12 December 2011

Hand Care

Looking after your hands is one of the most important things to consider for anybody who likes to use their digits soon after the event. Perhaps you have a job that involves typing or a child who's shoe laces need tying. Maybe you're a bit of a musician or you simply like to be able to use cutlery.

Several very, very long days in the saddle can cause all sorts of nerve damage in your hands. Usually it's temporary, but may last a few months. Here are some tips for minimising the impact of the Kiwi Brevet.

1 - Get some really long rides in during your Christmas break. Of course this will be good for your legs and waistline, but it'll also help to build up the endurance in your arms. If your arms stay strong throughout the Brevet, you'll be able to keep your elbows bent, and absorbing small road shock. When riders get exhausted, they tend to straighten their elbows and bend their wrists - leaving road shock to be absorbed primarily by hands, wrists and neck.

2 - Run low pressures. A fat tyre at 30-40 psi will absorb a helluva lot of shock. If you are riding a touring bike or cyclocross, the fatest tyre you can fit, inflated to the lowest pressures you dare is the way to go (maybe 60 psi, depending on your luck in avoiding snakebites).

3 - Let the bike carry the load. The less weight you have on your back, the less pressure you have on your hands (and butt).

4 - Change positions and stretch every few minutes. If you're running MTB bars, I recommend fitting some aero bars. They're a great way to rest your hands (and a good place to put a map, or hang a small bag). Don't hang onto bar ends for long - while comfortable for your arms, they usually increase the pressure on the nerves at the base of your wrist. If you have dropped bars, add an extra layer of tape or consider having some padding put under the tape in the areas you rest your hands most of the time. Make any changes to your bars now so that you have time to get used to them.

5 - Find some gloves you love. A little bit of padding is a good thing, I believe, but it is a personal choice. I like a little bit of extra padding around the base of my palm (either leather or a little bit of gel). Too much gel padding can result in extra pressure being applied to the centre of your palms - an area not designed to take prolonged pressure.

At the end of each day, give your hands a bit of a rub and maybe take a small dose of anti-inflammatory of some sort. If you are getting pain by the end of day two, consider raising your bars and shortening the distance you try to cover in each of the remaining days.