Hand pain & numbness + handlebar selection- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Hand pain & numbness + handlebar selection

    Greetings!

    About two months ago I purchased my first MTB in years-a 2011 GF Paragon. I love it. I've used it mostly for commuting (which involves dirt and gravel roads) and about 30% for trail riding. I am 5'11, 175lbs, and am riding a 19" frame, all stock. The stock handlebars are the Bontrager Race Light Big Sweep (17degrees) cut down to about my shoulder width.

    Since day 1, my hands have been rather sore on the bike. I recently did an off-road triathlon (7 miles on bike) and during which not only did they become painful, but they became quite numb (which was exciting while braking!). Obviously, this is a problem I'd like to fix.

    Observations: It appears that my natural grip on the bar is such that my hands don't sit flat on the grips. I would guess that a bar with less sweep would have it sitting flat on my palms, whereas this has my biggest (and if I'm not thinking about it, the only) point of contact on the meaty part of my hand between the thumb and forefinger. The rest of my palm is off the grip and "above" the grip.

    I changed my brake alignment and slight rotated the handlebars down, so I'll see how that feels on my way home. Is there a chance that the huge amount of sweep is causing this issue? More specifically, the sweep + the way I naturally want my hands to sit is causing this?

    Any ideas would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

  2. #2
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    It sounds like you might need some general fit assistance, even with a short stem for G2 geometry that sounds like a long cockpit for someone 5'-11" (unless you have very long torso and arms). You may just have too much weight forward on the bars.

    Also the shoulder width bars thing is more road than mountain, you generally want bars wide enough to give your the leverage you need on the trails and not hit trees. Bars as wide as 710mm are not uncommon for XC bikes.

    A 9 degree sweep bar might help return your grip to something more like a golf club so the heel of the palm and the area under the knuckle of your index finger.

    You may also want to look st Specialized Body Geometry or Ergon grips with more padding and support for the palm.
    I'm a member of NSMBA and IMBA Canada

  3. #3
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    When I went to wider bars (720mm) , the numbness went away that I used to get from the Big Sweep 640mm bars I had. I think the Paragon only comes with 660mm bars, which are narrow by today's standards, so if you cut them you went really narrow. Not many people run bars that narrow anymore, because most people who have tried them think the bikes handle way better with wider bars. That may contribute to the numbness, or the sweep might just be too much for you.

  4. #4
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    I don't know if you wear gloves or not but if I wear gloves that are at all snug or have too much padding I tend to get numbness in my hands - just another thing to consider.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by rockyuphill View Post
    It sounds like you might need some general fit assistance, even with a short stem for G2 geometry that sounds like a long cockpit for someone 5'-11" (unless you have very long torso and arms). You may just have too much weight forward on the bars.

    Also the shoulder width bars thing is more road than mountain, you generally want bars wide enough to give your the leverage you need on the trails and not hit trees. Bars as wide as 710mm are not uncommon for XC bikes.
    Couple things to add:

    When I hopped on the bike at the time of purchase, I was surprised at how "small" it felt. It was definitely "smaller" than the 2012 19" cobia/mambas that I tried on. The bike "fitter/employee" was quite surprised how well I fit on the bike and commented on how I must have a longer torso and arms. So I may very well have a longer torso or arms. I am using the stock 105mm stem flipped down.

    I know it doesn't mean much, but while pedaling, my knees rise up well in front (closer to the bar) of my elbows.

    When I got on the bike initially, the bars felt incredibly awkward since they were so wide, hence we cut them down. Maybe that was a mistake!

    My LBS isn't very local, so it's quite difficult to go down and "experiemnt" with a bunch of bars and stems to figure everything out.

  6. #6
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    I'm 6'-1" and ride a 19" framed bike with a 605mm HTT length and a 100mm stem with 700mm wide flat bars, and I have orangutan arms. That cockpit feels comfortable for me and keeps me from having too much weight forward on the bars.

    The 19" Paragon has a 622mm HTT length so with a 105mm stem, that's a fairly stretched out riding position. The extra sweep on the bars brings the bars back closer, but maybe something like an 80mm stem and a wider flat bar with less sweep like 9deg would improve the bar angle where your hand rests on it, and keep you from being really stretched out.
    I'm a member of NSMBA and IMBA Canada

  7. #7
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    Ergon Grips!

  8. #8
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    Thanks for all of the help guys! I really appreciate it. Definitely a lot to think about.

    Could changing grips make that much of a difference? Is it possible to experience pain and numbness, switch grips (from which are presumably decent), and have it all go away? This issue seems to be more than just grips.

    Also-I'm currently not wearing gloves, as most of my rides are under an hour. Again-I feel like I should be able to ride for 20min without gloves and be pain free-which I can't.

  9. #9
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    Grips make a big difference. They will help if you have too much weight forward on the bars, but you also want to manage the reach and the bar angle.

    ERGON BIKE ERGONOMICS

    Specialized Bicycle Components
    I'm a member of NSMBA and IMBA Canada

  10. #10
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    Grips make a difference. My OEM Trek lock-on grips caused numbness in my ring and pinkie finger. I like to use the ends of my grips, and the outer lock-on ring was compressing the ulnar nerve. I waited too long to change them and still have numbness in those fingers which I'm not sure will ever go away.
    If you aren't already, when you are descending make sure to keep your weight on your feet. So many riders shift weight to their hands and tense up their upper body. It'll kill your arms and hands as well as make you ride a whole lot worse... How to Descend a Steep Section, Mountain Bike Body Position - BetterRide.net

  11. #11
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    Before you start dropping hard earned dough on bars grips and stems maybe try working on grip strength. I had a similar problem 2 years ago. Then I started rock climbing and got myself a grip strength donut at the climbing store.


    Worked on just squeezing it while reading or tv vegging and now I don't go numb whatsoever.

  12. #12
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    I had similar issuses with numbness. I switched to ESI 100% silicone grips on my stock 25mm rise 640mm wide bars. The grips increased my numbness time from about 30 mins to 60 mins. Then I switched to some 38mm rise 720mm wide bars and that solved my issuse completley. I think getting my riding position a little more on my butt biased and taking some weight off my hands made all the difference.

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