Today, Rad Power Bikes is introducing perhaps its most controversial and disruptive product ever and it just might remind you of the Big Wheels you used to rip around your neighborhood on.
The RadTrike is an attempt to marry the stability and utility of a three-wheeled cycle platform with Rad Power Bikes’ expertise in building e-bikes for the masses. We spoke to Rad Power Bikes founder and Chairman Mike Radenbaugh ahead of the launch to understand how the RadTrike came into existence and where it fits in the Rad Power Bike lineup.
Since before the founding of the Rad Power Bikes, friends and family members were requesting a three wheeled electric bicycle from founder Mike Radenbaugh. He had cut his teeth on e-bikes in high school, where he saw the possibility of compact and powerful electric motors when paired with the impressive power density of lithium-ion battery packs and began retrofitting bikes with electric drives.
Interest was so high that he actually built a few electric trikes as he toyed with early designs of some of his two-wheeled electric bikes. Even with so much early interest, it was clear that the low hanging fruit in the world of e-bikes was in products with two wheels. So the company was founded building two-wheeled Class 2 electric bikes using 750W motors. Over the years, Radenbaugh continued to refine the idea of what a three wheeled Rad Power Bikes trike would look like. Today, it is finally time to take the wraps off of this labor of love as Rad Power Bikes officially unveils the RadTrike to the world.
The Rad Trike
At its core, the RadTrike is a RadPower Bike. You get the same 750 watt motor, a right-mounted twist throttle, 5-speed pedal assist, and the quality Rad Power Bikes is known for. At $2,499, it is more expensive than the rest of Rad Power Bikes’ lineup, but that’s understandable given how much larger the RadTrike is and how much more it can do. It also has a few extra features like a rear coaster brake, parking brake, and an integrated rear rack that kick it up a few levels.
The low center step through of the RadTrike, when combined with the stability provided by its three wheels, makes it easier for riders with mobility challenges to mount up and get riding. Similarly, the seat was designed with stability in mind. It boasts a wide, supportive saddle with a backrest designed to ensure a comfortable ride for the long haul.
Rad Power Bikes typically locates its motors in the rear hub, but they opted to locate it up front on the RadTrike. This puts the power in the center of the bike and makes it easier to change a flat for all of the three tires. Typically, changing a flat on a rear tire of an e-bike requires messing with the chain, derailleur, and power for the motor. Moving the motor up front means you don’t have to worry about the chain when fixing a flat tire.
Pro Tip: Putting tire sealant (like Slime or Flat Out) in your tubes will pay for itself in avoided frustration in a very short period of time. Bonus tip: For extra protection, throw a set (3, in this case) of tire liners in as well.
This doesn’t just move the problem to the rear of the bike. In fact, it simplifies things entirely. Tires and tubes on both rear tires can be fixed without removing the rims from the bike. That’s a huge improvement in repairability and a huge win for customers. If you get a flat or need to upgrade to new tires, the old tires can be pulled off and new ones added without having to pull the wheels off the bike. If it’s as easy to do this as it sounds like, this is a big improvement. Also, the bolts for the rear tires are recessed to keep the width of the trike to a minimum.
Speaking of that front motor. The RadTrike isn’t just an amalgamation of Rad Power Bikes’ existing components tossed arbitrarily into a three wheeled format. There are a number of improvements made specifically for the new member of the family to ensure a better experience for riders. One of those is reverse mode. The RadTrike’s front hub motor can actually go in reverse to make it easier to turn around in tight quarters.
Moving the motor up front required rethinking the typical approach to the front fork and steel was the answer. The RadTrike is built with a steel frame and that includes the front fork for exactly this reason. Using steel ensured a rigid platform for the RadTrike’s motor and boasts beefed up nuts for the front wheel that are larger than anything Rad Power Bikes’ has used in the past.
The steel frame provides a solid base and according to CEO, Mike Radenbaugh, it gives the bike a tight feel that’s extremely responsive to steering input from the customer. This was important to the team designing the RadTrike because many trikes can be awkward to steer due to their three-wheeled base. The steel frame also provides an industry-leading 415 pound total payload capacity for the RadTrike.
To give new buyers a head start on the learning curve of going from a two-wheeled bicycle to a three-wheeled adult tricycle, Rad Power Bikes will be launching an all new “Trike School.” The new offering is a tailored set of questions and answers designed to give prospective buyers a leg up on learning about the differences between a RadTrike and traditional two-wheel bicycles.
It’s not so much of a formal class, but a new approach to teaching customers about the RadTrike to give them a leg up on riding it safely right out of the gate. It’s the little things like how fast to take turns, how to plan for the extra girth of the RadTrike, and how to navigate difficult terrain. These are things best taught and learned in-person but an online version of this content will be available for customers not located near one of Rad Power Bikes’ retail locations. The lessons specifically for the RadTrike are new, but this same type of instruction has been online for Rad Power Bikes’ two wheeled bikes for quite some time.
Comfortable and in Control
Moving upward on the bike, the wide handlebars are swept back allowing full control of the RadTrike from an upright position without having to lean forward. The swept back format puts riders in a position where they don’t have to stretch to touch the handlebars. They can ride in a comfortable upright position, while staying in full control of the bike.
The adjustable handlebars play a dual role, as they can also fold down completely that, along with removing the seat, make it possible to roll the RadTrike into the back of an SUV or truck. Rad Power Bikes also utilized this folding capability to make it fit into a relatively compact box. It arrives 95% assembled with a single set of bolts to attach the two parts of the bike at a plate in the middle of the frame.
The front hub motor has been tuned specifically for the RadTrike. Part of that work was to limit the top speed of the motor. Most class 2 e-bikes are speed limited to a top speed of 20 miles per hour for pedal assist and the throttle. When testing the RadTrike, the team found that a lower top speed felt more comfortable and provided the best experience on the bike. Implementing a lower top speed than is required as a class 2 e-bike shows that Rad Power Bikes is really looking to build a product with safety as a key priority.
Mike said that he has been riding around Seattle after hours on a prototype RadTrike and he’s been surprised by just how much fun he is having on it. He saw the potential of a three-wheeled cycling platform early on, but he did not expect to be as personally drawn to it as he has been.
His experience on the early prototypes he’s been blasting around on only reinforced his belief in the utility and the need for a three-wheeled Rad Power Bike. Beyond merely validating the platform, his personal experience spawned new ideas for RadTrike-specific accessories like a new canopy to provide shade and protection from the elements for riders.
As with any disruptive product entering the market, the RadTrike is sure to stir up controversy. As a three-wheeled vehicle, it is going to have a slightly larger footprint than a traditional e-bike. Similar to how we all had to adjust to the early e-bikes running around town trying to find their place, the RadTrike and its wider stance will have to find its place in city, state, and country regulations as early customers hit the streets.
The obvious customer segment for the RadTrike is active seniors, but CEO and founder Mike Radenbaugh expects adoption across a much wider range of use cases including last mile delivery, including and especially pizza delivery given Rad Power Bikes’ existing partnership with Domino’s. It’s not hard to imagine the RadTrike being used to pick up groceries, ride with the kids to school in the morning, hauling goodies down to the beach for a picnic or loaded up with sports gear on the way to the park. The possibilities are endless and it will be exciting to see people taking them out into the wild and making them their own.
The RadTrike is compatible with all of Rad Power Bikes’ existing accessories and comes with a built in rear rack and integrated front rack mounts. It’s quite an impressive platform that really starts to open up when you step back and look at the wide array of accessories — and thus, use cases — already easily within reach.
Staying active is a key piece of healthy aging and the more options we have to do that, the better. The three-wheeled RadTrike presents unparalleled possibility for riders looking for a more stable platform to get around town and stay active and engaged in their communities. In addition, an electric trike like the RadTrike is far, far cheaper than any other vehicle on the market while also providing the option of engaging in physical activity.
Regulators will have to weigh these benefits alongside the challenges of fitting these e-bikes into traditional bike lanes. It’s sure to stir up controversy, but it’s hard to discount significant benefits to individuals and our societies. Let’s encourage regulators to support progressive mobility. To increase access to affordable mobility, fitness, and engagement in communities. To support the integration of electric tricycles like the RadTrike into mobility infrastructure. A progressive push for wider bike lanes and more access feels like a step forward for all of us and the RadTrike is helping take us there.
The RadTrike is available for pre-order starting today in the U.S. for $2,499 with the first shipments going out to customers in mid-January.
Appreciate CleanTechnica’s originality and cleantech news coverage? Consider becoming a CleanTechnica Member, Supporter, Technician, or Ambassador — or a patron on Patreon.
Have a tip for CleanTechnica, want to advertise, or want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.
Source: Clean Technica