Friday, November 16, 2018

Rad Mini - Overkill or Practical E-Bike?

The Rad Mini is cute! Our neighbors - who we don't know very well - have a Rad Mini. We've watched the young family all summer zipping by our house, sometimes towing their child in a trailer. We admired the fun little folding bike on steroids! I mentioned to my family that Local Motion quite possibly has a Rad Mini in their lending library and we might have the opportunity for test rides, much like my experience with the Yuba Boda Boda that I'd unexpectedly fallen in love with a couple years ago. As it turned out, our eldest son jumped on the idea, discovered a Rad Mini available, signed us up, and a few weeks later rolled the bicycle into our garage.

On the first nice weekend day we biked as a family, first rolling through the dirt roads and trails of the Intervale while my sons and I hopped on and off the Rad Mini. With 7 speeds, 5 electric assist modes, and a powerful throttle, there's no problem moving the 4" wide 20" diameter tires on any terrain. It's very easy to get used to the handling and assist modes.

The little bike is comfortable, quiet, and just plain fun.That is, until you turn off the electric assist. On flat paved bike trail, the bike is heavy and sluggish (it's 60+ lbs. and remember those 4" tires!) and because I'm a regular bike commuter, I wanted to pedal and get exercise! This is not an easy feat, so I kept e-assist minimal (mode 1), cruising at 14 mph - faster pace than I usually ride - necessary, otherwise the beast becomes a knee-hurting, heavy fat bike.

Assist modes on the left, screen to check battery power, mph, and distance. On the right, 7 speeds and with the push of the red button, rotate the throttle for instant boost up hills. Also, the front rack can haul heavy items.
My first impressions were that the bike is too heavy for my personal taste plus the bicycle, in my opinion, has an identity crisis. What type of person is the bike marketed to? It's an off road fat bike, a folding bike, and a boosted cargo bike. My assessment was also shared by our oldest son. His feeling was that the Rad Mini should be 2 of those 3 options, but not all 3 at once, creating an unnecessarily heavy machine. A folding fat bike, a folding cargo bike, or a fat-tired cargo bike - any of those options might reduce the weight. I also wondered if 2" tires would be more appropriate, yet still provide off-road traction, reduce friction on pavement and have the added benefit of lightening the overall load.

Sturdy rear rack, but with fat tubing that does not fit traditional panniers.

Despite our impressions, The Rad Mini is a popular model, especially for a well made, affordable e-bike. At 1700.00, it sports a sturdy frame, long battery life, front and rear racks, front and rear lights, clearance for fenders, all from a reputable company. Just for comparison, Tern's cheapest folding e-bike rings in at twice the price.

Big grin after throttling up Burlington's very steep Depot Street hill.


If I was in the market for an e-bike I wouldn't want to be dependent on electric charge for mobility. In my opinion, e-bikes should be light enough to pedal unassisted, at least on flat terrain. Also, because of it's hefty package, when folded the bike is awkward to lift into a vehicle - ask me how I know!

In the end, test riding the Rad Mini was a fun little experiment. It may not be my cup of tea, but this reputable solid framed e-bike might be an affordable solution for those folks who can't handle a bike without electric assist and/or need extra stability, especially if you have the option to roll the little monster into a garage.

16 comments:

  1. I've been looking forward to reading what you all thought of this bike. How odd that the tubing for the rack was constructed in a way to not allow use with standard panniers. Sometimes, I think companies believe they're creating something innovative and it really just turns out to be a pain for the consumer.

    Of the e-bikes I have been around, I have yet to find one that was particularly lightweight. While filling in at a local bike shop recently, two were dropped off and I had a difficult time picking either up (luckily, they are on wheels, but the point being that they were easily in the 60+ pound range) when I needed to shuffle some bikes around the small shop. I know that Public was making e-bikes (perhaps they still are) and I'm wondering if theirs (or others) have been able to make something that is in a more reasonable weight range (they must be made, as I can recall a controversy in a bike race with someone who had modified their own bike to make it electric assist)?

    I don't have a lot of experience with e-bikes (I've never ridden one, though have had first-hand contact with several). I suspect that many who buy them rarely, if ever, use them without the assist mode on. There is one gentleman I've spotted on the streets locally who zips around on his nearly at motorcycle speeds! :)

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    1. This was my first experience with an e-bike. This one sure has pep! E-bikes may not be geared for someone like you or me who are more practical riders. I also wonder about battery life, software, and maintenance on heavier than normal "bikes". What's the longevity of these things versus says, a practical 1980's old mountain bike...Will these machines become obsolete and fill up landfills if e-bikes turn out to be a fad?

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    2. You are likely correct, Annie. We're probably not the target audience for e-bikes -- though I am still fascinated by them. It will be interesting to see if these continue to grow in popularity or if it will be a blip on the radar that fades away. I would certainly consider one, if it were something I needed.

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    3. This article is NYC-oriented, but has some good info. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/09/nyregion/are-electric-bikes-about-to-take-over-new-york.html
      E-bike sales have already exploded in Europe and Asia and every major bicycle manufacturer world-wide is pursuing the market. We used e-bike share in Copenhagen last Spring and it was a fantastic way to get around the city. In urban areas at least, I think the e-bike movement has gone beyond a fad. In rural and suburban areas, I imagine they will be of less interest.

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    4. Thanks for the link to the article. I will give it a read. I know locally there have been articles about potentially allowing e-bikes on MUPs, but I see people using them regularly and there isn't any signage to tell users otherwise. I think you are correct, Augsburg, in that these are already here and it's the governmental agencies that need to catch up. Frankly, I believe it's a good thing because with more use of e-bikes, I think it will give more attention to bicycles in general (including infrastructure). Or at least I hope! :)

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    5. Augsburg, you're right about e-bikes going well beyond fad status. I saw lots in NYC last spring! I should clarify what I mean: I'm curious what types of bikes and companies will be around in 10 years and how many of today's e-bikes will still be functional then.

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  2. E-bikes are great for physically disabled folks, but I don't consider them a true part of the bicycling culture. In my opinion...they are mo-peds.

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    1. Louis, I understand your point that e-assist helps a certain population have access to two-wheel mobility. I believe that's where "e-bikes" (or mopeds, or whatever you want to call electric assist two-wheeled vehicles) will thrive long-term, as a way to assimilate disabled folks into our cycling culture.

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  3. The one person I know that has a Rad Mini is an athletic female that is relatively small in stature. She likes the smaller overall size, but of course, the Rad Mini is heavy compared to a conventional bike or even a higher end e-bike.

    When assessing any e-bike, I think it is important to accept that "bicycling" is changing and the U.S. approach to bicycling as a sport or outdoor activity is being replaced for many with bicycling as a means of transportation or a more environmentally friendly lifestyle.

    With that said, I look at any e-bike as an alternative to a car, and not an alternative to a road bike. I don't expect the weight and handling to be the same as conventional bike. I do expect to be able to transport more goodies in the case of an e-cargo bike, or the ability to get me to and from my destination quicker or less sweaty - a plus when commuting to work or traveling to a social event.

    We made the plunge a few months ago and purchased an e-cargo bike (Bullitt E-8000). We ride about 100 miles a week on conventional bikes - mostly for fitness and to be outdoors, but I love using the eBullitt for all the short errands. Here in Arizona, it is nice to have a choice to ride to social activities that lets me travel a little quicker (more breeze and less sweat) in summer time. I do track all my miles on all bike rides with my bike computer and heart rate monitor, and was surprised to see you still get a fair workout with an e-bike. Not to mention the smile on your face when confronting long hill climbs or strong headwinds.

    It is great to see you and a chance to try out the Rad Power e-bike. I understand from friends that own them, they offer a good value - especially important if you are just deciding if an e-bike is for you.

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    1. All great points. Thanks for your valuable insight on e-bikes.

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  4. I wouldn't call all electric assist bicycles mopeds because not all of them have throttles. Those bikes are referred to as pedalecs because you must pedal to propel the bike forward. I did a lot of research and rode different types of ebikes before I purchased one. As a regular bike rider I found bikes that had a mid-drive motor as apposed to a hub motor to be more like riding a regular bicycle. Also having a torque sensor rather than just a cadence sensor. With just a cadence sensor the rotation of the pedals turns on the hub and your off with no regard to how much force you're putting on the pedals so you don't get the same feeling of resistance. I don't think I explained that very well. I wanted to get to work in a shorter amount of time which the Trek speed pedalec allowed me to do. My bike commute of 50 minutes or more was reduced to 30 minutes by riding in the 3rd assist out of 4 levels and pedaling at a high cadence. If it's warm out I still arrive sweaty.

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    1. Locally we legislate two (three) very different things:
      a) pedal assisted cycles. Under 200W or 250W/25kph (15mph). Same rules as a bicycle. (aka pedalecs)
      b) mopeds. Sub 50kph (30mph) or 50cc "scooters". Roads only, license required. Open to 16yos, can be ridden with a car licence (aka e-bikes)
      c) motorbikes. Roads only, motor cycle licenses require (two-teir system)

      The first one is a bicycle with assist, which are suitable for shared paths and footpaths. The others are not.

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  5. Wow, very interesting and thorough explanation. I had no idea that there was such diversity with types of e-bikes.

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  6. Annie, you are a good moderator; I've always tried to be on my blog. But I'm not on my blog. I'm amazed at how pissy people get over these kinds of distinctions; it would seem you accidentally walked into a hornet's nest of e-bike opinion! It's kind of fun I guess... thanks for the post!

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    1. Thanks Mr. R. I can always plead ignorance, which is really true in this case, being my first ride on an e-bike. There sure are a lot of types out there! I think commenters have been informative and it's fun to listen to other's opinions.

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  7. Thanks for the genuine and realistic review of the Rad Mini. I've often wondered if there was such a thing as a "do all" bicycle, and the growing presence of e-bikes had me convinced there likely was, but as you so clearly said "the bicycle, in my opinion, has an identity crisis." This make perfect sense. I haven't yet found a bike tool that can do it all, so why would I expect a bicycle to be able to either. I guess the solution is to know how you ride, and where you intend to ride, and to purchase on the basis of those needs. Great article.

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