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  1. #1
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    Ulnar nerve pain and help fixing bike geometry

    Ive got a Canondale 29er, its a size L (18.5) frame. Seat is set so that leg is not quite fully extended. Saddle is aftermarket split type. When I first got the bike last summer, I had a lot of numbness in my hands. Not usual Ulnar type, but pain on back of hands and general whole hand numbness after a ride. I tried ergo grips. Made minor difference. Tried gel gloves to made minor difference.

    Since then I took a low rise handle bar and swapped it to a 30mm rise bar, changed to ODI moab lizard skin grips and the stem is a thompson 100mm type.

    Rode on this config for about 6 months. Sometimes I get occasional ulnar type pain/ numbness after a ride in either hand. Sometimes I dont. I have found that wearing regular non padded gloves the pain is oddly less as opposed to gel type gloves.

    Occasionally the ulnar numbness gets worse.

    My question would be should I increase the bar rise to say 40mm and shrink the stem to say 40-50mm range? Would this with say softer grips give me the geometry change to stop the problem?

    Any thoughts on this or other fixes?

    Thanks

  2. #2
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    Bicycling and Pain

    See "fingers" and "back" in particular.

    My instinct is that you need to start making small changes in the position of your grips. Like maybe a 90mm stem. Don't go all the way to a little BMX-type stem - small changes here make a big difference.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  3. #3
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    I think the position of the grips matters and how you achieve it doesn't.

    I think I can get a stem for $10, but new handlebars are more expensive, and moving my controls over is a pain.

    It may take you some experimentation to get it right. Better to buy a bunch of $10 stems that don't work than a bunch of $30-$60 handlebars that don't work.
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  4. #4
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    Do you think rise of the bars is more critical than length of stem or vise versa? Or a combo of both? I have been reading abit online about this. But nobody really says..change this for this sort of thing. Sort of vague here.

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    You think to much reach is causing the problem here with to long a stem then? If so what length do you think I should try?

  6. #6
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    I don't know. Hold your bike up to the monitor.

    I've never seen you on your bike. Too small a bike causes the same problems. Read the link. Read this link too.
    How to Fit a Bicycle

    Try to get help from someone local who knows bikes - actually seeing you on the bike is important.

    Since you have a 100mm stem now, I'd probably start by going to a 90mm stem, maybe a higher-angled one. (But again - too small a bike can cause the same problems.) I assume your stem is already flipped up and on top of the spacer stack?
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  7. #7
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    Depends on the glove. Mine have gel pads but not over the path of the ulnar nerve. Although, I don't wear padded gloves for MTB. I've been meaning to get fatter grips...
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  8. #8
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    Yeah its angle side up. Odd that wearing the gel gloves makes it fractionally worse I think to.

  9. #9
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    Try something as simple as rotating the bar. I rotated mine and it made a huge difference.
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  10. #10
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    I wonder if you are gripping the bars really hard. Do you check your grip from time to time? If you are not on really rough terrain, you can relax one hand and shake it out.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by AndrwSwitch View Post
    I don't know. Hold your bike up to the monitor.
    This is gold. I've had to resort to this in a moment of frustration when I was working at a bike shop once. The person on the other end couldn't comprehend that I could not fix the problem over the phone and that in 3 minutes of having the bike in my hands I could fix it completely. I finally had to tell them to "hold the bike up the phone and let me talk to it". Luckily they had a sense of humor and got the point.

    Andrw's point? Go to your bike shop and talk to them. We can't fix the way you fit on a bike over the internet; I know, I've tried. Best case scenario, you post up some pictures and we take a stab at it but really the only way to do this right is to have a good fitter look at you on a trainer and actually get down to the finer points of a bike fit.
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  12. #12
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    when i ride for long periods of time on my bike, i get pins and needles on the bottom outer edge of my palm. Sometimes it creates a lightning buzzing shock thru my haand. i believe this is the ulnar nerve since its the outside of the palm, not inside
    fap

  13. #13
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    I too was having some hand issues on my right hand when I got my new bike last month.
    A combination of much smaller grips than ever being used to (Ourys to CrossTrainer), too much gel glove
    and a nice healthy Death-Grip was miserable.

    I believe the gloves caused me to grip more due to such a vague feeling of the bars.
    I switched to larger grips, non-padded gloves, and kept reminding myself to RELAX.

    Another thing to address is the position of the brake levers in relation
    to your hand position. Take the time to get it right where you want it.

  14. #14
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    So when some say rotate the handle bars? Which direction should I go and ho much movement? The other thing I was going to try was to slightly raise saddle nose angle, but how much? I take it its a very small amount here?

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    You really have to experiment. Make small changes.

    Did you read the links? If you've made a change as a result, give it a ride to see if it worked before you change something else.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bigwheel29 View Post
    So when some say rotate the handle bars? Which direction should I go and ho much movement? The other thing I was going to try was to slightly raise saddle nose angle, but how much? I take it its a very small amount here?
    yup rotating risers bars moves the grip back significantly...

    Look at the front most bars have some lines that indicate the angle...so you can put it back where it belongs if you have to remove the bars for some reason.

    The lines usually go about 45 degrees off the center line....

    One trick I have found....just loosen the bars slightly....then go for a ride on easy flat ground....you should be able to twist the bars back and forth to get a feel for where you might like them the most....of course be careful...

    Also you will probably need to rotate the brake and shifters.....these should be set so that with a relaxed elbow position and the finger on the brake lever the wirst is pretty much straight.

    Gel makes it worse because the ulnar nerve is in a little low spot.on the bottom of the palm...so the gel puts more weight on the low spot hence more pain...

    Tipping the saddle back is not the way to go ....you will end up with pain down there...

    Saddle should be LEVEL or maybe a degree tip down if you have pain....

    Measure the saddle rails if you can seem to eyeball it.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by AndrwSwitch View Post
    You really have to experiment. Make small changes.

    Did you read the links? If you've made a change as a result, give it a ride to see if it worked before you change something else.
    Yes read all the links thanks

    Ok so i will start with rotating the bar. I have a truvativ bar with indicators. How much should I rotate it? I assume I am rotating the bar towards the saddle right? Whats a good starting point you think?

    Odd that I think these damn gel gloves are making the problems worse. but I think you guys are totally right about this.

    Thanks for this bar tip, cause it wont cost a penny to move it and try.

    Shifters are XTR and Brakes are XT. I typically ride with 1 finger on XTs and thumb on the shifters, never any pain there.

  18. #18
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    I don't know. Not very much. Small changes make a big difference. Just take a multitool with you when you ride. You should start feeling differences pretty quickly.

    Keep your hands off the brakes and shifters unless you're planning to do something with them. Staying off the controls means you're not shifting or braking at stupid times, and you have all your fingers to devote to holding the bars.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  19. #19
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    Yeah I have been looking at the bars for awhile tonight. I am wondering if I rotate them back towards the saddle, does this put less pressure on the ulnar nerve? Or does rotating them forward put less extension on the wrist resulting in less pressure on the nerve? The problem I have found with the ulnar is that I dont get a ton of issues during riding, some but minor, it flairs up after I am done!

    You guys have any recommendations which direction I should twist the bars here? Do you think its direct pressure on the nerve causing the problem? Or extension of the wrist causing the nerve to be pressured?

    I have read a ton on this, but still am abit baffled. Thanks for all the help on this, its appreciated.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bigwheel29 View Post
    Yeah I have been looking at the bars for awhile tonight. I am wondering if I rotate them back towards the saddle, does this put less pressure on the ulnar nerve? Or does rotating them forward put less extension on the wrist resulting in less pressure on the nerve? The problem I have found with the ulnar is that I dont get a ton of issues during riding, some but minor, it flairs up after I am done!

    You guys have any recommendations which direction I should twist the bars here? Do you think its direct pressure on the nerve causing the problem? Or extension of the wrist causing the nerve to be pressured?

    I have read a ton on this, but still am abit baffled. Thanks for all the help on this, its appreciated.
    We can't tell you which way to rotate because that would depend on where the bars are now.

    For me I rotated forward.
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  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bigwheel29 View Post
    The bars are set at dead centre on the graduations. So you figure I should rotate the angle forward? Will this shift weight to knuckle front of hand then?
    There we go....

    Shift it which ever way you want.....go ride the bike....

    Thin shift it back the other way and go ride the bike....

    Pick which ever way makes you feel better....

    This all started off with getting a shorter stem to put more weight on your butt and less on your arms.....(that is a hint).

  22. #22
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    The bars are set at dead centre on the graduations. So you figure I should rotate the angle forward? Will this shift weight to knuckle front of hand then?

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bigwheel29 View Post
    The bars are set at dead centre on the graduations. So you figure I should rotate the angle forward? Will this shift weight to knuckle front of hand then?
    Not to be a jerk, just pick a direction and do it, you spent more time responding and asking which way. You could have picked a direction and tried it. Everyone is different what worked for me may not for you. Rotate the bars and then ride!
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  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by TwoTone View Post
    Not to be a jerk, just pick a direction and do it, you spent more time responding and asking which way. You could have picked a direction and tried it. Everyone is different what worked for me may not for you. Rotate the bars and then ride!
    Ok Ill try it out, but **** if my hand is paralyzed like last weekend and I cant hold my beer again! Ill be back looking for death!!

    Sorry I get that a lot of this is ...theres no exact answer and try it and see. I was just wondering if certain positions did certain things with handle bars. Cant find squat online on this. Lots on the Ulnar nerve thing.

    The LBS I have locally set up the bike, I asked them in the past about numb hands and stuff and the guy was like hey its no big deal...

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bigwheel29 View Post
    Ok Ill try it out, but **** if my hand is paralyzed like last weekend and I cant hold my beer again! Ill be back looking for death!! Well after the hand heals up casue you won't be able to type for a while

    Sorry I get that a lot of this is ...theres no exact answer and try it and see. I was just wondering if certain positions did certain things with handle bars. Cant find squat online on this. Lots on the Ulnar nerve thing.

    The LBS I have locally set up the bike, I asked them in the past about numb hands and stuff and the guy was like hey its no big deal...
    so it has been 12 minutes or so.......how did it go...which way is better.

  26. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by jeffscott View Post
    so it has been 12 minutes or so.......how did it go...which way is better.
    "You must spread some Reputation around before giving it to jeffscott again"

    ...a shame, that.

    This is getting insane. You have stated that your bars are sitting on the midline which means that your bars can't be that far out of alignment.Which means that this isn't a handlebar issue.

    I re-read your initial post and I'll buy you a beer if it's not your brake lever position. Top of wrist pain indicates that your wrist is in a bent position. What you need to do is set up your brake levers such that your wrist makes a mostly straight line from shoulder to wrist. The idea behind this is that you shouldn't need to bend your wrist to use your brakes which makes it that your absorb shock with your wrists instead of transferring it into your arms which are much better at dealing with shock. I took these pictures when I first built my bike to show my lever and handlebar position in relation to my bike on level ground.

    Picture showing handlebar angle; notice very very slight upward tilt to the ends of the bars:


    Picture showing (sort of) brake lever position; note downward angle which matches my arm position:


    While you're at it, make sure that your brake levers are set up so that you can reach out with one (or sometimes two) fingers and put them right in the bend at the end of the lever without needing to move your hand side to side. That's where you get the most power from your brakes and you'll experience less hand fatigue.

    From the top now: notice the gap between grip and lever. That was initial setup, my current setup has an inch from grip to lever clamp and another half inch out to the shifters.
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    My brake levers and shifters look about the same as yours in setup. I havent had a chance to move the bar yet as I just got in from work. Ill try it and see how it goes. Thanks guys I appreciate the help. I know it sounds like a funny complaint, but the nerve thing wasnt so much pain, but I had almost no use of my hand for a few days. I couldnt even turn the key in the lock to get in my house or pick things up for almost 3 days. Its abit better today but still tingly. One of the reasons why I was apprehensive about picking the wrong direction and making it worse!

  28. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by zebrahum View Post
    "You must spread some Reputation around before giving it to jeffscott again"

    ...a shame, that.

    This is getting insane. You have stated that your bars are sitting on the midline which means that your bars can't be that far out of alignment.Which means that this isn't a handlebar issue.
    That far out of alignment for who? You? My shop set mine up midline and I had pain. Mine is now way off center line and I don't have pain. Not everyone is going to like the bars in the same place.
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  29. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by TwoTone View Post
    That far out of alignment for who? You? My shop set mine up midline and I had pain. Mine is now way off center line and I don't have pain. Not everyone is going to like the bars in the same place.
    You're being just as vague as everyone; if it can't be defined what directions handlebars should be rotated to change a certain feeling then what good is suggesting that they be rotated? Quite frankly, only at the extreme ends of the rotation of the bar do you get any appreciable difference and at that point the extreme angles the bars would need to be placed at will start changing the way the bike handling feels.

    I really don't think that handlebar rotation is either the cause of or solution to most people's wrist pain. I maintain there is a body position issue if the levers are positioned correctly.

    OP, you need to go have a shop look at you on the bike or you at least need to take some pictures from the side of you on the bike in the riding position. Vague statements of what others have done to make their bikes feel better (myself included) are only going to help you if we accidentally stumble on what the root cause is.
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  30. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by zebrahum View Post
    You're being just as vague as everyone; if it can't be defined what directions handlebars should be rotated to change a certain feeling then what good is suggesting that they be rotated? Quite frankly, only at the extreme ends of the rotation of the bar do you get any appreciable difference and at that point the extreme angles the bars would need to be placed at will start changing the way the bike handling feels.

    I really don't think that handlebar rotation is either the cause of or solution to most people's wrist pain. I maintain there is a body position issue if the levers are positioned correctly.

    OP, you need to go have a shop look at you on the bike or you at least need to take some pictures from the side of you on the bike in the riding position. Vague statements of what others have done to make their bikes feel better (myself included) are only going to help you if we accidentally stumble on what the root cause is.
    I know I was being vague, but the main point I was trying to make was start with something free and as simple as rotating the bars. Other people are saying stuff like buy a new stem etc... without even seeing this person on the bike, that costs money and could do absolutely nothing. My suggestion is at least free.
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  31. #31
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    Just to clarify, not to add confusion the Ulnar nerve pain isnt typical wrist pain, nor do I have a pain in my wrist or back of hand. Reading some medical bike type posts its suggested that Ulnar nerve damage can be caused by wrist extension angles or by direct pressure on ulnar nerve which is in the the centre of the palm typically. Ulnar nerve is like carpal tunnel pain only its the other side of the hand.

    Sorry guys I was not trying to be stupid here or difficult. I have a lot of crap LBS around me that are clueless. I might have to drive a couple of hours to one who is good here, which I will do but was hoping if I had some base line possibilities it might help.

    I rotated bars towards saddle. The grip angle is good, however as a riser bar they now sit lower so I wonder if there is more weight transfer onto the grip which will further aggravate the problem.

    Like I said I have no issues with pain, this isnt a pain problem it almost paralyzes my hand. Not fun!

    My buddies of course find it quite funny

  32. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bigwheel29 View Post
    ...
    Get us a picture already! You, on your bike, from the side.
    Don't you hate it when a sentence doesn't end the way you think it octopus?

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