Electric Bicycle Wrist Pain

Electric Bicycle Wrist Pain

September 3, 2021

Pushing through the pain of burning thigh muscles is something to be expected if your completing the grueling hill climbs of the Tour de France -has anyone shown those guys an ebike yet?- but this pain is known as “good pain” or “necessary pain” in the cycling world, and is expected; even when you’re pushing your personal limits riding your ebike. This is pain that makes you stronger.

There are other types of pain you can get on an ebike and these are not good pains. These other types of pain are neither necessary nor good and the most common of these is ebike wrist pain. When we’re talking about wrist pain from an ebiking perspective using the term “pain” can be misleading. Whilst there can be pain, the use of this term also includes, and can be preceded by, tingling sensations and numbness.

If you’re experiencing cycling wrist pain, or tingling, or numbness whilst riding, then resolving it should sit close to the top of your ebiking list of “things to do”. Ebike wrist pain can not only lead to further complications down the line but it can also prevent you from doing something you love -which is getting out on your ebike- because it hurts to do so. In most instances, this problem can be solved with a simple adjustment. Below we cover the causes, solutions, and preventative measures for electric bicycle wrist pains.

 

Causes of Ebike Wrist Pain

There are many probable causes of wrist pain and most of them have an easy fix once you’ve identified the cause of the pain. Firstly, let’s look at what is happening physiologically when you get wrist pains when cycling. There are two main causes.

1. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome - Cycling and carpal tunnel syndrome are common friends, however, this doesn’t mean that you can’t have one without the other. The carpal tunnel is a channel in your wrist through which a nerve, called the median nerve, passes.

This nerve controls the feeling in, and movement of, all your fingers except your pinky and ring finger. When pressure is applied to this nerve burning, tingling, or itchy numbness can be felt in your palm, thumb, index, or middle fingers; if this is what you’re feeling then you might be afflicted by carpal tunnel syndrome.

Carpal tunnel syndrome isn’t only associated with cycling and it is one of the most common nerve disorders to affect Americans. No one root cause has been identified for it and it is said to just be able to happen on its own.

2. Ulnar Tunnel Syndrome - The ulnar nerve is another nerve in your hand and it passes through Guyon’s canal in your wrist. It controls the movement and sensations on the outside edge of your hand, along with those of your pinky and ring finger.

Ulnar tunnel syndrome, also called Guyon’s canal syndrome, is caused when pressure is applied to the ulnar nerve in Guyon’s canal and the main resulting symptoms are tingling and numbness in your pinky and your ring finger.

These are the two main causes of two different yet similar pains, found in different locations in the hand. These are both symptoms of excess pressure on the wrist area and, fundamentally, this is the problem we’re here to solve.

 

Solutions for Ebike Wrist Pain

Here we’re going to look at what element of your riding could be causing these pains to occur and how to rectify them. Read through these causes, effects, and solutions then take a ride on your ebike to see if you can tell which might be affecting you. Once you’ve uncovered which cause might be affecting you then apply the solution.

Cause Effect Solution

Wrist Positioning

A straight wrist is not what you want when you're riding your ebike because it is compressive and puts extra pressure on the nerves and tendons in the carpal tunnel. An over-bent wrist also has the same effect.

You want a 15-20 degree backbend in your wrist when riding as this opens up your carpal tunnel. Some find that purchasing handlebar grips with palm rests helps to keep their hands in the best position.

Over-Reaching

If you're leaning too far forward to reach your handlebars this can put excess pressure on your wrist.

There should be a 90º angle between your shoulder and your torso when you’re sat on your ebike. Make adjustments to your handlebars and saddle height to correct this. If it doesn’t seem like it can be done then your ebike might be too long for your body.

Weight Distribution

Your weight is leaning forward onto your wrists and hands.

Your saddle is too high or its nose is angled too far down; an angle of just 4-5º is enough to slip your weight forward. If you feel like you’re unintentionally leaning into your handlebars check your saddle angle and height and adjust as necessary.

Handlebar Shape & Position

If, when on your handlebars, your hands are significantly wider than your shoulders this can roll your wrists outward, compressing the ulnar nerve.

If you have to roll your hands forwards to grip the brake or the shifter this can also cause pain.

The first element of this can sometimes be altered with a change in technique or posture, and can be accomplished by adjusting your handlebars. If this doesn’t work you may need to purchase handlebars which are better suited to you and they do manufacture ebike handlebars for carpal tunnel.

If you’re rolling your hands forwards to use brakes and shifters then loosen and rotate these parts so they’re reachable without moving your hands. When doing this be sure to turn the tire to its extreme left and right before you ride to make sure that the change isn’t putting undue stress on the cabling, which will break it.

Rough Terrain

This is a common cause of wrist pain electric mountain biking. The vibrations resulting from the rough terrain put extra stress on your wrists.

Firstly, make sure your suspension fork isn’t locked.

If you find that you tense your body when riding on this terrain try tensing it less so that your muscles, not your joints, absorb the shocks.

If this is your primary riding terrain then you might want to consider reducing the PSI of your tires slightly so they can provide some extra absorption for you. You might also want to consider investing in a pair of bike gloves with gel padding or cushioning in the heel of the palm.

 

Seeing A Professional

If you can’t seem to identify the cause, or even if you’ve identified it but can’t fix it, then it’s time to go and see a professional. Head down to your local ebike shop and talk to the staff there; don’t forget to take your ebike! The staff there should be able to help diagnose the cause of the pain and provide you with a solution.

If the pain persists after riding and is present whilst you perform other tasks then you might be advised to seek the opinion of a medical professional. Pain is the body signaling that something is wrong and, left untreated, wrist pains can cause lasting damage to your wrists. It could not be a carpal tunnel or ulnar tunnel, it could be something completely different like tendonitis and arthritis, but only a medical professional could tell you this.

 

Preventative Measures

Ebike wrist pain is often a problem arising out of a situation e.g. poor weight distribution or bad positioning of the hand, but it never hurts to practice preventative techniques; even if you’re not feeling pain. Our wrists are in use with most of the tasks we complete every day and there are many short and simple wrist exercises that can be completed to help both stretch and strengthen this integral part of the body.

 

Last Word

Wrist pains are, unfortunately, common in both the ebike and bicycle world. One of the most common causes of it is that said person’s ebike or bicycle isn’t properly fitted to their body. This doesn’t mean that they need to purchase a whole new ride to fix the problem, but they may need to look into other purchases, such as new handlebars or a new saddle, to solve the problem.

Proper ebike fitting is key to having a long and successful ebiking career and that is why, at Aventon, we have all of our ebikes, except our folding SINCH, available for purchase with 2 or 3 different sized frames. We’re all different and there is not a one size fits all solution when it comes to ebikes; although some of our competitors seem to think so.

 

 

6 comments
Robert Simonson September 07, 2021

Thank you! very informative. I’m not the only one having numb wrists. :-)

Harold R. Prewett September 07, 2021

Thank you for the very informative, helpful information. It is nice to be the owner of an E-bike where the company is looking out for the health and welfare of their customers!!

I have a new Aventure and had many very good comments and especially on the camo green color.
Since I haven’t ridden bikes for years any and all information is highly appreciated.

Ron Schindler September 07, 2021

Thank you for this article! My wife and I both experience this sensation. I think I will bring the brake handles up a little to create that back bend. I also would like to get more of an extension for my handle bars but the Adventure has only two positions for raising the handle. I am leaning all the time because I can’t raise the handlebars. If I lower the seat, then my legs are not in the proper position.

Randy Gerdes September 07, 2021

excellent article. These posts are really value-added after my purchase of the Aventure. Keep up the good work! It’s appreciated.

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