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Since moving to the Southwest I've greatly ramped up my cycling. I used to do ~16 miles a day, now I do double that or better, nearly every day of the week. Usually by around 15-20 miles I get nerve problems in my right hand. My left is pretty much unaffected, even if I do 50 miles or more.

Note: my right hand is my dominant hand.

I ride with a club, and whenever I see riders shaking their hands to relieve the tingling, it's almost always their right hand. Lately I've been asking people I see doing this if they're right- or left-handed. Right-hand shakers have all been right-hand dominant.

Does anyone know if my straw poll has been tested more scientifically? And, if so, has anyone proposed an explanation for why the dominant hand should incur more problems than the off hand?

  • I smell the Bader-Meinhof phenomenon, where you only notice the shaking of the right hand because yours is already tingly and you're likely to shake it soon. damninteresting.com/the-baader-meinhof-phenomenon You might also want to check the brake setup - in my country right-hand controls front brake, so it might be related to brake usage. – Criggie May 30 '16 at 1:46
  • possibly they shake their right hand first, which you notice, then their left hand later by which time it's old news? – Móż May 30 '16 at 2:35
  • @MÒŽ: I thought of that, but I've been looking carefully and the hand that gets shaken is always the same one. – Robusto May 30 '16 at 4:15
  • @Criggie: Where I'm from the left hand controls the front brake. – Robusto May 30 '16 at 4:16
  • Perhaps a lack of right-brake-lever use encourages the right hand to loose circulation? – Criggie May 30 '16 at 5:00
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I don't know of a scientific study directly answering this question. In leu of empirical (and verifiable) information, I provide an theory based on anacdotal experience.

You generally use your dominant hand more off the bike than the non-dominant hand. If in your work or other activities you have poor posture or poor ergonomics your dominant hand may already have higher fatigue or irritation relative to your non-dominant hand. This effect would be subclinical (i.e., either you don't quite notice, or its low enough you don't seek help). Now expose both hands equally to a sustained level of irritation (e.g., poor bike fit) and the dominant hand will be the first to become "clinical."

Side Note

It could be worth looking on how you rest your hands on the bar (e.g., see Pain in center of hand). I think many modern road bars have poor ergonomics for slower endurance riding, where you may be placing more weight on your hands. Also many riders have their bikes set up with the bars too low for the majority of riding they do. This will put more weight on their hands and will quickly expose ergonomic issues. Personally, I find slammed positions fine if you are cranking out large wattage all the time (i.e., 250+ sustained), but it can cause problems for long rides at more moderate output (i.e., <200 watts sustained)

  • Thanks and +1. I don't know from wattage, but I generally ride 30 miles in ~1.5 hours, so I wouldn't call that "slower" endurance riding, exactly. (Or maybe it is ... I don't know.) – Robusto May 31 '16 at 0:38
  • @Robusto I wouldn't call your ride "slower," but it is closer to and endurance pace than what I am thinking of when referring to cranking out high wattage (e.g., criterium or pursuit). When are pushing big watts, you pretty much support all your body weight by resisting your pedal stroke. You could remove the bars and your body position wouldn't shift much. Here you are not putting much if any pressure on your hand, even with a low bar position. Slower than that you need to raise the bars to be in balance again or else your hands have to support more weight. – Rider_X May 31 '16 at 6:43

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