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Any recommendations for shock absorbing handlebar tape?

I have a very harsh bike with drop bars (cheap alum frame and HD wheels, frame limits tires to 28mm) so I'm doing what I can to minimize the harshness (short of getting a new bike). I will be getting some padded gloves but I won't always be using them.

I'm a commuter/day tripper. I think I've dialed in my positioning well enough, the only thing that hurts after a couple hours is my hands, and I do move their positions.

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If your hands hurt, you're probably putting too much weight on them. Raising the handlebars is a great way to slacken your posture and place more weight on your saddle and feet. With the right quill stem this is pretty easy. With a threadless stem, you have to use spacers and sometimes different stems to get your handlebars higher. –  WTHarper Dec 23 '12 at 22:01
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6 Answers 6

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I found that many drop bars are too skinny, putting a lot of pressure on a very small area of my hands. A wider gripping surface seemed to help relieve a lot of pressure. Consider adding some Bar Shapers under the tape.

You can also add some Bar Phat under the tape to give more gel-cushioning. Then you don't have to use your padded gloves all the time.

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Try adjusting the angle of your seat, so that the front of your saddle is level to the back of the saddle. This will change your riding position and encourage you to lean forward less.

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I use the foam grips on my Miyata 1000 LT touring bike. They seem to last forever. They are comfortable for short trips of 10 miles or so, without the use of padded gloves. They do give some insulation advantages in colder weather. They can also be wrapped with cloth tape if you desire to compress the foam a little bit to protect it or if your hands are on the small side. It can be a bit of trouble installing or removing, but Sheldon Brown has some tips on the Harris Cyclery website for working with this type of grip.

http://sheldonbrown.com/handlebar-tape.html

http://harriscyclery.net/product/grab-on-grab-on-maxi-grip-set-424.htm

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I once worked through the math, and in order to reduce the pressure on your hands to where you can maintain blood circulation in an average drop bar situation you need bar pads that are about 5" in diameter (which is, obviously, somewhere between impractical and impossible). And standard padded gloves have no different effect from padded bars in this sense.

What you need is to move the hands around enough that blood flow is not cut off from any one area for more than a minute or two, and over-padded bars/gloves make it harder to do this.

I once had some Sorbothane-padded gloves that solved the problem by having ribs in the Sorbothane elastomer -- these were excellent and totally banished hand pain (which is no doubt why they are no longer made). I also experimented with a longitudinally ribbed bar pad which worked very well, only the rubber I used (bathtub caulk) was not sufficiently durable, and only lasted about a month.

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In addition to adjusting the posture (primarily seat) on the bike, you may also experiment with using slightly less air in your tires, as this will reduce the harshness of ride more than frame material. Bicycle Quarterly has a nice chart on recommended inflation pressures based on weight and bicycle type:

http://www.bikequarterly.com/images/TireDrop.pdf

For extra bar padding, I'd recommend doubling up on the ubiquitous cork tape as it's cheap and, if done right, will hold up for the entire season.

One nice thing about gloves is they help mitigate the perspiration. Also, snot-rockets notwithstanding, having a soft, terry cloth thumb to wipe the nose is a nice creature comfort. :-)

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Thanks for the responses everyone. I'm going to try one of these shorter and higher stems:

http://www.amazon.com/Avenir-Degree-Handlebar-Shims-Black/dp/B002BVW4XC/ref=sr_1_3?s=cycling&ie=UTF8&qid=1356462511&sr=1-3

but I'd still like a little extra padding. My hands have always seemed to suffer more than most peoples, even with more upright postures. And like I said this is a fairly harsh bike (when I got my 36 spoke HD wheels I noticed an immediate increase in the harshness, but I really prefer the stronger wheels).

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