I love bicycling, but for the last couple years I’ve had a problem with my hands and feet “going to sleep” after a while while riding. The thing is, this didn’t start until after I spent money on an expensive road bike (Specialized), and “proper” bicycling shoes.
A bicycle was my primary mode of transportation from 1994 to 2007 while I was without a driver’s license (got popped with a DUI back in 1994, never got around to getting my license back even after I quit drinking, until turned 40 and decided I was just tired of having to bike or walk everywhere). I never had any “numbness” problems for all those years. But for all those years, I rode “mountain bikes”. In early 2008 I decided to finally buy a high-quality bicycle instead of yet another in the string of $200 big box store bikes that I’d ride until they broke and then replace them.
I decided to go with a “road” bike rather than a “mountain” bike. My reasoning was that I don’t do any off-road cycling, so I didn’t need big, knobby tires and superfluous shock absorbers limiting my speed and making the bike heavier than necessary. And honestly, this is a very good bike. It’s well-made, extremely lightweight, and just all-around great. I’m starting to wonder, though, if a “road” bike simply isn’t the right style of bike for me. That is, maybe the posture this style of bike forces is working against me somehow. I’ve got the correct frame size, and between me and the bike shop we’ve made numerous small adjustments here and there that have improved the overall comfort of the ride. But when I go for a ride, within 3-4 miles the numbness sets in. Eventually I have to stop, sit down, take off my shoes, and rub and wiggle my toes until the feeling comes back.
Let me describe the numbness:
Feet: Basically, everything from the balls of my feet to the tips of my toes “goes to sleep”.
Hands: Everything from my wrists to my fingers goes numb. I can still grip the handlebars just fine - I just can’t feel much.
To be fair, the foot problem seems to be a general disagreement between my feet and bicycling shoes. My first pair of bicycling shoes were an inexpensive pair that I bought on clearance at the bike shop. Size 9, my usual size, felt perfectly comfortable when I tried them on and walked around in the store. But once I got on my bike, within a couple miles my toes started tingling and eventually went numb. I came to the conclusion that they must be too small, mainly because of the location of the bracket in the sole for attaching to “clipless” pedals (which I don’t actually use) - I suspected it wasn’t positioned correctly for my feet - I didn’t think I should be feeling the bracket through the shoe, and I suspected it was pinching a nerve in the ball of my foot). So the next year I bought a new pair, of better quality, and a half-size larger. But I have exactly the same problem with these shoes. However, if I wear normal athletic/running shoes, I don’t experience this numbness. So perhaps the rigid footbed of bicycling shoes just doesn’t work for my feet for some reason.
For my hands, I wear good quality biking gloves, with padding in all the appropriate places. So I wonder if the problem, for me, is in the grip. On a road bike you grip the handlebars with your hands positioned “thumbs up”, where on a mountain bike your hands are “thumbs in”. Also, on a road bike your hands are almost straight in front of you, while on a mountain bike they’re spread more to the sides. That also makes me wonder - could the problem here actually be starting in my elbows, rather than my hands? I do have some [suspected job-related] RSI problems with my elbows. I suppose it’s also worth noting that due to the difference in posture between a mountain bike and a road bike, I seem to end up with my arms supporting my weight more than they did on a mountain bike.
In any case, there is no actual “pain”, aside from the mild burny, prickly feeling you get when an extremity falls asleep.
Any thoughts/suggestions/personal experience?