This article first appeared in the June 2021 issue of Adventure Cyclist magazine.
I pre-ordered the Rad Power RadWagon 4 last spring when cabin fever and COVID precautions were both blooming. I wanted a bike that would satisfy my adventure cravings and take away the conceived necessity for a car by being able to haul a bunch of crap, including my dog, up whatever hills got me farthest from home while not venturing too far. This cargo eBike can haul me, my pup, and whatever fun we can shove into the bags (River gear? Books? A typewriter? Yes.) and get us about 20 miles away and back, depending on the weather, and that feels just about right.
The RadWagon 4 is a Class 2 eBike, which means that, unlike Class 1 or 3 eBikes, it has a throttle. It’s still pedal-assist, but it has a twist throttle (yes, like a motorcycle) to get you going from a standstill or to give you an extra boost. And like Class 1 eBikes, the motor assist cuts out at 20 MPH.
There are smart design choices throughout that make this a fantastic investment at $1899 for all-around small-a adventuring fun. The display has a hidden USB port for charging your phone, GPS, or other devices while you ride. The stabilizing spring helps keep the front wheel steady while the bike is parked, and maybe it’s just in my head, but I swear it also helps me maintain steady steering when I have a heavy load on the front rack. Also helpful for parking is the handle on the back of the saddle, which makes this beast of a bike surprisingly maneuverable for bringing inside or otherwise moving around. The telescoping seatpost and adjustable handlebar are also easy to adjust and will fit riders five feet, one inch (with at least a 26-inch inseam) to six feet, four inches (with no greater than a 35-inch inseam).
For some smaller riders, the length and weight of the bike, plus accessories and any cargo, may feel a bit unwieldy when trying to maneuver it while not riding, especially if you accidentally rev the throttle while trying to roll the bike to its parking spot (not that I regularly do that). While this bike is surprisingly easy to get into my house for all the built-in-1889 angles and steps, it’s certainly no folding bike or flyweight road bike.
There are mounts everywhere that allow this bike to be truly modular. It can be built up to fit multiple people, though Rad Power recommends no more than 120 lbs. on the rear rack. If you’re a dreamer like me, it’s easy to get caught up in possibilities: I could quit my job and deliver pizzas by bike with the tray and insulated bag (it will pay for itself!); get the child carriers and haul my nieces around after riding (in 40-mile increments) to New England to see them; get a small dog to carry in the dog carrier while hauling my large dog in a trailer behind us. The cargo accessories for the RadWagon 4 are many, but most of them are proprietary to Rad Power.
The battery is a 672Wh lithium-ion unit that powers a 750W hub motor. You’ll want to remove the battery between every ride to make sure it keeps a full charge and isn’t left exposed to cold weather, which will surely drain its power faster than expected. What a treat it’s been to have an eBike waiting at the ready whenever I want to zip around the neighborhood regardless of the temps, whether or not I want any exercise — like any bike ride, though, once I’m out the door and pedaling, I’m happy to be moving in the fresh air. The included battery-powered front and rear lights, as well as a bell and fenders, make it hard for me to turn down any small-a adventure I can think of, and the handlebar mitts Rad Power sent me have made even this frosty winter fair game for getting weird on the bike path (or, you know, getting some groceries).
Its 22 x 3.0in. tires are super stable regardless of how awkward your cargo is or how treacherous your road surface (within reason). I would love to have the option to switch these to tires with a knobby tread, but I don’t know where I’d find 22in. tires in general, never mind 22in. knobbies, and Rad Power’s site only sells the stock option. Rad Power Bikes claims this size and the tread pattern were specifically engineered to enhance strength and stability. I do agree that I feel totally stable on this bike even on winter terrain, but I do fear for the day I tear a sidewall and show up at the nearest bike shop knowing they won’t have what I need. In the meantime, with the massive storms we had this year, I expected the RadWagon 4 to feel like it was surfing on snow and ice, but it felt more like a horse — I may lose my grip and get bucked from the bumpy ride, but this stable, heavy beast was going to stay upright.
Despite it being a real workhorse, it handles like a regular bike and can take surprisingly tight corners for such a long wheelbase. The Tektro disc brakes aren’t fancy, but they’re strong enough to stop whatever mischief you get yourself into. It has a 7-speed 11–34T cassette, so while the battery helps get you and your cargo moving, you don’t need it all the time; the RadWagon 4 can ride like an analogue bike when you want it to.
As a Class 2 eBike, it isn’t as fast as some other designs — I topped out at 24 MPH going downhill in Level 1, which is slower than I’ve gone on my traditional bikes, and I can feel resistance kick in when I’m pedaling in Level 4 or 5 once I hit 20 MPH, which is typical for this sort of motor. For the practical use of a cargo eBike, this isn’t a motorcycle and I don’t need to be going super fast. What is like a motorcycle, and is my favorite feature, is the throttle to help me get started when I’m loaded up (or lazy) or give me a quick boost up a short climb, and five power levels in addition to the seven gears. Even with 40 lbs. of dog food on the rear rack and a 60 lbs. pooch in a trailer behind me, I have no problem pedaling normally on flat ground once the throttle gets me going, and changing speeds and shifting gears on the motor and cassette respectively allow me to continue pedaling uphill without losing momentum or feeling like I’m just riding a motorbike.
This bike helps with the hills, carries the load, feels stable on reasonably uneven ground, and its lights are always charged. Once we are out of this mess and big-A Adventures are again in our view, I can see this being a fantastic bike for romantic overnight trips, riding 40 miles to a B&B where you can charge your battery (figuratively and literally), then pick up the next day to ride again. And if you do opt for indoor accommodations, you can leave the cargo at home and just carry your sweetheart or the kids. Alternately, you can plug into an outlet at a number of less rustic campsites, ensuring a powerfully lazy start in the morning. I’m feeling romantic just thinking about it, but luckily in the meantime, the RadWagon 4 helps me manage my wanderlust with micro-adventures.
Sizes available: one size
Weight: 76.7 lbs. (including pedals)
Seat tube length: 345mm
Seat height: 690–940mm (measured from bottom of pedal stroke)
Dropout width: Front: 135mm Rear: 175mm
Standover height: 600mm
Payload capacity: 350 lbs.
Rear rack capacity: 120 lbs.
Frame: 6061 aluminum, integrated rack
Motor: 750W geared hub motor
Battery: 672Wh lithium-ion, rated for 800 charge cycles
Charger: 48V Rad Power Bikes smart charger
Range: 25–45 miles per charge
Fork: Steel, rack and fender mounts
Handlebar: Rad Power Bikes alloy swept-back
Stem: Satori EZ3 AHS tool-free adjustable stem
Rear derailer: Shimano Acera, 7spd
Shifter: Shimano Acera
Brakes: Tektro Aries MD-M300 mechanical disc
Rotors: Tektro, 180 mm front and rear
Bottom bracket: Square-taper JIS
Crankset: 46T chainring, 170mm length, dual-sided chainring guard
Cassette: Shimano Acera 7spd, 11–34T
Seatpost: Satori telescoping
Saddle: Plush with lifting handle
Rims: Shinning DB-X50, 36h
Tires: VEE 22 x 3.0in.
Extras: Spring-loaded dual-leg kickstand, aluminum platform pedals, front and rear lights, full fenders, water-resistant cables, LED display