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I've recently switched from a hybrid with straight bars to a touring bike with conventional drop bars. My commute is just over 5km, and my palms have been getting very sore just below my thumb.

My theory is that my saddle is angled too far forward and I'm resting too much of my weight on my hands. Is there anything else I should try adjusting? Are my hands still getting used to the new more aggressive riding position?

Any other tips for someone getting used to drop bars?

Edit: I am 6'3" and the bike's frame is 60cm.

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IMO, bikes are commonly sold with the handlebar too low for most people (because the low handlebar "looks mean" in the showroom), and the newer "threadless" design reduces the amount of easy adjustability of height. Consider adding an extension to raise your handlebar an inch or two. –  Daniel R Hicks Aug 9 '13 at 15:36
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5 Answers 5

up vote 4 down vote accepted
  • In my experience, the pain is caused mainly due to shoving the soft part of palm(between thumb and index/fore finger) on to the brake hoods. Try resting your 'karate chopping' part of your hand on the bars when reaching the brake-hoods. My pain was significantly reduced in doing so.
  • I think getting a professional bike fit is a good investment if you are considering riding your cycle on a daily basis.

  • The saddle being set up too high may also cause the rider to exert more pressure on the hands.

  • Using padded gloved while riding reduces the affects of road vibration and hence alleviate some of this pain.

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I tried to keep the 'karate chopping' part of my hands on the bar on the way home and it actually helped quite a bit. The other answers were all good as well. I wish I could accept more than one. –  Remy Aug 9 '13 at 20:10
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+1 for the padded gloves and padded bar tape, they make a big difference. –  Stephen Lynch Aug 10 '13 at 8:10
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The solutions many people try for hand soreness include:

  • Padded gloves
  • Padded bar tape/gel inserts under the bar tape
  • Raising the bars, either by moving the stem up if you have spacers above it, flipping over an angled stem or getting a new stem.
  • Tilting the saddle backwards so that the hands aren't having push on the bars to counter you sliding forwards.
  • Getting a professional bike fit.
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When I had sore hands/arms after a 10 mile commute on a straight bar bike, it was getting a different length stem that cured it after padded gloves and a change of grips didn't. (That doesn't mean it's always the answer of course.) –  armb Aug 9 '13 at 15:59
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Tighten your core; this will take most of the weight off the hands.

The more aggressive position requires you to use more of your body. If you don't engage your core, your hands will adapt, but you won't be getting the most out of the position.

It's worth noting that engaging the core will also make for a safer ride. You will have better control of the brakes as your hands will have more strength (and feeling) for the brakes and the shifters while at the same time your lower body will be more connected allowing you to control the bike much easier.

This is something that you will have to think about as you ride for the first week or so, but will become natural quickly.

I would also note that the "equipment" suggestions, while they may offer a bit of relief, generally only extend the problem. The exception is bike fit which is critical, if you haven't had a good bike fit, I'd recommend getting one from a Physical Therapist that specializes in bike fits. If "BikeFit" is available in your area, they are very good as well.

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How far is you saddle tilted forward? A good rule of thumb is that the saddle's upper deck should be more or less level. If you have a very short frame, you might even try to tilt the saddle's nose slightly upward.

It might also just be that your lower back musculature is not (yet) strong enough to hold (enough of) your weight, now that you seem to ride more bent over. This could also lead to more load on the hands and shoulders.

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Hadn't considered the back muscles. I've also gone from a loaded hiking pack to panniers. –  Remy Aug 9 '13 at 14:24
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I once ran through some mathematical calculations, taking into consideration body weight, blood pressure, the area of the hand in contact with the handlebar, etc. The net (close as I recall) is that, if you are supporting most of your upper body weight with your hands (vs back) and you weight much more than about 150 pounds then the pressure on the hands will inevitably cut off blood circulation.

Padded gloves or bars only slightly increase the size of contact area and thus only slightly raise the amount of weight that can be supported.

So basically it's necessary to somehow vary the contact area regularly, so that bloodflow is not deprived of any area of the hand for too long (more than maybe 5-10 minutes). With drop bars you have a number of possible hand positions, so varying position is not too hard so long as you remember. (One tends to forget when one gets tired, though.)

I also once had a pair of gloves that had a pad in them made of ribbed rubber that circumvented this problem nicely. The ribbing meant that blood could flow between the ribs so that even slight changes in hand position would keep the blood flowing (and possibly the ribbing served to "pump" the blood as well). Unfortunately the gloves wore out and I never found another pair (gel gloves came into vogue and pushed out any other options). I then experimented with placing a ribbed surface on the bar and found this so effective that I could ride for hours without gloves, but I kinda stopped long touring and so never pursued it more.

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