riding in style

My Family Replaced Our Second Car With An E-Bike For A Month & Here’s How It Went

They’re everywhere now — but how useful are they for families?

Courtesy of Katie Garrity

My husband and I repeatedly go back and forth on the necessity of our second car — we’ve toyed with the idea of selling it for years. We both mainly work from home. We’re within walking distance from both sets of grandparents, the grocery store, and even the local hospital. If something came up where we really did need it car, we have options to borrow from our parents. And yet, it’s hard to picture life without two cars, especially if you have kids.

At the same time, it’s been hard to ignore the e-bike craze that’s been building the last few years. We see more and more of them on the road and at the drop-off line at school. It seemed like a possible option that was environmentally friendly and relatively simple. And when Rad Power Bikes offered one of their Rad Wagon 5 Electric Cargo Bikes to try it out, we decided to check out the trend and take e-bike life on a test drive.

We’ve integrated it into our lives over the past month or so and here’s what our experience has been like — the good and the not so good.

First Impressions & Safety

Our five-year-old daughter loves riding on it. Seriously, this girl is always begging to take a ride on the “big bike.” Who needs Disneyland when you can just ride around the neighborhood going 20 miles per hour with the wind in your hair?

I was apprehensive about switching over to a bike with a legit motor that can go upwards of 25 miles per hour. We’ve had some pretty gnarly bike accidents in our past, so the thought of putting my little one on the back of a bike that goes as fast as a car was something I really had to think through.

I thought my daughter, Eila, would be a little weirded out by the speed too, but turns out, she’s loving the quick pep in her bike rides. I did make sure that my husband and I knew how to ride the bike and felt very comfortable on it before she even thought of sitting on the back. Sometimes, even with her helmet and close-toed shoes, I still get a little nervous when we’re out and about.

When we ride, she has a comfy seat, a place for her feet to rest, and strong, supported bars around all sides of her. She’s fully protected from the inside of the e-bike. Because of the caboose feature, I do feel a bit better that she won’t just fall off the side.

Ease of use

Since we live in such a walkable area, getting anywhere on the e-bike is way easier than I thought. My husband drops off and picks up our daughter from school. I use it to ride to the grocery store to pick up dinner ingredients. We’ve even gone on family bike rides. Yes, my husband or I will pedal the old-fashioned way while the other zips up hills with ease thanks to the motor on the e-bike.

One of the other perks of an e-bike, besides the obvious reduction of our family’s carbon footprint, is parking.

We were worried about the parking situation at our town’s local Memorial Day parade, trying to plan out every scenario and find the best place to park. That’s when we decided to take the Rad Wagon 5 instead. We rode down to the parade within 20 minutes, parked the bikes, and found a perfect spot to watch the marching bands go by. No parking hassles or fees. No hours waiting to get out of the parking lot after it was over.

Storage and charging

The e-bike hangs out in our garage, parked in the back. The battery lasts about 25 to 45 miles, but we charge the battery after every ride so we’re always fully charged when we need to get going. You can charge the battery on or off the bike.

Weather

We also live in the Midwest with some pretty unpredictable weather. Thankfully, the e-bike is prepared for that. The bike can withstand high-pressure, heavy water splashes. And for added safety, they’re equipped with hydraulic disc brakes to ensure all-weather stopping ability.

One big question mark that remains is how useful the bike will be in the winter months, which is solidly half of the year here in Chicago. We’ve only used the bike in the some of the most ideal weather we ever get. We’ll see what happens come fall.

Design

Also for vanity’s sake, several people have come up to us asking about the bike, since it’s nice to look at. Honestly, they are so cool looking! It’s definitely a head-turner, especially with a kindergartener strapped to the back waving hello.

The one big problem I had with the bike was putting it together. It’s a big item to assemble and you want to make sure every single screw and socket is tight and assembled correctly for safety reasons. My husband and I may or may not have gotten in a tiff or two while trying to get the bike together while I questioned if every single bolt was tight enough.

Give yourself a good two hours to get the bike all set and safe for riding. Probably a little more if you have accessories like a basket or foot pedals.

Value

Let’s be real, an e-bike is an investment. E-bike prices can vary widely, starting around $1,000 to upwards of $3,000. They can get even more expensive the more accessories you add (and there are a lot of accessories available).

If you want to invest in an electric bike, it’s best to go with a model that fits within your budget. Higher-priced bikes may have better quality, so if you plan to be an avid rider, you might want to pay a higher premium.

We’ve been buzzing around on the Rad Wagon 5 for weeks now, and we’re still loving it. Just like any form of transportation for you and your kids, it’s not perfect.

But for our family of three living in a pretty walkable place, it’s a good fit. So much so that we’re finally having our second car appraised.