Riding Position

Is "Professional" Bike Fitting a Scam?

Q:  I've been fitted by three different bike shops using different fit systems. Each shop measured me on and off my bike, which they all agreed is too small for me. They all came to the same conclusion regarding my body: extra long legs and arms, very short torso.

Numb Hands

Q: After about 30 minutes of riding, my hands get so numb and tingly that I can't shift gears. My handlebar is level with the saddle. Can you help? -- David W.

Coach Fred Replies: You've already done one key thing to prevent hand numbness -- raise the handlebar. Doing so stops you from putting excessive weight on your hands that compresses nerves and blood vessels. So there must be another cause. Here are some suggestions to help you sleuth out the problem:

  • Move your hands frequently. Switch your grip from the hoods to the drops to the flats next to the stem, then back again. Don't leave your hands in one place long enough for tingling to develop.
  • Change your grip. Hold the bar in a way that limits pressure on the center of the heel of your hand. That's where you're most susceptible to numbing nerve compression.
  • Pad your hands and/or handlebar. Sometimes wearing gel gloves or putting gel padding under the handlebar tape will stop numbness by softening pressure and damping vibration.
  • Check your saddle angle. If the nose is tilted down, it can cause you to slide forward. This puts extra weight on your hands and stresses your arms and shoulders, too.
  • Consider aero bars. When using them, all hand pressure is relieved. Weight is borne by your forearms.
  • Consider changing shifters. Some riders do better with bar-end or down-tube shifters rather than integrated brake/shift levers. When you have to move your hands to shift, pressure is automatically relieved.
  • Get a hand exam. Numbness in just 30 minutes of riding is unusual. If it also persists long after rides, check with a physician to rule out an underlying cause.

Why do my triceps get so sore?

Q: How come the backs of my upper arms are sore for several days after a long ride?—Timothy W.

COACH FRED: Your triceps muscles get sore because they are not used to supporting your body weight on the handlebar for long periods.

To eliminate this nuisance, first check your riding position. An overly long reach to the handlebar tends to stress and fatigue the triceps. (A reach that’s too short, on the other hand, would cause soreness in the trapezius muscle between your shoulder and neck.)

Then add some specific triceps conditioning to your resistance training routine. A good exercise that requires no equipment is pushups done with your hands the same distance apart as when you hold the handlebar.

Triceps extensions are great for isolating these muscles. Extensions can be done on the lat machine at a health club, or at home with a barbell or dumbbell. Here’s how: Using a barbell, hold a light weight overhead with your upper arms against your ears, bend your elbows to lower the weight behind your head, then straighten your arms. (If using a dumbbell, do the same thing with one arm at a time.) Do 15 to 25 repetitions.

During rides, change hand position frequently to distribute the strain. Switch from the tops to the brake levers to the hooks and drops—and back again.

Want more of Coach Fred's expert advice? Over 500 of his answers (searchable) are archived on the Premium Site.

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