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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Digital Detox “À La Française”

“No, I am not addicted to my smartphone”. … I told myself not too long ago, when I did the last update to my iPhone, IOS 120000 and found out about this new app that can tell when you’re driving and automatically stops the sending and receiving functions. I thought this app was useless. To me anyway, as I don’t feel the urge to check or answer my phone when I am driving.

Addiction is a broad spectrum, I guess.

It’s easy to say “ I am not dependent”, when your vice  (or in this case de-vice) is always within arms reach.

My first week in France has brought a bit of a shock in that regard. In a country where an unlimited data cell phone plan costs less per month than a dozen of fresh croissants, who would have thought that I would feel disconnected to the  world and wifi deprived?!

The problem seems to reside in the solution. With everybody and their dog relying on a country-wide cell phone coverage and data plans as cheap as chips, who needs an internet café anymore? Who even needs a good ol’ home internet even?

Upon our arrival, determined to stay connected with friends and family and stay on top of administrative duties associated with putting our Canadian life on hold for six months, I walk straight in a cell service provider store to redeem my ticket to connectivity. “We don’t sell cell phone plans without fixed term here”, I was told. “You need to buy it online”, added the salesman. “Plus, it’s much cheaper to buy your SIM card online and unlocked cell phones too”, he added.

Makes sense. Alright. Now, how do I get an internet connexion to buy my cell phone data plan?

You get the conundrum, right!?

So, here am I, five days later, waiting for that SIM card to arrive in the mail.

Uhhhhhhhhh. Isn’t there a sense of déjà-vu?! Waiting for the mail, the SNAIL mail!! Le courier, that takes days to arrive, especially in this country where strikes and stats holidays are more frequent than months over 30 days. To add to my restlessness, I am awake most hours of the night as I handle jet-lag terribly, AND I CAN’T EVEN BROWSE MY INSTAGRAM FEED to brace myself!!!!

The interesting aspect of my despair, however, has been to have plenty of time on my side to observe my eighty-year-old parents in law and see how they handle life without broadband, smartphone, Apple TV, Netflix, social media. and a large data plan. And you know what? They live just fine! Here is a sneak peek:

To find out what is happening in the world and the local weather forecast, they read the daily newspaper generously delivered by their neighbour everyday. Crazy, eh?!

They receive all their bills in the mail and pay them by mailing a cheque in an envelope in return.

To hire an electrician to do some work in their home, they browse the phone book and call 3 or 4 of them and invite them over so they can write a quote.

My in-laws write a to-do list on a piece of paper and write down appointments on a large paper calendar. Unbelievable!

To find out the bus and the train schedule, they walk to next block to inquire at the station. Magic!

My mother in law doesn’t look up Ricardo’s website when she is looking for inspiration to cook a good meal. She just walks into her butcher shop, sees what’s there and ask the butcher! How about the most tender pork loin today? Or perhaps a prime rib? Avec une sauce à la crème fraiche et aux champignons… Yummmm.

To connect with friends and relatives, they give them a phone call with their very simple pocket telephone, visit them for coffee, or bump into them at the market three mornings a week.

To find out where this or that store or service is located in their city, they pull an old paper map with a street chart, and maybe they even ask a stranger for directions…Tad-aaaa!

Every week they walk over to their bank and withdraw the amount of cash they need at the till until they run out and go back again. They don’t worry about paying their credit card bill on time as they don’t have such a thing!

To purchase the stuff they need, they just walk into a store and buy it, cash! Surprising isn’t it!

This is how we all used to function, not all that long ago. An efficient, simple way of life.  Moreover, without the use of technology, human connections are key. It’s refreshing and reassuring to know that, without technology, we still can.

As I am sitting in my in-laws living room typing up this blog post (that I don’t know when I am going to be able to post, by the way), I am dying to check with emails and get my updates on Facebook messenger. I keep checking on all the wifi networks discovered by my laptop in the building or nearby. Fourteen of them show a full signal. Twelve of them are mobile devices. Can’t wait for that darn SIM card to arrive.

But meanwhile, I am going to make a point to live and function without wifi and create more touch-points with humans, and who knows, perhaps even outsmart my smartphone!

On Spending Money On Experiences Rather Than Stuff

Lately, I have seen on Facebook all sorts of articles, quotes and scientific evidence to prove that people who spend money on travel live happier than the ones who spend money on material things. It seems to be all over Social Media these days.  Perhaps it always shows on my feed because of the obscure Facebook algorithm which tends to only feed you the very targeted content you want to see…

Anyhow, I can say that I obviously agree with that concept. However, I also think that, over and above “how” we spend the disposable money we make, there is an important nuance to be made on how we “earn” the money to spend on travel and experiences and how we decide to spend it in the everyday life as well.

To me, it seems like living a happy, balanced life is the result of a series of choices and decisions, as well as a certain level random events and factors out of our control of course. The choices and decisions on how we make a living and how we shape our lifestyle day in and day out matter a lot and shouldn’t be made lightly.

It goes without saying that if you work a highly stressful job that you dislike and put in crazy overtime, then have to commute an hour each way every day, chances are you’re not living a very happy life even if, when you do get some time off, you spend your money traveling. You get where I am getting at, right?

Traveling brings happiness. Experiences bring happiness, whether they are in the form of sports, arts, craft, music, volunteering for a noble cause, cooking, learning about topics of interest, or simply spending time with friends and family. Work can also even be a source of happiness, for the fulfillment, challenge and human connections it brings.

Each lifestyle decision impacts our ability to spend more time (and disposable income) doing things that bring us joy.

For our family, in order to be able to spend a large amount of time and money doing what we love such as climbing, skiing, traveling, etc., the lifestyle decisions we make translate in all the different spheres of our lives.

 

  • We purposefully decide to work less.

My husband works seasonal jobs in order to get a few months off each year. I work four days a week.

We calculated that we work an annual average of 23 hours per week, which is less than one day per week. 1/7 of our time in total. This allows plenty of time to take care of chores and plenty of time to spend together as a family, as a couple and on our own as I described in this previous post. We don’t make huge incomes; we are pretty aligned with the median income for two parents Canadian families. Having plenty of disposable time on our side is our priority #1.

I must also say that we also enjoy the work we do, for the most part. We certainly don’t dread going to work each day and both are lucky enough to work in very friendly environments. I think this is quite significant because although only 1/7 of our overall time is spent working, it’s a relatively large part of our “awake” time.

 

  • We don’t drive fancy new vehicles.

Our car is 9 years old and our truck: 21! They are long paid off and the truck is really only used on occasions, to go sled-skiing or on camping trips, and on the occasional drive to town. The rural character of the Kootenays makes it challenging to only have one vehicle, but we could only have one if we really wanted to.

The vehicles we drive surely are not sexy, but they are simple, reliable and sturdy.

 

tailgate
Tailgate picnics taste just as good in an rusted old truck
 

  • We live close to where we work and recreate.

My husband walks to work at least 6 months a year and my work and daycare are 5 km from home.

From where we live, we can access hundreds of kilometres of trail for hiking, biking and xc skiing right in our backyard, ski right from our door step. We also have access to six climbing crags and a sweet climbing gym, Spirit Rock, within less than 45 minutes of driving. The Purcells and South Rockies are only a short drive and snowmobile ride away and offer countless options for backcountry skiing.

We even have an airport 25 minutes from home!

This is what my bike commute route looks like
 

  • We live small.

We live in a 2-bedroom condo of a mere 1,000 square feet. This is 1,100 square feet smaller than the average Canadian home*. Our condo doesn’t have a garage nor any large storage.

Everything we own fits into our living space (and on our deck). Our mortgage is small. The maintenance costs are reduced because we live in a strata and therefore we share them with other owners. Our maintenance duties are also reduced to the bare minimum, which leaves us free to lock our door and head out for as long as we want.

I wouldn’t say that there aren’t times where we miss having a yard, a carport or a heated garage to store our toys because we do. But overall, this living situation works for us and allows us to spend money and time on things that matter more.

 

  • We don’t wear fancy clothes.

We don’t wear rags either. We are not overly trendy or fashionable, we are not complete hippies either. We wear functional, quality clothes that last a few years and we own them in small quantity. Condo living forces us to keep things pretty slim and tidy as we only have 2 closets and 2 dressers.

The same rule applies to outdoor clothing. We have some key quality pieces that serve different purposes. We don’t own different colour ski pants for each day of the week. My daughter, just like us, only wears a few of her favourite pieces each season. We buy clothes on sale, online or locally and occasionally from outlets. For my kid, we rely on hand-me-downs and consignment store and presents from the grandparents.

 

  • We only own the gear we use and we use all the gear we own.

Here again, although we like to have the proper gear and mostly like it new and shiny, space is limiting us in what we can possess. We have a small but well-organized gear closet that sometimes is the tidiest space in our home (!).

We buy most of our gear from my husband’s pro-deals as he works in the ski and outdoor industry, or from outlets and sometimes second hand. The MEC Online Gear Swap is a gold mine for brand new gear that’s never been used. Some people buy the top of the line and never use it as they don’t have the time nor the energy…

We sell our gear online too before it looses all the value and renew it periodically. We trade and borrow some items that we don’t use enough to justify buying such as a canoe for a single annual trip, or xc ski gear for my husband who nordic skis twice a year. We don’t accumulate gear and discard anything that’s beyond use as we just don’t have space to store it “just in case”.

I must say however that sometimes we indulge and we feel okay about it because spending money on gear brings us joy and we know we make good use of it. It doesn’t just sits on a shelve and collects dust.

 

ski
The experience is free. How much you spend on gear is up to you.
 

  • We cook, bake, garden, and freeze.

We mostly eat in, unless we are traveling because we love to discover other cultures through food and culinary customs. We cook most of the meals we eat and prepare freezers meals ahead of time to avoid the “take out” temptation. We bring our lunches every day at work and daycare and when we travel too as there is nothing more enjoyable than picnics.

We are also very lucky that friends have offered to grow vegetables in their garden. We can then enjoy the fresh goodness of summer through crunchy organic greens and delectable berries and veggies. It’s also a nice way to socialize, teach our daughter where her food comes from and let her get her hands dirty. It’s also a really nice way to get the benefits of a backyard without owning one.

Lastly, we ski, climb, run, bike, paddle, camp, travel abroad, go on weekend getaways, fly to visit family, go on road trips and rarely think twice when it comes to planning a trip because we feel we have been diligently saving our money and organizing our time to do so.

We feel very good about spending money on these experiences that are meaningful to our family. That doesn’t mean that all our good principles go out the window when we are traveling. We don’t stay in 5-star hotels, rent fancier cars then we own or go on luxurious excursions…

We travel the way we live, make mindful decisions, just like in our everyday life and that feels alright!

What are your tips to afford the time and money to travel or do what you really love?

*http://business.financialpost.com/personal-finance/mortgages-real-estate/canadians-have-the-third-largest-homes-but-they-may-downsize-to-deal-with-affordability-report