Cycling – uncomfortably numb and the solution


[…I hope.]

Generally cycling isn’t painful.  Millions do it calmly and enjoyably, meandering along at a reasonable pace, riding to school and work in all weathers.

I’ve been pleasantly surprised how little my recent exertions have hurt.  I can feel my muscles after a ride but they rarely hurt much the next day.  Even if I push a bit harder, such as on Saturday when I beat my climb record by 13 seconds and was under 2 minutes for the first time, my legs recover quite well.

Numb bum

Except my bum.  Boy does my bum hurt.  My legs can have all the strength and plenty in reserve but my bum just can’t stay in the saddle.  And with my full-suspension bike, standing up to pedal induces sag and bounce and very little forward motion or relief.

Numb pinky

1 hour after getting off the bike I lost feeling in the ring and pinky finger on my left hand; totally numb.  This was unexpected and unwelcome, to say the least.  Smothered in Met-Sal cream I slept, but woke early this morning with no change.

I few googles and I found the cause; the ulnar nerve has been compressed and too much weight on the hands is the probably cause.  The nerve connects the pinky and half of the ring finger; something I confirmed as the medial side of my ring finger felt quite normal.

Great, not much chance of shifting the weight from my bum then.

Solution…?

About 75% of the feeling returned by mid-morning Sunday, which gives me hope of a rapid recovery.

I took a quick trip to The Cyclery with my bike.  They offer a by-appointment full fit service but I was hoping I had some obvious problems with obvious solutions that could be found quickly.  First thoughts were that the XL bike was too small for me, but that was dismissed on further inquiry.

Sore bum was explained by a poor saddle.  While it was wide enough at 155mm,  the rounded shape of the cushion meant that my bum bones were barely supported.  Instead the cushion was pushing up between my bum cheeks.

New saddle, Specialized Milano.  Instantly the difference was obvious.  Despite firmer padding than my old saddle, the flat padding mean that my bum bones were immediately comfortable.

New grips, Ergon GP5 fit after I moved the shifters and levers inboard.  The large, flat section gives a much broader base and the bar ends good grip for up hill stretches.

I’ll wait until my ulnar nerve is mended before I try any great distance, but I think that I’ve solved both issues in one.

UPDATE: 11/03/2013 07:18 – it seems that the sleep is enough to cause pressure on the nerve and numb the fingers.  😦  Not as bad as Sunday morning and it seems to be getting better quickly as I move about.  Hmmmm, there’s more to do.

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