- An affordable, electric powered bike pushing trailer with integrated LED light, USB charger and locking lid for hauling groceries or other items around town
- Keeps weight low and separate from the bicycle which improves handling, easy and fast to disconnect for storage or transport, integrated metal loop locking point, quick and easy to swap between different bikes (optional extra mounts)
- Excellent choice for recumbent bikes, solid year long warranty, several battery options for extended rangeor reduced weight, louder than most purpose-built electric bikes
The first time I saw a Ridekick Power Trailer was at Interbike 2012 but the company has actually been in business since 2010. The founding team, Dee and Mark Wanger, wanted to built an alternative ebike system that could be shared easily between the different bikes in their family, from parents to kids or even friends. They purchased the rights to an existing ebike trailer design called the Bidwell Pusher and engineered something truly unique and professional of their own. the Pusher was basically an instructions kit for converting an electric kick scooter into a platform that could “push” a bike with the option of adding a simple plastic storage tub on top. What Ridekick has done with the Power Trailer design is leverage Mark’s mechanical, electrical and software engineering skill set (forged at CSU, UCSB and MIT) to deliver a ready-made, great looking and affordable machine. The Ridekick will work with nearly any bicycle (road, mountain, tandem or recumbent), offers a three-combination lock for securing cargo and an integrated USB charger and LED safety light. You get all of this for well under $1,000 plus a one year warranty. It’s not as quiet as most purpose-built electric bikes I’ve tested, due in part to the plastic shell and chain-drive motor system, but it’s surprisingly strong and effective with a top speed of ~19 mph and 10+ mile range depending on the battery option you choose. For those who have been following the company, in 2014 they paused manufacturing to improve supply chain logistics and refine the controller board which had failed for some users on previous generations. All faulty controllers were replaced free of charge by Ridekick, even those out of warranty :)
Driving this unique electric bike pusher “trailer thing” is a 500 watt brushed DC motor. Many people recoil with the mention of “brushed” motors but Mark assured me that the motor they chose has long, durable brushes and is an ideal choice for powering the unit. He and Dee both have original Ridekicks with over 2,000 miles each… The motor is inset along the bottom of the plastic shell for protection and one end protrudes just enough to turn a chain that connects directly to a sprocket on left axle. The gearing is designed to “step down” RPM so the motor can spin quickly (which is more efficient) and generate power for zippy starts and hill climbing. It’s simple but well executed and seems to be very durable, even in wet conditions (which we saw in while filming the video review above). Over time, the left tire will wear more quickly because that’s where all of the power is being applied to the concrete but it’s fairly easy to swap with the right wheel, just like rotating the tires on cars.
Powering the Ridekick is a 24 volt battery system that comes in 12 amp hours or 20 amp hours depending on the chemistry you go with. The smaller Sealed Lead Acid option comes standard and is much less expensive, the MSRP of the Ridekick with this battery is $699 and replacement packs are just $125! Weighing in at ~18 pounds, the SLA pack is much heavier than other electric bike batteries I’ve tested but the additional weight serves to increase traction and “pushing power” through the wheel. With this basic pack you get about 10 miles of range and if you add a second pack in parallel it just about doubles. With 75 pounds of cargo hauling capacity to work with, even if you bought two extra batteries for a ~30 mile range you’d still have 35 pounds to work with for groceries, books or a laptop in the cargo hold area. The alternative premium battery option uses Lithium Iron Phosphate cells and offers a ~20 mile range. This pack is physically larger than a single SLA but weighs just 13 pounds. This pack sounds awesome in terms of performance but at $799 (or $1,365 with the unit) it may not be worth it for some. Frankly, the SLA works great and even though it will get fewer charge cycles (estimated 400 vs. 1,500) you could still buy four of these and come out ahead on charges and cost savings. The one caveat here is in cold weather environments where SLA will only output ~40% capacity while LiFePO4 will offer more like 60%+ just based on how the different chemistry performs. Sealed Lead Acid batteries are very recyclable, often made from 60%+ recycled material to begin with, and use materials that are not mined and shipped from politically sensitive areas of the world like Lithium often is. I really like the custom fabric bags (with carry straps) that Ridekick uses for their packs to make them easier to transport and charge separately from the main unit. When you take the battery out of the Ridekick, the trailer itself only weighs ~20 pounds and is modular so you can take the hitch arm and lid completely off for easy storage or transport. Another little extra from Ridekick is that the LiFePO4 batteries are designed with an integrated fuse to reduce premature failure. Both batteries are designed to have zero draw when unplugged from the unit which helps them maintain a high state of charge during long periods of disuse.
Operating the Ridekick electric bike trailer is very simple but the feedback you get while riding is extremely limited. Basically, one wire runs from the controller inside the trailer to your handle bars where the throttle is mounted. There’s a quick disconnect point where the trailer mates with the hitch plate at the bike axle which is nice. to secure the wire and variable speed trigger system you get several velcro straps that are pretty sturdy. Once it’s all plugged in and the unit is powered on (in the rear by the battery) the spring loaded throttle must be compressed and held to make the bike go. While it doesn’t take much effort to pull, it may require some adjustment in hand positioning and some good thought in how you mount it can really pay off. Most thumb throttles on traditional ebikes are little paddles that must be pushed along a semi-circular mounting plate with your thumb. The Ridekick throttle by comparison is more of a little squeeze system that could be activated with a thumb, forefingers or even your palm. It’s about the size of a large paperclip. The downside, as alluded to earlier, is that there aren’t any LED battery indicators or a speedometer or trip distance readout on the throttle, it’s just a black piece of plastic. To get any sort of feedback from the battery and electronics systems you need to open up the Ridekick and look at the display panel inside. Here you’ll find a fuse and an LED readout that reports any errors. There’s an on/off button, a battery light, charging port and a USB port that can be used with portable electronics devices! I actually used this while filming (because the video went very long) and it worked great. Another neat feature here is a 15 minute timer that automatically beeps and shuts the Ridekick down to conserve batteries if the throttle has gone inactive.
The Ridekick product and company are unique and special to me. The Power Trailer itself, much like other electric bikes, is not suited to every application and probably not ideal for most. It’s a compromise of utility, convenience and affordability. You can build a quieter, more powerful recumbent electric bike with an aftermarket BionX kit like this one and enjoy throttle mode, four levels of assist and regeneration with greater range while still carrying a Burly trailer (or similar) loaded with more gear… but you won’t be able to swap it as easily between bikes and it will cost a fortune by comparison.
I love how easily this thing connects, the tilt-up parking feature and integrated lock loop. A full year warranty is solid for any electric bike but seeing how well the team has supported this thing and how happy customers has been inspiring. If you’re a recumbent cyclist who needs to carry along some gear or maybe just a regular cyclist who wants to use their existing bike and still take it out un-electrified at times, then this could be an excellent option. It’s full of possibilities and that’s why the video I shot went so long. It’s over-engineered for strength, handsome and sleek in terms of design and surprisingly zippy and fun to ride with.
- Thick rubber tires should resist flats and the cast aluminum rims won’t go out of true like spoked wheels often do over time, they can support a lot of weight (as shown in the video)
- Convenient locking storage space offers enough room for two medium sized grocery bags, the weight of stored items is kept separate from the bike which improves handling for riders and doesn’t introduce the same back and neck stresses of wearing a backpack
- Impressive control unit (updated for improved reliability for 2015) features scrolling diagnostic readout, replaceable fuse and a USB charging port
- Very affordable, less expensive than many electric bike kits which don’t look as good, aren’t as easy to switch between bicycles and don’t offer integrated storage features
- May different battery options for extending range (one additional SLA for just $125) or reducing weight and saving space (one additional LiFePO4 for $799)
- Responsive customer service, Ridekick is a family owned and operated business in Colorado that has been around since 2012 and has often delivered beyond their stated warranty
- Decent power and speed for an untraditional setup, range goes from 10 miles up and the top speed of 19 mph is easy to reach with the 500 watt motor
- Hitch system takes under one minute to connect or disconnect and has a nice metal spring for easy flex when turning, the added safety leash is a quality touch
- Very easy to transport and store, the battery comes in a fabric bag that can be taken out on its own, the unit itself can be tipped upright for vertical storage or to keep out of the way at bike racks
- Surprisingly durable, holds up well and keeps the internal systems (and your gear) safe and dry even in snowy and wet conditions
- Variable speed trigger throttle is intuitive and simple to use, can be mounted nearly anywhere on any type of bike for optimal comfort (standard flat bars, cruiser bars, vertical bars on recumbents, drop bars etc.)
- Works with most electric bikes including hybrid, mountain or recumbent and can even be used with some kick scooters
- Two of the SLA or two of the LiFePO4 batteries can be connected in parallel for increased range
- Impressive 75 pound cargo weight capacity, ~42 Liters of space inside the shell (with the standard SLA battery)
- Handy 15 minute “auto shutoff” feature keeps the Ridekick from running out of batteries or being activated accidentally
- Very stealthy design, if you aren’t activating the throttle most people probably wouldn’t know you were on an electric assist bike
- At the time of this review the Ridekick was only available in a standard gray and orange color scheme, some riders paint them by hands
- The integrated LED light is a nice extra but isn’t super visible because it’s mounted so low on the unit which is already very low to the ground
- Whether the unit is powered on or not, it rattles and creates more noise than some trailers due to the smaller wheels and plastic lid system
- Only the left wheel receives power which means the left tire wears down faster than the right, it’s pretty easy to swap or “rotate” the wheels by hand and Ridekick does sell replacements
- Wires have to be run across the frame and look a bit tackier than a purpose built solution (often routed through tubing) but the included velcro strips are strong
- May be more difficult to ride your bike up or off curbs, across trails or through narrow gates and corners when using the Ridekick as compared with a stand alone ebike with no trailer
- Delta style recumbent trikes (one wheel in front, two in the back) may require an adapter to use the Ridekick
- No integrated LCD display or battery readout on the throttle, you will need to add your own after market cycle computer and you can check battery level inside the Ridekick