The ebike market is blowing up and, although still very niche, more and more people are beginning to see this them as a valid commuting option. This additional activity has generated articles to continue to pop in up in my news feed, primarily on Mr Money Mustache and StrongTowns but also via twitter and others.
The itch to get into the game has been slowly growing. Starting with looking at pictures of ebikes online and then starting to research building a DIY version. When living in Texas, this seemed like a good solution for our town (Frisco) that was very spread out. I would pull our kids in a trailer to the library every couple months but it was a beat down at 2.5 miles each way. An ebike would have made that easy peasie.
But then we decided to move back to the North East and everything was put on hold. In the Strongtowns sense of living in a smaller, walk-able community it was a great move. The town we moved to has a nice Main Street, our kids can walk to the library and the elementary schools. Even the pool is a manageable one mile bike ride. Even better my commute is an easy 3.3 miles!
In the world of MMM, a three mile commute is a joke but I kept coming up with excuses on why I couldn’t do it. They were all terrible excuses and if they were posted on the site formums, face punches would have abound. Still, after 6 months I still had not biked once. Then someone on the site posted about Rad City’s Ragwagon.
The Radwagon is a cargo-style ebike. Not that I had any idea what a cargo bike was but it’s just like it sounds, a bike designed to carry cargo.
It turns out there are several types of cargo bikes with the two prevalent types being ones that carry their load in the front (usually heavier loads) and those that carry them in the back (called long tails). The Radwagon falls into the later category. It is a long tail but it’s tail is on the shorter end of the standard. Now I’m not expert on riding cargo bikes but I did watch about 20 cargo bike videos on YouTube and the experts seem to feel that the shorter tail improves handling but reduces the maximum payload weight.
Still, the videos of the bike show families carrying one to two family members on the back, mixing adults and children. At this point my mind is racing and I show it to my wife who, to my surprise, said “we should get that”. Even though I had been thinking about an ebike for quite some time, it didn’t seem right to buy a new bike when I had not even ATTEMPTED the super easy three mile commute to my office on a regular bike.
That was really the kick in the butt I needed to get motivated to attempt my office commute so that week I attempted it. And just like the saying goes, the hardest part of the journey was the first step. The commute was even easier and nicer than I thought with the only less than enjoyable part being a little over a mile section on a fairly busy road with a slight hill. Even the hill was shorter and easier to climb that I had originally thought though.
Into the next week, I continued to commute to the office via bike and really enjoyed it but the wife and I continued our conversation about the Radwagon and if it was really worth buying. Still holding the view that the Ragwagon would be more of fun purchase with not a whole lot of functional value but having a wife that told me to buy it, we went ahead and purchased it.
We’re now 60 miles into riding it, almost completely as a family, and I can say that it is one heck of a fun bike. We have put the entire family; wife plus a 4 & 7 year old, right on the back and hooked it up to pull our kids trailer for additional hauling capabilities. The main use is to take kids to the swim club, sports practices, different parks around the town and the grocery store and has become our main method for transporting the children around town.
The bike has had more than enough power (750W) to get up to top speed with everyone on back and enough to to make climbing some pretty steep hills pretty easy (although I have also peddled to reduce strain on the motor).
There is no suspension on the bike but the larger tires do a great job of absorbing bumps in the road and I’ve found it very comfortable to ride. Compared to my racing style road bike that I ride to work, the Radwagon feels like riding on clouds. It seems like the bumps are magnified for people riding on the cargo section but that increases the fun for the kids judging by how much they ask for me to go over more bumps.
The only negative we have notices with the bike is that with my wife on the back, it becomes pretty top heavy, making riding at slow speeds, stopping and starting somewhat of an adventure. I would never recommend putting anyone on the back other than kids unless the driver is a pretty capable bike rider. Even with just the kids, I wouldn’t let my wife drive it with them back there. If she was going to take it out with the kids, she would put them in the trailer and pull them while she rode.
Speaking of which, if you are going to hook up a trailer to it, it’s not a simple switch. I needs to purchase this to make it work. If you have any questions about it, post a comment.
In summary, if you have any desire to get an ebike for family use, jump on a Radwagon. You’ll get out riding more and hopefully save some money by using your car less!