Numb Hands

Although I use my bike quite often, it is usually only for trips of 30 to 40 minutes as most of the time I swim. Now that pools are closed I’m going for longer rides, but after about 30 minutes I find my hands start going numb and I keep changing position on the bars too much.

The bike is set up for my height and I have comfort grips on the bars, and a decent set of gel gloves.

Any ideas on avoiding this? Should I change from dropped handlebars to straight? Or just plough on and hope it goes away? The bike is fairly old but in good condition with decent gears and gear change on the brakes so I’m not keen on changing it unless there is a really good reason.

The roads here are rural, not always smooth but I don’t get the impression it is all due to rough surfaces.

Your posture on the bike is creating an impingement to the nerve supplying your hands. Try changing posture, re-setting saddle height, bar position etc. and see if that helps. Maybe get a proper bike fit when lockdown is over.

As a mountain biker I don’t get this problem because I am constantly changing position/posture, but on a road bike you would be a lot more static.

Hope you sort it soon as being uncomfortable for long periods on a bike is horrible.

Sorry to read this.

I’d be having a very close look at type of saddle (is the width appropriate for the riding position?), height, position fore and aft, tilt for starters.

As Graeme says, discomfort can kill the pleasure of bikes.

A few thoughts - apologies if this grandma & egg sucking territory…

The tops of the hoods should be parallel to the floor, not rotated up or down - I see plenty of bikes like this and cringe at it. Weight needs to be evenly spread across the hands with a bias to the fleshy part of the palm in line with the thumbs. Occasionally changing from hoods to the inner bars to the outer radius near the hoods is a good way to relieve pressure. Being down on the drops isn’t a normal way of riding - it’s for sprinting really, and you can’t see out from under the helmet (if you’re wearing one).

Also (as mentioned above) the saddle should be close to parallel to the floor - put a book on it and then a spirit level to level it off. A good saddle height start point is sitting on the saddle then put your heel on the pedal - your leg should be straight without being stretched at that point, so riding with the ball of your feet gives the correct length. This isn’t a fixed rule but is a good start point.

Also move the saddle forward or back a touch on its rails to get the lean right - you shouldn’t be stretching to reach the hoods neither should all your weight be on your forearms.

Once you’ve got the basics fine tweaking with minor adjustments (do it like you would with speakers,a bit at a time, try, go again but know what your start point was) should achieve a comfortable posture.

If it’s vibrations from the road check your tyre pressures. 85 - 100 psi is the norm, the old days when we blew them up to a rock solid 110 and more are long gone. I aim for 90. Don’t go too soft or you run the the risk of pinch punctures if you hit a stone etc.

As a last resort cycling mitts are good with the gel padding in the palm to absorb some of the vibrations.

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Saddle fore-aft position should be determined by your relationship to the bottom bracket not the bars. There are various schools of thought - Knee Over Pedal Spindle (KOPS) being a common one - your pedalling dynamics being the key thing ensuring that you neither overload the quads or the hamstrings/glutes.

If your reach isn’t correct then you need a longer or shorter stem.

The tyre pressure thing is good advice - it might also be worth trying a second layer of bar-tape as per Paris-Roubaix bike set-up.

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Agree, but as a loose guide and start point one leads to the other naturally.

The best thing by far is a proper bike fit, not so easy now but when I had one it showed that although my then bike wasn’t far off what we ended up at, the improvements were v noticeable.

On longer rides (say over an hour or hour and a half) have a problem with numbness, but not hands…

When discussing saddles at cycle shop, doesn’t seem mine is wrong, and not easy to identify a sure-fire alternative. They asked what shorts I use - erm, shorts or trousers? What sort of padding - erm padding? Strange idea, In a lifetime of cycling I’ve never bought cycling apparel, but I have got myself a pair of padded shorts to try (shocked at the cost of many - designer names rule OK) so I bought a pair with good reviews from Amazon (under-shorts, cost was somewhere between £15 and £20). Wore at the weekend for a short tide, only 3/4 hour, and whilst I didn’t suffer numbness - didn’t expect to in that time - I am not convinced they make much difference. I clearly need to try on a longer ride, and will do soon, but I wonder if more experienced people have any helpful observations/suggestions?

After I retire next year I intend to spend much more time in the saddle than I do now.

Decent shorts are worth paying for - a bit like Naim. On rides of 80+ miles they really come into their own - or on multi-day trips. I’ve tried most makes but find Assos work best for me…

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Depends on the bike’s geometry and also whether the rider is ‘averagely proportioned’. Bar shape and size can also determine reach to the hoods - and different groupsets have longer reach built into the shifters…

Of course rider flexibility also makes a huge difference. Tight hamstrings and poor core stability will make proper hip flexion an issue - you see many riders in the ‘meercat’ position!

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Saddles are like speakers - everyone has a favourite that they swear by, there isn’t a consensus. I prefer narrow saddles with a cut-out along the length either all the way to the nose [of the saddle], or stopping just short. In conjunction with proper padded shorts that setup works just fine, for shorter rides of ½ to ¾ of an hour and for longer full days in the saddle. The combination of narrow saddle where the weight is primarily on the sit bones (not the fleshier bits down there) and the cycle padding that absorbs the pressure makes it a no-brainer tbh. And it’s always asked, pants or no pants? Go commando - it’s the same as not wearing underwear with swimming trunks.

As an experiment I recently tried riding in normal clothes - trousers, shirt, jumper. Never again. Cotton trousers interacting with cotton underwear on a narrow saddle was unpleasant to say the least. I didn’t go far enough to get sweaty down below but from prev exp I know that sweaty pants quickly become uncomfortable. The shirt & jumper quickly rode up pulling shirt from trousers leaving exposed back, and the lack of a back pocket on a normal cycling top meant keys & phone were in my trouser pockets continually rubbing against and digging into my thigh. I’ve always said it; you wouldn’t play chess in boxing gloves, nor would you do the gardening in a suit of armour. The right kit for the job, so anything more than a quick pootle to the shops & back is a shorts shirt & top.

Yes Assos are a superb make. I ended up buying all my kit in Assos. Everything fits perfectly and engineered very cleverly. Assos Cento bib shorts for me.

Saddle, riding position, vibration through bike are the main culprits. One thing that you can be sure of, is if something isn’t changed, it won’t go away and it could be doing a bit of damage.

If you can tell it us usually the thumb index and middle fingers. This is carpal tunnel syndrome and normally it it due to pressure on the groove between the pads of muscle at the base of thumb and little finger just beyond the wrist. Touch your thumb and little finger together and the ‘groove’ is obvious

First be sure you don’t get the same at other times such as on waking, driving, holding a book or DIY tools because it may be you need some advice about CTS rather than just cycling.

Vibration can be an issue but look also at how you grip the bar. Try to hold it less tightly and also so the weight doesn’t come through that part of the hand described above. Either grip more across knuckles at the base of your fingers or angle across the base of your thumb. Easiest to draw than explain I am afraid!

Hope this helps. If the numbness is more on the little finger side if the hand you have a different issue and should consult someone. Also if any numbness persist after a ride for any time.

Incidentally I think gel gloves do little. In fact some bulk out the area you are trying to avoid having pressure on so make it worse. It is hand position that helps.



I used to get it in the toes on one foot. It was the shoes that caused it. They weren’t tight, just didn’t suit my feet for some reason.

Which letter did you omit there Bruce?


I shouldn’t laugh, but😄

Why would he get it walking? I don’t understand…


I had a similar problem with a ski boot. Tried custom foot beds, blowing out the shell, etc. In my case it was pressure on a nerve that runs close to a vein on top of the foot.

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Yes, well, that made me laugh as well…but no I don’t have that problem whichever letter was omitted, and according to the physio I use I don’t have CTS, but a useful thought.

Looks like tomorrow is shirt level and measuring day - some good tips for me to check out, especially as the set up probably hasn’t changed much since I bought the bike. I do have a sale with a central split actually - a Specialized one but the split only goes about half way from the back and the back is padded - but a quick look suggests it isn’t parallel so I’ll try some adjustments tomorrow. In due course I may try out a professional bike fit if I can’t improve things, assuming I can find one near Salisbury.

Thanks for all the ideas.

Or even spirit level day, I should have said.

Wow, £80 for their cheapest shorts!
Not so bad if they were guaranteed to work for me and will last well, but not knowing whether they work without a long ride, and not returnable as it is effectively underwear, makes it a significant gamble…