FAQ: A word about padding or cushioning handlebar wraps for wrist and finger pain

Wrist and finger pain and numbness during cycling is real and can be a challenge for some cyclists. The intuitive solution would seem to be adding padding or cushioning to handlebars, but most bike experts agree that padding and cushioning handlebars is often not the only – or even a good – solution for the problem.

To paraphrase bicycle gear guru Sheldon Brown, that’s because of the “two bump problem“: just like your derriere, the heel of your hand has two bumps, with a sort of valley inbetween. In both places (saddle and hand), there are important nerves which run through these valleys, and you want to avoid pinching the nerves or putting pressure in those places. As Sheldon says, “If you use thick foam, … the “bumps” that are best able to carry weight will press through the foam, but the foam in the middle will press back at the valley. Thus, as with saddles, too much foam/gel can worsen the problem it was intended to correct!”

Generally speaking, there are a few things riders might want to consider before investing time and money in padding their handlebars:

  • Most bike experts agree that when a rider thinks they need padding, they might want to try a bicycle fitting first. The weight ratio of hips to arms could be adjusted, or the angle of the handlebar, to take weight off the hands and wrists.
  • Many experts will also recommend trying padded cycling gloves before building out gel pads and cushions on handlebars. Good padded gloves put the padding where it’s most needed on the hand (the “bumps”).
  • Many riders also recommend ovalized – also called flattened or ergo (“ergonomic”) – handlebars for wrist pain, which provides a wider, flatter grip surface. Personally, the ergo bar is my favorite for riding long distance.
Ovalized / flattened / ergo drop bars (in this case, an aero bar)

No matter which way you go, we make a beautiful leather bar wrap that will work for your handlebar. Our full grain leather is a high-performance material that is durable in the elements, warm to the touch, and gets grippier when wet.

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