There is a growing subset among the eBike converts that adore their rides so much, they've decided to ditch four wheels (and public transport, for that matter) altogether and use their battery-powered bicycle for literally everything.
Electric cargo bikes from the likes of Tern and Riese & Muller cost an absolute packet to buy, but they are powerful and capable enough to haul an entire office move, as well as transport three kids to school without breaking a sweat.
Unfortunately, the elongated chassis of a cargo bike can feel a little daunting to the uninitiated and for those with tight parking spaces or stairs to traverse, they just aren't practical.
Rad Power Bikes, an outfit based in Seattle but with European headquarters in Utrecht, offers something that we firmly believe is one of the finest hybrid eBikes money can buy - combining the load-lugging ability of a cargo bike with the off-road toughness of a mountain bike and the everyday practicality of a road-going machine.
Step forward the RadRhino - a 750W, fat-tyred beast that offers electrical assistance up to 16mph and a twist throttle for those who can't be bothered to engage their legs.
It's a rough and ready, go-anywhere machine that is as happy pounding the sand dunes as it is tearing up the Tarmac on the morning school run.
- These are the best electric bikes we've ridden so far
- The GoCycle GX is our favourite electrically assisted commuter machine
- You've got the bike, now invest in some fine cycling garments
RadRhino: the technology
Powering the Rad Power Bikes RadRhino is a 750W rear hub motor from Bafang, which offers five levels of pedal assistance or can be operated via a twist throttle on the right hand grip.
Power is drawn from a 48V 14Ah (672Wh) Lithium-Ion battery with Samsung 35E cells that is mounted to the frame. It's not as beautifully integrated as some of the more expensive downhill mountain bikes from giant and Specialized, but the battery pack sits quite neatly on the downtube. It can also be removed entirely for charging away from the bike.
There is also a full LCD display, which doubles-up as a speedometer, wattmeter, and odometer, plus a powerful integrated headlight. A rear light and brake lights are also attached to a sturdy rear rack.
Stopping power is provided by 180 mm Tektro mechanical disc brakes and riders get a choice of seven gears from the Shimano Acera drivetrain, which is plenty enough for most riding situations.
Finishing off the package is a set of four-inch Kenda fat tyres, which feature a layer of aramid and ceramic particles inside the tyre for extra puncture resistance, as well as RST suspension at the front with 80mm of travel for light off-road expeditions.
RadRhino: the ride
The bike itself weighs in at 32.75kg, so this is no Tour de France competitor. In fact, simply manoeuvring the RadRhino around a tight parking space can be enough to fulfil the daily workout quota, but things get much easier when in the saddle.
On the subject of saddles, the Velo Plush unit that's provided offers plenty of squishy comfort for the derrière, but I found it a little difficult to get completely comfortable on. The two supporting lumps at the rear often see your butt sliding to the front of the perch, but it's not hard to swap that out.
Power up the bike by pressing and holding the mode button on the left hand controller and the LCD display kicks into life. From here, it's simply a case of cycling up and down the assistance levels using the plus or minus buttons.
The full 750W of power is only really unleashed when level five is selected, but cycling up to this maximum output rapidly became part of my daily routine. With a chunky child seat mounted to the rear rack (and a 16kg toddler on-board), it pays to have that extra electrical shove.
Riding is gloriously simple, with the seven speed gearing offering a good enough spread to both get the bike moving and see it cruising when up to speed. The powerful shove from the electric motor is sensational.
According to official documents, the RadRhino is capable of hauling up to 125kg, and I'm not going to disagree, because even when full loaded up with a kid and surfboards (via a homemade rack I fashioned), it still manages to easily breeze up to the limited top speed of 16mph.
But here's the rub: because when that max legal speed is reached, the RadRhino is essentially just a really heavy bike to usher along the road. It's such a shame that the legislation killjoys haven’t seen fit to raise this top speed a tad, seeing as anyone with a lightweight race bike can easily cruise at speeds in excess of 20mph without thinking.
RadRhino: off-road capability
The RadRhino is never going to trouble any dedicated e-mountain bikes, but don't write it off as simply a commuter machine with imposing chunky tyres. This thing will happily cruise along gravel trails and kick up a bit of sand on the beach.
I wouldn't suggest taking it over any sweet jumps, but the front suspension is powerful enough to soak up some of the rougher lumps and bumps, while those huge Kenda tyres can handle pretty much anything that's thrown at them.
Naturally, there's quite a lot of rolling resistance when cruising the streets, but the powerful rear motor makes up for any of that and the noise generated by the thick tread means that passers-by can hear the bike coming from a mile off.
The only thing that lets the package down is the Shimano Acera drivetrain, which often kicks up a bit of a stink when shifting under heavy loads and really didn't like staying in its highest gear on this test, despite my best efforts to index, tune and fettle.
Braking is another matter, though, and those big mechanical disc brakes do an excellent job of stopping a very heavy bike. So much so, that a handful of front brake really isn't advisable, especially when riding on loose surfaces.
RadRhino: the build quality
This machine oozes confidence and looks like it has been built to withstand a nuclear attack, let alone a few gentle jaunts along a gravelly canal way. The brake levers are robust and feature a nice, comfortable rubber covering, the thumb shifter for the gearing is chunky and the laced leather grips feel like they will last a lifetime.
As previously mentioned, I'd probably swap out the saddle for something slightly more ergonomic, but the boxy alloy frame and steel rear rack are strong enough to house all manner of daily contraptions. Child seats, surf racks, trailers and much more can easily be attached.
Just make sure these accoutrements fit around the slightly unconventional frame shape, which eschews tubular convention and instead opts for structurally stronger, oversized rectangles for the downtube and crossbar.
The Shimano gear shifting could be improved but there are absolutely no complaints when it comes to the rest of the powertrain. The Bafang motor has proved faultless over 200-odd miles of riding thus far and the power delivery is perfectly smooth and linear, unlike the sporadic jerkiness found in cheaper eBikes.
On top of this, the built-in headlamp and taillights feel like a nice touch, meaning the rider doesn't have to scrabble around fro AAA batteries when aftermarket lights inevitably run out of charge at the most vital time.
RadRhino: licensing and registry
Starting at around £1,500, the RadRhino feels like excellent value for money to us. It smashes the flimsy sub-£1,000 eBikes we’ve already tried and offers the sort of power that can be found on much more expensive mountain bikes from the likes of Giant and Specialized.
That said, there’s always a governing body looking to spoil the fun and in the case of the RadRhino, it’s the 2017 L1e-A electric bike category that states anything with a twist throttle needs to be properly registered and insured for use on the road.
This goes some way to also explaining the irksome 16mph top speed limitations (it could easily do double that) and the fact that it has a big old mount for a licence plate on the rear mudguard. But as well as denying us of some face-melting speed, the L1e-A category also means that in many countries, the RadRhino will have to be registered with the correct authorities (in the UK’s case, it’s the DVLA) and receive the appropriate paperwork.
Officially, you'll also have to don a helmet and stick a licence plate on the rear of the machine.
But we have already been assured that Rad Power Bikes will assist in this, with the application cost amounting to around £55 through the DVLA. Although, word on the grapevine states that many applications for L1e-A bikes in the UK have already been sent back to the owners, as the authorities are still a little confused as to what exactly the whole thing means.
In short, so long as your legs are spinning around and the authorities don’t look too closely at your eBike credentials, you’re fine to slash through the summer crowds with electrically assisted abandon. I know I certainly did and nobody blinked and eyelid.