“Lighten Your Grip”
June 26, 2023
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By Tom Neel
Occasionally I hear riders talking, or read posts on the Janus Owner FaceBook Page, about issues with hand numbness or hands falling asleep. It’s certainly not uncommon to anything with handlebars and grips. In fact, my wife and I recently purchased E-bicycles, and she ran into this very problem. Point being, this is not necessarily motor driven! With some clarity to my little joke, yes, sometimes engine vibration can be a source of hands falling asleep, but often it tends to be a form of operator error that’s causing those hand naps.
Let’s start with the engine though, just to get that source out of the way. Some engines can be buzzy, and single cylinder ones are at the top of that list. That buzzing can make its way through ridged mounted pieces, all the way to the tips of your fingers. Using a Janus 250 as an example, but certainly not exclusively so, if new, miles are one way to lessen the buzz. Many think the CG250 power plant is broken-in at its first oil change at 500 miles. Not true, and anyone who has racked up some miles will confirm this, as this engine feels much freer at 1000 miles, and continues to free up as it get to more like 2,000 miles. If this takes awhile, it can be hard to notice. But when it takes just months, as with my case, you can feel it improving.
Additionally, the Janus 250’s stock rear sprocket, an important part of the drivetrain and gearing, has 47 teeth. This would be considered low gearing giving it more pull, or oomph. But switching this to what is considered taller gearing, as in using a 45T sprocket, lowers the buzz, as it lowers RPM or the rate at which the engine’s spins in all of its 5 speed gears as you shift. You really loose nothing in performance. In fact, if anything you free up the top end. It might all be a trade off, but the largest gain is less engine buzz. In my case, and I’m certainly not alone, I’m running a 43T rear sprocket, which improves this even more. If needed, I just downshift a gear when hitting a steep hill.
Still others may suggest bar-end weights. Usually chrome or black, these tubular weights mount as an extension to your handlebar, at the end of the grip. This little bit of additional weight can act in settling down vibration in the bar. I’ve had motorcycles with them stock from the factory, but bar end weights are an easy add on. I personally haven’t found the need for them with my Halcyon, but they are an option.
Editor’s note: For those still noticing vibration with even the lightest of grips, take a look at the bar-end weights from HVMP. We recommend their 7/8″ universal bar end weights.
So miles, sprocket change, and possibly bar-end weights are three things you can do mechanically. But the good news before you do any of this, is to go right to the source itself, your hands. Right off the “bat” (speaking of something you really do grip), your handlebar grips should never really be gripped at all. It is a very common mistake to for new riders, and even some seasoned riders. Squeezing your grips is bad motorcycling form. Similarly, pilots know not to grip controls either. Being light with the controls is actually key to good control.
Let’s even take the extreme example of a Superbike or MotoGP bike on a racetrack. I’ve been north of 150 mph on motorcycles on a race track more times than I could guess. There, where you are traveling 220 feet per second, your definitely do not want to have a death grip on your controls. Think of it this way. Your two wheeled motorcycle at speed becomes gyroscopic. It very much just wants to go straight. As an example, if the throttle was locked to go 60mph on a straight road, and someone could pluck you off the seat, your motorcycle would happily keep going straight. To even turn it requires input in the way of counter steer, which is counter intuitive, but true. You have to steer a little to the left, to go right, and visa versa. So for me, I don’t think of handlebars like a steering wheel. I more so think of those grips sort of as a push/pull devices. Go just 30mph into a right curve and turn that bar to the right, and you’ll not see nearly the result as momentarily pushing the left grip forward, which points the tire to the left, but allows the motorcycle to fall to the right. Even stationary, standing beside the left side of your bike, try to get it to fall to the left by first turning the bars to the left. Now try turning the bars to the right, and see how it easy it falls to the left.
There’s plenty you can read and watch on counter steering, but as it pertains to grip, going straight doesn’t require you to grip at all, and neither does turning. My fingers are never tight on the grips. Being light with your controls is something easy to do. The one time grip really can matter though, is with very fast accelerating motorcycles, where a bit of hanging on can be required, but the real work should always remain in your back and legs. This is another wonderful thing about Janus motorcycles, with power you can use, that won’t abuse you. Their light weight too!
So now we know that we don’t have to hold on for dear life, that we can be light with our controls. In doing this, your hands are already less strained, and any vibration has less affect. But there’s one more important thing to do, and that’s buying the right SIZE gloves. We’ve all bought gloves, so you are likely thinking, come on, how hard can this be? Not hard, but there is a little trick. Motorcycle gloves are always pretty thick, and loaded with protection. This is a very good thing in the event that something goes horribly wrong. But its normal to try on a glove and stretch your hand out to feel how it fits. But the most important thing to do is put your hand into a fist position, and even hold it like that. Doing this better shows if a glove is too tight, as even in a fist, your fingers and hand shouldn’t feel constrained by the glove. Yes, you will normally have it wrapped around the grip which will have it be more open than a fist, but it will often be in that position for long periods. So even with the proper light grip, the glove itself can be too tight and become the source of your hand circulation problems. The glove itself is constricting blood flow, aiding in vibration, and making your hand more rigid than it needs to be.
Now you certainly don’t want to glove to be too loose either, and yes, gloves do stretch and break in. But when tying on your gloves, they should never at anytime feel tight, restrict your hand in anyway, especially too, in the area between your thumb and index finger. That’s the part that is stretching and reaching for the levers. Last, shaking them out or opening your hands while riding here and there, helps too. You can also allow your thumb to rest atop the grip for a moment, or stretch and relax your fingers. I think you may just find that hand sleepiness becomes a thing of the past.