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Which handlebars are better for hand circulation issues (Flat or Drop)?

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Which handlebars are better for hand circulation issues (Flat or Drop)?

Old 06-14-19, 07:34 AM
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djende
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Which handlebars are better for hand circulation issues (Flat or Drop)?

I have always owned flat bars my entire life but recently have been in the market for my first bike with drop handlebars. I was pretty certain that with the ability to have so many different hand positions that the drop handlebar would help me alleviate much of the tingling I would get in my finger tips after stints of intense riding. That was until yesterday when I walked into a highly praised bike store in my area and spoke with the owner there. He informed me that he's had many customers with such a problem and the solution is never drop handlebars it is in fact flat bars with ergonomic grips. I told him, I already have those. He then said then we need to bring the bars up and closer. I told him that I already have an adjustable stem to bring the bars up and closer to me. He then talked about replacing the adjustable stem with a stem riser/extender tube and a solid stem to bring them up even higher and keep them close with a more secure stem. That the adjustable ones will break over time and for that reason are dangerous.


So is he right? Are these the better solutions for hand problems, or are drop handle bars better for that?
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Old 06-14-19, 07:50 AM
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There are a bunch of different weird mountain biking handlebars that are intended to be more comfortable. I have an Origin8 Strongbow on my folding bicycle that I chose because it matches the sweep on the flatbar it was replacing and the fold continues to work. I have it wrapped with reasonably thick cork tape and find riding on the corners of the loop to be much more comfortable than drop bars or ergonomic grips.
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Old 06-14-19, 07:52 AM
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Everything you have gone through is just the same as mine. Once you are spending any extended saddle time, the numerous handholds most likely will put your hand numbness is the past.
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Old 06-14-19, 08:05 AM
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Wilfred Laurier
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The bike shop guy is partly correct - you can relieve pressure on your hands by changing the position of the bars... but you can change positions of drop bars the same way. Generally speaking, you have at least three discrete hand positions on drop bars that can be set up similar to the position of flat bars - the bar tops, the 'shoulders' and the hoods. Furthermore, bikes designed for drop bars often have shorter top tubes, so the closest and highest position (the bar tops) can possibly be higher and closer than the single position on a flat bar. Add that position to the nearby shoulders and hoods and you can rotate through three upright positions with completely different shapes under you r hands. Thent here are the drops and the flats (ends of the bars below the drops) and you can change you hand and body position as mucha s you like to avoid fatigue.

HOWEVER

My experience is that the bars are only one piece of the puzzle... saddle position is often a culprit in putting too much pressure on your hands.
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Old 06-14-19, 08:33 AM
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Its about the length of time, the torso weight on the arms and hands, the angle of the wrist to the arm.

Time: I think you already know this. Practically speaking, a good practice is to come to a stop and rest the body.

Torso: in a road bike position, a rider is leaning forward and the tendency is to apply the weight onto the arms and thus the wrists. Some will argue that a rider needs to develop the back & front muscle strength by doing "such and such". Also losing body weight. LOL.

Wrist to arm: This is where I found some relief. When I hold the drop bars, the wrist may be bent or may be straight with the hand. I found the wrist in a straight alignment with the arm and hand is better in that it may not cut-off circulation or nerves. This is purely my conjecture/assertion. Just a thought.

On drop bars, its possible to align the hand/arm this way.
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Old 06-14-19, 08:50 AM
  #6  
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Clip on aero bars (mounted on drop bars) give me all the positions I need to alleviate hand, wrist, tricep, back, neck, and shoulder fatigue on 100+ mile rides. Not sure if clip-on aero bars are a viable option for flat bar bikes.
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Old 06-14-19, 08:52 AM
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The only handlebar that I have that doesn't give me any numbness is my Jones carbon H Bar on my bikepacking rig. It is adjusted at an angle that meets the outer edges of my palms evenly and has some gel material wrapped under the bar wrap.
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Old 06-14-19, 09:13 AM
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For 'flat' bars, i like a wide (600mm+), low bar with a little bit of sweep (10-15*) I also like thicker, firm grips like old-school OURY's and gloves with little to no padding.
I tend to set up all my bikes with the bars lower than the saddle, because it keeps the weight on the 'ball'of my hand, so there's less pressure on the nerves in the 'heel'

For drop bars, I had massive problems with near-immediate numbness (like less than 5 miles) on the 40-42cm 'classic' road drop bars that most bikes come with. I ended up taking a plunge on a 44cm Salsa Cowchipper, a 'dirt drop' bar with a 24* flare. Both the wide, shallow drops, and the angled ramps that allowed me to rotate the shifter pods towards each other so my hands could grab them in a more natural angle.
I also like a thicker bar, so I usually use a 3mm wrap as opposed to the thinner, racier stuff. I found a good deal on Cannondale Synapse tape, which had a nice feel, and gave me the bulk i liked without being too squishy.

What works for me, might not work exactly for everyone else; It's like saddles, everyone's a litle different. That's why they make so many different sizes and shapes.

Last edited by Ironfish653; 06-14-19 at 09:17 AM.
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Old 06-14-19, 09:58 AM
  #9  
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Originally Posted by Wilfred Laurier View Post
HOWEVER

My experience is that the bars are only one piece of the puzzle... saddle position is often a culprit in putting too much pressure on your hands.
We Have A Winner ! ! !

I've watched countless riders try this bar and that bar, these grips and those grips and whatever glove is top rated this week, all to no avail in relieving hand numbness/tingling/pain. Try this: Go for a ride without changing anything. At the point where you first start feeling any numbness, tingling or pain in your hands lift your hands about 1 cm off the bar (assuming the traffic and road are safe to do so). If you have to change your body position or feel off balance, you have identified your first problem. In your "neutral" riding position, your hands are for steering, shifting and braking. They should not be bearing a significant amount of weight. Of course, sprinting and climbing will change the dynamics but if letting go of the bar on a relatively flat straightaway makes you feel like you are going to fall forward, you need to do some bike fitting.

Don't just change the stem length, height, angle; ergonomics is a complex concept.

Start at the one non-adjustable point, the bottom bracket. Unless your cranks are absurdly long or short, no change needs to be made to that area, but it is the starting point by which everything else must be measured. Saddle height and position are next and are set in relation to the BB, not the cockpit length or handlebar position. If you have the right size frame and appropriate saddle position, you should be able to easily ride with your hands hovering over the bars on level straight road. Only once saddle position is correct do you start messing with bars and stems.

With your hands hovering over the bar and riding in your neutral saddle position, move your hands a bit forward and back and up and down while riding at a comfortable pace. You will find that there is a sweet spot where you feel in perfect position and balance with good control despite not being in direct contact with the bar. Note it in relation to your current bar position. Now start making adjustments or changes in stem length, height, angle until your "normal" hand position is in the sweet spot.

Now, if your hands still get numb/tingly/painful, is the time to consider what is left that could be causing the problem. Bar angle? Brifter position on the bar? Bar shape? Padding (ie tape, grips or gloves)? Look at your wrist position. Is it at a neutral angle for 90% of your ride time? How about the alternate positions?

I have four bikes, two have flat bars with Ergon bar end grips and the other two are drops with brifters. All are comfortable for extended riding due far more to proper fit than to a particular bar or grip.

It should be noted, that there are other factors that contribute to hand discomfort and fatigue. A harsh, rigid frame with low volume, high pressure tires can make road buzz and every little bump unbearable in short order. Sometimes just going up a tire size and picking a more supple tire can make a big difference.

You also have to recognize that no matter how great your equipment and how tough you are, if you ride long and hard enough, your hands are going to get tired and sore. Heat and cold therapy, massage, rest and sometimes medication may be needed to keep your hands in optimum condition.

Last edited by Myosmith; 06-14-19 at 10:04 AM.
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Old 06-14-19, 10:11 AM
  #10  
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With flat bars you can change to figure 8 bend trekking bars , and gain more hand grip options..

while retaining all your shifters and brake levers..

or adding Ergon grip-bar ends, a broad palm support surface,
and the integrated bar ends for an alternate grip..

removing one hand from the bars is a simple way to uncompress the nerves and tissues..

when tingling is felt ..





..

Last edited by fietsbob; 06-14-19 at 10:16 AM.
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Old 06-14-19, 10:26 AM
  #11  
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Originally Posted by djende View Post
He informed me that he's had many customers with such a problem and the solution is never drop handlebars it is in fact flat bars with ergonomic grips. I told him, I already have those. He then said then we need to bring the bars up and closer. I told him that I already have an adjustable stem to bring the bars up and closer to me. He then talked about replacing the adjustable stem with a stem riser/extender tube and a solid stem to bring them up even higher and keep them close with a more secure stem. That the adjustable ones will break over time and for that reason are dangerous.



So is he right? Are these the better solutions for hand problems, or are drop handle bars better for that?

I would say that he is wrong in my case.


I grew up riding drop bars and didn't ride flat bars until later into adulthood, but find them very uncomfortable. Have a set of ergo grips also that are no help. My hands will start going numb in 10-15 min of riding, whether it is roads or single track while I can ride a drop bar for hours on end. To me it is simply the unnatural position that a flat bar puts my wrists in. The flats on the top of a drop bar are similarly uncomfortable and little used on my bikes. What I have recently found that does work for flat bars is to have a bar with a fair amount of backsweep. Not quite sure what is the optimal number for me, but somewhere around 15 degrees or more probably. I also give the bar some rollback so that the grips are sloping down and back. That works and for the first time ever I have a flat bar bike that I enjoy riding.


I still find drops more comfortable though. My preference is for something in the vein of the newer "gravel drops" that have some amount of flare and maybe sweep out somewhat. I find that an even more natural hand position than drops that are already pretty natural.
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Old 06-14-19, 10:39 AM
  #12  
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I ride with real weight on my hands. (I'm a skinny, leaf-like ex-racer who has known for 40 years that horizontal backs = less wind resistance and less work for those skinny legs. Also that a seat pushed too far back closes my abdomen and doesn't work for me.) I have always used drop bars with traditional bends. Now, as I get older and the miles have piled on (50+ years and 200k+ miles) the position of those bars gets more and more critical. (Both the rotation of the bars and size, shape and location of the brake levers.)

My bikes have evolved to: handlebars with the drop flats horizontal or even a touch past to get my wrists rotated thumbs forward. Likewise the levers are forward, close to the forward-most part of the curve, so the lever tops are near horizontal. Less than this near-extreme position lead to both pain and numbness during and after rides. Now I don't notice either.

My advice - try dropped handlebars. Go to a bike coop and get some used ones. Don't tape them. Just tape the cables in a few places with electrical tape. Lay a yardstick on the drop flat and mark where it hits the seatstay with a piece of tape. Also note how far the brake lever tip is from the yardstick. Put the wrenches for your stem, brake levers and handlebar clamp in your pocket and go ride. Adjust bars and levers as needed. Note how you feel, during and after. Repeat as needed. You may see a trend and want to go back to the coop for that other bar. Don't spend the big bucks for a nice one until you are certain what you want. (Big $$ spent has an amazing ability to get us to rationalize that "this" must be good and right. We only get attached to $10 cheapies when our wrists keep saying "yeahhhh!!")

Oh, after you feel you have dialed in those cheapies, tape them with cheap cloth handlebar tape, going form the bottom up to th e stem. Finish with a wrap of electrical tape. Reason? It is really easy to unwrap down to the brake levers and do another lever move and rewrap. Keep doing this until you know the bars are set up right. Only then - new bars if you wish and new fancy handlebar tape/

If your bike stem is 31.8 mm, you can get shims so you can use the 26.0 bars far more common used. A soda can will make a nice shim to bring a 25.8 to 26.0.

Ben
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Old 06-14-19, 01:15 PM
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All of this has been incredibly helpful! Thank you everyone. Someone Private Messaged me. I'm not sure if it was from this post but if it was and you read this, I am unable to receive private messages at the moment. something about "the admin has limited use of private messages to users who have had 10 or more posts or something"... so yeah, best to respond to me here for the time being.
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Old 06-14-19, 11:38 PM
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Beach cruiser ape hangers!!!
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Old 06-15-19, 06:19 AM
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Hand numbness can be a sign of a health issue.
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Old 06-15-19, 06:46 AM
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Of all the components on my current whip, i think i've had the handlebar the longest. I'd tried all sorts, but can't bring myself to part with these, they feel so natural.

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Old 06-15-19, 07:51 AM
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I began developing "crampy hands" oin my 40s. My road bikes have drop bars allow for more hand positions, and in my case changing hand positions helps. My MTB Utility BIke has straight bars with inboard bar ends and a "clip on" aero bar.

Everybody is different, do what your body tells you to do.
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Old 06-15-19, 08:19 PM
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Originally Posted by djende View Post
I have always owned flat bars my entire life but recently have been in the market for my first bike with drop handlebars. I was pretty certain that with the ability to have so many different hand positions that the drop handlebar would help me alleviate much of the tingling I would get in my finger tips after stints of intense riding.
Hmm, folks are posting some good info but seem to focus on longer rides, does "intense" mean shorter faster rides perhaps? Higher speed makes bumps more punishing. I assume that a long-time flat bar rider has tried wider MTB-type tires, what about a suspension fork? If you have already tried that, maybe try a used touring-style drop-bar bike to see how it works. Many allow fairly wide tires & have relaxed frame geometry to absorb bumps. Actually I think there should be more drop-bar bikes with suspension forks but those are generally a niche & fairly expensive option.
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Old 06-15-19, 08:38 PM
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Originally Posted by Myosmith View Post
We Have A Winner ! ! !

I've watched countless riders try this bar and that bar, these grips and those grips and whatever glove is top rated this week, all to no avail in relieving hand numbness/tingling/pain. Try this: Go for a ride without changing anything. At the point where you first start feeling any numbness, tingling or pain in your hands lift your hands about 1 cm off the bar (assuming the traffic and road are safe to do so). If you have to change your body position or feel off balance, you have identified your first problem. In your "neutral" riding position, your hands are for steering, shifting and braking. They should not be bearing a significant amount of weight. Of course, sprinting and climbing will change the dynamics but if letting go of the bar on a relatively flat straightaway makes you feel like you are going to fall forward, you need to do some bike fitting.
Bike fit is important, but don't forget to work on core strength, too! Especially if riding a bike with race geometry vs endurance geometry, or in my case, switching from a hybrid to my first road bike. I learned not to carry my weight on my arms while motorcycling, and that transferred over to cycling as well. My only issue now is that I tend to get elbow pain if I don't periodically put my elbow through full range of motion every 10-15 minutes or so, but that is improving.
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Old 06-15-19, 11:16 PM
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Originally Posted by djende View Post
I have always owned flat bars my entire life but recently have been in the market for my first bike with drop handlebars. I was pretty certain that with the ability to have so many different hand positions that the drop handlebar would help me alleviate much of the tingling I would get in my finger tips after stints of intense riding. That was until yesterday when I walked into a highly praised bike store in my area and spoke with the owner there. He informed me that he's had many customers with such a problem and the solution is never drop handlebars it is in fact flat bars with ergonomic grips. I told him, I already have those. He then said then we need to bring the bars up and closer. I told him that I already have an adjustable stem to bring the bars up and closer to me. He then talked about replacing the adjustable stem with a stem riser/extender tube and a solid stem to bring them up even higher and keep them close with a more secure stem. That the adjustable ones will break over time and for that reason are dangerous.


So is he right? Are these the better solutions for hand problems, or are drop handle bars better for that?
I think you should try some bars with sweep - that sweep back to you. If they need to be closer - then bars with rise and sweep. And ergo grips can help too!

Check out Rivendell's handlebar advice, you might find some winner on their list (and Velo Orange makes a bunch of similar ones to theirs if you want to save money for the test.)
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Old 06-20-19, 01:20 PM
  #21  
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Originally Posted by insignia100 View Post
Bike fit is important, but don't forget to work on core strength, too! Especially if riding a bike with race geometry vs endurance geometry, or in my case, switching from a hybrid to my first road bike. I learned not to carry my weight on my arms while motorcycling, and that transferred over to cycling as well. My only issue now is that I tend to get elbow pain if I don't periodically put my elbow through full range of motion every 10-15 minutes or so, but that is improving.
Absolutely, fitness and conditioning play a huge part in comfort on the bike. It is very obvious when I haven't been riding for a while. I get tired more easily and start resting on the bar. It doesn't take long until my hands ache. As you noted, I often take one hand off the bar and do a bit of flexing and ROM, just as part of normal riding, even when my arms and hands feel fine, seems to stave off numbness or tingling.
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Old 06-20-19, 01:47 PM
  #22  
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Your weight is too far forward. Bike shop guy should have offered to get you fit on your bike before throwing different stems at you.

Take the time to read this:

https://www.stevehoggbikefitting.com...or-road-bikes/
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Old 06-20-19, 04:02 PM
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This is going to sound like I am making fun of the whole thing but bear with me. You won't have hand problems riding no handed. You won't have hand problems riding a unicycle. You won't have hand problems sitting on back seat of a tandem reading a book. Hand problems start when weight is on hands.

It is possible to ride for hours pulling and only pulling on the handlebars. Pulls all the places nerves might pinch apart. Also delivers lots of power which is a different issue but closely related. Grip bars lightly. Never a death grip. Only time you need a solid grip is when braking. Put some weight on the pedals. Enough weight on the pedals you'll have no hand issues and no saddle issues.
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Old 06-21-19, 07:15 AM
  #24  
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stand in a normal position with your hands at your sides. which direction do your wrists point? raise both arms to 90 degrees at the elbows. which direction do your wrists point?

drops keep your hands & arms in a natural position. flat bars add strain to both.

lots of good advice in post #9 .

I would add whatever you decide upon, don't let the grip land solidly between your thumb & forefinger - keep the pad of your hand on the bar and the bar off the nerve which runs through it (the hand- not the bar!).
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Old 06-21-19, 11:38 AM
  #25  
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Originally Posted by insignia100 View Post
Bike fit is important, but don't forget to work on core strength, too! Especially if riding a bike with race geometry vs endurance geometry, or in my case, switching from a hybrid to my first road bike.
+1

Upright riding lends itself well to putting a lot of weight in the back and less on the arms. When switching to a more aggressive position, like from a hybrid to road bike or similar, some of us tend to shift the weight entirely into the hands and arms. Even if this doesn't happen on a normal ride (whatever this looks like), a longer or faster ride can bring out bad habits, like using the hands and arms rather than the whole body to hold up one's weight.

Another problem I see with riders new to drop bars is the grip of death, which also leads to discomfort. There are few times when it's really necessary to hold the bars tightly. Check out people who are really comfortable on drop bar bikes; usually, they're just kind of resting on the bars, not actually gripping them.
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