I recently got the opportunity to test drive an electric bicycle from Rad Power Bikes. Specifically, it was a RadMini Step-Thru 2 bicycle. When asked which model I wanted to try, this was my choice, thinking that the smallest folding bike in their line might be a good choice for RVers. After a month with the bike, I think I chose well.
What is an electric bicycle?
Before I got this bike I had some preconceived notions about what an electric bike was. The obvious thing is that it’s a bicycle with an electric motor. Duh. But there is more to it than that.
You can ride this bicycle just like any other, and there are seven forward gears like you might find on a traditional bicycle. You can choose to get absolutely nothing from the electric motor at all and you simply have a bicycle.
Then there’s the electric motor which, in this case, is a 750-watt hub motor that gets its power from a 48-volt 14 amp-hour battery. This motor can help you with the pedaling. Or it can simply be an electric motor, as you might expect, and shove you along as if someone else is doing the pedaling for you.
Through various settings on a three-button controller on the handlebars, you can choose how much pedal assist you want in a range from one to five.
The pedal assist works by essentially providing additional power to your pedaling. Once you get on your way and start to pedal, you feel the electric motor kick in and the bike helps you along. You can adjust this at any time so, if you see a big hill coming up, you can add more pedal assist.
I tried this out on a few roads that went from flat to hilly, and it really does make a difference. Going up the hills you would normally downshift on a traditional bicycle, which you’d do here too. But then you can dial up the pedal assist and the hill becomes much less of a challenge.
There is probably nobody at any e-bike manufacturer that calls it this, but there is another driving mode available which is simply having the electric motor do all the work. On the right side of the handle bars is a throttle lever. If you choose to, you can simply have the electric motor do all the work and you just coast along. So, in some ways, this is like an electric motorcycle.
But this can be handy in other ways. For example, you can use the electric throttle to get you going on a hill or from a dead stop, and then just pedal after that. You can use it to goose yourself along over a wash or something along that line.
In fact, my favorite mode of this bike is just using the pedals like a normal bicycle and then giving myself a boost via the throttle once in a while.
There is a lot of thought put into this bike from the standpoint of safety. First of all, there are substantial Tektro disc brakes on both wheels and they’re very effective at their job. They’re also really easy to adjust, should they need that.
If you’re in any mode with pedal assist and you grab one, or both, of the brake levers, the pedal assist immediately stops so you don’t go out of control.
There’s a fairly bright headlight at the front, but also a red tail light that illuminates when you pull either of the brake levers. So it works like the brake lights on a car. You can also choose to have this light flash to let other people on the road know you’re there.
When the bike arrived, literally the day before I left on a two-month road trip, it came in a large box. My nephew came over to help assemble it, as he has built a lot of motorcycles. But, it turns out, it was mostly assembled with the exception of a few details here and there. All the tools needed to assemble the bicycle were included, as well, and everything went together perfectly.
Clearly Rad Power Bikes has their manufacturing processes dialed in.
The battery was partially charged. So my nephew, myself, my wife and niece all took turns zipping around on the bike. Everyone commented how much fun it was.
Looking at the materials used and the build quality of this bike, there was nothing where I thought they could do better. I’ve been told these are mid-level bikes. But, frankly, I’m impressed with the build quality, the features and how well everything went together and is staying together.
The reason I specifically wanted to try this model is the folding aspect. It was better than I had assumed. The bike has a substantial latch/lock mechanism, so when you disengage this it literally folds in half. The pedals, too, can fold up flat against the bicycle. Then the handle bars can fold down.
When folded up, this bike will fit into a larger wheeled tote. That is how we now put it into the back of our pickup truck. The bike is relatively heavy, which is what you’d want for the sake of durability. Lifting it is easier with handles built into the frame. You can remove the battery to lighten the weight of the bike.
This particular bike has an adjustable front suspension that enables the rider to easily dial-in suspension compliance, if so desired. I was able to use a softer setting on some off-road riding and then a firmer one on pavement. You can also completely eliminate suspension movement if the riding conditions support that. It’s easy to change with a dial on the top of the suspension.
Rad Power Bikes also has a ton of accessories for this bike. I got a basket for the front of the bike as well as a more hind-end-friendly seat. The list of accessories is long but having the front basket means I’m going to be using this bike to ride to the local grocery store more frequently. That means I’ll hopefully counteract some of the effects of consuming the groceries I buy.
They also sent a cargo net, which is really handy for that rack, and some color-matched bungee cords. Slick.
Why Rad Power Bikes?
I’ve known of Rad Power Bikes for years – ever since they were a relatively new company and sponsored the Living the RV Dream podcast. John Huggins had one of the early examples of this bike and was elated when riding it around on a podcast episode. I can see why.
Rad is a direct importer of its bikes, so the prices relative to what you get as a customer are pretty fair. In fact, a friend of mine bought an electric bike for almost double the price that this one sells for. I can’t see anything on theirs that bests what I have – right down to the battery and motor capacities.
How far can you go?
Thus far I haven’t exhausted the battery on the bike. But Rad Power Bikes claims a minimum of 20 miles and up to 45 miles. Obviously, the more you pedal, the longer you ride. And the less the motor has to work, the longer you ride.
So someone like me, who displaces a lot of water in the pool, will not get as much mileage out of a charge as someone much thinner and more athletic. But if I keep riding this bike I will be thinner and more athletic.
Are these for lazy folks?
I’ve heard people suggest that electric bikes are just for lazy folks. I don’t believe that’s the case. For example, my practice has been to ride for as long as I can and then use the various assist modes to return home.
Previously, I was riding my old traditional bike every day but making an assumption about how far to go so I could return home. Now I don’t have to worry about that – I can just keep riding on pedal power only until I poop out. Then I can use the bike’s various assist functions to take me home.
This also lets someone ride unassisted, or with various levels of assist, so that they can go places they might not otherwise be able to.
Further, for some riders who might have some challenges in their ability to pedal, this could also be a great choice.
And, for us RV travelers, it’s a great alternative to a vehicle such that you can bring an e-bike along and potentially take care of all your regular jaunts while your RV sits waiting for you to return. I’m surprised by how many “day trips” I can do on this bike instead of taking the pickup truck. It was really fun to zip around a desert campground. I actually extended my reservation there so I could spend more time riding the bike along desert pathways.
What suggestions do I have?
I can’t be more emphatic about how much I am enjoying this bike on this road trip. In fact, I’ve cut down on vehicle trips where I’ll just venture out on the bicycle instead of in the truck.
Today I had to make a milk run to a store about a mile away. I just hopped on the bike and made sure to bring the cargo netting, and I accomplished my little run.
Having this bike along on this road trip has made the whole thing more enjoyable. Knowing I’m going out riding just brightens my day – and the bike is a very willing accomplice. There are only two things on my wish list regarding this bike – that I had gotten one sooner and that my wife had one too.
But when we return and have a predictable way to get packages, we’re planning to buy one for her, as well.
One thing I do wonder is if it would be possible to use the coasting function for regenerating the batteries, as is done in an electric car. But, really, even 20 miles is pretty far and you can get further along if you pedal more.
As written, I feel this bike is a great thing to have for any RVer. It expands where you can go, it’s easily transportable, and I think the quality is there. I have to say my biggest disappointment is that I didn’t get one of these before.
Tony comes to RVTravel having worked at an RV dealership and been a life long RV enthusiast. He also has written the syndicated Curbside column about cars. You can find his writing here and at StressLessCamping where he also has a podcast about the RV life with his wife.
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