD
Buy my new handlebar, now in development. I rode with the first prototype today. A sorry example of what I had in mind, but it was my first time bending tubing. Steel in this case. The whole setup was wrong, but many of my typical pains didn't even surface over a little fifteen mile ride! There will be much more on this subject in the near future.
End of July 30 update. There will be more. We now take you back to the previous article content.
The first things to check that everyone probably already knows about are: use gel gloves, get softer grips, don't grip the handlebars too hard, use Setting Up Your MTB to get the handlebar height (many people ride with their handlebars too low, putting too much upper body weight on the hands), handlebar tilt, and general bike setup right. If none of these help, which seems to be the case most of the time...
It's possible that this type of numbness problem is not caused by your
bicycle at all. This is the case with myself. Here are a couple things you can check.
*While riding your bike, do you experience a tightness or pain in the upper back between the shoulder blades?
*While NOT your bike, hold you arms above your head for several minutes. Do you begin experiencing loss of circulation and tinkling in the hands?
* While laying in bed, cross your hands behind your head for several minutes. Do you begin experiencing loss of circulation and tinkling in the hands?
All of these things *may* indicate a slightly sluggish circulatory system. Or they *may* indicate that you have strong upper body muscles and those are cutting off blood flow when your arms are in a position such that the shoulder muscles are being flexed. In either case, the numbness is caused by your body and not the bicycle.
First, try visiting a chiropractor for a check-up and realignment of your
spine. Another possible solution is regular use of ginkgo biloba. I
suggest you research this on the Internet (Google 'increase blood flow to extremities' several top ten hits will be about ginkgo biloba). Another possible solution is a targeted workout routine designed to rearrange the musculature in the upper body so that flexing the shoulders does not necessarily cut off blood flow. This is a problem for all body builders and is the reason why every professional strongman competition includes a contest to see who can hang from a bar the longest. It's not that these guys aren't strong enough to hold up their own weight, it's that the muscles in their upper bodies cut off the blood flow to the hands, the hands go numb and let go. This effect is also seen in 'survival' reality tv shows. In this same contest, women usually beat the men.
And moving on to other topics... don't drink caffeine before you ride or during your ride. Caffeine constricts (reduces in size) your blood vessels. Don't smoke before cycling. Smoking impairs circulation. Or look into getting a suspension fork if you don't have one. If you do have one, change the settings on the fork to be more plush, more soft. DMTB now sells Oury grips! Click here!
If none of this seems to be the case, then you must consider that your problem IS to do with your bike although you have already tried seemingly everything. The final thing to consider is that the geometry of the frame is entirely wrong for your body. This would mean purchasing a new bike and doing so from a shop that is willing to do a full fit-kit to determine precisely what bike you should buy.
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