Cobbles, potholes, and rough roads can cause nerve damage for cyclists, study finds

Commuters warned of risk of Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome

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Cyclists who regularly ride on poor road surfaces or cobbles could be at risk of suffering nerve damage in their hands and arms, a new study has found.

The study by Edinburgh Napier University found that riding on particularly bad surfaces for as little as 16 minutes was enough for cyclists to develop Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS).

Dr Mark Taylor conducted the research using a specially created bike equipped with cameras and sensors, deciding that he had to tackle the problem of poorly-surfaced bike routes after a bump caused by tree roots caused his seven-year-old daughter fall off her bike.

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"The minute you get onto a poorly maintained surface you’re getting a substantial duration of vibration exposure that’s being transferred up through your arms and into your shoulders," Dr Taylor told The Scotsman.

"Continued exposure to such vibration levels over commuter journeys may lead to discomfort and potentially cause harm."

According to Professor Chris Oliver, a consultant trauma orthopaedic hand surgeon at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, cyclists are consistently exposed to poor road surfaces can suffer from "significant damage to nerves and blood vessels in the arms."

He continued: "[HAVS] can include numbness in the fingers and cold can trigger painful finger blanching attacks. HAVS can be a disability and can prevent people cycling, especially in our cold winters.

"Cyclists should avoid road surfaces that may expose them to HAVS. The damage from HAVS can’t be reversed but reducing vibration exposure can help reduce the symptoms.

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Henry Robertshaw began his time at Cycling Weekly working with the tech team, writing reviews, buying guides and appearing in videos advising on how to dress for the seasons. He later moved over to the news team, where his work focused on the professional peloton as well as legislation and provision for cycling. He's since moved his career in a new direction, with a role at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.