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I would like to know of unique tips I may not be aware of. I average a distance of 15km daily on my rigid mountain bike. I have to use moderate PSI to avoid pinch flats and make wheels roll better. It's a daily commute to work.

I have to pedal through a mix of different road terrain, tarmac, off-road, curbs. I would like to know how do you alleviate this issue on a rigid mountain bike on the cheap. Every ride my hands are sore and my shoulders hurt. My seat height is adjusted to get maximum energy from my pedal stroke.

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    I would start with arm, shoulder, and core strength.
    – Paul H
    Commented Aug 16, 2023 at 15:56
  • Can you fit a wider front tire? That would allow you to use a lower, more comfortable tire pressure.
    – sjakobi
    Commented Aug 16, 2023 at 15:59
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    Are you wearing a back-pack while commuting? Does your helmet have a visor/brim ?
    – Criggie
    Commented Aug 16, 2023 at 19:31
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    Are your shoulder sore from bearing weight, or is from the neck, from holding you head up to see ahead?
    – mattnz
    Commented Aug 17, 2023 at 0:41
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    @Criggie I'm curious, how does a helmet visor/brim affect sore hands? I ride with a brimmed helmet. Commented Aug 18, 2023 at 14:11

4 Answers 4

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You may be putting too much of your weight on the handlebars. I currently have a rigid MTB (with rigid fork) for commuting and short errands, with 700x42 tires at about 60 psi and I can ride it for longer than 2 hours without hand or wrist pain. I ride on rough asphalt with a few cracks and potholes here and there. Conversely, If I ride my MTB for 2 hours on the flat with no special adjustment, I get wrist soreness.

The differences against my regular MTB for actual mountain riding (Uphill and downhill) is that on my commuter the saddle is a little bit closer to the handlebar and the handlebar is a little bit higher up.

My city is not flat but I definitely ride steeper and longer inclines on the mountains.

Do this test: in your regular sitting position, with both pedals at the same height, try to lift your hands off the bars. You should be able to hover your hands over the grips without having to slide either forward nor backwards on the saddle. My commuting setup is like this, whereas my MTB setup requires me to slide a bit towards the rear in order to do the same.

My reasoning to set up like this is that for commuting I use a lower pace, I'm not trying to beat the clock, I just need to get there, so I use a more upright riding position, a setup more oriented towards comfort. By contrast, my MTB is used more for climbing but I also need more dynamic riding on descents where I need to frequently change my position on the bike. I feel the slightly longer distance between saddle and handlebar allows me to apply higher torque to the pedals for climbing.

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On top of the body position, I'd add a few other suggestions:

  • handle bar grips: typical MTB grips are cylindrical, which is not ideal on a commuting context, but are good on a trail context. There are so called ergonomic trekking grips, that are typically flatter, which allows to lower the pressure on the hand — a well known example of these Ergon GP1, but other brands propose similar designs.
  • bar-ends: bar-ends are a simple way to have an additional hand position. They have bad reputation mostly because of inconvenience on the trail (could be caught in branches or in other riders' bike when riding in (very) tight groups for example), but this not apply on a commuting context. Some ergonomic grips can feature integrated bar-ends (Ergon GP2, GP3, GP4 to continue with the example of the GP series). Some "bar-ends" are also meant to be installed "inside" the grips, that is also a nice solution, as it allows you to operate the brakes and shift gears.
  • tires: you didn't mention the kind of tires you have, but if they are the typical MTB tires with large knobs, they'll generate a lot of vibrations that can contribute to sore hands. Large knobs are mostly useful for technical trails and mud, if it doesn't apply to you, you may be better off with gravel/touring tires that have a more road-focused bias.
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    Yes, I fitted GP2s on my hybrid, swapped them for GP3s, then put the GP2s on my MTB when I started doing long distances on it (GP2s have such a short bar end you'll snag your hand rather than the bars, but you can still use it to change your wrist angle). Hardtail MTB frames can be pretty harsh with the suspension locked out and hard tyres. I suspect rigid MTB frames aren't any better.
    – Chris H
    Commented Aug 16, 2023 at 21:05
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    @ChrisH On my "sport" bike, I have GP1+Sqlab 411 ("bar-ends" meant to be installed between the grips and the brake levers) and on my "utility" bike, I have GP2s. Between the two, I prefer the first combination (comfort + the possibility to actuate brakes/shift gears — with the index, and also have a rear-view mirror), but I couldn't fit inner bar-ends on "utility" bike, so went for the GP2.
    – Rеnаud
    Commented Aug 16, 2023 at 21:23
  • I made my GP3s work with a Busch und Müller CycleStar bar end mirror. It was only the inner diameter of the bars that meant I had to file down the wedge plug on the mirror. Last time I did 200km on the MTB (it had my ice spike tyres on it and I wasn't sure about moving them onto the tourer), I planned on fitting my aerobars but a seized bolt prevented that - but thats a very unusual use case
    – Chris H
    Commented Aug 17, 2023 at 7:57
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Thick Silicone foam grips like ESI Extra Chunky, Wolf Tooth Fat Paw or similar worked well for me to reduce vibration and sore hands.

I found the larger diameter helps to a point, and the material in the silicone helps reduce the vibration and impacts on my hands for MTB Trail/XC riding. A bonus, is that in cold conditions, it also reduces heat transfer from the handlebars to hands.

Body positioning also helps, you may want to consider adjusting seat height/position to reduce leaning on your hands while pedaling.

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A change of hand position will help lots, but before trying anything new first try adjusting your stem higher or us high us possible. That will change the amount of weight off your hands. Also adjust your saddle forward, that will also change the weight off your hands. If that's is not enough then get some straight bar handle adaptors, there are many to choose from online and there is always a good price offering.

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