STOP PICKIN’ UP BAD VIBRATIONS!
The Beach Boys sang about “Pickin’ up good vibrations” that gave them “excitations”; and we all wanted to have some of that shakin’ going on! But vibrations aren’t always good; and they can give you much more than excitations, they can also give you damaged hands. If you ride a bike – especially a large-engined bike – you’ll know something about vibration. Engine-vibrations can be felt through the whole body, but where you feel them most is in your hands as they grip the bars. If the Beach Boys were riding big bikes today they might re-word their famous song to something like this: “I’m pickin’ up bad vibrations, they’re stoppin’ my circulations…” Qwi gloves claim to provide a cure for these vibrations and relieve the problems they cause. But before looking at the solution, let’s look at the problem.
According to the Queensland Government’s web-site on workplace health and safety, vibration sent through the hand or arm can affect blood circulation, and may contribute to disorders of the wrist and hand; the most common being Raynaud's Syndrome, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, and Shoulder Tendonitis. A study by the British Health and Safety Executive found that vibration from hand-tools was responsible for a condition known as “Vibration White Finger” which is the result of reduced blood circulation; and also for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. They said another cause of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome could be “repetitive twisting or gripping movements of the hand.” (Hmm, that sounds a bit ominous for us motorcyclists, doesn’t it!). Dr. Andrew Keller, on the Australian Doctor web-site, writes, “Vibration can cause changes in blood vessels, muscles, bones and joints, and can also affect the nervous system. Collectively, these effects are known as hand-arm vibration syndrome or Raynaud’s Phenomenon”. A study by the U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine stated that, “Vibration is associated with such illnesses as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or Raynaud’s phenomenon. Exposure to hand-arm vibration over many years may cause decreased hand muscle strength, and may cause numbness and cold sensitivity to persist between attacks.” Now, I should stress that these studies were carried out in respect to working with power-tools like jack-hammers and chain-saws etc; which put out a lot more vibration than your average motorcycle. (Although I can think of a couple of bikes I’ve ridden that would come close!). It’s not just power-tools though; other studies have reported truck drivers having hand numbness and pain, induced by the steering wheel. The over-all message from this is clear; vibration is not good for your hands! So let’s briefly look at what these disorders actually are.
THE DISORDERS IN DETAIL
Raynaud’s Phenomenon is a restriction of blood flow to the extremities, like fingers and toes, due to constriction of blood vessels. It would appear to be the condition described as “Vibration White Finger” in the UK study. For more info click here. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a painful disorder of the hand caused by pressure on the main nerve that runs through the wrist. This nerve, together with tendons, pass through a narrow space called the Carpal Tunnel. If the tendons become inflamed and swollen, they exert pressure on the nerve resulting in numbness, pain and tingling. For more info click here.
BIKES AND VIBRATION
Most bikes will transmit some vibrations through the hands. On big singles (and certain big twins!) it can be the sort that goes right up your arm and rattles your teeth. Other engines can be less severe, but still leave your hands in no doubt that there’s a lot of powerful stuff happening underneath you. Even small engines, especially when they’re revving hard, can produce high-frequency tingles through the bars. I’ve felt the discomfort of vibrations through my hands with probably most bikes I’ve owned. I remember fitting foam handgrips to a single-cylinder road-bike I had once, to soften the grip and reduce the vibrations. I’ve considered replacing the grips with something softer on probably most of the others, including the present one. With my current bike there is some vibration there all the time, it’s not bad, and mostly filtered out by the well-padded gloves I wear, but it’s always there to some extent. In winter I don’t notice it much because the gloves I wear could probably do a reasonable impression of ski-gloves! My normal gloves allow a bit more through, but it’s in summer, when I change to my least-padded gloves, when I notice the vibes most. Then it gets to feel uncomfortable; and it’s then especially that I think I should do something about it. For many people, the problem can be much worse. Hands begin to ache, or feel numb, sometimes after only relatively short distances. But regardless of how badly we feel the symptoms, the point remains that vibration through the hands is not a good thing. So, what can we do? Well, Qwi Nerve Protection Motorcycle Gloves promise to protect your hands from vibration, and give relief for numb, tingling, painful hands.
When I first read about Qwi gloves it was quite timely, as a friend and I had both been talking about changing the handgrips on our bikes. So I was interested to find out more. I wanted to know more about the gloves, and, as the company is located in America, I wanted to know if there were any local shops selling them. Their web-site, www.QwiGloves.com, is very informative and gives a description of all their products. It provides a lot of information about the problems associated with grip-pressure and vibration, and also describes why normal padded gloves can actually make the problem worse. And, of course, there is a good description of how Qwi gloves work, and why they are better than normal gloves. The gloves were designed by an orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Joseph Yao. They also make gloves for driving, work situations and bicycling. They looked impressive, so I emailed the company. The bad news is that at present there are no local distributors for them. The good news is that you can easily buy them direct from the company. I was keen to give them a try, and they happily agreed to send me a pair. There are nine different styles of motorcycle gloves to choose from. Three of these are finger-less style, three are full-finger with no cuff, and three are extended-cuff design. The finger-less and shorter styles come in a choice of spandex back, perforated leather back, and full leather. The three extended cuff gloves are full leather. In the extended-cuff range one is uninsulated (as are all the others), one is lightly insulated, and the other is what they call their Sport Glove. The Sport Glove is the top of their range and offers extra protection over the other styles; the main difference being that it is made from cow leather rather than pigskin leather that is used for all the others. The choice for me was fairly simple. Protection is a big concern, and personally, I wouldn’t leave the driveway with finger-less gloves. I didn’t like the sound of spandex as a protective material either! Perforated leather might sound okay for a hot summer, but not for me, I want full leather. All my gloves are insulated, and I prefer at least a partial gauntlet style, so that brought the choice down to the Lightly Insulated Extended Cuff style. I probably would’ve gone for the Sport glove, but as they were sending me the gloves for evaluation purposes I thought it might be a bit rude to ask for the most expensive glove they had.
WHAT’S THE IDEA?
Qwi gloves have gel pads on the palms; so they’re like a gel-seat for your hands. The gel pads absorb the vibration, just like the gel seat does. An important thing about these pads is their positioning. The pads are positioned on the peripheral areas of where the nerves pass through your wrist and onto your palms. So your hand is supported either side of these nerves and the Carpal Tunnel they pass through, rather than having your hand resting on the tunnel, the nerves and tendons. You can see the padded sections in the photo here. It was winter when I got them. The first time I wore them it was a sunny winter day with the temperature around 17 – 18 degrees. I thought I’d give them a try, but I didn’t expect to wear them for very long; and put my winter gloves in the top-box. But they were surprisingly warm! The winter gloves stayed in the top-box and I did the whole ride with the Qwi gloves. On a later ride, on a cloudy day with the temperature a couple of degrees cooler, my hands did start to feel cold and I stopped and changed to my winter gloves. And the cooler temperatures in recent times when I’ve gone out on the bike have mostly kept me wearing my winter gloves. But I was amazed at how warm these gloves are! It seems the pig is not only softer than the cow, it is warmer too! But let’s get to the important part, protecting your hands from those nasty vibes. And I’m happy to say that they definitely do work – they do reduce the vibration you feel in your hands. The normal buzzes and tingles you feel through the bars are pretty much all gone. Even road-shocks from bumps aren’t as jarring as they are with normal gloves. What you get is just a smoother ride! You also feel the effect of having that central area of the base of your hand supported clear of the bar. Remember that the idea is to eliminate the pressure on that central area of your wrist / palm; and wearing these gloves makes you realise just how much weight there normally is on that area. I’ve tried to show how this works in the photo on the left. (Yes, this is actually my left hand upside-down on the bar, it wasn’t taken from underneath the bar, but you get the idea). The gel pads keep the centre area of your hand kind of suspended above the bar. Your hand rests on the gel pads. But being thin, you still get all the control and feeling of a thin glove. My main concern though, is crash-protection. I said earlier that this is a high priority to me in what a glove is designed to do. And in this area I think the cow is much better than the pig! Especially when you get multiple layers of cow and extra padding etc. It’s no coincidence that their “extra protection” Sport Glove is made of double-layers of cow-hide. To illustrate, take a look at the photo on the left. The other glove is my winter glove, but the extra bits of leather and padding is typical of what all my gloves have. If ever I came down on the road I think I'd prefer to be wearing the thickest glove with the most crash-padding. And this is the only reason I probably won’t be wearing the Qwi as much as I might otherwise. But I suppose it’s all a matter of compromise. Comfort versus crash-protection; stopping pain and damage to the nerves and tendons in your wrist versus the possible damage to your hand if you happen to crash. So I’ll still wear them. And in summer, when my normal gloves allow significantly greater levels of vibration to come through, I’ll be wearing the Qwi gloves a lot more! Because they really do work at protecting the vulnerable areas of your palm and hand, and they definitely provide a more comfortable ride. Now, if you’re considering getting yourself a pair, but not sure whether you’ll like them, you can give them a try anyway; Qwi are so sure you’ll like them that they offer a 30-day money-back guarantee if you don’t like them.
WHERE DO YOU GET THEM?
As mentioned above, you can buy them direct from Qwi in USA. Here are some quick links. To go straight to the Motorcycle Gloves page, click here. To go straight to the page where you can see the prices and buy them, click here.
MEASURING YOUR SIZE
An important consideration when buying gloves on-line is to get the correct size. Qwi provide a guide for this. They say to measure your hand at the widest point and then choose your size according to the measurement. I would add that you might need to alter your choice, depending on the shape of your hand. For example, I have long thin hands, which are quite different to the hand pictured on their web-site. Look at the photos on the left and you’ll see what I mean. I have to up-size gloves to accommodate my long fingers. So when it came to choosing a size, I had to guess a little, as well as being guided by the gloves I have. Curiously, the size varies depending on what glove you choose. For example, a measurement that would result in a Medium in the style I got would be a Large in the finger-less style, and an Extra-Large in the non-gauntlet style and Sport glove. For me, going on measurement and the style I chose, the size was on the border-line between Small and Medium. Allowing for a generous fit, the choice would be Medium. But considering my long fingers, and going on the fact that the gloves I have are all Extra Large, I chose Extra-Large. And it turned out to be the right choice. They’re a slightly loose fit in the hand, but any smaller and my fingers wouldn’t fit. It’s important to get the size right; not just for general fit, but also so that the gel pads are in the right place. There is the assurance though, that if you get it wrong and order the wrong size, you can just return them in exchange for the correct ones.
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