How To Avoid Numbness in Hands While Riding

For ages, there is one single common problem that is faced by almost 90% of the beginner riders: Numbness around the hands and fingers. In fact, this problem is the primary cause of discomfort among all the motorcyclists which eventually ruins the riding experience no matter how beautiful the route is. And this problem is not just experienced by beginner riders alone, but even by those who frequently indulge in long distance motorcycle touring.

Most of the time, this numbness is experienced around both the hands at the same time, but some riders experience this issue on only one of their hands.

And while a short break from riding usually alleviates the numbness for a while, it doesn’t take long for the problem to resurface.

So, if you are also wondering as to why your hands go numb while riding, in this post, we are going to address this issue in detail and let you know some tips and suggestions for instant relief.

Primarily, we will analyze three things: Your riding technique, your riding equipment, and your motorcycle. In other words, we are going to look at the problem from three different angles, of which one would be the likely culprit. But first, let us take a look at some medical facts.

What causes numbness around hands while motorcycling

Between the fifth cervical vertebra and the first thoracic vertebra, where the neck meets the torso, runs brachial plexus, a network of nerves in the spinal cord that controls the complex functions and movements of the neck, shoulders and arms (i.e., responsible for sensory and motor innervation of the upper body).

This neural network extends into the arm through three main nerves: the radial nerve, the ulnar nerve, and the median nerve. All of which control different parts of the arm, hands, and fingers (see diagram). So, depending on the part of the hand where you are experiencing numbness, one of the three nerves might be under stress.

Cutaneous innervation of hand
Three primary nerves of human arm | Image: physio-pedia.com

In fact, what you are experiencing while motorcycling is no different than what you might have experienced when your arm or leg “falls asleep” while you are sitting/standing in the same position for prolonged amount of time. This is because continuous pressure on a particular part of the body usually interrupts the normal flow of blood around the nerves.

The deprived nerves, in this case, the radial, ulnar, or the median nerve then transmits this information to the brain, which is experienced as numbness or a tingling sensation around the hand.

And as soon as the pressure is released, blood flow is restored and the nerve once again resumes its normal functioning.

In most cases, the numbness is due to an unfavorable riding position or a tensed posture which hinders the level of blood circulation in these three major nerves.

It is also possible that your riding gear is pressing too firmly, thereby limiting the level of blood circulation in the brachial plexus.

Advice: You might have come across the term carpal tunnel syndrome while you were looking for probable causes of numbness while motorcycling. And though the symptoms are quite common to the ones you may have been experiencing, it is highly unlikely that you are suffering from it.

However, if the numbness occurs frequently, and even while you are not riding on a motorcycle, you should immediately consult a doctor.

Ways to prevent your hands from going numb on a motorcycle

Now that we know what causes numbness in hands, it is time to address this issue.

One of the best ways to deal with an issue while motorcycling, including numbness in hands is to simply look at the source of the problem. In this case, the problem is no other than you!

So, if you can fix what you are doing wrong, then most probably, you won’t even have to spend much money to fix the underlying problem.

So, here is what you have to do on your next ride:

  • Pay attention to how tightly you hold the handlebar grips.
  • Analyze if your arms and shoulders are relaxed.
  • Check your riding posture.

By addressing these three points, in many cases, one can fix the problem of numb hands.

Let’s discuss this in detail.

Riding grip

Novice riders particularly have a habit of clasping their handlebars with all their might! More commonly known as death grip, this type of hold makes them feel secure and safe on a motorcycle.

However, what noobs do not realize is that the handlebar of a motorcycle is not meant to prevent them from falling off. Instead, it is meant to give motorcycle the ability to maneuver around as freely as possible.

And while cornering would be beyond the realm of possibility, if the grip around the handlebars is too tight, even the slightest of turn will end up as a nightmare.

Furthermore, riding becomes more strenuous because every bump on the road is transmitted through the handlebars into the hands. Sooner or later, hands will go numb.

So, this is the most important takeaway we would like to share with you: Always avoid gripping the handlebars too tightly.

Riding posture

Once you have sorted out the death grip, you now need to make sure that your forearms and shoulders are relaxed as well.

While holding onto the handlebars, your arms should not be locked tightly. Instead, they should be slightly bent and relaxed.

Consequently, decreasing the amount of tension on your torso by relaxing your arms and shoulders will help you a lot and prevent undue vibration of handlebars from transferring to your hands.

Also, it is important that you do not rest the weight of your upper body on your arms or on your wrist (quite common in sports bike riders). And if you feel that the weight is shifting away from the upper body to your arms or wrists, then either you are holding the handlebar too tightly, or you are stressing your shoulders too much. In either case, you will experience discomfort after a short time.

Do remember that hands should be used to control the direction of the motorcycle, not to keep you upright on the saddle.

As a way to support your upper body, you can hold onto the tank with your knees and use your lower body to get a little more grip on the motorcycle.

And once you get used to this riding posture, you will be much more relaxed on the motorcycle. Plus, this will significantly alleviate the strain on your hands and wrists, which will further rule out any possibility of numbness occurring during the ride.

Riding gloves

Moving on to our next advice which is motorcycle gear, and in particular motorcycle gloves.

Lately, you will find wide variety of motorcycle gloves in the market that incorporate as much armor as possible to offer maximum protection irrespective of the riding style. While we have nothing against this, we still believe that gloves should be purchased based on your riding style and not just by comparing the level of protection they offer.

So, for instance, a dirt bike glove is strictly designed for motocross events. But if a rider opts for a padded street glove instead of a lightweight MX glove while dirt biking, the probability to maneuver around comfortably is quite uncertain.

Likewise, a racing glove or any other heavily padded glove will not be ideal for an urban commuter. Nor will an urban glove be suitable for track racing.

So, it is important to choose the right motorcycle gloves based on your requirements and riding style.

Ideally, we suggest lightweight, armored motorcycle gloves for riders who experience numbness around the palms or fingers while riding. These gloves offer a good fit (neither too tight nor too loose) and feature some amount of padding around the palm to absorb vibrations/shocks transmitted from the handlebars.

Alternatively, you can look for gloves with gel inserts around the palm. This will further isolate your hand from vibrations transmitted through the grips.

But no matter which glove you choose; it should definitely have good abrasion resistance. After all, what good are gloves if they do not protect in the event of a fall.

In case you want to shortlist an ideal glove based on your riding style, we have a detailed guide on motorcycle gloves for numb hands that you should definitely read to get a detailed insight.

Accessories

Among the adjustments that can be made to the motorcycle, you can, as a first step, tweak the handlebar angle or change the position of the brake and clutch levers to allow for a more relaxed and comfortable posture.

If you feel that your lightweight handlebar is the main cause of vibration, an aftermarket handlebar that is heavier than the standard handlebar can also help reduce excessive vibrations.

However, if you are experiencing severe vibrations, you should thoroughly inspect your motorcycle to determine if the front tire, suspension, or another part of your motorcycle’s suspension system is causing the problem.

In case everything seems to be fine from a mechanical point of view and you still experience vibrations all the time, an anti-vibration riser can solve the problem.

For this we recommend Rox, an American brand that has patented the adjustable, pivoting riser.

And not only does Rox allows you to raise the pivot point, but it also allows you to adjust the angle quite precisely at which you want to hold your handlebars.

Another alternative that works splendidly for riders experiencing numbness is aftermarket grips. These grips incorporate more padding than conventional grips that come bundled with the motorcycle.

One such example, is Pro Grip. This brand offers superior padded grips that are extremely comfortable for street, dirt or dual sport riding. And as the name suggests, it is an upgrade over the stock handlebar grips, in case you are looking to reduce vibrations that are transferred to your hands.

In fact, all the grips offered by this brand have a universal design, so the only thing you need to know before you buy is whether you have 7/8-inch or 1-inch handlebar (the only exception is the lock-on series, which offers a motorcycle-specific grip).

Recommended exercise to reduce numbness while riding

Below we look at some of the best hand exercises that can be helpful in alleviating the symptoms of numbness that occur while riding a motorcycle. And although these exercises are primarily recommended for people suffering from carpal tunnel, they are also very helpful for general well-being.

Wrist bend

Wrist bend exercise to reduce hand numbness
Wrist bend exercise | Image credit: Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP)
  1. With your arm pointing up, place your elbow on a table and your wrist straight. Now gently flex your wrist forward at 90 degrees and maintain this bend for 5 seconds.
  2. Straighten your wrist to normal position after 5 seconds.
  3. Now repeat the same exercise, but this time in the opposite direction. Be gentle while bending your wrist backwards and hold this position for another 5 seconds.
  4. Carry out 3 sets with 10 repetitions of each set.

Wrist lift

Wrist lift exercise to reduce numbness in hands
Wrist lift exercise | Image credit: Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP)
  1. Position your right palm on the table facing downwards.
  2. Now place your left hand over the knuckles of your right hand bent at 90 degrees. Apply a downward pressure using your left hand while your right hand is trying to pull upwards.
  3. Try to lift your fingers upwards and feel the muscles in your forearms contracting.
  4. Now repeat the same exercise again after switching the position of your hands.

Wrist flex

Wrist flex exercise to reduce numbness in hands
Wrist flex exercise | Image credit: Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP)
  1. In order to flex your wrist, all you have to do is keep your arm stretched straight out in front of you, with the palm of your hand facing downward.
  2. While holding this position, use the other hand to push the extending hand back towards your body and hold it for about 15-30 seconds.
  3. Repeat this procedure on the other hand.

Finger bend

Finger bend exercise to reduce numbness in hands
Finger bend exercise | Image credit: Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP)
  1. With fingers outstretched upwards, gently bend the middle joints of the fingers downwards.
  2. Once the fingers are flexed and are touching the palm area, hold the position for 5 seconds.
  3. Repeat the same procedure on the other hand as well.
  4. Continue this exercise in set of 3 with 10 repetitions each.

Hand squeeze

Hand squeeze exercise to reduce numbness in hands
Hand squeeze exercise | Image credit: Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP)
  1. Research suggests that squeezing a ball can increase your heart rate as well as oxygen supply in the brain. As a result, your heart pumps harder, improving the overall blood circulation.
  2. All you have to do is grab a stress ball or a hand exercise ball and squeeze it for 5 seconds.
  3. Repeat 3 sets of 10 repetitions each and do the same with your other hand as well.

Bottom line

So, these were some of the best solutions to prevent or counteract numbness around your hands while riding a motorcycle. We tried to include everything, right from the medical facts that addresses the likely cause of numbness to some “DIY” solutions you can incorporate into your riding style.

But do remember that there is a thin line between the symptoms that arise due to prolonged riding and the ones experienced by someone suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome. In case you experience any of these problems even while you are not on your motorcycle, we highly advise you to consult a doctor immediately.

Take care!