RadWagon Cargo E-Bike: First Impressions

*Warning: This blog post is NOT a review of the e-bike’s technical features and specs. This is an honest and simple owner/rider’s report on first impressions. To find more geek-y info, visit: YouTube

We did it! We went RAD!

After a full year of thoughtful planning, comparing, reading reviews, weighing pros and cons, considering different options, our family re-vamped our whole transportation model and we are so happy with did it!

The Sprouting of an Idea

The whole process started a year ago when I came across an article on the growing electric bike commuting trend. Immediatley, the wheels started churning in my head, litterally. I didn’t know that bicycles built to carry large loads of cargo and little passengers offering motorized assistance actually existed! The idea was brilliant; no need for insurance – which in British Columbia is insanely expensive by-the-way, no need for gas – also an increasingly pricey commodity, plus all the benefits of riding without the hard work and hard sweat associated with it. A step-through frame, full fenders, large panier racks; the combination seemed also much more comfortable and convenient than riding my mountain bike to work.

I had been commuting by bike some of the time, in the summer, in good weather, for fitness, enjoyment and environmental considerations for a number of years. I must say, however, that pulling my increasingly heavy kid and all our stuff such as lunch bags, changes of clothes, laptop, stuffed animal, blanket, rainwear, etc. in the bike trailer up the long hill back home at the end of my work day was doable, but unsustainable – hello 300 m of positive vertical over 5 kilometres! There would be a time where my daughter would be too heavy for the bike trailer yet still not strong enough to ride up the hill on her own. The last couple of times I rode in that configuration, on the very last strech of hill coming home, it felt that the weight of the trailer was so heavy that we could start rolling backward anytime…

In addition, two paid-off older vehicles were sitting in our parking space: a small car and our “adventure truck”, the latter actually sitting unused for several months of the year. With it turning 23 years old this years, we knew that there would be a time sooner than later where some kind of investment would be needed.

Shortly after I returned to work after our 6-month trip, I attended a work function: the ribbon-cutting of a state-of-the-art electric vehicle charging station in a nearby community. Coming home that night after having the chance to learn more about electric cars and hearing from some EV car owners, I just knew that something about our transportation model wasn’t right and that we needed to do something about it.

I got home and brought up the topic at the dinner table: Why wouldn’t we replace our two vehicles with an EV?

I could have told my husband I had just thrown all his pairs of skis into a bonfire and the reaction wouldn’t have been different.

My husband first got mad and said that I was an extremist hippie-crite and that soon I would take myfamily back to middle age, ride a donkey, and that I should let my armpit hair grow (not sure how that’s related to the topic). Then, after calming down a bit, he started throwing all the possible arguments why this wasn’t possible: too expensive to buy, not enough chargers in our area that’s too cold and too mountainous, the strata restrictions, the end of backcountry adventures, etc.

He had a point. For us at the moment trading our cars for an EV would mean giving up the most important parts of our lifestyle which is recreating in the mountains near our home, which usually involves the use of a four-wheel drive vehicle on rough roads and sometimes the use of a snowmobile. #NOTECOFRIENDLY

Despite the challenge, we knew we were on to something and that we just needed to keep thinking about the possibilities. Saving the planet is likely going to happen one small change at the time…and everyone needs to tackle the easiest ones first. Right?!

Starting with the small changes we are the most comfortable with

Fast forward two months later. Our old adventure truck was sold, my little car was on its way to be sold and just aquired a newer pick up truck which will be our one and only vehicle for the years to come.

While a truck isn’t quite fuel efficient, it does suits our needs as a family and we are now saving a whooping $125/month in insurance, plus all the other costs associated with owning a second car. With an average of 12,000- 15,000 km per year in total on the odometre and by planning our transportation as wisely as possible, we are trying to minize the impact of our big polluting pick up truck. One has got to compromise….

Playing outside in our part of the Kootenays does require 4×4 …we are however looking forward to a cleaner alternative

Throughout the winter season, my husband kept walking to work so the extent of our driving over the last few months has involved me driving no more than 20 km/day to and from school and work on weekdays, and a few ski trips out of town. That’s it. With good communication, and the help of our friends giving us a ride now and then, we cruised through the winter with only one vehicle without a fight, a frostbite or giving in to the temptation of scrolling the Kijiji cars & vehicles section and screw the new plan up.

The Rad Experience

In the meantime, the money from the sale of our old truck was saved aside and I was keeping my eyes on the prize: the purchase of a 2019 Rad Power Bikes RadWagon as soon as they would be in stock. This happened on March 22 and within a day or two, all the bikes were sold out. There I was, on the Seatlle-based company’s canadian website at 8:59 am Pacific Time, with my finger on the clicker ready to “add to cart”.

Narrowing our options to the RadWagon from all the great e-cargo bikes on the market was quite straightforward. It has all the features I was looking for including a 350 lbs load capacity – which equates to basically myself, my daughter and 190 lbs of groceries (!), a robust hub electric motor capable of regenerative braking, a decent battery capacity – we mostly ride small distances with big hills, disc brakes, an integrated headlight and brake light, a throttle, many accessories including the caboose – a safety device for carrying children, a sleek digital screen and nice wooden running board and a long cargo tail to carry stuff.

Yes, the RadWagon is a sweet ride; good looking ( I chose the pearl colour), a little heavy – 60 lbs +, it’s also half the price or more of the other cargo e-bikes on the market. Saving the planet, for sure, breaking the bank, no thanks! This was some of the best spent $2,100 CAD in a long time.

Less than a week later, my bike arrived by courier, in a large box, ready to be assembled. The Rad Bikes model is based on the fact that the bikes are sold online, from the manufacturer to the consumer, with little intermediary, while still providing great customer support. I was lucky I had my father visiting over that period and as he was just as excited as I was about the new ride. Together, we assembled it in about three hours without too much trouble. The instruction video provided online is well done and with the little tool kit and an extra wrench, the steps were easy to follow for beta citizens like ourselves with little bike mechanic skills.

By the afternoon, after tightening countless screws, we were taking turns riding up and down the street with a large grin on our face.

The Rad commute

With the rapidly warming temperature and snow melting fast of the roads, we were able to start enjoying our Rad by the last week of March. It’s with high enthusiasm that my kid and I loaded the bike on a beatiful week day with lunch bags and all, dressed warmly for the brisk ride down the hill. With ski gloves and goggles on, we rode the Peak-to-Platzl trail into town, then down Rotary Drive and onto the North Star Rail Trail right to my daughter’s school’s doorstep in 15 minutes, then across Mark Creek to my office in 5 more minutes, with the breeze on my cheeks and the sound of the birds chirping. Truly blissful!

As soon as the road was clear, we were ready to ride!

What was truly impressive, however, was the ride home. Going up hill casually and without breathing hard took us about 25 minutes that day and we only used 25% of the battery charge – for the whole round-trip. I wasn’t drenched in sweat by the time I got home nor did I have rug legs upon disembarking. My little one and I were carrying a conversation about our day the whole way up, which would never have been possible in our previsous configuration.

To this day, 300 km+ later and a first tune up at the bike shop, the whole family is very pleased with our decisions: the one to purchase the e-bike obviously, but also the one to revamp our transportation model to a more cost effective and eco-frienly one. We debated the fact of not purchasing the bike through our amazing local bike shop and would have preferred to give our business locally, but there just was not any product that would suit our needs available in our price range locally. We however made the commitment to keep using our local shop for all the regular maintenance, etc.

With the nice spring days upon us, we are also back at riding our regular bikes to run errands and go places, which means that our truck stays in the driveway several days per week. The RadWagon has mostly replaced our second car and my husband and I are now fighting over who gets to ride … RAD.

With the electric transportation technology always improving and our family’s needs always evolving, we will keep assessing where and how we can make more small changes that count…

Casually cruising Kimberley’s paved trails
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