Will Portlanders embrace Rad Power’s new trike?

(Photos: Rad Power Bikes)

Electric bike company Rad Power Bikes announced this week their latest model will be a three-wheeled trike. The RadTrike is available for pre-order now for $2,499 and is set to ship mid-January.

The news has created a stir in the bike world because, well, let’s just say trikes occupy a strange place in the market. On one hand they’re awesome vehicles with a lot of advantages over a two-wheeled bike — especially for folks who have trouble balancing due to a disability, age, and so on. But on the other hand, they have never caught on as a mainstream product. They’re really hard to find and bike shops almost never carry them (likely because their showroom-footprint-to-profit-margin ratio isn’t all that great).

The feeling is that with the power of Rad’s reputation and marketing reach, trikes might finally get their due. And from the looks and features of the bike I’ve seen so far, it’s likely going to be a very popular model. I wonder though, will it break into Portland’s lineup?

Dan Kaufman and his trike through the years. (Photos: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

“Maybe some folks can’t picture themselves on one, but I think they are as fun as hell. You just gotta rock the trike!”

– Dan Kaufman

The first person I wanted to hear from when I thought about this was Dan Kaufman. Dan pilots what is almost certainly Portland’s most famous trike. His “Disco Trike” has supported many bike events over the years with its on-board sound system. He currently rolls it out to weekly Black Lives Matter protest in north Portland and it was once the center of controversy when it was confiscated by the Portland Police Bureau during a protest in 2012 (it was returned one week later). Kaufman’s been riding the Disco Trike in Portland since 2006. When car-sharing firms pulled out of Portland in 2019, Kaufman added a battery-powered motor to it and now credits this boost in power for keeping him carfree. “Now I can get across town quicker, easy, and with gear,” he shared in an email to me this week.

Kaufman said he prefers his trike for its load-carrying capacity and because it allows him to ride very slowly, which is, “Great for parades and protests.”

He admits trikes are less efficient than two-wheelers, but believes there will always be a place for trikes — especially e-powered ones. He’s excited Rad is getting into the game because strapping a battery on a non-electric trike hasn’t worked perfectly. “It was just not built for the kind of speeds I can do now and it has meant beefing up the wheels and constantly tinkering with it,” Kaufman says. “Twice now I have broken the axle (once with disastrous results). I can’t count how many times the chain has fallen off. There is definitely a space for design-built e-trike for the consumer market. And if my latest upgrades don’t solve my issues I may be in the market.”

Serenity Ebert. (Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

And Kaufman is a trike rider by choice. Imagine what having a high-quality, relatively affordable e-trike on the market will do for people with disabilities, or anyone who isn’t confident on a two-wheeled bike. That’s why the City of Portland just added an electric trike model from Worksman to their Adaptive Biketown rental fleet.

Benefits aside, it’s not as if trikes are without flaws. In addition to the performance shortcomings, one very knowledgeable source I talked to about them recently said they are only fun to ride on very flat paths and surfaces. Since every road has a crowned angle to shed rain water, having two rear wheels on the same axle puts the rider at a slight, yet annoyingly noticeable tilt.

Beyond that, if you’re willing to give up some speed and efficiency for riding ease, stability, and a massive cargo capacity, the RadTrike is worth checking out. And if you’re a bit self-conscious about losing style points, let folks like Dan Kaufman and Portland bike activist Serenity Ebert (pictured) disabuse you of that notion.

Smirks aside, it’s the belief of this media outlet that trikes have always been cool. They just haven’t always been available.

“Maybe some folks can’t picture themselves on one, but I think they are as fun as hell,” says Kaufman. “You just gotta rock the trike!”

— Learn more about Rad’s new trike on their website or see this review from Electrek.

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Chris I
Chris I
1 month ago

82lb + rider weight, a 750W motor, throttle feature, aimed at casual riders who have trouble with balance? They say the assist speed is limited to 15mph, but I imagine quite a few of these are going to get dumped while attempting to corner at speed.

18″ x 2.25 tire size? What?

squareman
squareman
1 month ago
Reply to  Chris I

Probably only takes one dumpage or close call on a trike to learn to slow down on corners. Ultimately, they’re a lot more stable when operated within tolerances. Bicycles are more maneuverable, meaning they can also corner faster in ideal conditions, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t dumped mine for going too fast in wet or gravely conditions.

Muncie
Muncie
1 month ago
Reply to  Chris I

Rad has done proprietary tire sizes before, they have a 22″ rim out there, apparently. It’s an underhanded tactic to corner accessory sales. Bad trend for the bike industry, but par for the course when it comes to the current sketchy e-bike gold rush.

When I point out that so many of these bikes will be junked or abandoned in 5-10 years, this is what I’m taking about.

EP
EP
1 month ago

I think this etrike is genius as it’s the answer to every rant against bike infrastructure that trots out the “whatabouts” of the elderly, the sick, the weak, etc. that “aren’t up to biking all over town all the time.” Give the boomers their etrike! It’s waaay better than a Rascal-style mobility scooter.

I also see this being even more useful as a car-replacement type of transportation option for people who need to carry things, want more stability, etc., but are on the fence about a 2-wheeled bike. Maybe add a minimal windscreen/cover for the rainy months and it’s even more useful.

Dardanelles
Dardanelles
1 month ago

Not worrying about railroad tracks is a great benefit (as I recall from my pedicab days).

Ryan
Ryan
1 month ago

I love the idea of a trike but the problem is proper infrastructure where I’m at. To get anywhere in the suburbs requires at least some travel along a stroad with narrow bike lanes designed for a traditional two-wheeled bike that apparently doesn’t weave more than a few inches either direction, yet also has sunken-grade storm drains every couple hundred feet that take up most of the lane.

My wife isn’t super confident on a bike so we’ve looked at some trikes for her. Almost got a Bunch Bike when they started offering their e-version. But the bike lanes in Gresham she knew she’d have to use made her question how much she’d actually use it. She remembered how uncomfortable I was trying to haul our kids around in a trailer a few times when they were young. You have to choose either swinging it into the lane with cars going 40-50mph or bouncing the kids in and out of the storm drains. And sidewalks are out with the mailboxes, power poles, and unmaintained shrubbery making it harder to navigate than the bike lanes at times, and that’s assuming the sidewalk doesn’t just randomly stop partway down the road.

The Rad trike looks like a great option to expand the “8 to 80” accessibility, but you need infrastructure with more thought put into it than just “here’s a few feet of gutter with a painted line drivers may or may not pay attention to.”

Muncie
Muncie
1 month ago

A few years ago I got clipped by a mother and child on an e-cargo bike (not trike) who blasted past me (standard bike) in the narrow green bike lane / slot approaching the Tilikum bridge. If you’re familiar, it’s about the width of a standard lane but has curbs on both sides– so barely enough room for two riders on standard bikes to ride abreast.

Anyway, this lady passed unsafely and hit my leg with one of her panniers. I almost crashed; she didn’t even look back.

So that’s what I’m expecting more of. I see so much inconsiderate behavior from e-bikes already. Making them wider and faster is just going to create more conflict. Can we agree that these vehicles are more akin to motorcycles than bicycles?