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.

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