Starting from 2019 until recently, I've contended with some pretty disturbing back pain. I'm writing this here because it mostly manifested itself during scooter rides, although I did also notice it a few other times especially when washing dishes. It turns out I brought this problem on myself, and thankfully the fix is really easy.

First, a short story. When electric scooters took off astronomically in 2018 and I couldn't resist getting an M365, it didn't take long for me to experience first-hand the perils of being an early adopter. One day, I was kicking it up a hill, and the very well-known defective stem lock snapped, folding the scooter right from underneath me.

I was extremely lucky to have this happen while one foot was one the ground, so I recovered gracefully although did wrench my back slightly. It wasn't that motion that caused any lasting pain, but the experience that hatched a school of thought, reinforced by the community, that resulted in this ongoing upper back pain problem: use the stem for steering only. Don't put weight on it, ride the scooter like an electric skateboard that happens to have a stem.

At the time that really made perfect sense. The models we rode were in their infancy and should be handled carefully. So from that point forward, I developed a light-grip technique by which I could steer and operate stuff on the handlebars, yet also reduce any downward force on them.

It did not occur to me that the weight previously beared by the stem had to go somewhere. Our arms are extended directly outward when riding and that shifts our center of balance. So, my upper back began bearing this weight. Couple that with continuous bumps in the road, and you have a slow, steady dull pain that begins sneaking up the minute you start your ride.

It's a simple but powerful recipe for pain. It's the same trigger that many people have when washing dishes.

The solution? Just rest your arms on your stem. It can handle a little light weight. Grocery bags full of liquids, maybe a concern. When riding over serious bumps, loosen your grip so as not to wrench the stem around. But otherwise, take the load off of your back! Since I started doing that, the upper back pain has vanished completely, even on bumpy rides.

This is all very much uncharted territory, and we still have a lot of electric scooter know-how to navigate. But I think I have this problem solved!

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