RAD POWER BIKES RADWAGON
PRICE: $1,499 WEIGHT: 73 LB (ONE SIZE)
IF YOU’RE CONSIDERING the Rad Power Bikes RadWagon against your traditional e-cargo options from Tern, Yuba, Xtracycle, Riese & Müller, and others, ask yourself whether you’d rather have a little more torque and refinement or $3,000. That’s the price differential between the RadWagon and its direct e-cargo competitors. After a couple months of riding the big, bright orange thing, I’d recommend you buy one and save that $3,000.
That’s not to say that the RadWagon is a sketchy budget e-bike, although you’d be right to find the pricing incredible. The 750-watt Shengyi directdrive hub motor isn’t as torquey as comparable mid-drive systems, so it can feel underpowered at times, but the bike easily climbed the same hills where we test other (mid-drive) cargo bikes. You also trade hydraulic disc brakes for mechanical ones that are not quite as easy to operate, but the difference felt negligible.
If I were to complain about a few things, I’d say the jumps between cogs of the 7-speed cassette are vast compared to 10-speed drivetrains, which makes power delivery harder to control. The onesize-fits-all frame won’t accommodate riders much taller than my 6-foot-2 frame. And the entire motor controller is out in the open, which looks jankier than it actually is. But if your biggest concern over a $1,500 e-cargo bike is that it’s a $1,500 e-cargo bike, you and I think alike.
In our testing, the bike held up fine, and a lively Facebook group of Rad Power Bikes owners indicates that it will survive more extended use. You’ll find plenty of e-bikes for $1,500 or less on Amazon and AliExpress from brands you’ve never heard of, many of which don’t have physical offices or customer service. So although Rad Power Bikes uses an international supply chain, you can take up a problem with the Seattle-based company and get a response.
Unlike most e-cargo bikes, the RadWagon gives you the option to use either one of five pedal-assist modes or a throttle, which can be used independently or in concert. A 12-magnet cadence sensor on the bottom bracket picks up your pedaling input and doles out e-assist accordingly. Power delivery isn’t super fluid, but the design gives you full power from easy, fast pedaling.
The range from the 48-volt battery largely depends on terrain. I averaged around 35 miles per charge, but my cumulative home-work-home-workhome-work route included more than 2,000 feet of climbing, and I generally had about 20 pounds in the pannier throughout my testing. You’ll likely get the claimed 45-mile range if your route is mostly flat.
The RadWagon weighs as much as a 10-year-old, but despite being an absolute beefcake, it handles well. In the interest of real-world testing, we took it to an abandoned golf cart path and thrashed it up, down, and sideways around the twisty course. It felt akin to street-racing a minivan, but the practical hauler was adequately maneuverable. During actual commutes, it’s stable when loaded down yet zippy enough to shoot gaps in traffic.
The direct-drive motor is quieter than mid-drives and never felt underpowered. It’s not as capable up steep climbs as a Bosch, Yamaha, or Shimano system, but I could still climb a sustained 8 percent incline at 12 to 14 mph on the highest pedal-assist setting. The company lists 20 mph as the top speed, but selecting 28-inch wheels within the display unit’s settings boosts the e-assist limit to 24 mph. There’s also regenerative braking; when you descend past the 24mph e-assist ceiling, the bike doesn’t pick up speed as quickly as you’d expect because the motor is recycling kinetic energy to recharge the battery.
Company cofounder and CEO Mike Radenbaugh says he wants to be the Volkswagen of the market, bringing reliable and affordable transportation to the masses. Cost has always been a limiting factor for adopting the e-cargo life, and the RadWagon makes that lifestyle attainable for a lot more people. On top of all that, it’s an amusing bike to ride—to punch a throttle and zip about on a 73-pound hunk of orange aluminum is invigorating, certainly more so than sitting in traffic.—DR