Micromobility, efficiency and accessibility for all—the guiding principles behind Rad Power Bikes' ... [+] all-new electric tricycle
Rad Power Bikes wants to be your third wheel. Today, the Seattle-based electric bike company best known for its city, commuter and cargo bikes is launching its first-ever electric tricycle—the RadTrike. Solar Tricycle
With a steel frame and 415 lb. total payload capacity, the trike is a workhorse that’s also made for everyday cruising. The vehicle fits through most exterior doorways and features a simple reverse mode for managing tight squeezes. The RadTrike folds to pack into a vehicle or small storage space. Like other Rads, the trike comes with a 5-level Pedal Assist System and an on-demand throttle. For stability and safety, the RadTrike has single-speed gearing, rear coaster brakes (like on your childhood Big Wheel), as well as front wheel disk brakes. The trike also has an optional weather-resistant panel that can be fitted like a canopy over the bike to shield the rider from sun and rain.
Mike Radenbaugh, Rad Power Bikes founder and Chairman, visited Los Angeles last month and let me demo the RadTrike in a park, where we quickly became the envy of all those who were merely two-wheelin’ it. Here’s what we talked about:
The RadTrike carries a 415-lb total payload and has room for front and rear baskets, and even an ... [+] optional weather screen (not shown).
How long has the RadTrike been in development?
Mike Radenbaugh: It’s always been on my mind. The RadTrike is the single most requested model in our history as a company. One of my first customers who couldn’t ride a traditional bike due to health issues asked if we could make a three-wheeled bike, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. We wanted to bring this product to market the Rad way, so we did tons of research and testing and we’ve come up with something we feel will create another micromobility category for us, and for the industry, and one that is both enjoyable and accessible to all.
The trike looks and feels like a Rad but it does have a different vibe than your other Rad rides.
Mike Radenbaugh: We wanted this to change people's rides for good. The idea is to bring riders out of cars and make them go, I'm going to fall back in love with the bicycle experience. And then we blend that with the mobility experience. It’s comfortable and it’s accessible. This is a bike people can ride even if they can’t ride a bike.
Why go on two wheels when you can kick back on three?
How do you compete with cars? That’s a pretty big hurdle.
Mike Radenbaugh: We don’t think it will put a stop to people’s driving habits. But this gives you a really smooth and comfortable ride. People are accustomed to sitting in cars with all the adjustable lumbar supports. Similarly, here you can raise and lower the lumbar support, and generally feel like you can lean back and enjoy the ride. There’s a great basket on the front, which gives it tons of cargo capacity.
The RadTrike can substitute for your car in so many situations, whether it’s running to the store or commuting, which I’ve been doing with it in Seattle. There's an optional pet carrier, and you can even have your pets on the front and the back simultaneously. Or you can do a smaller basket with a roll-top liner. Up front, two Coleman coolers fit perfectly right there, so it’s super utilitarian. It’s like for the first Rad Mini, I sized the front rack for a 12-pack of beer.
How would you compare this trike to other trikes?
Mike Radenbaugh: We’ve seen three- and four-wheeled vehicles around the world for years, but we're going to popularize it here in North America and in Europe. The difference is that trikes are normally viewed as a vehicle for the mobility impaired. And while this is built for people with mobility impairment, our intention is to make trikes cool. We see it as a vehicle that is first and foremost about pride of ownership.
Are consumers ready for three wheels?
Mike Radenbaugh: I certainly think so but it might take some time. This launch is similar to the launch of our Rad Runner, which was pretty controversial at the time. The industry and the consumer weren’t quite sure what to make of it. We thought it was going to fly off the shelves, and it was a slow start, but then it built and it built to become a true product leader for us.
We don't know what's going to happen with the Trike; if it's going to be successful right out of the gate. All I know is: It's the number one most requested product. Customers have been asking about it for years, so it could be lightning in a bottle. But it might take a few months or a few quarters to catch on.
The ride is solid. What’s nice is that the Trike can go anywhere a bike can, and it fits through doorways, has a streamlined silhouette on bike lanes and can turn on a dime.
Mike Radenbaugh: We’ve made them available immediately at all our retail locations so people can test-ride them out of the gate. They’re in our stores starting today, and that includes our newest locations in Brooklyn, New York; Huntington Beach, California, and Salt Lake City, Utah.
Any new and unique features for a Rad?
Yes, it's got a parking brake, which is the nature of three wheelers. We’ve crafted the steel frame so it can split in half. It’s a steel body, which is a first, and that gives the vehicle stability and flexibility for a super smooth ride. The battery’s the same one we’ve been using. It's a 10-ampere hour, 48-volt battery. But what’s unique to this is that it's got a front hub motor, which was the optimum design for value innovation for this product. With a front wheel motor, you can do incredibly tight turning. We envision people going into their local hardware store and riding around the aisles, picking up whatever they need. You can really get around tight spaces and at slow speeds.
It’s slower than your other bikes at top speeds, which can go to 20 miles an hour. Why’s that?
Mike Radenbaugh: So, it goes 14 miles-an-hour at top speed, and that is simply for safety, comfort and ease of operation. These aren’t racing vehicles. The idea is for them to be very gentle and smooth but pack enough power where you can get flying pretty quickly.
What’s your hope with this launch?
We really believe this will create a new category of vehicle that doesn't exist right now. You have tricycles that are designed more for a retired customer or a customer with mobility issues. This serves those customers but it’s more of an all-around fun vehicle for everyone.
The RadTrike is now available for pre-order in the U.S. for $2,499 and will begin shipping to customers in mid-January.
Electric Trike This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.