The loss of sensation in your hands while riding a bike is not necessarily an indication of an illness. Even a healthy bicyclist can experience this problem. For most people, the cause is the positioning of your hands or posture while riding. By taking some preventative steps to correct a few minor issues, you may be able to stop hand numbness. If you feel pain in your hands or the numbness occurs even when you are not bike riding, you should see your doctor for a proper diagnosis.
Your hands have a web of nerves that help control movement and provide sensation. When a nerve becomes pinched, you may feel numbness. Bike riding puts pressure on the wrists and palms of your hands. This stress can interfere with the way nerves work. Another consideration may be the environment. If it is cold outside, extremities like your hands feel the effects first. The key to fixing the problem involves dealing with the cause.
The nerve paths in your hands begin in the arm and wrists. Nerves follow a path that goes from the arm, through the wrist and into the hand. When a nerve becomes pinched somewhere along this path, the area after the pinch will lose some sensation. For this reason, proper angle of the wrist is crucial when riding your bike. As you grab onto the handlebars, you may bend your wrists. This leads to pinching of the nerves and numbness in the hands. Wrists must be flush with the forearm, so they do not bend as you ride.
If you find it difficult to sit on your bike seat without bending your wrists, you need to make an adjustment. The angle of your seat affects your hand positioning. Climb off your bike and look at how the seat sits in relation to the ground. Ideally, the seat will be parallel. If it dips down in the front, this may be the problem. Unscrew the nut directly under the seat. Push down on the back of the bike seat until it is level with the ground, then tighten the nut. If you are riding in cold weather, try wearing bicycle gloves to keep your hands warm.
The numbness may be a symptom of a problem unrelated to your bike. Medical conditions that can lead to hand numbness include diabetes, ganglion cysts in the wrists, Lyme disease and Raynaud's disease. If you have fallen recently or sustained trauma of any kind, see your doctor rule out injury as the cause of the numbness. If you feel sick or have other symptoms such as excessive thirst, chest pain or headaches or your hands feel cold when you are not riding, stay off the bike until your doctor rules out a medical problem.