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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm a really new older rider (65). I've been hiking for exercise for quite a few years and am in OK aerobic shape. We moved to Albuquerque, NM from Los Angeles about six months ago and while hiking I discovered the wealth of easily-accessible trails and got bitten by the biking bug. Bought a used (2008) Giant Reign 1 from a local bike mechanic after doing my best to research a good choice. The bikes I liked most test-riding were the Giant Anthem 29'er, a Specialized Camber Elite (also a '29er), but when the opportunity to by the Reign for a fraction of the cost of these new bikes, I went ahead figuring that at this point I don't have to be too picky as just about any decent ride would be fine for learning on. The Reign also felt like it was a nice fit and I liked the plush feeling on the suspension.

So I started riding about an hour a day for about a week and was having a lot of fun and learning to be at least comfortable on the bike. Then I noticed that my left (dominant) hand was feeling very strange....nothing hurt, but there was/is something wrong with the feeling and strength in the hand.

I did some internet research and found several good descriptions of a condition called "handlebar palsy," which is caused by an irritation or injury to the ulnar nerve which runs from the spine through the arm and into the hand. The passageway through the wrist is kind of cramped and susceptible to injury. I'm not a doctor (just play one on the internet...), but it certainly seems like that's what's happened.

This has been going on for about a week now, and after reading on the internet and using common sense, I thought it would be wise to not bike any more until this gets better, or I learn more about it. There has been some slight improvement over a week's time, but not much. Maybe 15-20% better than when started. I'll probably go and see someone about it next week, but I'm not sure whether to consult an MD, chiropractor, acupuncturist, etc., etc. So I thought I'd try posting here to see what others who may have experienced might advise.

My plans are to get a professional to do a bike fitting and see if there might be something that needs correcting there. I also realize that I need to get in better shape and work on upper-body/core strength. During test riding many bikes I did notice that on many of them I tended to end up leaning on the handlebars and sometimes having my wrists "cocked" downwards.

I certainly don't want to give up riding and learning because of this, but I also don't want to risk chronic aggravation or permanent injury.

Anybody here who's gone through this?

TIA.
 

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I think you are on the right track here. Get a pro bike fit and work on your core. Leaning on the bar is usually a symptom of fatigue. If the bike doesn't fit 100% fatigue sets in earlier. And yes, the core is where the weakness is.

In addiition:

Also ask for checking your bars when you work on the bike fit. A stronger bend might be more ergonomical for you.

Ergonomic grips (e.g. ergon GPs, GCs or GRs) might help you, too. They simply prevent your wrists from turning down.
 

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Some gel padded gloves in addition to what has already been discussed could be of benefit to you . Good luck .
 

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Well, see a doctor as you've planned, of course. Pain/numbness in wrists is common for mountain bikers, especially beginners, and especially if your "cockpit" (fit) isn't set up correctly. But no need aggravating some other condition should one exist.

A lot of beginners (speaking from experience) both put too much weight on the wrists, and often don't have them positioned correctly. They should be in-line with your forearms as much as possible. There's a natural tendency to bend the wrists at first, to rest on them. This causes a lot of stress on the ligaments, and risks spraining them over rough stuff. And over time, you learn how to put more weight on your legs and saddle, specifically to avoid wrist pain after long rides.

Go to a LBS and have them make sure your bike fit is set up correctly. A few seemingly minor adjustments can make the difference in keeping your weight distributed properly.

The numbness should go away fairly quickly..., as it's a blood-flow issue. But if your wrist muscles and ligaments got pulled while riding, that's something that could linger a few days.

Hope it's something minor and doesn't derail your bike plans. Good luck!
 

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Try different handle bar set ups as mentioned above.

My wife had this problem on her 29er (her Pivot Mach 5 is fine with "standard" bars) and we tried a set of Mi-Ti bars from Carver bikes. BAM!!! problem is gone and has stayed gone. We ride five days a week and she rides the 29er more than the 26er now.

Bikeman.com sells them and thier customer service is great.
 

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Check the angles on your brake levers as well. If they are to close to level then it will strain the wrist. Levers need to be down 20 to 45 degrees so your wrists are straight.
 

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Your saddle and handlebars should be positioned such that you do not have body weight resting on your handlebars. You may need to slide your saddle back and/or raise your bars/stem to shift your center of gravity backwards.

As others mentioned, keep your wrists straight! Adjust your brake levers and shifters so that you can use them comfortably when your wrists are straight. Most people start out riding with bent wrists (I did too), and this causes a lot of pain over time.
 

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-1 on the ergo grips. If you set them up for seated pedalig position then the're going to be off for your attack downhill position. Bend at the hips, keep your shoulders back and down (don't let them shrug up by your ears), back flat and chest out (not rounded and caved in), chin up, and light on your hands with a relaxed grip. This takes not only core strength but good flexibility as well.
 

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Another very common cause of hand pain is a saddle that's tilted down too much in the front. Even 1/8" too much tilt will cause trouble. Sometimes you'll feel it in your forearms too.

A friend of mine, in his early 40's had a problem with painful numb hands. He would often stop on the trail to rest his hands and massage them. He got a set of Ergon grips, the oval shaped ones, and it solved his problem. He got the model with the mini bar ends so he would have multiple hand positions.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Thanks for all the excellent input. Good news is that the hand feels much better today--a dramatic improvement, so I'm now less concerned that I may have done any permanent damage.

The bike is back with the seller, who is re-sealing the front fork, which was part of the original deal, so I hope to back in the saddle sometime next week. Then I'll also schedule a time to get the bike fit set up correctly.

I thought maybe the Ergon-style grips might be a step in the right direction, but if they only help with seated and upright riding--dunno. I'll see what the bike fitter says. I'm also hoping to get some instruction from guy who runs "Southwest Cycling Specialists" here in ABQ.

http://www.swcyclingspecialists.com/

I also bought a book by Brian Lopes and Lee McCormack: "Mastering Mountain Bike Skills." It's a great book and echos and expands on a lot of the tips from you guys. I don't figure I'll ever be up to anywhere near "mastering" these skills, but it will be fun finding out how far I can go.

I'm sure most here are familiar with this book, but if not, it's really nicely done with lots and lots of great pictures--which I checked out carefully and noted that in almost every one of the the rider's wrist is pretty much in line with the forearm.

Good pix of the "attack position" also and that is going to take some work on strength AND flexibility as noted here. Maybe time for yoga classes again ;-). (In the past I've found it just about the best thing I've ever done for flexibility.)

I found this little tidbit from Lee McCormack who (respectfully) tells all his new riding pupils:

1. You probably suck.
2. You suck more than you realize.
3. You suck because you're too stiff and passive on the bike.

But the road to improvement is open....

Thanks again for all the good tips.
 

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I have to reaffirm the minus on the ergon grips, they don't do anything a properly fitting bike won't do. Make sure your brake levers are set up so that you don't need to bend your wrists when you brake and make sure your saddle is set up nice and flat to support your sit bones instead of making your body slide forward or back while you pedal. Keep playing with things until you find a good setup for you.
 

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just get a real bike fit. pay for it, dont just have the guy in the shop give you pointers. look for a retul fit or something similar.
 

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faceplant72 said:
Check the angles on your brake levers as well. If they are to close to level then it will strain the wrist. Levers need to be down 20 to 45 degrees so your wrists are straight.
This is probably even a bit on the low side...mine are pretty close to perpendicular to the ground.
 

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Porschefan said:
... I thought maybe the Ergon-style grips might be a step in the right direction, but if they only help with seated and upright riding--dunno. I'll see what the bike fitter says. I'm also hoping to get some instruction from guy who runs "Southwest Cycling Specialists" here in ABQ.

http://www.swcyclingspecialists.com/

I also bought a book by Brian Lopes and Lee McCormack: "Mastering Mountain Bike Skills." It's a great book and echos and expands on a lot of the tips from you guys.
Ergons work well for XC style of riding. Sitting. standing , hunkering down. They are worth their money. But don't use them for technical riding/stunts. A classic grip offers, well, more grip.

Congrats on buying the McComack book. Not that many beginners out there realize they suck and would profit from some technique training. Took me a while to figure that out for myself, too. Good book!

Glad to hear you are feeling better. Go ride - but keep the loops short and easy. :D
 

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OP - I'm glad you're going to get a pro fit done. I had one a few years ago and learned I'd been putting my saddle too high for pretty much as long as I'd been road riding. Lowering it took some getting used to, but I think it contributed to getting over a knee problem that had been dogging me for years.

It looks like the company you're interested in has some flashy stuff they use to get initial fit setup, but the most important part, IMO, is actually after that - a good fit is very interactive, and you should end up with a bike that's really set up for you, not just some person who happens to have your measurements. If I read their pricing correctly, it's pretty competitive. So that's good.

Write down the way everything is set up when you get home afterwards. Ride the bike their way for at least one or two rides, and then play around with it a little and see what you think. You may end up going back to the way the fitter set up your bike, but you may find you make an improvement. As you get used to riding and get to be in better riding shape, what you want from your setup, especially bar position, is going to change. So don't be afraid to play with it a little bit again in several weeks. I think most riders make little tweaks every now and then pretty much indefinitely.
 
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