Originally published on CleanTechnica
Electric bikes have ushered in a new generation of personal electric mobility solutions and that holds more true with cargo bikes than in perhaps any other segment. Rad Power Bikes’ believes it can bring the utility of electrified cargo bikes to the masses with its affordable, durable $1,499 RadWagon.
The RadWagon equipped with cargo bags. Image courtesy: Rad Power Bikes
After our review of the RadRover and the RadMini Step Thru, Rad Power Bikes sent us the RadWagon all kitted out with kid and gear hauling accessories for us to run through the paces. I was admittedly nervous about the prospect of putting my 8- and 9-year-old boys on the back of the bike and trekking around town and was pleasantly surprised at how functional the pairing was. The boys really enjoy riding on the back of the bike whether it be the 10-mile trip home from school or a quick run to the store.
Disclaimer: Rad Power Bikes provided the RadWagon and accessories for free for the purposes of this review.
Instead of having to force them onto the bike like I was fearing, they are chomping at the bit to find excuses to ride on it with me. I do feel the need to pause here and mention that the irony that the heavy lifting of the pedaling is left to dad while my two boys, who are absolutely bubbling over with energy most of the time, sit comfortably in the rear without a way to put that energy into moving the bike forward.
Riding the RadWagon
Thankfully, that’s where the ebike functionality comes in. I’m in decent shape, but I can’t imagine hauling my two boys around the hills in our area without some help from an electric motor. Rad Power Bikes offers up that help on the RadWagon in the form of a Shenghi gearless direct drive 750-watt continuous output motor (on the US version). 750 watts is the maximum output of a motor legally allowed in the US on Class 2 ebikes and it is a welcome boost to the output from my built-in motors (aka legs).
The RadWagon in motion. Image credit: Rad Power Bikes
The bike can be operated in one of three modes, depending on rider preference. Rad Power Bikes builds throttles into all of its bikes and the throttle is the most helpful on heavier bikes like the RadWagon. It is especially helpful when getting started, as a fully loaded RadWagon with two kids on the back can get heavy. The throttle can also be used to propel the bike without any pedal input.
Most of our trips on the RadWagon are taken in pedal assist mode. In this mode, one of five levels of pedal assist can be selected from level 1 providing a small amount of support to level 5, where it feels like a professional cyclist has jumped on board to help pedal the bike. The bike uses its 12-magnet sensor in the crankshaft to determine when pedaling is occurring and seamlessly activates the motor. The exact amount of power being put out by the motor is also displayed on the integrated LCD in watts.
Finally, for shorter trips without a load, or to train, the bike can be ridden without any input from the motor by setting the pedal assist level to zero. There is some resistance from the motor in this mode, so it is not something riders will likely take advantage of, but it is nice to know that the bike can be ridden even if the battery dies.
On the manual side of things, the RadWagon is equipped with a 7-speed 11-34 freewheel powered by a Shimano derailleur and shifter. In several hundred kilometers of testing, I found the combination of the manual gears and the 5 pedal assist levels to provide the perfect balance of options to support a wide variety of loads and terrains. When riding up the 300′ hill to my kids’ school, I was able to drop the gears down to a lower gear and lean into the pedal assist for more support. I was pleasantly surprised at how well the bike performed and didn’t have to work nearly as hard as I was fearing I might have to.
The RadWagon with a single Thule Yepp Maxi. Image courtesy: Rad Power Bikes
When heading back down the hill with two kids on the back, I was able to shift to a high gear and let the motor regenerate some power. That’s right, the motor on the RadWagon can actually regenerate battery power. It’s not nearly as useful as in an electric vehicle, but it is a nice premium feature that many eBikes don’t have.
The RadWagon is a mid-step frame powered with a 750 watt hub motor built into the rear wheel. It comes from the factory with a 350 pound | 159 kilogram payload capacity and a 120 pound | 54 kilogram capacity on the rear rack. To ensure a stable ride, the RadWagon features a deflopilator which, in addition to being just plain fun to say, helps stabilize the front wheel at high speeds when carrying loads.
Accessories For Days
What makes the RadWagon so exciting is its flexibility. From the factory, the RadWagon comes with a rear rack, plastic rear wheel shield, and side decks, but that is just the beginning. The team at Rad Power Bikes has built up a full complement of equally durable, utilitarian accessories that let each rider customize their ride for the specific application they want to use it for.
Adding a flat platform up front and in the rear allows for the addition of one of a host of small or large delivery bags that can be used to haul temperature or weather sensitive gear around. Families with younger kids can add Rad Power Bikes’ Caboose to the back of the bike along with one or two rear deck pads for a surprisingly comfortable way to get around town. I was expecting to have to encourage or trick my kids into riding on the back of the bike, but was pleasantly surprised to find that both my 8- and 9-year-old sons absolutely love riding on the back of the RadWagon.
The RadWagon with the caboose and passenger. Image courtesy: Rad Power Bikes
Families with smaller kids can even add one or two Thule Yepp Maxi carseats onto the deck that really lives up to the wagon in its name. Just because it does a great job of hauling mini-humans around town doesn’t meant that it is a one trick pony. Riders looking to pick up groceries or run errands around town will find that Rad Power Bikes’ ballard cargo bags are voluminous to the point of absurdity, but truth be told, their functionality helped me to weave my errands together without having to worry about the onboard storage capacity.
Last week, I went out to pick up a new electric tea kettle, hopped over to donate blood, then back across town to finish up some work at a local cafe. The RadWagon’s capability allows for the same casual storage of a moderate kit of tools and inclement weather gear that a car does, enabling owners to explore their cities from a new perspective without compromise.
Skip The Gym
Perhaps the biggest benefit I have noticed with the RadWagon is that it is so capable that I’m actually able to use it for the vast majority of my normal daily trips. My wife wanted to meet me at my parent’s house to pick up our two boys so instead of jumping in the car, I hopped on the bike. Easy peasy and a workout to boot.
The same goes for other meetings or errands, which allows me to use the time I’m already spending to get from place to place to get a workout rather than having to carve out time specifically to go do it. Heck, the savings from not paying for a gym membership could easily be funneled into an ebike fund or monthly payment. It is a beautiful thing turning what is essentially inactive time sitting in a drivers seat into workout time pedaling across town on a bike.
For More Information
Prices aren’t normally things that people boast about, but the RadWagon really is one of those diamonds in the rough. It was a great price at $1,599 but Rad Power Bikes wasn’t satisfied. They pushed and pushed on their prices and were able to slash that down even further to $1,499. That puts it at the same price as their other ebikes, but with so much more functionality packed in.
Head over to the RadWagon site to learn more about it, to drool a little, or to make a purchase. Their bikes arrive needing some assembly, but your local bike shop can help out there, if needed. If you’re comfortable taking on the task of clamping on the front wheel, bolting on a few things here and there with the included toolset, you will likely be up and running in an hour or two. I’ve assembled furniture that took longer, but your mileage may vary.