Since 2007, American bicycle builder Rad Power Bikes has been creating affordable electric bikes with the aim of encouraging people to leave their car at home. Now, the Rad is launching a new electric trike that the company hopes can attract people out of their utes and SUVs and into the open air.
Called the RadTrike, the new model launched last month after the company says it was inundated with requests to build an electric three-wheeler. It comes with the same 750-watt powertrain used on the company’s other models, including the RadRunner and RadWagon cargo bikes. But this time, that power is paired with a steel frame (rather than aluminium) and three wheels.
“The primary reason we went with steel is because with a trike, as you’re cornering you want a little flex in the frame,” says Mike Radenbaugh, founder and chairman of Rad Power Bikes. “Aluminium frames are really rigid to achieve the same strength. So with steel, it’s very difficult to get it onto two wheels.”
That steel frame comes with a step-through design, which the company chose to make the trike accessible for as many people as possible. It’s for this same reason that the e-trike’s lowest pedal-assist setting will put you at about walking pace. That way, you can use the trike to pedal along with friends out on a walk.
Of course, walking pace isn’t the only speed for this e-trike. It’s got five levels of pedal assist that can power you up to 23 km/h, or you can cruise on pure e-power thanks to the hand throttle. In contrast, Rad’s other models can hit up to 20mph.
Radenbaugh says, “23 km/h is zippy on a trike. A lot of trikes do go 20, some go 28, but we think that’s an irresponsible speed for most people. We’re trying to hit the mass market and get as many people on trikes as possible.”
I got to hop on the RadTrike for a quick test ride in a secret Brooklyn bunker, and can confirm that 23 km/h still feels plenty fast on this machine. It’s a trike, so speed obviously isn’t the number-one priority; in fact, that reduced top speed helps improve battery range, especially when you load it up with stuff.
And that’s definitely something you’ll want to do with the RadTrike. It’s rated to carry up to 415 lbs total, meaning you can stow all kinds of stuff in the luggage racks fitted to both the front and back of the trike.
“We compare the RadRunner to the VW Beetle,” Radenbaugh told me. “It’s the people’s car. The RadWagon is the minivan or the full-size SUV. And then the trike, I think of it as our pickup truck. We love those comparisons.”
And if you want to really load up your e-trike, Rad has added a neat trick to this new model: a parking brake.
“It’s our first bike with a parking brake,” Radenbaugh explains. “That’s great for loading stuff up because it won’t move when it’s parked. It also makes getting on and off of it easier if you have any issues, because it won’t roll away.”
To make this all feel even more like a replacement for your truck, Rad even gave the trike a reverse gear. You simply hold the down button on the trike’s control unit, and the LCD screen will flash “R” to show you’re about to head backwards. Then, you gently twist the throttle and the trike starts reversing. It might not sound like much, but going backwards on a trike is pretty fun, and it helps with manoeuvrability in tight spaces.
It’s not available in Australia, but we think the RadTrike is pretty rad.
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