Rad Power RadWagon Review


In my last post, I mentioned that we had completed #12 of my 20x30 list. I’m not here to say that we decided to get another car, but to review the bicycles that we had purchased to replace our car.

Everything started out great. My wife and I picked up our bikes separately (due to work schedules), got drenched riding through the rain, and were none-the-happier!

Edit: See this post for the review of the bikes that replaced the RadWagons.

Overview

The RadWagon by Rad Power Bikes is an electric long-tail cargo bicycle. It is powered by a 750w motor, coupled with a 48v 11aH battery. This gives you lots of moving power, and a decent range. This helps to power the 75-lb. (34 kg) bicycle, as well as the rider, and as much as you can fit on it, up to 350-lb. (158 kg) of payload. You can strap this payload to the very handy industry non-standard 28" rear deck.

Feature Details

  • Regenerative Braking
    The fact that this bike even has regenerative braking is quite the feature! Unfortunately, it is connected to the rear brake. I assume this is because all of the weight is in the rear, but avid cyclists use the front brake more than the rear.
  • Rear Cargo Deck
    We found that the rear deck/rack was not compatible with almost any aftermarket/third party accessories, and no one was willing to come out and say that anything would fit it. It did well to hold a few things, but it’s pretty skinny to hold much in place reliably. We did manage to mount our kiddo’s car seat to the back as a temporary transportation option. Sadly, with anyone on the back, the bike gets super squirrelly and top-heavy. This is due to the fact that both the front and rear tires are 26", rather than the 26/20 front-rear combo that is common. Also, when strapping a bag to the left side, it forced the rear brake caliper inward, making the pad rub against the rotor.
  • Lighting
    The included headlight and tail light are awesome. A 200 lumen headlight provides enough illumination to be seen, but I wouldn’t rely on it to do the seeing for you, as you simply need more lumens if you’re not riding on a well-lighted street. No blinking/pulsing features, but the headlight is angle-adjustable.
  • Electrification
    The motor and battery are definitely capable of bearing load and taking you up Seattle or San Francisco hills. The motor is quiet under even heavy use. The battery is locking and removable, making charging super simple. Remember to remove it when you lock it up in public. Also, both the battery and the bar-mounted computer have USB ports for charging your GPS/phone/what-have-you.
    You have the choice between pedal-assist level 1–5, or throttle. This means you can do no work at all, all the work, and anywhere in between.

Build Quality

This is where things really take a turn for the worst… and I do mean, the worst. Think Daewoo cars, Westinghouse televisions, dollar store anything, etc. These bikes are made in China and assembled in Seattle. This is not a bad thing. China has the capability of putting out stellar products, or absolute crap — whatever the buyer wants. The issue here is the assembly. There’s two guys at the Seattle location that do all of the assembling, and when you see their space, you wonder how they could possibly get any work done safely and efficiently. Well, that’s exactly it — they don’t.

We picked these bikes up on Monday, and returned them less than two weeks later.

Here is what happened in that time, in chronological order:

  • My bicycle’s rear axle kept coming out of the right drop-out. On a 12-mile ride when this first happened, all I had to deal with this were my Park Tool wrenches. I got the axle secured in the drop-out, and by the time I got to work five miles away, it was coming out again. Had this happened to anyone less knowledgeable about bicycles, they could have been left stranded, as it was rubbing very badly on the fender and frame.
  • The same day, I noticed that both of my brakes were rubbing. When I got home, I found out that both of my wife’s bike’s brakes were rubbing as well.
  • A few days in and both bike’s front brakes were so loose in the cable hanger/tension arm that the front brake did nothing on a slight downhill, and very little on the flats.
  • The next day, my wife’s bike’s electrical system completely failed. Her battery would turn on and light up, but the computer would not come on, making this bike a 75-lb. living room decoration.
  • Since day one, my wife’s bike leaned to the right when put up on the center stand.
  • I kept the Rad Power team in the loop with every single issue the day they happened. When I requested that I be allowed to return them and get a refund, they obliged. However, I had to ask them about their restocking fee — as I had gone looking for it hidden deep within their website — rather than them telling me about it. They informed me that they never accept returns on bicycles, but that this was a special case, and that there would be a 25% restocking fee. On two bikes, that’s almost $900. Umm, no. So what’s a responsible consumer to do? Research. And that’s precisely what I did. UCC § 2–608 states, in legaleese, that a consumer is entitled to a full refund if the product is misrepresented or otherwise not as promised, so long as they request said refund within a reasonable amount of time. Being that it was less than a couple of days from pick-up to the wheel coming out of the drop-out, and less than a week for all of the other issues, I felt I was correct in feeling that I should not be responsible for any fees at all. So I shot an email to Ty, one of the founders. The next day, he and I had a phone conversation regarding the 25% restocking fee and the return process altogether. He insisted that while the issues were substantial, they were neither indicative of how they operate, nor was it their fault. He said that they’ve never had anything like this happen. He also called out Scott, their bottom-level salesperson (who is also one of the ones that assembles the bikes when they come in), saying that if Scott had not slipped-up, they would not be doing the return at all. I found this to not only be very unprofessional, but also very indicative of the type of company that Rad Power is. If they’re not willing to stand behind their products, then they have no business being in business. The fact that they were confronted by an informed consumer, is quite possibly the only reason they took the bikes back. By the end of the call, I had secured a 100% refund.
  • On the way to returning the first bicycle, the front derailleur came loose and was rubbing on the chain. By this point, I had had enough of these damn bikes that I didn’t stop to fix it.

Summary

All this said, I absolutely cannot recommend a Rad Power bike to anyone. If you value yourself, please go out and get a cargo bike from a known company, such as Xtracycle, Yuba, Surly, Pedego, etc. We are currently awaiting the arrival of our two ODK U500’s from Juiced Bikes, acclaimed and well-recognized electric cargo bicycles utilizing 500w motors, 48v 15aH batteries, higher-quality components, internal gear hub (no derailleurs!), and 20" wheels for better stability and torque!

Check back to find out how those work out for us.

Edit: Here is the review of the Juiced bikes.