Rad Wagon and direct drive fearless motor concerns

DrJay

Member
I am considering a Rad Wagon to do grocery shopping and light errands, not hauling bricks or heavy duty stuff. My main bike is a mid drive commuter/urban and I have a rear hub geared 350 watt for guests. While I would love to buy a mid drive cargo bike, the additional costs don't seem warranted since this will not be my main bike for riding. I live in FL, I'm 205 lbs and there are really no significant hills to deal with. I'm not sure of the magnetic drag when coasting down the gentle hills that I ride. Is it significant? Also would appreciate opinions on the overall performance of the motor when carrying a load.
 

indianajo

Well-Known Member
Coasting down the one way clutch in the freewheel removes all motor drag. The time when you would feel the motor drag is when you are trying to pedal unpowered for exercise.
I had a 1000 w generic DD hub motor on my bodaboda once. It handled the hills around here okay but used more watthours than the geared hub motor I replaced it with. I don't imagine you have many hills in Florida. DD motors do not accelerate quickly across intersections. I have several 6 lane streets I have a 6 second green light to get across. The geared hub motor is quick like a bunny. Magnumbikes.com is selling a geared hubmotor stretch cargo bike, the payload. It has an 8 speed rear sprocket cluster instead of 7 on radwagon. The 7 speed shifters are kiddie grade, not precise, based on my experience with kid MTB's. My SRAM 8 speed shifter is precise, rarely needs adjustment; I hope the shimano 8 speed is of equivalent quality.
 
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DrJay

Member
Coasting down the one way clutch in the freewheel removes all motor drag. The time when you would feel the motor drag is when you are trying to pedal unpowered for exercise.
I had a 1000 w generic DD hub motor on my bodaboda once. It handled the hills around here okay but used more watthours than the geared hub motor I replaced it with. I don't imagine you have many hills in Florida. DD motors do not accelerate quickly across intersections. I have several 6 lane streets I have a 6 second green light to get across. The geared hub motor is quick like a bunny. Magnumbikes.com is selling a geared hubmotor stretch cargo bike, the payload. It has an 8 speed rear sprocket cluster instead of 7 on radwagon. The 7 speed shifters are kiddie grade, not precise, based on my experience with kid MTB's. My SRAM 8 speed shifter is precise, rarely needs adjustment; I hope the shimano 8 speed is of equivalent quality.

Thanks for the information. I never knew that these bikes would coast freely when powered on. Doubtful I will be riding a cargo bike without PAS. The hills here are really more like inclines and I don’t have large intersections to cross as I can get where I need to on sidewalks and trails so the lack of acceleration I could live with. But those thumb shifters...I agree, don’t like them. My 2 Ebikes have Shimano trigger shifters and I love them. I never really understood why Rad uses the direct drive gearless for this bike and the City. I did read the review of the Magnum cargo bike but that’s $1000 more. And I just don’t like those wooden side panels. I really appreciate your input/knowledge and it really comes down to which features I am willing to sacrifice to save the money. Sort of like everything else in life.
 

AHicks

Well-Known Member
Region
USA
City
Snow Bird - Summer S.E. Michigan, Winter Gulf Coast North Central Fl.
DrJay,

First, I agree wholeheartedly, that the City and Wagon should be gear drive.

BUT the Rad Wagon has a direct drive hub (for some weird reason) and does NOT coast without a little drag, which is typical of ANY direct drive. I think the only time you might notice this drag is on the bigger hills, at speeds well over 10mph. For your purposes, as long as you have power to the motor (PAS=1 or higher), drag is negligible, nothing you'll notice.

I'm at 315 lbs, so maybe typical of you and groceries, and I consider the stock available power "adequate", but no more. I found myself making performance modifications to my bike when it was just 6 weeks old. It was my primary (only) bike, and I was looking for quite a bit more performance. I went to a 1500w direct drive hub first, and that was great for everything but some of the taller hills (rolling coastal area north of Tampa). Then I bit the bullet for a high end gear driven rear hub (MAC 12t), and have found it to have plenty of reserve power, as well as being WAY more efficient that the big direct drive hub. Bottom line I think, is that if you are unhappy with the stock power, it's not that difficult to bolt on as much as you want.... -Al
 

DrJay

Member
AHicks, thanks for clarifying that issue with drag. I read about these modifications frequently. Do you do it or is it something that needs an experienced bike mechanic. I assume one has to buy an entire new wheel with the motor. How does that influence the controller and the LCD panel? If this is costly it seems to make sense to go with a mid drive like the Tern HSD. Then again it is not my main touring bike and the flatness of the terrain may make it suitable for what I want to do. Then again, when I think of doing the mods, why not go with a Rad Rover with baskets and panniers. I'm in the dark here because I have no idea how much a modification costs. Any way, thank you for your thoughts. Much appreciated. Stay safe.
 
I'll chime in here with my experience riding a 2019 Rad City Step-Thru. It uses the same direct drive motor as the Wagon. My City is 1 y/o and coming up on 1,000 miles. Best, most fun, $1500 I've ever spent. Lots of smiles-per-mile. I split biking time between it and a regular (non-ebike) Schwinn 21-speed hybrid style bike. I love the silent DD motor and regen function for braking. Headwinds and hills are no longer an issue.

I, too, was a bit concerned with this issue of drag from DD motors prior to buying the Rad City, but have found it to be a non-issue for my style of riding. I live in Long Beach, CA. Pretty much flat paved terrain here. The only occasional hill I have to ride over is a freeway overpass, so not really much of a sustained hill to speak of.

Yes, there is some very small amount of drag with a DD motor, but only when you are coasting. I find that I only really coast when I want to slow down or I am approaching a stop sign or stop light and want to come to a complete stop. For this, the very small amount of drag and the regen function of the DD motor work in my favor. There is no drag when peddling in PAS-1 or higher setting. Generally speaking, if I'm not peddling, then I want to slow down or come to a stop. I've become proficient at estimating my stopping distance and will stop peddling to bleed off speed. I have the brake pads set far enough apart that I can squeeze the brake handles to engage the regen function and slow down considerably without the brake pads contacting the rotors. I think this will save on brake disc pad usage considerably. I may only get .1% of battery power back via the regen, but the braking assistance is very nice.

I've found peddling on the City in PAS-1 in 4th gear at 15mph is a very comfortable cruising speed for me. I weigh about 155#. I use PAS-1 for 99% of my riding to maximize battery life and miles-per-charge. I get about 45-50 miles per charge currently. At your weight and with a load of stuff on the Wagon, I could see using PAS-2 or maybe even PAS-3 if you have a heavy load. I mounted a large wire basket on the rear carrier for loading up with groceries and whatnot and still use PAS-1. I will occasionally go to PAS-2 to start from a dead stop if I have a heavy load or the street has a mild incline.

I have found the following approximate watt usage in the various PAS settings (it varies, but this is what I've observed while riding on level terrain):

PAS-1 = 60 watts
PAS-2 = 175 watts
PAS-3 = 375 watts
PAS-4 = 550 watts
PAS-5 = 750 watts

If you ride primarily in PAS-2, I believe your miles-per-charge will drop likely by 50% or more over PAS-1 usage. Also, as the battery drains, the motor becomes less snappy or responsive when goosing the throttle to accelerate. The DD motor is not particularly snappy to begin with, but I don't need to "jack rabbit" start from a dead stop so that is not an important criteria for me. It also drains the battery faster. That snappiness may be important to others and for them a geared hub motor with a higher torque rating would probably be a better choice for them. I recall seeing a Youtube video of a side-by-side acceleration test of a Rover vs Wagon (geared hub vs DD motors). The Rover "won", but only by a quarter second or less. That is what sold me that going with a DD motor was sufficient for my needs.

As AHicks says, you can always swap to a geared hub motor if you are not happy with the performance of the DD motor.

You won't know until you pull the trigger and try it yourself. But I wholeheartedly can recommend a DD motor without hesitation if your riding conditions are anything similar to my riding conditions and style.

Good luck! - RangerDave
 

AHicks

Well-Known Member
Region
USA
City
Snow Bird - Summer S.E. Michigan, Winter Gulf Coast North Central Fl.
AHicks, thanks for clarifying that issue with drag. I read about these modifications frequently. Do you do it or is it something that needs an experienced bike mechanic. I assume one has to buy an entire new wheel with the motor. How does that influence the controller and the LCD panel? If this is costly it seems to make sense to go with a mid drive like the Tern HSD. Then again it is not my main touring bike and the flatness of the terrain may make it suitable for what I want to do. Then again, when I think of doing the mods, why not go with a Rad Rover with baskets and panniers. I'm in the dark here because I have no idea how much a modification costs. Any way, thank you for your thoughts. Much appreciated. Stay safe.

I'm an avid DIY'er and have been most of my life, so doing this work wasn't bad. Some of it was challenging, as I had to learn quite a bit, spending some "quality" time doing research. Kinda like when getting a new bike!

The first thing I did was to replace the controller. There's an aftermarket drop in kit available now to do what I did for about 200. The MAC gear drive was about 500.

You bring up a very valid question when comparing a Rover and a Wagon. The Rover, with it's geared hub, would have all the power you want, and then some likely. Much "sportier" performance when compared to a City. For your mission, going that way may be the better plan. You might find that you like it enough where it's not just used to chase groceries.... and probably less expensive than upgrading a Wagon.

Same thing applies. There are performance options for that bike as well. I always suggest riding a new bike a bit prior to going with upgrades. You may decide you're fine without them. The Rads are very popular as-is.
 

DrJay

Member
Thanks RangerDave for the informative and detailed reply. It sounds like our riding styles and terrain are very similar though you probably have more hills than I do on the coast.From your experience I feel that I'm making too much of the "drag" issue. As I said in my original post, this will not be my primary bike. I'm looking at round trips to the supermarket/bank/Lowes of 10-15 miles. So I'm not really concerned about range. I do 99% of my mid drive riding in PAS 1 (or ECO) and on my qualisports Volador usually PAS 1 or 2 with occasional throttle boost. The lack of "zippiness" is not an issue because the mid drive commuter in ECO does not have the effect of a lot of thrust the way a rear hub drive does. Your comment on the disc brake pads was really interesting. You are right about not knowing until I commit to buying. But what I'm concerned about is the use of the same 750 watt DD for the City and the Wagon where the Wagon is so much heavier and designed to carry load. I really appreciate your taking the time to share your thoughts. Very inciteful. Love the PAS wattage estimation.

As an aside, how did you find the assembly of your Rad City?

Stay safe, DrJay
 
Rad City ST assembly was pretty simple and straightforward. I watched the YouTube video several times so I knew what to do when the box arrived.

I think it took about 1.5-2 hours, but I took my time and unpacked and unwrapped each piece carefully. I was by myself for the most part, then waited until my wife got home so she could lift the front end up while I installed the front wheel. I think it was just attach the handlebars, pedals and front wheel, then the front fender and headlight.

I do recall having to open up the disc brake pads a couple of clicks as they were pretty tight and the wheels would not spin freely. You would likely want the “Allen wrench nub” tool for adjusting the rear pads due to the DD motor housing interference. The front is easily accessible with the supplied tools.

Weightwise, the Wagon specs say 73# vs 65# for the City, so it isn’t that much more. At your weight + bike weight, I think PAS-2 or 3 and DD motor would be fine if your riding terrain and style is similar to mine.

Good luck! I’m sure you’ll be happy with whatever you choose.

RangerDave
 

KenS

Member
I agree with the observations of both AHicks and RangerDave.

The DD motor does not have a lot of pick-up/torque but I find that if you can get a full crank rotation then it does quite well.

I can feel the drag when I am coasting but typically, in my hilly area, I am coasting downhill and so the slight braking effect is OK with me.

The worst part of the assembly was getting the rear brake pads adjusted. Like RangerDave, my pads were too tight and I didn't have the "nub wrench" at the time. I ended up loosening the brake completely, adjusting the pad width, and then reattaching the brake to the frame. The trick is to only partially tighten the brake to the frame. Then squeeze the brake handle so that the brake can rotate slightly to make full contact and then tighten the brake to the frame.

Good luck,

Ken