Taking the RadRover to the county road, and eating my words…


My initial estimates of the RadRover’s practical range on hilly country roads were excessively conservative. That much is clear and last summer’s truncated experiments in high desert biking left me thinking the whole matter of using the ebike for actual trips to town was going to be a bigger deal than more recent experience suggests. I’ve taken it to town from the county road several times and that’s no problem at all except for the obvious matter of not being killed by limestone haulers from an inconvenient quarry. But I only rode the bike to the road once last year and I was so concerned about battery range that I took a shorter and not-very-pleasant route that proved it could be done but left me not all that enthusiastic about doing it.

But lately it has become clear that I had things to learn about power management on an ebike. And I’ve either learned them or the bike is just working better than it did when it was brand new because range has lately proven not to be that big a deal. Yesterday I took the main ‘road’ to the cattlegate for laughs.


The Jeep allows for shortcuts: Even with the fat tires the bike is still a bike and doesn’t do well in sand so I have to stick to the bulldozed roads, and so…


…it’s 6.7 miles from Ian’s front door to the cattlegate. That power usage indicator is not very precise; the battery is not full, as soon as you goose the motor the indicator will drop a bar.

And when I got it back in the barn…


…the battery was clearly still well more than half charged. So throw that “20-mile range” nonsense away.

As for the actual experience…well, I’ve done it on a more conventional skinny-tire bike without shock absorption and found the experience unacceptably unpleasant to say the least – and that was 12 years ago when I was a mere stripling of 54. On the RadRover – okay, you want to slow down for the worst of the washboarding and you really had better anticipate any sandy patches. But even those things aren’t the deal breakers they are on a more conventional bike. In general you can toodle along at 15-20 mph and it just isn’t that big a deal.

I recognize that publicly using a bike like the Rad Rover makes me a official jackass, loser, fat tire biker. But I’m prepared to risk that. I like this bike. It has the official TUAK Stamp of Hubris.

About Joel

You shouldn't ask these questions of a paranoid recluse, you know.
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14 Responses to Taking the RadRover to the county road, and eating my words…

  1. matismf says:

    So does that mean it’s time for you to join the Pagans or some other such 1%:
    https://onepercenterbikers.com/pagans-mc/

    ???

  2. paulb says:

    Will a solar panel provide enough juice to recharge it? or does the pedal also generate electric charges?

  3. Norman says:

    Some questions, if I may:
    “PAS” in the lower left of the display stands for “Pedal Assist” – exactly what does that mean? Your first pic (6.7 miles) showed a 4 for PAS, the second (14.5 miles) showed a 3. Is it telling you “pedaling history,” or the quantity of need for future pedaling?

    Spare batteries – yep, it’s $550 which is an issue, but how advantageous would it be to have a spare on board? And, how difficult would it be to carry one?

    I’m assuming you’ve tested operating the bike with no electrical assistance; how’s the pedaling?

    It’s a 48 volt battery, most solar cells are 5 volt or 12 volt output, so a transformer would be necessary, but has anyone out there in Readerland researched extending the range on e-bikes by installing a solar cell? If so, what were the results?

    I’ve kinda blown off e-bikes as impractical, expensive toys, but maybe it’s time to re-think that position.

  4. Joel says:

    Will a solar panel provide enough juice to recharge it? or does the pedal also generate electric charges?

    A solar panel does recharge it. Or rather, several panels do. 🙂 Doubt it would be practical to carry one on the bike, though. And no, this particular bike doesn’t do regenerative braking or anything of the sort. Electrically it’s pretty simple.

    “PAS” in the lower left of the display stands for “Pedal Assist” – exactly what does that mean? Your first pic (6.7 miles) showed a 4 for PAS, the second (14.5 miles) showed a 3. Is it telling you “pedaling history,” or the quantity of need for future pedaling?

    PAS just indicates the motor assist level currently selected, from zero to five. Zero is off, five can do startling things any time you push a pedal but really sucks the juice.

    …how advantageous would it be to have a spare on board? And, how difficult would it be to carry one?

    I don’t personally see any advantage that’s worth the price tag; anywhere I’d want to go on a bicycle is within the range of one battery. Considering how long they take to charge there might be some scenario that makes sense but I don’t know what it is. Carrying one would be no problem, though, as long as you have a rack; the battery snaps on and off its mount easily.

    I’m assuming you’ve tested operating the bike with no electrical assistance; how’s the pedaling?

    It has seven conventional gears, so I guess on pavement pedaling it without motor assist might be feasible. But it would help to be Lance Armstrong: The bike weighs 80 pounds. Seriously, it would be like pushing a Goldwing.

  5. TK421a says:

    There’s no shame in admitting that you were cautious in your estimate in range. Considering the unforgiving environment of where you call home, it’s always better to be cautious than end up in a bad situation, especially if it means “pushing a Goldwing” under the hot sun.

  6. Tsgt Joe says:

    I didn’t know there was a stigma to riding an electric bike, my only issue would be trying to pedal it without power. A buddy of mine had a moped when we were kids, it was a bear to pedal with the engine off.
    Do you remember when we were kids you could buy a kit to put a lawnmower engine on a bicycle. I believe it had some sort of a centrifical clutch and the one time i tried it , it pitched me off the back as the front wheel reached for the clouds.

  7. patrick fowler says:

    does this mean you can get to what you call the small town and get back with a good reserve ? Patrick

  8. Joel says:

    Yeah, pretty much.

  9. Norman says:

    Sorry to be a pest, but I’m obsessing on “extending the range.” RE: solar panel(s) – there are smallish folding panels which, certainly won’t recharge it anywhere near the speed of a largish array, but draped across the parked bike in full sun, it might be worth a couple extra miles.

    And, the oldsters will rmember this, the tire-driven bicycle light generators of yore; something like that might be a jackleg means of regenerative braking (which is something else I need to research; a manual means of engaging regenerative braking might also be something of a (slight) range extender, think something like the Jake Brake on diesels).

    I was not aware the RadRover was 80 pounds; every pound requires more energy to propel (don’t ask how I know this….). According to their web site, the frame is aluminum; so are my Trek mountain bike and Cannondale hybrid. Their web site claims 69 lbs; so where does the extra weight come from? (I’m well aware manufacturers routinely fudge on vehicle weights, Honda is famous for not including fuel, lubricants, spare tires or batteries). They say the battery is 7.7 lbs, so it – probably – has to be elsewhere.

  10. Joel says:

    Norman, those smallish folding panels are for charging phones and such. The bike runs on 48 volts. Plugged into AC power it takes (at least) six hours to recharge the bike’s battery from empty. If you’re really consumed with a need to extend the range, the only way I see to do it is to buy a spare battery. Swapping batteries on the fly would be simple enough.

    Being an oldster I remember bicycle light generators: Forget it. 48 volts!

    I may have misremembered the bike’s published empty weight but it hardly matters. 70 pounds, 80 pounds: It’s startlingly heavy for a bicycle. I wouldn’t think of taking it out of the barn without at least a tool kit and means for repairing/replacing/inflating tube(s), plus the rear rack weighs something; I don’t know what. Then there’s water and a heavy lock… My bike almost certainly weighs at least 80 pounds before I climb aboard.

  11. Kentucky says:

    “. . . the oldsters will remember this, the tire-driven bicycle light generators of yore . . . ”

    I do indeed remember them. I also remember that when you dropped the little knurled wheel onto the tire it felt like you were instantly pedaling up a ten-degree hill. When I asked my dad about this he merely pointed out to me that TANSTAAFL, my exposure to one of many truths of life. 😉

  12. Norman says:

    Thanks for your patience, Joel; it seems Edwin Drake wins another one.

  13. BobF says:

    Joel, I don’t know if you will see this as the post is not most recent, but… I have a battery-operated lawn mower because of my 5-surgeries-#6-coming-up spine. It’s lighter and more maneuverable. The batteries are expensive.

    I found out, however, that the real expense is in the form of the case and the unique connections. I opened the case up and found the actual batteries for it, solder-connected them per the old setup, and had a new battery pack for less than half the cost of the “real” one from the company. I admit it took some research to identify the individual batteries and find a source, and it’s been a couple of years since I went through it (I made two), but I wonder if you might be able to do the same thing for that bike.

  14. Joel says:

    That’s a real possibility and as popular as this model bike is I’m sure lots of people tinker with them so if there is such a product the information is probably close to the surface.

To the stake with the heretic!