Rad Power Bikes’ RadWagon is a beast of a machine, but in a good way. It’s the end product of a business that was started up in Seattle by two childhood friends. Their love of bikes has resulted in a growing company that has its headquarters in the Pacific North West city. Unsurprisingly, however, Rad Power Bikes also has an office in Utrecht, Holland.
The European base is an obvious one as Holland is bike central on this side of the pond. It’s also a country where you’ll see all manner of bicycles. But even Dutch people, who think they’ve seen it all when it comes to two-wheelers, do a double-take when they clap eyes on the Rad Power Bikes RadWagon. What we have here, says the company, is an electric cargo bike.
Which is where the ‘beast’ bit of the equation comes in. Rad Power Bikes says in its promotional blurb that this is a bike that’s designed to replace your car. That’s a bold claim, but in some ways it’s kinda true. The RadWagon boasts a longtail frame, which although being a similar width to a conventional bike, means that it’s able to carry adults, kids and cargo happily, and in equal measure.
The other not-so-secret weapon in the specification of the RadWagon is its muscular e-bike credentials. This two-wheeler comes with a beefier battery than you get on a normal e-bike, due in part to the extra weight and load capacity it has to move from A to B. What’s more, once you get on and use it you soon realise that the RadWagon isn’t so much a bicycle as an electric scooter. Yep, it’s got a twist-grip throttle on the handlebars. This allows you to take off and get the wind whistling through your hair without pedalling. It’s a revelation.
Serious carrying power
Rad Power Bikes’ RadWagon falls under the L1e-A electric bike category, which puts it in a very good place. Indeed, the Rad Power Bikes website explains: L1e-A ‘powered cycles’ are defined as cycles designed to pedal, equipped with an auxiliary propulsion with the primary aim to aid pedaling. The propulsion should be limited at a speed of 25kmph and its maximum continuous rated power should not exceed 1,000W. L1e-A includes two-, three- and four-wheel vehicles.
So what’s the deal, we wondered, with having what is effectively an electric scooter at your disposal. Does it need a licence? The back end of the frame has a licence plate mounting point, which suggests so, but after checking rules and regulations, we found that the bike doesn’t have to be licensed in the UK (where we tested it). That isn’t necessarily the case in other territories, but is surprising when you’ve got a powerful 750W 48V power system at your disposal via a direct drive hub that also benefits from regenerative braking.
The boost in power is substantial, as most standard EU-based e-bikes fall into the 250W category. Sure, the RadWagon is bulkier and a lot heavier – over 33kg in fact – but Rad Power Bikes insists that’s because it’s designed to replace your car rather than your road bike. We can actually see their point about its potential for making you decide to leave the car at home.
For example, the RadWagon makes it easy to nip to the store, buy a bunch of groceries and load them onto the back of the two-wheeler without breaking into a sweat. And you’ll have done it all in the time that normally you’d still be looking for a parking space in the car.
Amazingly, it can also carry an adult and a couple of small children using child seats correctly mounted on the back. Even in its standard guise there is a long wooden flat seat along with twin running boards that allows passengers to climb on board and enjoy the ride. It’s quirky, and it gets heads turning, but the RadWagon is much more capable than those lesser 250W e-machines. In fact, the only real downside is you’ll be held up on your travels as people stop to ask you what it is.
A lot of bike for your money
We recently got to try a Rad Power Bikes RadWagon, and the giant-sized bike is quite a thing. This substantial two-wheeler costs €1,799 all-in (about $2,000, £1,500, AU$3,000), which seems like a pretty good price, though spare/replacement battery packs are a considerable €599 (about $650, £500, AU$1,000) should you ever need one.
Nevertheless, you certainly get a lot for your money because the bike sports a strong design, good build quality and lots of quality components. The chainset, for example, is Shimano and that means you get silky smooth gear changes and dependability.
Other areas, like the beefy road tires with their K-Shield puncture-resistant linings that are made to handle heavy-duty scenarios add another level of comfort, while the front and rear disc brakes are great at stopping you and your weighty cargo. Handy when you’ve got a couple of kids and a bunch of shopping on board, for sure. Even the saddle is kind to your behind if you’re on the bike for any amount of time, while the overall riding position is upright, relaxed and really very enjoyable.
There’s some work to be done when the bike arrives however. While most of it is assembled, you’ll need to use the supplied toolkit to adjust the handlebars, add the pedals and also the running boards. You also need to put the front mudguard and headlight into position, and make all the other usual adjustments to ensure the ride height is right and so on. The front wheel, incidentally, is of the quick-release variety.
Oh, and there’s also a neat feature in the shape of the deflopilator spring. This is basically a spring that runs between the frame and the forks. It makes sense as cargo bikes carry heavier loads and the deflopilator stops your front wheel from turning too far and running out from underneath you if you’re stopped or are parking it up.
The double stand is another neat touch that means that bike really is secure when this has been dropped down. Another cool feature are the lights, with an LED rear brake strip that illuminates when you pull on either brake leaver. Brake lights on a pushbike!
Range and charging
Powering up the bike is easy enough, after you’ve charged the frame-mounted battery via the mains. You turn a key on the battery pack and then start the handlebar-mounted LCD display. This shows your speed, watts and there’s an odometer too so you can keep track of your mileage.
Power is shown with a bar/block design. Rad Power Bikes reckons you can expect between 40 and 72km on a charge, although that depends what you’re hauling around and which mode you’re in. Eco is obviously the way to go if you want ultimate battery economy. You even get USB power charging for good measure.
Don’t forget that the RadWagon is a regular bike too, so that seven-speed Shimano Acera drivetrain lets you do plain old pedalling if you prefer. That in itself is a good workout as you notice the extra weight of the bike. One thing you do notice is the length of the chain, which is lengthier than on a normal bike due to the long-wheelbase frame. We did wonder if this would be prone to stretching over time, although it’s too early to say. As for recharging, the battery took on average around five or six hours to get back to 100%.
Overall, we found the Rad Power Bikes RadWagon to be a great little (or should that be big) bike. While we got the impression that some of the component parts had been sourced from cheaper outlets in China, the overall feel is that this is a decent quality cargo bike. The price certainly reflects that. It’s a lot of fun too, handles surprisingly well even when you’ve got people or cargo on board and works well as just a pushbike if you’ve managed to drain the battery.
The RadWagon also comes in either bright orange or pearl white, and either incarnation is easy to spot, which is another bonus for any bicycle rider. Just be prepared for all the attention you’ll get when you rock up to your local supermarket.
social experiment by Livio Acerbo #greengroundit #techradar http://www.techradar.com/news/would-you-trade-in-your-car-for-this-e-bike