Arm Pump & Hand Fatigue - Tips & Tricks

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7/24/2017 8:15 AM
Edited Date/Time: 7/24/2017 8:23 AM

Hey VitalMTBers

Anyone have any arm pump and/or hand fatigue tips & tricks? I've tried the normal stuff, but still battle at the end of longer descents. Figured I'd lob the question to the masses to see if anyone else has any tips/tricks. This weekend's performance was severely inhibited on longer race stages as I could barely control my bike. Survival riding. I seem to fall apart on rough or steep descents after about the 3-4 minute mark.

For those wondering, here is what I've found to work...

1) Bar. namely a 31.8 bar - they flex more and can help to some degree
2) Real brakes. Just because its a trail bike doesn't mean DH brakes aren't a good idea. Especially for us bigger guys pushing a shorter travel bike in places more suited to a DH bike.
3) Grips. They matter. Ergon stuff has been my favorite to date but I wonder if there isn't something better. Open to suggestions!
4) Cockpit setup. Right brake lever angle, bar angle/sweep etc.
5) Proper fitting bike. This one has been huge to me. Short bikes exacerbate hand/arm issues as you are fighting to stay balanced all the time.
6) Aspirin
7) Ice
8) Massage
9) Losing weight
10) Riding a lot
11) Not using your brakes
12) Tire inserts like Cushcore. It helps take the sting off. Its not night and day, but has been helpful, especially to finger pain.

Here is what doesn't...
1) Supplements. None seem to matter, this includes magnesium, vitamin b complex, fish oil etc.


Here is what might...
1) Pickle juice. Seriously, I need more time.
2) Botox injections
3) Surgery (not doing this)

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7/24/2017 8:48 AM

Does anyone have suggestions for Brakes? I'm running Shimano XT with 203 rotors and I find the initial bite great, but the power after that to be a bit lacking when things get steep I get going fast. I was thinking Saints, but I don't necessarily want more "bite" than my XTs, but more power overall.

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7/24/2017 8:56 AM

DServy wrote:

Does anyone have suggestions for Brakes? I'm running Shimano XT with 203 rotors and I find the initial bite great, but the power after that to be a bit lacking when things get steep I get going fast. I was thinking Saints, but I don't necessarily want more "bite" than my XTs, but more power overall.

How much do you weigh? Where do you ride?

Most DH brakes I've ridden don't overwhelm you with "bite" but do offer far more power once things start to heat up. Sounds like you are on the right track. As a side note, I've been super impressed (though my time limited) on the new Codes.

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7/24/2017 9:04 AM
Edited Date/Time: 7/24/2017 9:04 AM

DServy wrote:

Does anyone have suggestions for Brakes? I'm running Shimano XT with 203 rotors and I find the initial bite great, but the power after that to be a bit lacking when things get steep I get going fast. I was thinking Saints, but I don't necessarily want more "bite" than my XTs, but more power overall.

jeff.brines wrote:

How much do you weigh? Where do you ride?

Most DH brakes I've ridden don't overwhelm you with "bite" but do offer far more power once things start to heat up. Sounds like you are on the right track. As a side note, I've been super impressed (though my time limited) on the new Codes.

200(ish) on an Evil Wreckoning, been in Canada most recently.

Was looking at 4 piston instead of 2. Was hoping someone could shed light on the difference between 4 smaller piston vs 2 larger piston.

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7/24/2017 9:18 AM

DServy wrote:

200(ish) on an Evil Wreckoning, been in Canada most recently.

Was looking at 4 piston instead of 2. Was hoping someone could shed light on the difference between 4 smaller piston vs 2 larger piston.

At your weight, (like me) a DH brake is absolutely the ticket. I'm not a brake expert, but the idea of a 4 piston brake is partially surface area, partially how you can get the brake to come "on".

End of the day, you can only make a 2 piston brake so big before you either need to make it into an oval or change the surface area of rotor (expand it in a vertical fashion).

Conversely, a 4 (or gasp - 6) piston brake can match the contour of the rotor more easily. To add, I'd wager they offer more opportunity to "tune" for feel from an engineering perspective, but I'm speculating here.

End of the day, its all about how much fluid is moving, the type of fluid, pad compound and the surface area of the stopping bits (pads/rotor).

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7/24/2017 10:09 AM

The biggest thing that made a difference for me, was switching to enve bars.... #notsponsored

My hands used to get bad blisters by the end of day one, with the claw forming in survival mode... now by the end of day three in a row my hands are sore, but not a total write off.

Grip choice has been important to me as well... as a rider with smaller fingers, but larger palms, some of the chunkies out there were actually causing more issues, while super thing grips would just murder my hands. Sticky grips, that aren't too thick, are my new jam. The raceface half nelsons were tried on a whim, and then next weekend were swapped onto all my bikes.

Also, my "treat yo self" is switching to fresh gloves throughout the day.... finding the right glove has always been a pain in the ass, but i have found a happy medium with troy lee air gloves... usually a fresh swap out every 2-3 runs keeps them tight on my hands, without them getting soggy from sweat, and stretching. While this might not help in the moment (especially mid race run ) but i find a constant switch out of gloves keeps them fresh, and my hands not as sore.

I found that all these adjustments made it so my hands weren't getting destroyed as fast, which lets me hold on for longer descents on my enduro bike, as well as survive resort long weekends on the DH rig.

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7/24/2017 1:36 PM
Edited Date/Time: 7/24/2017 1:36 PM

I know you mentioned riding more, but have you been riding long rough 5-10 minute descents as training without breaks? And not bike park. I find here in Whistler that i get significantly more arm pump on trails like microclimate then i ever do in the bike park.
I would think that working on breathing better, and riding a little more within my self at the start of the stage as well as just focusing on relaxing my whole body but especially my hands tends to work for me...
Being pretty shit at bikes compared to most of my friends, i used to find i would push way too hard to try and keep up during descents, get tired, get ragged, and end up probably riding slower than i did if i wasn't redlining..

Maybe your fork could also be better optimized for your terrain and riding style?

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7/24/2017 1:48 PM

andrew.macnaughton wrote:

I know you mentioned riding more, but have you been riding long rough 5-10 minute descents as training without breaks? And not bike park. I find here in Whistler that i get significantly more arm pump on trails like microclimate then i ever do in the bike park.
I would think that working on breathing better, and riding a little more within my self at the start of the stage as well as just focusing on relaxing my whole body but especially my hands tends to work for me...
Being pretty shit at bikes compared to most of my friends, i used to find i would push way too hard to try and keep up during descents, get tired, get ragged, and end up probably riding slower than i did if i wasn't redlining..

Maybe your fork could also be better optimized for your terrain and riding style?

Great suggestions!

Only thing I should add is I am about as OCD as they come when it comes to fork/suspension setup and maintenance.

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7/24/2017 3:35 PM

I haven't touched or tried them (I'm an Ergon GE1 Slim guy) but I've seen Nick Simcick raving about those Revolution suspension grips on FB.



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...she had a weakness for writers and I, I was never that good with words anyway...

7/24/2017 3:38 PM

ZAKBROWN! wrote:

I haven't touched or tried them (I'm an Ergon GE1 Slim guy) but I've seen Nick Simcick raving about those Revolution suspension grips on FB.



I'd like to give them a go. If they were cheaper, I'd ring the register but $60-90 for grips? I have to be more certain it'll help...(though if it did, I'd absolutely pay it)

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7/24/2017 3:48 PM

Blame it on my MX background, but I run my levers higher than anybody I've seen on the trails. Not horizontal with the ground, mind you, but much closer to that degree than the way I see a lot of bicyclists do it.
If your levers are pointing at the ground, your wrists are rotated forward too much. It's more like squeezing a forearm exerciser at this point, than riding a bike.
Try it for yourself: rest your forearm and hand on the desk and imagine squeezing something over and over. That's my position with the levers. Now angle your hand downward off the edge of the desk and do the same. Or imagine doing a wrist curl while squeezing something. Your forearm pumps up. Mine does, anyway.

I've also found that larger-diameter grips work better for me, but that's mostly on the motorcycle. It has carried over to my bike by default.

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7/24/2017 4:11 PM

Falcon wrote:

Blame it on my MX background, but I run my levers higher than anybody I've seen on the trails. Not horizontal with the ground, mind you, but much closer to that degree than the way I see a lot of bicyclists do it.
If your levers are pointing at the ground, your wrists are rotated forward too much. It's more like squeezing a forearm exerciser at this point, than riding a bike.
Try it for yourself: rest your forearm and hand on the desk and imagine squeezing something over and over. That's my position with the levers. Now angle your hand downward off the edge of the desk and do the same. Or imagine doing a wrist curl while squeezing something. Your forearm pumps up. Mine does, anyway.

I've also found that larger-diameter grips work better for me, but that's mostly on the motorcycle. It has carried over to my bike by default.

Learned this one this year. And yeah, if my bike is fitting properly (long enough), I liked it. Conversely, if my bike is too small, I hated it, and found myself rotating my levers more downward.

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7/24/2017 4:31 PM

Non bike set up related, but this helped me dramatically! Climb, not uphill on a bike but in a gym on a wall. You will feel arm pump harder and faster than you do riding, keep climbing through it and build the grip/arm strength. Getting back on a bike you'll know how to handle and fight through it and will be much stronger than you were without it.

Even if you don't want to climb, practice hanging exercises on a pull up bar, a hanging towel, can hang off almost anything. 15-30 seconds on same time off for 5 minutes even makes a drastic difference.

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7/25/2017 2:04 AM

Another bit of kit that has helped massively: carbon bars. Some of them (e.g. raceface) are way too stiff, but others (e.g. truvativ clementz, renthal fatbar) dampen vibrations coming to the bar pretty well, and have done their bit helping me with arm pump.
In any case, good brakes, gym training and lots of riding have really changed the landscape for me.

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7/25/2017 8:34 AM

Apart from equipment that was mentioned (which I may or may not agree with), what I've found to work for me is to not death grip. Sure, there are parts of a trail that might require it, but any section that I don't need to have a tight grip, I make sure to lighten my grip significantly. If my hands start to hurt, I make sure to concentrate on lightening grip, or fully un-weighting my hand or shaking them for a second if it is that bad. A few seconds of hand recovery is faster at the end than going through painful hand fatigue. Also, keep doing sustained descents and it will get better throughout the year. And push through that hand fatigue with whats mentioned above. At the beginning of the year a 5 minute descent would work my hands, now a 15 minute is fine (might need 1 shake out).

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7/25/2017 6:04 PM

Anything you can do to encourage blood flow is good. Not likely that you're wearing armor, but if so, loosen up any straps that wrap around your arms or shoulders. Drink lots of water and stay hydrated.

Put on some thinner grips and gloves. This is a BIG one for me. The thinner the better. There is a reason why thick grips aren't popular in motocross. I find ODI Longneck lock-ons or Sensus Swayze grips to be the best for long days in the park.

Start doing isolated wrist curls. Low weight (think bar only) and very high reps. Do them palms up, and palms down until you can't hold onto the bar any more - likely 90-120 reps each way. Then repeat in 5 minutes. When you're done it should feel like you can't open your hand, just like it feels when you have terrible arm pump on the bike. I haven't had arm pump in years because I do these exercises. They work.

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7/25/2017 6:07 PM

Another viewpoint:

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7/25/2017 10:31 PM

a) more vigorous masturbation

1) sell your fox fork

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7/26/2017 12:55 AM

Try Vibrocore, it reduces/eliminates arm pump using proper science based on the bar's resonant frequencies #biasedSpankemployee
Counter-intuitively the alloy bar remains alloy stiff, so you can remain in control. If you don't believe in science, you are more than welcome to thank god when you reach the bottom and can still comfortably hold a beverage after a long day in the hills.

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7/26/2017 5:54 AM

You included my a few of my favorites in your original list:

1) Ride more
2) Brake less
3) Brake lever angle/bar setup

To add to this I would say it's how you brake that has a big effect. Brake hard and less often. Don't drag your brakes over braking bumps etc. Lever reach is important. You don't want to be stretching for the levers.

Also try not gripping the bar so tight. I'll even let the bar almost rattle around in my hand on smoother sections of a track.

When I rode a lot in the alps I only had armpump the first few days until I got used to the speed and tracks, then I could stay off the brakes. However I did suffer from pain in my fingers due to vibrations. In the evenings I had a procedure which helped. I would hold my hands in hot, then ice cold water for about a minute and alternate between the two, and stretch/massage my fingers whilst in the hot water.

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7/26/2017 1:24 PM

Spank Industries wrote:

Try Vibrocore, it reduces/eliminates arm pump using proper science based on the bar's resonant frequencies #biasedSpankemployee
Counter-intuitively the alloy bar remains alloy stiff, so you can remain in control. If you don't believe in science, you are more than welcome to thank god when you reach the bottom and can still comfortably hold a beverage after a long day in the hills.

Maybe send one to me for testing In all seriousness, I'll certainly consider one. I do note going from 35mm to 31.8mm to be a big benefit for my hands.

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7/26/2017 1:54 PM

bturman wrote:

Anything you can do to encourage blood flow is good. Not likely that you're wearing armor, but if so, loosen up any straps that wrap around your arms or shoulders. Drink lots of water and stay hydrated.

Put on some thinner grips and gloves. This is a BIG one for me. The thinner the better. There is a reason why thick grips aren't popular in motocross. I find ODI Longneck lock-ons or Sensus Swayze grips to be the best for long days in the park.

Start doing isolated wrist curls. Low weight (think bar only) and very high reps. Do them palms up, and palms down until you can't hold onto the bar any more - likely 90-120 reps each way. Then repeat in 5 minutes. When you're done it should feel like you can't open your hand, just like it feels when you have terrible arm pump on the bike. I haven't had arm pump in years because I do these exercises. They work.

Nice! I used to do some forearm work, but I swore it made it worse. This is different. Climbing too is something I know would help. Not sure the culture would accept me though

Fun side point, I've noticed arm pump is usually greatly reduced if I don't drink any beer. But yeah, lets be honest, that's not a real solution.

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7/27/2017 12:04 AM

Spank Industries wrote:

Try Vibrocore, it reduces/eliminates arm pump using proper science based on the bar's resonant frequencies #biasedSpankemployee
Counter-intuitively the alloy bar remains alloy stiff, so you can remain in control. If you don't believe in science, you are more than welcome to thank god when you reach the bottom and can still comfortably hold a beverage after a long day in the hills.

jeff.brines wrote:

Maybe send one to me for testing In all seriousness, I'll certainly consider one. I do note going from 35mm to 31.8mm to be a big benefit for my hands.

Actually if you happen to be going to Whistler, the rental fleet (GTs) have Vibrocore bars

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7/30/2017 5:09 AM

Find a climbing gym and give it a couple of sessions a week, concentrating on longer periods on the wall rather than short boulder problems - it's the best cross training /off season activity you can do for improving your capacity to hold onto the bar and far more fun than weight drills.

Pure mountain bikers don't even know what arm pump is.... When you can crank your bodyweight around on overhanging terrain on small holds for minutes at a time a few months down the line (aim for 5.11 as a target to start), holding a handlebar standing up will no longer feel like much of a challenge. Guaranteed, or your money back.

I love how pure mountain bikers spend ages looking for technical ways to "solve" arm pump, when the solution is simply about working on your weakness (like it is with everything else too oddly enough).

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