What You Can Do About Numb Hands

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Numb Hands

Your hands take a good beating on a motorcycle, huh? Cold, vibrations, too much weight, poor ergonomics; pretty much anything your bike gets wrong hurts your hands first. This is what you can do about numb hands.

Photo: Elvert Barnes

Let’s look at the aspects of riding that can cause numbness, and address each individually.

The Cold
Your hands are literally freezing; a common problem even at above-freezing temperatures and even while wearing insulated gloves.

Block The Wind: A set of Bark Busters or similar deflectors (or even Bar Muffs in extreme cases) will keep the wind off your hands, dramatically reducing windchill. This is a simple, static, bolt-on solution that’ll perform double duty protecting your levers off-road, through traffic or in a crash.

Warm Your Core: Your hands get cold first because your body prioritizes heat for your organs as temperatures drop. This is why a heated vest can have knock on effects to your periphery, turning your torso into a radiator that then pumps warm blood to your arms, legs, hand and feet.

Heat Your Hands: Heated grips do what they say on the packaging, but can be a minor hassle to install. Man, they’re nice to have though, mostly because they’re fit and forget. Caught out on a cold night unexpectedly? Just flip a switch and your hands are toasty. In extreme cold, they may not be enough as the top of your hand is left un-warmed. For that reason, they work best when paired with deflectors.

Heated Gloves: Heated vest or jacket not enough? Starting with one of those items, you can easily add a set of heated gloves to your outfit. This is the warmest solution, heading your entire hand and wrist, but requires the wearing of other heated gear, plus dedicated wiring on your bike.

Vibrations
Even inline-fours can sometimes transmit an unwelcome amount of vibrations to your appendages. Luckily, it’s such a common problem that solutions abound.

Bar Ends: Experiment with different weight bar ends until you find ones that effectively dampen vibes. A low cost, simple solution.

Grips: A variety of neoprene and rubber grips exist in an array of thicknesses, all designed to tailor comfort to your individual needs. Installing new grips is easy and effective.

Throttle Lock: Hands go numb after hours cruising on the highway? One of these simple cruise control systems can allow you to take a break from holding the throttle open for hours on end. Just use some smarts when deciding where and when it’s appropriate to use one.

Rubber Bar Mounts: Some bikes come with these stocks, or you can find them in the aftermarket. They’re very effective and it’s easy to install a new clamp and bars. As an added bonus, doing so allows you to tailor your ergonomics.

Ergonomics
Hands going numb because there’s too much weight on them?

Stock Adjustment: Experiment with angles and rotation of your stock clip-ons or handlebars to see if you can find a better solution first. It’s easy and free.

Bar Risers: Heli-Bars or similar raised clip-on solutions are a universal fix for any ergonomically compromised sportbike. On a naked or ADV bike with flat bars, the options for bar location are endless.

Aftermarket Bars: You can alter the angle with which your hands meet the bars and the distance too them, as well as their height, simply and easily in the aftermarket. Handlebars come in a variety of widths, heights, angles and sweeps; with some trial and error, you’ll find a solution that works for you.

Quick Fixes
On a ride and just need something that works right now?

Grip With Your Knees: Take the weight off your hands, wrists and arms by gripping the tank with your knees.

Shake ‘Em Out: While stopped, put the bike in neutral and shake your hands out like Vegas showgirl. The idea is to get blood moving again, so just shake them as hard as you can as long as that light stay red.

Glove Liners: Dying of cold? You’ll be amazed at how effective a pair of silk glove liners can be. Keep a pair under your seat. Forgot those? Grab a pair of the free plastic gloves gas stations have at the Diesel pumps.

Duct Tape: Build up the thickness of the grips by wrapping them in duct tape, this can change the way you grip them and temporarily fix some comfort issues or even kill some vibrations.

Do you suffer from numb hands? What have you done to fix them?

  • Kirk Roy

    I had carpal tunnel surgery on my right hand a couple years ago. It has worked out very well. None of the tricks did anything for me and I had the issue for over 20 years. This obviously works only for those who actually have carpal tunnel syndrome.

    • Davidabl2

      Details ,please. I may be suffering CS as well.

      • Kirk Roy

        So, carpal tunnel syndrome involves the thumb, index, and middle fingers going numb. You are basically tested by a neurologist (electrodes are hooked up and the doc pokes you with some needles and stuff) to determine if there is nerve damage and to what extent. If you have bad enough nerve damage they can perform Carpal Tunnel Release surgery. You can actually watch a full surgical procedure on youtube using “Carpal Tunnel Release” to search. They doc goes in through your wrist, then jams a blunt instrument up into your hand and finally the ligament is transected (cut down its length so that it will kind of lay flat, taking up less space in the tunnel). It has been awesome for me so far (surgery was about 18 months ago).

  • ThinkingInImages

    I’m looking for a set of wind deflectors, like Bark Busters, that will work with factory clip-ons on a sports motorcycle. I agree with “grip with your knees”, but also you need to strengthen your core muscles to get the weight off your hands.

    I keep a couple of small heat packs in my bag and slip them into my gloves and boots. It’s not a perfect solution but it helps when the temperature drops.

    • ThruTheDunes

      +1 on the hand (and foot) warming heat packs, I was thinking the same.

    • susannaschick

      electric gloves rock. I sold mine when I left NY, and bought a new pair my first winter in LA. Because I’m a weenie like that. Haven’t needed them this winter, between the awesome aerodynamics of the R1 which deflect wind away from your hands and the complete lack of winter we’ve had this year. They’re in storage or something.

  • STRTRRR

    Gripping with the knees is probably the single biggest/best tip I’ve picked up in 40+ years of riding. Totally beyond its benefits of helping with the numb hands, it makes you steer way better. If you don’t have a heavily weighted death grip on the bars, the bike will go where it wants to, aka the right line. Another thing that helps — and is also very educational on the effects of counter-steering is, when safe, to ride a mile or two with just your throttle hand. You literally can’t ride a bike one-handed unless you’ve got a very light and gentle touch on the bars.

  • Ricky Mohammad Nugraha

    good luck on holding a cigar under cold freezing hands, haha.

    • Davidabl2

      I prefer taking off my gloves and warming my hands near the headers. By the way, I’d imagine holding the damn thing with ‘ freezing cold hands” is less a problem than getting it lit..

  • Mister X

    Uh, huh, that phallic cigar photo as the lead truly shows that you all are real men’s, men, and I’m sure all the women who come here can relate to it, definitely not.

    Cold Hands, how about don’t smoke tobacco, it constricts blood flow to the extremities.

    • Adam B

      Seriously? Calm down.

      • zedro

        The tobacco part is true, although how much it will impact numbness is arguable. But for people with bad hand circulation (like me), smoking caused real issues in really cold weather. Well one of the negatives it caused….
        It is an odd picture choice tho.

        • Adam B

          I was commenting on the sexist remark, not the tobacco comment.

          • Mister X

            Give it a rest Adam B, you made no mention whatsoever concerning “a bunch of sexist remarks” in your original post, you’re just making yourself look worse.

            Feel free to get the upper hand, I’m going for a ride, it’s all yours, I’m done.

          • zedro

            Heh, I just wanted to reel it back onto topic.

      • Mister X

        Seriously, Adam B., where’s the “calm down” coming from, you are putting words where they don’t exist, it’s basically character assassination, perhaps your knee was jerking so bad you couldn’t think before posting nonsense.

        • Adam B

          Did you even read the comment I replied to? We don’t need a bunch of sexist remarks, just because of “phallic like” cigar in a picture.

          • Nate Terrill

            I am pretty sure Mister X is suffering from sort of disorder. I would quietly leave the thread if I were you.

            • Adam B

              Way ahead of you my friend.

  • 80-watt Hamster

    A not-uncommon technique to reduce bar vibes on the Versys forums is filling the bars with insulation foam, ball bearings, or steel or lead shot.

    • ThinkingInImages

      Insulation foam can work, foam beads will do it, too. On a few motorcycles with tubular bars I cut off an inch from each side (that’s very conditional on the bend and pods). You want to change the resonance. Strangely, I never ran into the problem with clip-ons. Maybe that’s because they’re so short and rigid.

  • Michael Howard

    Replace those apehangers with something a bit lower. But be warned that, without apehangers, it might be harder to lay ‘er down when needed. ;)

    • Davidabl2

      “Whenever needed”

  • Nemosufu Namecheck

    This sounds crazy, but put your ear protection in. Your hands will get cold if you are tense from external noise like a real windy day and having loose arms will go a long way to keeping your blood flow to your extremities. White knuckles are cold knuckles – even slowing down a tad can help.

  • Rameses the 2nd

    Lift weights. It improves blood flow and helps with numb hands and all sort of other aches and pains.

  • John

    People buy motorcycles with poor ergonomics?

    GTFO!!!

  • jhawkinsvalrico

    Many that I have talked with about this find that they are gripping too hard and don’t realize it. Gripping with your knees definitely helps and I was told of another solution many years ago that works for many. Simply take one finger (doesn’t really mater which finger, but for me it’s normally my index finger) and put it on the lever (brake or clutch) while riding. It’s not really covering your lever, simply laying a finger on the lever. For me and many that I have shared this with, when one finger is on a lever, that naturally hand relaxes. You can try this while sitting reading this. Make a fist and grip. Now take your index or middle finger and stick it out. You will likely find that your fist relaxes. Hope this helps some that have this issue.

    • Ben Mcghie

      Who’s riding without covering the levers?! That’s just silly.

      I was also surprised the article didn’t mention over gripping. I know far too many people that think the bike will run away if they aren’t half-crushing the bars.

      • jhawkinsvalrico

        There’s two schools of thought regarding covering your levers – especially the front brake lever. Some believe that covering your levers could lead to trouble if you accidentally hit a bump and instinctively grabbed to hang onto the bike which could lead to trouble. I have had a handful of people say that my advice regarding positioning your fingers as I suggest is not a safe practice. I suppose someone could accidentally in a panic situation grab, but I cannot recall that ever happening to me. I will say that ‘covering’ my levers and gripping with my knees stops me from over gripping with my hands and getting numb hands or sore wrists.

        • Ben Mcghie

          Agreed. Even if I hit a MASSIVE bump that I somehow failed to see… I still have two fingers and a thumb to grab the bars. If you need more than that to hold on, you need to use your legs more. Getting the stomp grip thingies for my bike is up there for favourite mod, for sure.

  • Jack Meoph

    I see a lot of people ride without gloves. Today, out on the road, you could feel the air was cold, and there they were, riding around without gloves. I carry an extra pair in my tailbag or topbox depending on which way I think the weather is going to go. Gloves also help with vibration and fatigue. Gloves. gloves. gloves. And gripping with your knees, especially while braking, is a must.

    • Davidabl2

      Wow…Riding w/o gloves seems about like riding w/o a helmet. While you’ll not always hit your head in an accident you’re pretty much always gonna hit your hands, due to dour defensive reactions when you fall.
      Even though the results of hitting your hands isn’t gonna actually kill you like hitting your head could, things will get real gnarly real fast.

      I feel naked if i ride w/o helmet, gloves, eye protection, knee protection and solid boots.

      • Michael Howard

        On the very, very rare occasions I might take a little ride without a lid (probably 2x in the past several years), I still wear gloves and boots for the reasons you mentioned.

        • Davidabl2

          The only times in my life when I have was when there was no helmet available(!) Or in my youth when I wanted to try to listen to mc symptom sounds a little better. Began riding before there was a helmet law in Calif. At stoplights motorists, pedestrians and other motorcyclists would ask me why i was wearing the thing ;-)

  • CB

    The most embarrassing way to warm up your hands really quickly is to pull over and do windmills. Swing your arms around all crazy and force the blood into your hands. I did this once while riding home in rainy 4c (40f?) weather when I got so cold I realized I couldn’t pull the levers. While I was flailing another driver pulled over, “Are you okay?” “Yup, just warming up.” “Thank god, I thought you were in trouble. Like, a lot of weird trouble.” People are awesome.

  • Hugo

    Changing out your bars for ones with a bigger wall thickness. Didn’t see it mentioned…

    • zedro

      Or bar weights.

  • Reid

    When it’s chilly out (but not super cold) I just wear a pair of latex surgical gloves underneath my regular summer gloves. Cheap and works wonders.

    • octodad

      do that also, but find my hands sweat too much. when moisture cools it is really cold. going the heated gloves route and see how effective it can be…

  • Robert Santos

    Go cruise throttle lock is the best $20 I’ve spent. I rode 400 miles yesterday using it for the first time and being able to take your right hand off the throttle makes a huge difference. I found the key is to hold the throttle just past where you want it set, then set the lock and push forward just a bit to hold in position.

    http://www.2wheelride.com/throttle_pro.html

  • Robert Santos

    Go cruise throttle lock is the best $20 I’ve spent. I rode 400 miles yesterday using it for the first time and being able to take your right hand off the throttle makes a huge difference. I found the key is to hold the throttle just past where you want it set, then set the lock and push forward just a bit to hold in position.

    http://www.2wheelride.com/throttle_pro.html

  • http://www.bikething.co.uk/ Jonathan Ward

    I use some bar end muffs, heated grips and thick winter gloves. Always toasty through the winter :-)

  • Scheffy

    A big thing which sounds obvious is make sure your gloves fit your hands while holding the bars. Any tightness from a slightly-small glove is just pressure squeezing blood (and ultimately heat) from your hands. And if the glove fingers aren’t pre-curved enough or at all, all those little wads of excess fabric/leather are doing the same thing.
    Also, if you have heated grips, find a pair of gloves with thin material on the palm side so the heat can actually transfer into your hands instead of having thick material that just insulates against the heat. Wear something as thick as oven mitts and they’re going to function like oven mitts.

  • luxlamf

    I discovered allowing the left side grip spin (Like the throttle side) allows me more comfort and less cramping etc… on longer trips, unfortunate that it only works on my HD with the war the hand controls and the grips install, on my Triumph is doesn’t work.

  • atomicalex

    Nitrile gloves, silk liners, and then basic leather gloves for me. With heated grips, of course!

    • Snowblind

      “California” is my primary defense against cold hands.

  • DucMan

    Jackets make a difference. If the shoulder is rotated you can pinch your shoulders and this will cause numb hands. Make sure you order your Roadcrafter with the right shoulder rotation.

  • Heeno

    I can tell you what to do about your numbs hands… quit jacking off so much and find something substantial to write about.

  • Timothy Gray

    Grip Puppies. http://www.casporttouring.com/cst/motorcycle/GRIPPUP/GPSMALL.html These things are fantastic for reducing vibration.