I read the posts and blogs of TDR racers and frequently read about numb fingers and hands during or by the end of the TDR. I have even read about corrective surgeries. It seems hand numbness is a common contact point problem. And for some it seems to be all but unsolvable.
Here are my thoughts on the matter.
First and foremost is finding a sustainable body position that minimizes weight on the hands.
Basically this means a more upright position than most of us use for day to day mountain bike rides/racing. This can be best achieved with a slightly shorter top tube and longer head tube if you are getting a new frame. And regardless of frame utilize extra/max steerer tube length and use a short/riser stem with riser bars. Some combination of compact frame geometry, extra steerer tube length and a short, tall stem and riser bars should allow you to pedal efficiently while keeping most of your upper body from weighting your hands.Younger and or more flexible racers can achieve this with a more conventional set up but I contend that older and or less flexible racers should recognize and accommodate their personal reality, and not try to adopt a younger racers body position.
In addition to a sustainable weight-off-the-hands body position I will:
· Use Ergon Grips (in addition to Ergon’s various grip choices there are now several manufactures that make similar style grips. But I like Ergon’s and have been successfully using for years)
· Use Specialized Body Geometry Gloves, the ones with thick gel pads. These gloves work better than any other I have ever used for reducing numbness on marathon distance rides, they are especially good at protecting the all critical ulnar nerve. When you first use them they seem too padded, but after a few hours you adapt and don’t notice them ever again.
· Use waterproof over gloves that actual work. In 2010 I used lightweight over-mits made from eVent material. They were super light, very packable and did not work for crap. Cold wet hands and poor brake control were the result. On route I bought a pair of warmer long fingers gloves but soon learned without the proper palm padding they were allowing hand numbness to creep in. I tossed them and picked up a pair of long finger/padded gloves at the Outdoorsman to get me by the rest of the race. This year I have a new pair of thin MountainHardwear overgloves made with OutDry. I got them large enough to slip over my regular gloves so I can always maintain my palm padding. I have tested them in rain, snow and cold—they work perfectly. Keep my hands warm, dry and even breathe well enough that my hands don’t sweat all that much.
· Use Aero Bars. Using Aero Bars adds two additional contact points. The first additional contact point is where your arm hits the pad, the second, and more important, additional contact point takes place at the saddle while on the aero bars. More on this when I post up contact #3/seat, but in short due to severe saddle sores without aero bars in 2010 I probably would not have finished. But returning to ones hands, while in the aero bar position ALL weight is off your palms. The more you are aero the less hand/nerve compression takes place.
· Use additional hand positions and add padding. Once I have finalized my cockpit arrangements I will add padding to any likely additional bar/hand positions and trial/test padding on my grip extensions.
· Use fat tires with modest air pressure. I will probably post up later about my specific tire choice but suffice to say I will not be running skinny/hard tires.
next post, part 3 will cover the all critical saddle