As much as one-third of the overuse and over-training injuries that cyclists suffer are to the hands. Cyclist palsy and carpal tunnel syndrome are the most likely afflictions. Fortunately, changes to the bicycle fit, equipment and some riding techniques can largely to completely eliminate the problem.

1. The first type of pain a cyclist can feel in their hands is caused from riding in the "drops" of the road bicycle handlebars. This compression injury is caused by weight being distributed to the outside of the hand, thus affecting those nerve areas. The position of the hands and wrist near the brakes and shifters is the problem. The cyclist's wrist is usually bent slightly and the weight falls nearly exclusively on the outside surface of the hands. This affects the nerves in the ring and little finger.

2. Most people associate carpal tunnel syndrome with repetition injuries from keyboard use, but it can also be a cyclist's injury too. This injury occurs from downward pressure on the median nerve and affects the middle and index fingers as well as the thumb. This injury comes from the cyclists putting too much downward pressure on top of the carbon handlebars.

3. So how do you avoid these injuries if both places cyclists place their hands while riding can cause compression hand injuries? The first place to start is, unfortunately, some time off the bicycle and some aspirin or ibuprofen. The next place to look for a fix is in the fit of your bicycle. Change your sitting position on the bicycle to a more upright position to take pressure off your hands. This can be accomplished most easily by raising your handlebars and carbon road bike stem higher in relation to the head tube. Changing the length of the stem to a shorter length might be a solution because you would be less stretched out over the top tube.

4. Most cyclists ride with gloves that are designed for road riding. If you look at the diagram with this section, you can see the areas of padding are placed in the areas where cycling palsy and carpal tunnel compression injuries occur. They are a critical component to an overall solution to keep your hands in good shape for riding.

5. Resting on long rides is important too. No one who reads this article will be training for professional cycling, so take breaks to give all of your body a break.

Tips & Warnings

  • Hand injuries account for a significant amount of over training injuries.
  • Changing your bicycle configuration to a higher riding position will help.

  • Padded gloves are an important preventative measure.

  • Resting during longer rides is good for your entire body, not just your hands.

  • Start with a change of gloves to correct hand problems.

  • Take time off the bicycle before making adjustments.