a man riding mountain bike on the trail of the hill

How to Avoid Sore Hands When Mountain Biking

Tom

Written by bike expert Tom. Last updated:

Sore hands and wrist pain are the most common complaints that we hear from both beginner and experienced mountain bikers. Whether it is a tingling sensation, numbness, weakness, or pain, not having complete control of your bike is dangerous and can lead to severe injury and harm.

For years, the opinion was that sore hands were simply a part of mountain biking—the same way you need to rough it out and get used to a new seat or a new pair of biking shoes. Nothing could be further from the truth. Sore hands and wrist pain are an indication that you need to work on your form and technique.

In this short guide, we’ll explore how to avoid sore hands when mountain biking and make the experience more enjoyable.

Minimize Ulnar and Median Nerve Stress

Your hands make up two of five contact points your body has with your mt bike. As such, they are under constant stress when riding. Notably, a massive amount of force, vibration, and shock transfers to the fork of the bike and through the frame to your hands. Your ulnar and median nerves are the main stress targets in your hands.

Ulnar nerve stress can lead to numbness and weakening in your hands, making it difficult to control your bike and stay on it during bumpier rides. This condition is termed “handlebar palsy” by many mountain bikers. Median nerve stress can lead to similar sensations but concentrated on the thumb, index, and middle finger.

If you are feeling any of the mentioned symptoms, it might be time to reevaluate the way you ride your bike.

Use the Proper Riding Position

female riding her mountain bike in sunny park

Harmful hand stress while riding a mountain bike is often the result of improper riding position. To make sure you maintain the proper riding position, climb onto your bike and adjust the seat to a comfortable position. Always ensure that you have to fully extend your arms to grab the handlebars and all the bones in your arms are aligned.

Holding the handlebars with your arms at an awkward angle transfers your weight onto your arms, putting additional stress on them and causing wrist pain and numbness.

Use Optimal Cockpit Setup

As with riding position, an improper cockpit setup can cause hand soreness and wrist pain. Your hands need to be able to grip the handlebars comfortably, and the gear shifters and brake levers need to be accessible without straining your hand to reach them. An uncomfortable grip over time causes muscle and joint fatigue and pain.

Find the Right Grip and Gloves

The purpose of handlebar grips is to provide you with a secure grip on the handlebars, even in the worst riding and weather conditions. Additionally, a bike grip can help distribute pressure to your hands over a larger area, thus avoiding joint and muscle fatigue and pain. Make sure to use an ergonomic bike grip that spreads out the pressure to your whole hand.

Gloves play the same role. They provide better grip as well as cushioning for your hands. There are no perfect gloves, and finding the right pair might be a game of trial and error.

a man wearing gloves while riding his mountain bike

Hand Stretching and Exercises

If you are a beginner mountain biker, chances are that your hands will get sore even if you have the proper grip and riding position. It happens to more experienced riders as well when they overexert themselves.

Pain also could be a sign that your hands might need strengthening or you need to stretch before riding. Stretching your hands before riding improves the blood flow and flexibility of the joints. Strengthening your hand muscles through exercise is also a great way to minimize stress and trauma on them when riding.

Bear in mind that these small adjustments can improve your overall riding experience and keep you pain-free at the same time. If you don’t see any improvements following the steps above, don’t hesitate to contact a medical professional specializing in the field. There may be an underlying condition complicating the situation. For example, those with arthritis are more likely to experience pain with long-term gripping motions like holding bike handles.

References

  1. How to Avoid Sore Hands from Mountain Biking – Total Women’s Cycling
  2. Hand Numbness While Biking – What to Do – Central Vermont Medical Center

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