- An affordable, feature-rich, electric cargo bike with cadence sensing pedal assist and throttle on demand operation, available in one frame size with adjustable bars and two color options
- Gearless direct-drive hub motor is heavier but super quiet, durable, and capable of regenerative braking to recapture energy and reduce brake pad wear, power cables are well protected, conical disc brake caliper washers help prevent brake squeaking
- Integrated headlight and brake light, brake light can act as an active brake light when you press the brake or as a flasher, fenders, skirt guard, chainring protector, and a 7-speed drivetrain with a nickel plated DNP flywheel so you can pedal up steep hills, lots of great accessories, Yepp! seat compatible
- Optional Velofix assembly and delivery, more basic shifters and derailleur components, gearless hub motors aren't as strong as geared or mid-drives, basic battery charger, mechanical disc brakes vs. hydraulic
To run the forums, host the website, and travel, I charge a universal service fee for my reviews. This in-depth review was sponsored by Rad Power Bikes. My goal is to be transparent and unbiased, this video and written review are not meant to be an endorsement of RAD products.
Spending time with Rad Power Bikes in Seattle gave me another excellent opportunity to take a look at the updated 2019 RadWagon electric cargo bike. Being around a bike like this just really gets the ideas pumping and you get excited to see that potential prove itself. To start off, two color variants let you chose between orange or white each with cool new badges and graphics. Both are a great pick for high visibility, letting drivers and others spot you and your cargo. Loading is easier since the bike features a deflopilator which keeps the front wheel alined and balanced when parked. Also adding support is the double leg center mounted kickstand which is rated in itself for 100 lbs. Although the bike only comes in one frame size, there are many adjustments that can be made to suit the user. The standover hight is 26″ which should accommodate many riders. An extra large seat post clamp makes on-the-fly seat adjustments easy to do. Also there is an adjustable sweeping handlebar stem. Both of these are great if you have varying kinds of cargo, as you may need to make adjustments frequently. Although there is no suspension, there are a lot of features to make the ride more enjoyable. The longer wheelbase will give added comfort and the sturdy steel fork will apply some vibration dampening. The seat post is 27.2mm so you can add your own or get Rad Power Bikes suspension seat post to increase comfort. On the rear rack, wooden deck pads are included as well as a clear plastic skirt guard which will keep your pants protected. The RadWagon comes with fenders and rubber mud flaps. The rubber here really helps alleviate possible toe clipping which I really like. Battery weight is positioned forward to make up for a normally rear heavy bike. The bike has two tubes, extra gusseting just making it a really approachable misstep frame; very easy to load. Two frame mounted battery integrated lights; one for the front and one for the rear which can act as an active brake light which gets brighter as you hold the brakes, or as a flashing rear light. Special Kenda tires with reflective sidewall and K-Shield puncture protection are also standard. Another great upgrade is the conical disc brake caliper washers help prevent brake squeaking. A good upgrade to the bike is the nickel plated DNP freewheel which not only shifts smoothly, but will hold up better over time Other features include a quick release wheel, pro-wheel crank arm, aluminum alloy Wellgo extra wide platform pedals, a chain guard built around the chain ring, and a neoprene slap guard to protect the frame from the longer chain. Overall, the bike weighs 73 lbs but that double digit weight is rated at triple digit strength; the bike is rated to withstand 350 lbs.
Driving the Rad Wagon is a 750 watt (or 500 watt if you’re in Canada) gearless, direct drive, hub motor. Made by Shengyi, this thing is larger and heavier than a geared equivalent, but it’s smooth and extremely durable. Gearless motors have to be wider in order to gain a mechanical advantage and they weigh more (15 lbs vs. ~13 lbs for the geared motors on the RadMini and RadRover) because they have more magnets and more copper winding to produce power. Coasting with this motor is slightly less efficient than many geared motors or mid-drives due to magnetic drag. There isn’t a freewheel here, but that means you can actually recapture a bit of energy when braking, and Rad Power Bikes has designed both brake levers with inhibitor switches to activate regen every time you pull. It’s not the most efficient system, estimates of 5% to 10% recoup are what I hear, but it does reduce wear on the brake pads and help to make up for the heavier motor weight. I noticed that the RadWagon uses a stainless Steel torque arm washer on the left rear dropout to provide extra strength. This is especially important with a heavier, higher powered, regen capable motor because it will “rock” and push one direction for power and then the opposite direction for regen. One of the unique features of this ebike, and all of the Rad Power Bikes actually, is that they offer pedal assistance as well as throttle operation. And, the throttle delivers full power from assist level 0 all the way through 5 so you can override assist. This is nice for starting out or getting instant help climbing. As shown in the video, this bike performs best once you have a bit of speed, starting from rest is a bit slow and less torquey feeling which could mean extra balance and pedal power when the bike is fully loaded. Again, you have 7 gears at your disposal and shifting will not be impacted by the completely separate motor systems, but you might need to plan ahead and shift down before stops to really be effective.
Powering the RadWagon is a 48 volt 14 amp hour Lithium-ion pack using Samsung 35E high-density cells. It, along with the rest of the bike, are covered by a one-year comprehensive warranty… and you can help to extend the life of the pack by keeping it in a cool, dry location and maintaining a ~50% charge for long periods of disuse. The battery is short, sleek looking, and still has this cutoff switch feature but it’s built into the keyed ignition. So, if you want to leave the battery mounted to the bike but don’t want the cells slowly draining or anyone to be able to turn your bike on and mess with the throttle, you can turn to the off position and then pull the key out! What a cool idea… yes, if you do this you will have to re-insert the key and switch to “on” before the display can be active, but it’s much more secure than the old button design that anyone could press and you con’t have to turn it to “off” if you feel fine just leaving the bike that way. Since the battery case is shorter, the top tube no longer has to curve and thus, provides a lower stand-over height. To take it off, you unlock with the key and then slide forward along the track. This battery can be charged on or off the bike, and the 1.1 lb charger is compact and pretty standard in terms of fill rate. Offering 2 Amps, it should fill the battery in about six hours from completely empty. If you’re charging the pack while still mounted to the frame, the charging port is high up and away from the crank arms and pedals which will reduce the potential for snags and broken tips. It’s a minor thing, but something that a lot of other companies either don’t think about or aren’t able to customize with their own pack designs. My understanding is that all of the Rad Power Bikes are still built in China, like most bicycles and electronics systems these days, but they are now shipped and delivered in Europe, Canada, and the United States. Their designs are customized because of the volume being sold, and this battery pack is a great example of how a custom design can be better. It even has two exposed fuses along the bottom (for safety and repairability if a fuse blows) and I love how the charge port cover and fuses have rubber covers that are easy to work with and seem to stay in place. Note that the motor controller is physically separate from the battery, which doesn’t look as nice but does make it easier to repair and allows for higher amp flow. It is fully sealed and like most of the electronics here, rain and dust resistant. Just don’t spray the bike with high pressure water or fully submerge it ;)
Operating the RadWagon is very easy, once the battery is charged, mounted, and locked in with the ignition towards on. You do not have to leave the keys in while riding and really should not attempt to do this for they could get snagged and bent. Up at the control pad, just hold the center “Mode” button and the display will blink on. Rad Power Bikes is using a branded King Meter SWLCD that has been refined a bit from before. It’s the same grayscale, backlit, fairly large screen, but it now tilts up and down slightly and has an integrated USB Type A port, full sized for use with portable electronics. Being able to angle the display means you can switch riders who might be different heights, and still have a great view or reduced glare without needing any tools. Having the display in the center, separate from the rubberized control pad, makes it natural to view but still easy to interact with. The up and down buttons on the control pad allow you to navigate from zero to five level of assist which increases power and speed up to 20 mph. However, with the display, button pad, brake lines and motor inhibitors, throttle on/off button, and two sets of thumb shifters, the RadWagon has the most crowded cockpit and the most wires of any of their models (aside from the RadBurro commercial ebike). I am glad for all of these features, and I feel that RPB has done a good job managing the wires, but this e-bike isn’t quite as stealthy as some of the alternatives. The bike powers on at assist level 1 and the throttle is hot, so be careful when mounting and dismounting. I usually try to turn the bike off once I am seated and then off when I stop. One extra nice feature that is included, to help you manage how riding is done and to make the bike safer, is a throttle cutoff switch. It’s located near the right grip and can be pressed in to kill the throttle, which might be nice if you feel uncomfortable with it or are maneuvering the bike. Note that Rad Power Bikes has upgraded to more responsive 12-magnet cadence sensors vs. the older 6-magnet design, and that you don’t actually need to push hard to get pedal assist working, just move the cranks steadily. The benefit is that you can relax and stretch with pedal assist but the trade-off is that it’s more of an on/off response and won’t activate until the bike gets moving a bit first and you can actually turn the cranks. Compared to the new multi-sensor designs from Bosch, Yamaha, Shimano, Brose and other high-end centerdrive bikes it feels less natural and takes more time, but none of those products offer a throttle.
Before wrapping up, I would also like to mention the many accessories available which really create a lot of cargo possibilities and options. In the rear, bike can fit 2 Yepp! Maxi seats, has a deck pad option, and a finger protective handlebar accessory for children. It also has room for heavy duty reflective pannier bags and has plenty of mounting points and reinforced bars for bungie loops. This is just a sample of some of the uses that come to mind, of course, there are many others as the rest of the bike has opportunities for configuration as well. The down tube features bottle cage bosses that could also be used for a folding lock, mini pump, or anything else you might need to take you that extra mile. On the head tube, you have a section for a frame mounted front rack. The included front light can then be remounted to the front rack and still keep full functionality. All in all, a competitive price point of $1,599 before accessories and a 1 year warranty with free tech support makes this bike a great value proposition. Some tradeoffs are to be expected however. The bike is a little heavier than the 2018 model at 73 lbs. Although there is some adjustability, it only comes in one frame size. Also the magnetic drag from the motor could become annoying if the battery ever dies on you. With all the options and configurations though, this bike will serve many uses and could even be used to replace your car. A big thanks to the Rad Power Bikes team for inviting me to look over the new RadWagon. If you have any thoughts, comments, stories, or information to share, make sure to check out the forums and sound off!
- Less drive train complexity this year with a 7 speed nickel plated DNP freewheel, which not only shifts smoothly, but will hold up better over time
- The K-Shield puncture protection is an added value since changing a flat in the back could be cumbersome given all the hardware that surrounds the rear wheel, reflective sidewall striping also increases visibility as does the battery mounted front and rear lights
- All of the new Rad Power Bikes share a mounting interface on the head tube for adding a rack, it’s sturdy and won’t tip when you steer or park the bike, note that the optional rack accessory comes with a cable extension and mounting bracket for the headlight so it can be positioned optimally
- Low price is one of the biggest differentiating features of the RadWagon and I love that it comes standard with a wooden deck and sideboards, fenders, and an integrated headlight
- I like that the large chainring has a alloy guard to keep your pants clear and clean, the plastic fenders on the bike are extra wide and have rubber flaps, there’s a clear plastic skirt guard to keep straps and clothes away from the drivetrain and rear wheel, and the pedals are large and grippy so you can ride in different types of weather securely and stay relatively dry
- The frame has been redesigned from Aluminum alloy vs. Steel which allowed them to make it look nicer (like where the battery is stepped in) and they added more cross members at the rear and a lower stand over height, it still suffers from frame flex a bit (as do most cargo bikes) but performs well enough, the steel fork provides some vibration dampening
- I was told that the adjustable angle stem has been custom made to stay tight and uses hardened materials that won’t dull as easily as some competing parts, the swept back handlebars and optional suspension seat post go a long way to improve fit, body position, and comfort
- The deflopilator spring keeps your front wheel straight and stable when loading the cargo area and may also assist in steering heavy loads, I love that Rad Power Bikes managed to squeeze in some bottle cage bosses, even though they are mounted below the downtube… this attachment point could also work for folding locks, mini pumps, or other accessories
- Even though this bike is only available in one frame size, it’s fairly adjustable to accommodate different sizes of riders, and I like that they offer both orange and white frame colors with nicer paint and accents
- The kickstand is super stable and overbuilt allowing it to hold 100 lbs by itself, I like that it and the fork are paint-matched and designed with durability in mind since this is a cargo bike
- One of the coolest aspects of cargo bikes is their accessories! And the RadWagon is setup to accept a nice front rack with two basket options, the basket can work on the back area too or you can mount Yepp! child seats like this by default because they have the appropriately sized “window” openings and there’s even a surround bar to keep their fingers safe, or you can get a pad and passenger bar to take a large child or even an adult… or you could use this space for extra large Ballard pannier bags, and many of these optional accessories can be added while still keeping the bike priced under $2k
- Rad Power Bikes offers free shipping or partners with Velofix for assembly, delivery, and a post-purchase tuneup, it’s a neat service for those who don’t want to deal with a big box and the weight and complexity of an e-bike
- The battery design is sleek, it slides forward and fits nicely into the compact frame spot here enabling the lower stand-over height
- Gearless hub motors tend to be very durable and quiet, you don’t get as much torque and raw power at low speeds and there is some magnetic drag when coasting but RPB recaptures a bit of energy when braking which reduces wear on the brake pads and might extend your range just a bit vs. if they did not
- Both wheels are built with thicker 12 gauge spokes and sturdy Weinmann rims to handle the additional weight of cargo or a second passenger, this design does end up feeling more stiff than 13 or 14 gauge spokes used on many of the competing models I have reviewed
- I love that the battery pack is mounted to the frame with three bolts vs. just two and that the power cable running to the hub motor is really tucked in and well protected at the back, especially since feet and bags could be moving a lot nearby and could result in kicking and bending the wire if it were not so well protected
- If you decide to add the front rack, it’s great that the headlight can be repositioned on the bottom (for maximum exposure) but it will no longer point where you steer because the rack is frame mounted
- This electric cargo bike isn’t as capable at climbing steep hills as the mid-drive options from Yuba, Riese & Müller, Felt, Butchers & Bicycles and some others… but none of them offer throttles or wider gearing options, just know that the gearless motor on the RadWagon is more smooth and quiet but offers a lot less torque from standstill and for climbing
- I’m mixed on the brakes for this bike, the 180 mm rotors provide good leverage but you cannot adjust the brake lever reach and have to use more effort than with hydraulic disc brakes, for smaller riders and those without as much hand strength, that could be a point of fatigue or difficulty, but at least they have motor inhibitors built in for safety and the rubber edges and the bell are nice, this part is one of the cost savings measures and also might be easier to adjust by hand by the owner vs. needing a shop
- The display panel is not removable and could take some weather-wear or get scratched at bike racks… but it can be locked (by turning the key to off on the battery pack) and it has a USB type A port for charging your phone or other portable electronics on the go
- Minor complaint here but the slap guard doesn’t quite extend all the way across the right chainstay and you could get some chips and marks there because of how long the chain is and how wide the gear spread is
- I prefer the little trigger shifters vs. these large SIS Index thumb shifters because they don’t take up as much space and are easier to reach when holding the grips… but Rad Power Bikes told me that they chose these shifters to make room for the throttle cutoff switch on the right side and that makes sense, also, the big shifters can be easier to use with gloves… I just find that I have to take my hand off of the grip to shift sometimes and that’s slow and less safe feeling