The Man With No Right Hand

06.20.2018 | 12:46 pm

A Note from Fatty: I am going to push my new Leadville podcast every single post, so you may as well get used to it. Better yet, why don’t you subscribe to it, and then go give me a glowing rating + review on Apple Podcasts? And yes, go subscribe, rate, and review it on Apple Podcasts even if you listen somewhere else, because that’s the only game in town when it comes to stats and advertising and stuff. It’ll only take a minute of your time, and it will have a significant impact in my life. For reals. And besides, it’s a fantastic show and I’m really proud of what Hottie and I have put together here. And even more also, I’m going to make The Hammer be a guest on the show even though she hates that kind of thing. You won’t want to miss it. Now go subscribe, rate (five stars, please), and write a glowing review.

Download on Apple Podcasts Stitcher

A Note from Fatty About My Sense of Humor: Like I said yesterday, I’m still sick, but I’m feeling somewhat better. My sense of humor still seems to be offline, though. So this post isn’t funny. Which makes me wonder: if I’d waited to write this ’til I felt better, what jokes would I have thought of? Please feel free to suggest hilarious sidenotes, gags, and anecdotes in the comments. But no puns. Puns are just not funny. Ever.

The Man With No Right Hand
I should begin by confessing that this post is not actually an inspiring post about a man without a right hand who nevertheless rides his bike a lot and is awesome and makes you want to be a better person.

No. This post is about me, and I have two hands, and they’re both in good working condition.


My right hand though — the stupid thing just goes numb whenever I ride for a long time — especially (but not exclusively) when I descend, and mostly my index and middle fingers.

Like, numb to the point of I can’t tell by feel whether I actually have my index finger on the brake lever or how much resistance I’m getting from the lever when I’m pulling on it. I just feel a weird absence where the finger should be.

That does not help my downhilling skills, believe me.

And here’s what’s weird: I know how to fix the problem, for a moment anyway, while mid-ride: I press hard on the muscle between the thumb and index finger on the back of my hand for a few seconds. I do this by rolling my hand inward and pressing that fleshy part of the hand between thumb and index hard into my handlebar.

It’s a weird, awkward way to hold the bar, but it does return sensation to my right index finger, more or less immediately. Anyone who’s ever ridden with me at all has seen me do this, usually several times during the ride.

Changing Grips Didn’t Help
I have tried a few different kind of grips. Ergon for a while. Specialized Body Geometry for a while. Both are hard grips, though, and seemed to make the problem worse, not better. I’m back to cheap ol’ ESI sponge-style grips. Which I will write about at some point. Like maybe later this week. 

I Have No Solution
I recently went to a hand specialist…although not for this problem. I was there to see what he could do about my tennis elbow, which plagues me endlessly (I got a cortisone shot, which has pretty much eliminated the pain, for now).

While I had his ear, though, I told him about this problem and my mitigation. He seemed puzzled by the fact that it’s just my right hand that has this issue, and that pressing in this way solves it. He posited the possibility

Maybe You Have a Solution?
I don’t check stats on this blog (once upon a time I checked them obsessively and it made me miserable and paranoid), but I sense that I have somewhere between seven and seven million daily readers. Regardless, it seems probable that one of those seven (or seven million) readers has the same issue and has figured it out. Or maybe you’re a specialist in this kind of thing and can tell what my deal is. Or maybe you are a specialist in this kind of thing and need more information before you can tell me what my deal is.

Regardless, please tell me how to fix this. It’s been going on for two decades or so now, and I think that’s probably long enough.


  1. Comment by Susie | 06.20.2018 | 1:12 pm

    Can’t help with the problem, but I suffer from the same and will employ your fix to see if it works next time out.

    (also, exactly how painful was that cortisone shot? #askingforafriend)

    Cortisone shot hurt only trivially at the time of shot, was a little sore (no breakthrough pain) the next day, and for the 2 months since then has eliminated all my tennis elbow pain. – FC

  2. Comment by UpTheGrade | 06.20.2018 | 1:38 pm

    Sounds like Nerve Compression Syndrome. You are probably pinching a branch of the Median nerve on the handlebar. Does it happen on the road bike, or only the MTB? (might give a clue as to where the pinch point is). Do you tend to grip the bar tightly when descending? If so, try to relax your arm and loosen your grip. Also padding areas of your glove to force the pressure away from where it currently applies might provide relief. You will have to move the padding around till you find what works. Good luck.

    On both, but moreso on MTB. I do tend to grip tightly; I’ll focus on loosening up and see what that does. Will also experiment with different padding, but don’t really know where to start. Thanks! – FC

  3. Comment by Bart the Clydesdale | 06.20.2018 | 1:55 pm

    Have you ever tried TOGS they are very simple and give you another option for hand position while riding. Not a solution to your why your hand goes numb, but it might keep it from happening.

    Just bought 3 pair of TOGS (2 sets for my bikes, 1 set for The Hammer’s) and just installed them. I like them but they haven’t affected this problem (so far). – FC

  4. Comment by KenM | 06.20.2018 | 2:17 pm

    The Texas Randonneurs glue foot pads into their gloves, that may help.


  5. Comment by Stef E | 06.20.2018 | 10:08 pm

    I have the same issue, but with my entire left arm. I also tend to grip pretty hard, so I’ve been focusing on loosening up, which actually seems to be helping. I am super interested to see what others have to say on this topic. It’s extremely annoying.

  6. Comment by Tominalbany | 06.21.2018 | 6:25 am

    Have you considered massage? My guess is that tension isn’t just in your hand but, it’s all the way up your arm and into your torso. Since you’re likely right-handed, (?), you probably do so much more with that side of your body as well.

  7. Comment by Bill Claypool | 06.21.2018 | 8:54 am

    I think the (temporary) relief you get from rolling/pressing maneuver is due to position it puts your wrist.

    I bet that your right hand is also your mouse hand?

    I have a wrist band which a wear on my forearm just above my wrist when my symptoms get bad. It’s a couple of inches wide with a cinch buckle and Velcro. I wear is tighter than you would think comfortable. After a week or so, things are better for a while.

    The same band may improve tennis elbow too.

  8. Comment by Anon | 06.21.2018 | 8:59 am

    I have a similar problem that occurs both on a mountain bike and a road bike, however, it is more noticeable on a mountain bike. My theory is that it’s because there are fewer hand positions to move to and I move my hands less frequently on the mountain bike. If I consciously remind myself to pick my hands up occasionally, it does help (on both types of bike). As UpTheGrade mentioned earlier, death-gripping the handlebars doesn’t do me any favors either, so I’ve learned to try to loosen up a bit. Neither of these options have completely taken away the problem, but it does help and/or limit the discomfort and numbness. Hope you find a solution that works (and that you’ll share it with those of us who also deal with this issue).

  9. Comment by Chris | 06.21.2018 | 12:21 pm

    This is a pretty common complaint in powerlifting.

    We have a supportive device called a “wrist wrap”. It’s a soft stretchy piece of fabric you wrap around your wrist like a very soft light cast. In heavy exercises or in your case a rather difficult descent you can grab the wrap and make it a little tighter, then loosen it at the bottom for more comfort.

    The wrap does a few things. It provides warmth in the wrist which can help a lot. It also provides a better proprioception of where your wrist is positioned during vigorous activity and will usually prevent you from unconsciously putting it in a bad position.

    I hope that helps and you find some relief!

  10. Comment by UpTheGrade | 06.21.2018 | 2:29 pm

    Judging by the fact your numbness affects primarily two fingers and not your thumb or rest of hand, I’d suspect a branch of the Median nerve in your palm is getting pinched between a bone or tendon and your handlebar. Pressing opposite of that area shifts the pressure and relieves the compression of the nerve temporarily. When I said padding, I meant cause the pressure to divert away from that point by using something like a piece of moleskin cut in the shape of a doughnut with the hole placed where you think the problem is originating. However, pinpointing the exact location can be tricky and it could even be originating in the wrist (carpal tunnel). There is tons of info on the net about the position of the median nerve branches to guide you. Hope you find a solution.
    Example of moleskin:

  11. Comment by MattC | 06.22.2018 | 10:48 am

    Hey Fatty…just wondering if you’ve running a dropper posts (I seem to recall in most pics I’ve seen of your mtb’s in the past that they didn’t have dp’s). All I can say from my own experience is that being able to drop my center of gravity 4 inches vastly changes my body-position on steep descents, thus making them fun rather than a thing of terror. The point of all that is that by NOT being terrified on descents I’ve noticed I no longer have the “death-grip” on my bars that I used to…and my right-hand numbness takes a whole-lot longer on the bike to show up now than it used to (if I ride for 7 to 8 hours I’ll still get it to some degree, but I used to get it even on short rides of an hour or so). I also use Ergon grips as they do help some, but the DP seemed to be the big ticket fix for me. Just my 2 cents.

  12. Comment by AndyB | 06.22.2018 | 12:43 pm

    I actually am a man with no right hand and found this post rather funny. Not much of a mountain biker as a result, but do get out on the roads almost every day.

  13. Comment by walter | 06.25.2018 | 12:39 pm

    As a non-medical provider, I would suggest lowering your seat a tad (that’s a technical bike term) to relieve some of the pressure you may be putting on your hands.

  14. Comment by THOMAS | 06.27.2018 | 6:39 am

    I had this problem until I switched handlebars. I think the folks above who are saying you have a pinched nerve are correct; but the folks who suggest different positions for your hand are probably not correct. I think it’s the position of your ARM, not your hands.

  15. Comment by Isaac | 07.30.2018 | 1:08 pm

    I had a similar issue with my left hand… Got to a point 5 miles into a 99-mlie mtb race where I couldn’t shift with my left hand because I couldn’t push hard enough on the shift levers. Couldn’t pick up an iPad for 3 days because I didn’t have any pinch strength. Couldn’t play guitar for a couple of months.

    I went to a neurologist to do some nerve tests and it turned out to be a pinched left ulnar nerve. The surgeon I was referred to suggested I could try PT (he said if it didn’t work within 2 weeks or so, it probably wouldn’t at all), acupuncture (“There’s lots of stuff we don’t know about medicine, and if your insurance will cover it, there’s no reason not to try it), surgery (that this was only one of the options the _surgeon_ gave me was actually really impressive), or ignoring it and hoping for the best.

    I was able to pretty conclusively prove that it was the bike position (not riding that specific bike for 4-6 weeks made it go away; riding it once had it start showing back up again immediately) but didn’t have the time/money to put into trying to fix that bike’s positioning of my body. I sold the bike and got a different one and have had minimal issues with it since.

    I am noticing it kick back up again, so there may come a point where I have to look into it again — but I’d recommend checking with a neurologist. They’ve got some pretty good tools for diagnosis these days, and it’ll at least give you a jumping-off point on actually solving it long-term.

    I hadn’t thought to try a neurologist. I will check into it. Thanks! – FC


Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.