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  1. #1
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    Ulnar nerve problems. Is it wrong technique?

    Ever since I started riding I've been having problems with my right hand's ulnar nerve (the pinky one). It really limits how much riding I can do. My question is are you supposed to use your lower back to hold yourself up, or is all your upper body weight supposed to be supported by your hands?

    I do have a weak lower back, and I've been having some back problems these past 12 months. So maybe that's my problem? Please chime in.

  2. #2
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    I had the same problem, but I was\am riding a flat bar commuter so the first may not apply:
    1. Get some Ergon grips.
    2. Yes, strengthen your core so your hands don't support your weight. This is probably the most important IMO.
    3. Move your hands around a lot.

    I've found that on longer rides the numbness in my right hand is coming back. My core is pretty weak at this time and I'm not moving my hands around as much as I should. I just got a bike with drop bars so I suspect my weak core is going to start giving me big problems real soon.

  3. #3
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    Two things.

    Yes, your lower back, and core muscles in general, are part of keeping you stable. When I'm being "good," I do some crunches every morning, I think it helps. If you have a standing climbing style and a weak core, that's another thing that can cause your back to do a painful freakout. So can climbing in the saddle, especially if you run out of gears... basically this is a sport whose participants can really benefit from a strong core, but the sport itself doesn't do enough to develop it, and you can probably get a good return on spending a little additional time off the bike working on your core.

    You shouldn't have to work too hard to be in a comfortable riding position. You need to push against something not to fall over, and that something is/should be the pedals. So depending on the average amount of torque you're exerting, being bent over too far can give gravity too long a lever to work on. Then you need to either use more average torque, aka develop more power, or hold yourself up with your arms. I'm not sure if that's easy for you to visualize, but it has a very easy solution - sit more upright, and be happy. Flip your stem up, move it up some spacers, try a shorter stem. There are some good online resources for fit, I particularly like Peter White and Sheldon Brown's treatments, and if you've never worked with a fitter, this would be a good time. This is part of why pro cyclists can have such ridiculous amounts of drop and ride with such flat backs too - they're developing a ton of power.

  4. #4
    Cycling induced anoesis
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    Quote Originally Posted by SFTifoso View Post
    Ever since I started riding I've been having problems with my right hand's ulnar nerve (the pinky one). It really limits how much riding I can do. My question is are you supposed to use your lower back to hold yourself up, or is all your upper body weight supposed to be supported by your hands?

    I do have a weak lower back, and I've been having some back problems these past 12 months. So maybe that's my problem? Please chime in.
    To answer this question reliably, I think we'd need additional info and a better idea of the sequence of events.

    Did your back problems start before or after you started road riding? If after, do you suspect there's a link? How long into the rides before experiencing hand discomfort? Is it only the right hand? Where on the bars are your hands when the discomfort occurs? Ever been fitted to this bike?

    Core strength definitely plays a role, but getting f/r weight distribution right is IMO/E fundamental to getting a good fit, which (in turn) provides comfort and efficiency on the bike.

    In answer to your second question, no, all of a riders upper body weight is not supported by their hands. Proper (static) weight distribution is about 55% to 60% rear and 40% to 45% front. I suspect by your asking this question, you're fit isn't quite right.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by AndrwSwitch View Post

    You need to push against something not to fall over, and that something is/should be the pedals.
    I think this was my problem. I was concentrating on "spinning" too much. Seriously, on my ride today I was thinking about this ulnar problem and what you guys said, and I remembered AdrwSwitch's comments. So I did; started mashing a bit more on my way back, and not only was I more comfortable, in both my hands and saddle area, but my avg. speed when up .7 mph. I'm so happy. Best ride I ever had.

    I still think I need a proper fit, but I always keep putting it off till I'm "slim" (5'11" 199 lbs right now). It is a bit embarrassing to go into the shop for fit with my gut hanging out. Also I think the reason why my right hand was the one bothering me was because my right arm is just so much stronger than my left. Definitely gonna work on my left triceps, shoulder, and chest muscles.

    Thanks a lot fellas. Rep up for all.

  6. #6
    Cycling induced anoesis
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    Quote Originally Posted by SFTifoso View Post
    I think this was my problem. I was concentrating on "spinning" too much. Seriously, on my ride today I was thinking about this ulnar problem and what you guys said, and I remembered AdrwSwitch's comments. So I did; started mashing a bit more on my way back, and not only was I more comfortable, in both my hands and saddle area, but my avg. speed when up .7 mph. I'm so happy. Best ride I ever had.

    I still think I need a proper fit, but I always keep putting it off till I'm "slim" (5'11" 199 lbs right now). It is a bit embarrassing to go into the shop for fit with my gut hanging out. Also I think the reason why my right hand was the one bothering me was because my right arm is just so much stronger than my left. Definitely gonna work on my left triceps, shoulder, and chest muscles.

    Thanks a lot fellas. Rep up for all.
    I agree that the amount of power outputted can influence a riders balance/ fit on their bike, but also think that getting your static fit right will get you that balance (in most instances, with saddle adjustments) without the need to mash. I'd suggest a standard fitting sooner, rather than later.

  7. #7
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    I didn't necessarily mean spinning vs. mashing. They can both have exactly the same power output - mashing just means pushing harder, fewer times. I actually hit peak power somewhere around 110 rpm, which has me either hauling back on my brake hoods or down on the drops with near-zero weight on my hands. By contrast, at low effort and pedaling, I need to put my hands on the corners of my bars to keep weight off them, would have weight on them out on my hoods, and would have a fair amount of weight on them in the drops.

    Often when people change their pedaling technique, they also develop more power, whether on purpose or not. Your higher average speed would support this.

    Don't worry about your weight and getting a fit. Go ahead and do it. Pay attention to what they're doing and what "good" feels like, and if they don't give you a fit sheet to take with you, find the one on Park Tool or make up something of your own and record it. As you lose weight and gain fitness, your fit may drift. I think it's a lot easier to maintain a fit from having a good setup than it is to figure it out the first time. Kind of like building and maintaining the bicycle in the first place. Or if you have the means, you could do it again in a year or two, if you do find you improve on your fitness and progress toward your weight loss goal.

    I paid for a fit several years ago. I found it very useful, but I also don't feel that I need to do it again. It was valuable to me because I didn't really know what I was doing wrong, and I'd found kind of a "local minimum" that felt worse as I deviated away from it, so I wasn't really fumbling my way toward a better fit either. I recommend them to everyone, and I think that it's even more valuable if you also work with the fitter and try to understand what's going on, rather than just accepting whatever they give you as something handed down from the Gods of Cycling.

  8. #8
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    It wasn't so much smashing, at least not enough to lower my cadence, but maybe putting a little bit more emphasis on the downstroke. Before my legs would support almost no weight, and I would really focus on my upstroke, kick, and drag, since when you're starting out with clipless your foot being stuck to the pedal isn't something you're used to.

  9. #9
    Cycling induced anoesis
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    Quote Originally Posted by AndrwSwitch View Post
    ...I think that it's even more valuable if you also work with the fitter and try to understand what's going on, rather than just accepting whatever they give you as something handed down from the Gods of Cycling.
    For shame, Andrew. Speaking out against the Gods of Cycling!!

    Good point re:evolving fit. Go get one, OP.
    Last edited by PJ352; 04-21-2012 at 11:56 AM. Reason: icons mysteriously vanished.

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