Ditching four wheels for a bicycle can be a challenge. What do you do in inclement weather? What about hauling groceries? And what about date night? The Rad Power Radwagon checks off all these boxes and does it on the cheap. It combines two fringe bike types — a cargo bike (a bike that’s designed to haul stuff) and an e-bike — to create a capable car replacement (for city drivers, of course) that’s even fun.
We’ve been using the Radwagon for the past few months in Los Angeles, and have found the one-size-fits-most frame (recommended for riders 5’2" to 6'2") plenty comfortable. It’s ably powered by a 750-watt direct-drive hub motor, featuring regenerative braking and connected to 48v 11.6Ah Panasonic lithium ion battery rated for 800 charge cycles, and the manufacturer claims the Radwagon can haul a 350-pound load. We piled on close to 400 pounds with no problems.
There are two ways to control the motor: a gripshift-like throttle or intelligent pedal assist that kicks in when you need a little extra power. Ride with a bunch of assist, and you’ll get about 20 miles out of a full charge. Pedal a lot and you’ll cover about 40 miles.
The stock 28” rear rack is stout, complete with running boards and can haul a passenger, but you’ll probably want to the seat pad if you plan on that. There are also wheel covers on the rear to ensure your rider doesn’t stick a foot into the spokes. There is a full set of fenders, and the battery powers an integrated front headlight and rear blinkie.
Our only rig with fenders, it was the go-to ride on wet days. And having a motor helped us get off the beaten path in gnarly rush hour traffic, when the only other option was a route that included hills and usually requires the granny gear on our race bike. We even made a seven-mile ride from Highland Park to Pasadena for brunch and a movie with our significant other riding on the back. Of all the gear we test, ranging from mountain bikes, motorcycles, and snowboards to Ducatis and even the occasional Lamborghini, this was one of the few pieces of gear that made her say, “I hope we don’t have to give this one back.”
I get it: Having plenty of get-up and go from stops made us feel more comfortable on two wheels because we got out ahead of crazy traffic. Commuting times were faster, and even in 100 pedal pedal mode, we got in the habit of increasing the speed at a critical time, like when we looked at the crosswalk countdown clock and realized we wouldn’t make the green at our current pace. It’s pretty nice to have a turbo boost.
The monochromatic LCD display includes speedometer, watt meter, and odometer as well as battery charge indicator. But beyond all the features and functionality, it's the sticker price that is most surprising. Rad Power sells the bikes direct, and at $1,599 (with free shipping), it’s a great value. Most cargo bikes without an engine cost at least this much. Shipped mostly assembled, the Radwagon is easier to build than most Ikea furniture. We’re not ready to send the car to the scrap heap just yet, but when it comes to quick jaunts around town, the Radwagon definitely lives up to the name. $1,599; radpowerbikes.com