How To Stop Numb Hands When Cycling on Road Bike

Getting numb hands when riding is a pretty common issue with road bikes.  You might just think it’s normal and you just need to build your endurance or lose weight or wear padded gloves.  That might help, but I think you really need to change your bike fit.  I’ve been looking for the answer for quite a while and think I finally found it. 

selective focus photo of woman with earphones on riding a red bicycle
Road Bike Hand Numbness

I first started having this issue when I bought my Fuji Cross Comp.  It came with a really short stem and my hands would quickly go numb riding.  Most the info I found suggested raising my bars or shortening my reach.  Well, the stem was already as short as it could be, so I went a little higher and longer.  This relieved the issue a bit and I could ride farther before they would get numb.  So, I kept looking for an answer. 

unrecognizable person holding hand of partner abusively
Numb Hands

How to stop hand numbness

It’s all about your balance on the bike, you want to move more of your weight to your butt and off your hands.  This is done by sitting back farther behind your crank.  So, while riding scoot back a little on your saddle and you should feel less weight on your hands. 

How I reached balance

I’ve known for a while that if I scoot back a bit on the saddle it will relieve lighten the weight on my hands.  But I also notice that I often move back forward on the saddle.  So, if I moved the saddle back in the rails, I would often just sit a little farther forward on the saddle.  Recently I set up a new Charge Knife saddle on my Surly and found out I had perfect balance.  I can ride no handed with my hands just inches above the bars and it’s pretty easy.  I achieved this perfect balance a couple of ways. 

  1. I changed my seat post to one with more set back.  This means that when my saddle is as far back on the rails as it can go, my saddle is even farther behind the cranks because of the set back.   
  2. My Knife saddle has a swooped tail, so it goes upward at the back.  Because of this I leveled it through the middle with my level in the relief groove.  When going through the groove the saddle is level, but if I put my level just on the front half it is actually slightly nose up and the tail is slightly above the nose.  I believe this combination of a swooped tail with a slight nose up locks me more in place, so I don’t move around so much.  The saddle is level in the middle with the back and front going upward slightly.  So now I stay put in the saddle at this perfectly balanced position behind the cranks. 

Keep in mind that your seat post is at an angle so when you raise it, it also moves back.  So, if your saddle is too low, that could also mess up your balance. 

How to adjust your saddle

  1. Get the height correct.
  2. Move the saddle back on the rails until you find balance.  You might have to reevaluate the height setting after moving saddle back.
  3. Adjust saddle angle very slightly nose up.  This rule may only apply if you have a swooped tail.  If your saddle is flat, you might be fine with a level saddle.    
Saddle Angle

If you do the above, I think you can achieve great balance.  After you have the saddle adjusted and have achieved balance, then you might want to adjust your handlebars.  If you have gone much further back, maybe you would need a shorter stem.  I thought I might have to do that, but I’m really comfortable and haven’t moved my bars at all. 

How to adjust your handlebars

I’m not going to go too deep into the bars, but make sure your wrists aren’t at some weird angles.  The bars should be adjusted so you can ride with your wrists straight.  You should have a slight bend at the elbows, and straight wrists. 

determined bicyclist riding bike in overcast weather in evening
Bent Elbows, straight wrists

I’m not a professional bike fitter, but if you try the above it might just work for you.  At least it worked great for me.  And you can probably make the adjustments without spending any money. Do any of these changes at your own risk as again I’m not a professional anything, certainly not a doctor, and just sharing a helpful tip that worked for me. 

5 thoughts on “How To Stop Numb Hands When Cycling on Road Bike

  1. It results from compression of the ulnar and sometimes median nerves from the handlebars. Changing the position that your wrists and hands are in will help to relieve the pressure. So either by what you’ve suggested to change body position and also by regularly changing where you are grabbing the handlebars on a ride will change where the pressure is on your hands. Great suggestions, Maggie

  2. Adjusting my stem height made a huge difference on the mountain bike, and as above on a road bike, frequent changing of hand position makes a huge difference! If your ring and pinky fingers are going numb, it’s the ulnar nerve and you need to adjust the angle of your wrist side-to-side (and potentially your degree if elbow flexion), and if it’s any of the others, it’s median, so adjust how cocked/flexed your wrist is, or avoid putting pressure on your palm.

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