Author: Dave Reynolds

How to combat numb hands and fingers when riding

A motorcyclist in the dolomites

Q. Hi Dave, I suffer with a numb hand and fingers when riding for only a short time. I don’t have this problem at any other time, just on the bike, so I assume it’s a bike thing. Any ideas on what might be causing it, and how I can avoid it?

A. You’re certainly not alone in this Gavin, many bikers suffer with numb hands and fingers, including myself on occasions. I’m obviously no medical professional, but I’ve spoken to a few people who have had carpal tunnel issues and, based on what they’ve told me, it’d be worth you getting checked out for this (and this brilliant feature by Suzie Bostock goes into great detail about what carpal tunnel syndrome is, and how it can affect you).

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If you don’t have carpal tunnel syndrome, then chances are, your bike is set up wrong, or your gear isn’t right for you. The first thing is to ensure you’re comfortable on the bike.

The seating position on an adventure bike is more relaxed than a sports bike so you won’t get as many problems. Your riding position on a sports bike will transfer all of your weight through the wrists. This can be heavy when in town, but the wind blast at higher speeds helps transfer the weight back some. With this in mind, a change of handlebar bend, an alteration of the position of the bars, or using bar raisers could help by altering the position of your arms.

Bar weights are designed to damp out vibration transferred through the bars, these are an easy fit, but first check your bike hasn’t already got them. I heard of a guy that filled his bars with silicone sealer, if it works why not?

Different grips can help, and there are foam grips wraparounds on the market that are designed to help this problem, but they can feel a bit bulky and worsen the problem rather than help. I’ve used a form of cruise controller, the Scottoiler Crampbuster (which can be picked up for under £10), it simply clips over the throttle grip and allows you to lighten your grip by using your palm to hold the revs.

Clothing that fits well is another consideration. A jacket that doesn’t fit well on the arms and shoulders won’t help (read our textile jacket buyer’s guide here), and of course finding gloves that fit and keep your hands warm and dry can make a huge difference. Best of luck with that one!

Mechanically, keeping the bike in perfect tune is important, unbalanced carbs or fuel injectors can cause vibrations, as can ignition timing. Vibration from the engine can quickly become uncomfortable, ever heard of ‘white finger’?

So, in conclusion, get the bike serviced and tuned, try different bar positions or replacements, buy a new jacket, and spend the rest of your life looking for perfect gloves.

This advice is based on my own experiences, what has worked for me may not for you.