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I tried fat biking this week, I've done hardly any off road or MTB cycling before and was very nervous.

I found keeping my hands over the brakes in case I had to stop suddenly strained my hands between thumb and first finger, especially as the ground was very rocky.

Is this just something your body gets used to or are there techniques I can improve here?

  • It could be that your weight is too far forward, decent grips and padded gloves can also help to aid this as well if weight balance is not the case. Could you tell us a little more detail, such as: Is this a new bike? Is it your bike or a friends bike? Was there any kind of fit done or did you just hop on a random bike and take it for a spin? Describe your riding posture, were your elbows nearly locked or did they have a little room to bounce? – Nate W Oct 28 '16 at 15:55
  • It's a decent rental bike (€2000), the sake height was adjusted but that's all. It feels fairly OK though. The issue is stretching my (small) hands to be ready on the brakes, not actually holding the handlebars – Mr. Boy Oct 28 '16 at 15:59
  • depending on the brake they may have an adjustable reach lever, where you can get the lever closer to the handlebar without losing function, it sounds like this would help in your case. Smaller diameter grips may help as well, or silicone grips like ESI or their competitors may help to dampen vibrations. – Nate W Oct 28 '16 at 16:03
  • As well as the reach, the angle of the brake lever makes a big difference. Start by setting so your arm/wrist/hand is straight when in attack position then fine tune from there. – mattnz Oct 29 '16 at 7:45
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Along with checking position on the bike it's worth checking to see whether the reach can be adjusted on your brakes in case you're over-stretching your hand. Check the angle too - stand behind the bike and reach the bar, extend your fingers straight forward following the line of your arm and adjust the lever to meet under your finger(s).

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Having recently spent a day MTBing when it's not something I've done before, I'd say most of it is unfamiliar use of muscles (plus you're holding on tighter than you need to). If you start riding like this regularly, it will get better as your skills improve and as your muscles get used to it (it's not that they're weak but using the strength in that position is new. As your confidence builds, the white-knuckle muscles won't be locked off so hard.

There's bound to be room to optimise your setup as well. adjusting the brake rest position may be an option depending on the brake type. Some people like ergonomic grips, some don't, and if you've got small hands this may not be an option unless you can adjust the brake levers

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Depending on the kind of brakes you have, and the terrain, you can use some different hand positions when using your brakes off road. The reason is that some kinds of brakes offer much better mechanical advantage, and you can brake very hard without much effort.

With caliper or v-brakes, you don't get much help, you'll probably want to brake with at least 2-4 fingers, which means you're only really holding onto your bars with your thumb and your palm, and you'll fatigue quite fast, especially if the ground is quite bumpy. Hanging on for dear life :)

With a mechanical disc brake, you can brake harder with less effort. You can probably keep 2 fingers on the bars and brake with your index and middle fingers. This is less strenuous but you'll still fatigue pretty quickly as you don't have a really good grip on your bars so you'll still be squeezing your hand tight to hold on.

The best brake is a hydraulic disc brake. When you brake with these, even on very, very bumpy ground you can use just your index finger and still brake extremely hard, maintaining a good grip on your bars with your thumb and 3 fingers.

If you're riding downhill on a big bike, and it's proper steep and rough, you're gonna fatigue quickly even with hydraulic disc brakes but that's the nature of the terrain and the kind of speeds you can reach.

As with any exercise, you can build grip strength and stamina in your hand muscles if you use them often.

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