As a more-than-casual bicyclist in Portland, Oregon – one of the most bike-friendly cities in the world – I enjoy covering news of electric bicycles and related products. Unfortunately, most e-bikes are fairly expensive – more than than the combined cost of both bicycles I currently ride – so the appeal is somewhat limited. The RideKick, however, seemed to have the potential to economically covert an existing bicycle into a sort of e-bike by using an electric-powered cargo kit to push a rider. After testing the device, my feelings about the RideKick are varied.
First, the RideKick is much bigger (2 ft. wide, 3 ft. long and 1 ft. tall) and heavier than I imagined, and a good portion of that weight comes from the battery pack (almost 20 lbs.). So, if you’re thinking of having the product shipped rather than picked-up from a retailer, keep that cost in mind. Second, the unit came with a very nice letter from the company as well as some stickers and brochures. I don’t think I’ll be passing them out like political pamphlets on street corners, but at least one sticker is now on someone’s beer refrigerator in the Pacific Northwest if that’s any consolation to RideKick’s marketing department.
In all honesty, I found that the top hatch was made of fairly thin plastic, but the base and wheel system was sturdier than expected, which built my confidence in the product a bit. The idea of having a device pushing me and my bicycle to a claimed 19 miles per hour by only being attached to the back of the bike’s frame with a few screws was unsettling, to say the least.
In addition to being worried about propulsion, I was concerned that the trailer, especially with the electric battery attached, would be burdensome when starting to pedal from a complete stop.
Looking over the RideKick I couldn’t help but think, “Please don’t bend the bike frame or make me crash.”
Although there are several steps and a few different pieces in the RideKick kit – battery pack, throttle, trailer hitch, etc. – the process to attach the unit to a bicycle is fairly easy, especially if you have a quick-detach back wheel. The entire un-boxing to riding time can be done within an hour if you’re enjoying a lazy afternoon.
As I found out, it’s very important to place the electric throttle as close to your bicycle’s back-brake hand trigger as possible for comfortable riding, as this will allow you to hold down the throttle and switch to a tight stop in case of a roadway emergency on a moment’s notice.
I decided to give the RideKick a proper test and ride it with the cargo space empty, and then with the product full of a few of my favorite things – namely a dozen books, many hardcovers. The total weight of these was an estimated 70 pounds – under the 100 pound claimed cargo capacity – but that when combined with the weight of the battery pack, came close to capacity.
Pedaling with the empty RideKick wasn’t much different than pedaling without the device, and was much easier than I expected. The spring located at the point where the cargo arm and the bike frame meet made turning, as well as stopping, very comfortable. I was never worried that the RideKick would turn over and cause me to crash.
Fully loaded with books, the RideKick was noticeably more difficult to start from a stand-still. Weighed down by a 100+ lbs trailer, pedaling up hill without the electric boost of the RideKick can be challenging if a rider isn’t prepared. The company says the electric power, provided by a right wheel, 500 watt electric brush motor, has a range of 12 miles, but I found it to be more around the neighborhood of eight miles when full of cargo. And if the battery, for whatever reason, decides to quit before mile 10 while someone is trying to overtake a particularly steep incline . . . ouch.
Similarly, when full of books, the RideKick would help me pass most fellow bicyclists, but it wouldn’t keep up with the speed of traffic, and seemed to be a bit under the stated 19 miles per hour. Still, going up a particular long hill with a trailer of books, the electric power of the RideKick made getting to the top faster and easier than it would have been without the device all together, although pedaling to assist the trailer was necessary at some points.
The biggest issue I had with the RideKick was that the flimsy plastic throttle would quit working, seemingly without warning, as the battery began to near the end of its charge. The issue was as annoying as it was hazardous when pedaling with a full trailer.
Also, after going over a speed bump, the top of the trailer popped open, spilling some of the cargo contents into the street. Nothing was harmed, and securing the three-digit lock solved this issue, but still something to note for future owners so they don’t make a similar mistake.
Did the RideKick “free” me from the supposed “limitations” of bike riding as the company claims? No. But, it absolutely made transporting a larger number of items than I couldn’t hope to carry on my own much easier over a safe distance of about six miles without much pedaling, which, in a city like Portland, was extremely helpful.
I decided to test the RideKick before looking at its price, and after using the product for the better portion of a day, including a full re-charge of the battery to ensure I had a good idea of its specifications. I would have never paid more than $1,000 for the device, especially since EarthTechling has covered a D.I.Y. electric bike kit for less.
In the best world, the RideKick would be under $600, but as it stands, the company is charging $729 on the RideKick website, which does include free shipping. I really can’t say if the price of the RideKick is worth the money; certainly the product made transporting goods around a bike-friendly city easier, but whether or not it’s several hundred dollars easier is up to each individual rider.