Cycling can make your hands buzz like a beehive or, worse, put your fingers to sleep.
Hand discomfort is usually caused by improper bike fit. But poor riding technique also plays a role. Gripping the bar in one position for long periods is a sure way to make hands and fingers feel like an electrical current is running through them.
Give These Methods a Try to Prevent Tingling Hands from Bicycling
Check your bike fit. As noted above, it’s always tempting to make your bike look like your favorite pro’s mount. If your handlebar is low in relation to the saddle, or your reach to the bar is too great for your arm length coupled with your torso length, you’ll need to tilt forward excessively. This puts too much weight on your hands. The result is compressed nerves that cause numb fingers.
There’s no accepted formula for top tube/stem length on a road bike. It’s always safer to err on the side of a bar that’s too high and too close. Many road riders have evolved to a slightly more upright position for greater comfort. With a higher bar, more weight is borne by your rear end rather than your arms and hands. You can always change stems to increase the reach.
Move your hands frequently. Rest on the brake lever hoods. Move to the bends (as described next). Switch to the tops as if you are climbing. Go down to the drops. Then repeat the sequence. Move your hands in response to the terrain and road conditions. If the road is flat and straight, cultivate the habit of changing position every couple of minutes.
Use more padding. Consider cycling gloves with thicker padding or gel inserts. Some gloves are ergonomically designed to make a channel where nerves pass through the wrist into the heel of the hand. Check at your local bike shop for padded or gel handlebar tape or wrap padding (foam or cork) under the tape. Even a moderate amount of additional padding can make a big difference in comfort.
Consider aero bars for long solo rides. Aero bars are not welcome in pacelines and many group rides, but if you often ride by yourself, you might want to install a set. Aero bars eliminate all hand pressure because your weight is borne by your forearms on the armrests. As a bonus, your speed may increase by 1-2 mph on long rides with no additional effort.
Adjust your grip. Here’s the hand position advocated by 7-time Tour de France competitor Ron Kiefel, who operates Wheat Ridge Cyclery in Denver. Ron puts his hands on the curve of the bar behind the brake hoods. Each index finger’s knuckle is near the hood but not quite touching. The thumb goes inside the bar and rests near the base of the hood. The index and middle fingers are wrapped around the bar under the brake hoods, while the ring finger and pinky are under the bar, too. Finally, the underside of the knuckles contacts the bar just behind the hoods. Notice that in this position, weight is borne by the bony part of the palm behind the knuckles. The wrist is in a straight “handshake” position. The result alleviates most of the nerve compression that causes numb hands. Try this grip to see if it helps.
Try the split-finger grip. When riding with hands on the brake hoods, put the hoods between your index and middle fingers. This is a relaxing position for cruising when braking won’t be necessary. It shifts your hands slightly inward where bar pressure is on the fat part of your palms in line with your ring fingers. Contact is shifted from the palms’ center where nerves lie.
Coach Fred Matheny is an RBR co-founder who has four decades of road cycling and coaching experience. He has written 14 eBooks and eArticles on cycling training, available in RBR’s eBookstore at Coach Fred Matheny, including the classic Complete Book of Road Bike Training, which includes 4 eBooks comprising 250 pages of timeless, detailed advice and training plans. The Complete Book is one of the many perks of an RBR Premium Membership. Click to read Fred's full bio.