Road Cycling Skills

How to Prevent ‘Fizzy Fingers’ on your Road Bike

If you've ever had it, you'll know what we mean. Here are some ways to prevent numb hands on your cycles.

Have you ever been out on a cycle and experienced a total numbing or ‘fizzy’ feeling in your fingers? It’s certainly happened to me and some of our readers and is actually quite common among road cyclists in particular. This is largely due to the position you are in and the tendency to sometimes put a lot of weight through your hands.

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The trouble with fizzy fingers and hands is that they can compromise your braking and gear changes and other things that rely on your manual dexterity. Here are a few tips on how you can relieve this fizzy affliction.

The medical name for fizzy fingers is Ulnar neuropathy but is also known as handlebar palsy. The sensation comes when there is too much compression on your ulnar nerve, causing your ring and middle finger to go numb.

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Things you can do to prevent it

There are many ways you can avoid getting numb and fizzy hands on a ride.

A professional bike fit will help loads of set-up problems that might be causing your weight to come forward such as a high saddle or a long stem. One factor that arose from mine was discovering that the reach of my brake levers was too great and by adjusting the spacers, I could then extend them more easily and therefore was no longer straining my hands. Women tend to have smaller hands and a lot of bikes come with a more masculine set-up so having this assessed will help.

Lead physiotherapist with the Great Britain Cycling Team, Phil Burt recommends added cushioning such as padded gloves and also a double wrap of bar tape to support the ulnar nerve. Apparently this is what the pro-riders do when they’re riding over cobbles during the Spring Classics.

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Gradually building experience and confidence will also be a great help. I remember when I got my first road bike I would grip the handlebars for dear life meaning that every outing was a white knuckled ride. This nervous tension meant that by the time I got to a downhill, my hands were so fizzy they could barely extend the brakes which is a bad idea all round. After a few years and many miles of bike handling and confidence building, I am now really relaxed, most of the support comes from my core and my hands just lightly sit on the bars so that I only use them when I need them.

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One final tweak is to remove jewellery when you cycle. I personally never take my rings off when I cycle as you can see from the above picture but you might want to consider removing them as this extra rubbing might give your fingers added discomfort.


For more information about the benefits of a bike fit, take a look at this article. 

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