RideKick Electric Powered Bike TrailerCommuter Bike Store Breezer Greenway DX Hybrid Bike 24 Speed - 2011 ModelCygoLite Bike Lights: Engineered to ShineElectric Bike ReportOrtlieb Bike Bags & PanniersMiiR Bottles one4oneChrome Bike Backpacks and Messenger BagsPlanet Bike: Better bike products for a better worldBionX: Electrify Your BikeBike Tech Shop - The Experts on Cycling with CircuitryBanjo Brothers Affordable Cycling GearXtracycle Bike Cargo Kits, Parts and Accessories

Ridekick: A Nicotine Patch for Car Addiction

by Ted Johnson

At the beginning of this year I went on record with this New Years resolution:

I’m going to eliminate as many of the reasons as I can that require my wife to spend time in a car, beginning with the grocery shopping. I may start with some shopping panniers, but ultimately I may have to go for a long-tail bike, or a bike cargo trailer.

Ridekick Electric Trailer

By that I meant, I would do more of the things using a bike that she currently does with the car, so that she doesn’t have to.

I’ve gotten almost nowhere with this resolution. In 2011, just about every grocery run for our household was still done by car — by her.

I suck.

But I think I’ve found a solution to this challenge, as well as my other ambitions to use the car less. The solution is not panniers or a long-tail bike. It’s the Ridekick Electric Trailer.

The Ridekick pushes your bike, and has a little bit of cargo space — enough for two or three grocery bags. At $699, it costs a fraction of the cost of a good electric bike. I don’t need an electric bike anyway. I fall into a gap between people who could really benefit from an electric bike, and people who can get by with pedal power alone.

United Nations Flag

Logo of the Electric Bike Salesperson Association

My city, Flagstaff, Arizona, is relatively small — small enough to bike everywhere. It’s a Silver Level Bike-Friendly Community. But it’s hilly.

I hasten to say, I love the hills. Many marketers of e-bikes incessantly and annoyingly pitch the ability of e-bikes to help you conquer hills — as though the unfulfilled dream of every potential cyclist is to live on a flat earth.

Hills are my friends — but they’re the kind of friends who are never around when you need them to help you move.

Ridekick and Cat Food

Ridekick and Cat Food

Litter Box

Cat related, but NOT a Ridekick and NOT food.

What deters me from running errands by bike is the thought of climbing those hills while loaded down with, say, a 35 pound bag of cat food. It’s necessities and times like that when I’m least resistant to the addiction of the car.

Ridekick is a nicotine patch.

(Side note: It occurred to me recently that the Ridekick looks like one of those covered cat litter boxes on wheels. But as a title, “Ridekick: a Litter Box on Wheels” does not really convey my point as well.)

The Ridekick also can easily be shared with any bike that can accommodate the hitch plate — which is most bikes. This would mean that my wife could also have the option of using the Ridekick — allowing me to shirk errands and shopping as much as usual, but with the satisfaction of knowing that the car is being disused.

Even moving the throttle switch and cable from one bike to another only takes a few minutes. I would probably order a separate throttle and cable so even that minor hurdle would be eliminated.

I tested the Ridekick on several bikes, and was able to attach the hitch plate to every one. (The Ridekick Website has a gallery of bikes with dropouts not compatible with the hitch plate.)

I lent the Ridekick to a couple of very different riders for their opinions, and was surprised at their responses.

First was Matt. (Remember him?)

Matt is a triathlete fitness freak who rides a road bike when he’s not on his fixie. I lent the trailer to him in the same spirit that one offers someone a stick of nasty-tasting gum. I expected him to hate it, and it would be hilarious to watch how much he hated it.

Ridekick on a Fixie

Ridekick on Matt's Fixie

In fact, he loved it. We put it on his fixie, and he took it home and said it felt like it made his commute even more fun. He took is feet off the pedals and let them turn. He said he could see himself owning one.

The other guy I lent it to was Steve. (Remember him?)

Much to my surprise, he was singularly unimpressed. We had previously lent him an Ohm XS750 electric bike, which he really liked. But that bike was a little out of his (and my) price range. I thought he would love being able to use his existing bike, but with some electric push.

Steve on a Ridekick

Steve pushed by a Ridekick

He said that relative to the Ohm bike, he could hardly feel the power of the Ridekick. That was kind of a head-scratcher. The Ridekick has a more powerful motor than the XS750. The best I can figure is that Steve, who weighs in somewhere above 250 pounds, was just spinning the drive wheel of the Ridekick without enough weight and traction to noticeably accelerate his mass. (I took a physics class once. Can you tell?)

Ridekick Throttle

Ridekick Throttle attaches with Velcro™

With all the weight-weenie-ism in the cycling world, it’s hard to imagine that a strike against any cycling product would be that it didn’t weigh enough.

The trailer has a 500 watt motor — comparable to high-end electric bikes. It is powered by a sealed lead-acid battery. Battery snobs who are reading this just snorted out loud. But there a couple of reasons for this. First, without your body weight over the drive wheel (as on a bike) the 12-and-a-half-inch drive wheel is likely to spin when you gun it — especially if the trailer is empty. So a little extra weight makes sense. The trailer weighs 40 pounds, including the battery.

The second reason is ecological. Per the Ridekick Website:

Ridekick Cargo Floor

Ridekick Cargo Floor

Most [sealed lead-acid batteries] are made with 60 – 80% recycled lead and plastic, so the recycling processes are well-developed and in place. Consumers can easily find locations to responsibly recycle them (according to federal law, they cannot be deposited in landfills).

There are plans to introduce a lithium-ion battery option sometime in 2012, which will have a better weight-to-power ratio — but not be quite as tree-huggerish.

About one-third of the floor space of the trailer is taken up by the battery, and the cover is probably a little more aerodynamic than it needs to be. These two factors give the Ridekick less cargo capacity than it might otherwise have.

On the other hand, it makes the Ridekick a great canvas for anyone who missed out on having an airbrushed van in the 1970s.

Ridekick with Custom Paint Job

Groovy Custom Paint Job

It would be more utilitarian if the trailer had a flatter top with cargo rails. In fact, not far from the Ridekick booth at the Interbike trade show this year was a trailer with this exact feature.

Interbike Bike Trailers

Interbike Bike Trailers from Vacant Booth near Ridekick

I hope they saw it.

(Ridekick has done some custom cargo racks for their trailers, but these racks are not yet available commercially.)

I beat the hell out of the Ridekick while I was testing it. I tried diligently to flip it — and eventually succeeded when I wasn’t even trying. I scratched up the cover a bit. (Thank goodness I hadn’t invested in a custom paint job.) But my abuse had no effect on the functioning of the trailer.

Ridekick Flip

I think the culprit was that rock back there.

My commute involves a couple of curb hops, and the trailer is designed to accommodate that. Well, maybe it’s not designed for that, but it does — not always with both wheels on the ground. I was able to skid over the curbs, and use the throttle to help me push the bike up the one particularly rough spot on my commute.

(Point of Machismo: When I’m not pulling a trailer, I can ride up that rough spot without pushing the bike.)

Ridekick curb-hopping

One of my curb hops

I did manage to break the Velcro™ strap that holds the battery in place — but it broke while I was over-tightening the strap (an example of how incredibly strong I am), not from any ride conditions to which I subjected it.

I tested the stability of the trailer using a rubber squeak toy. This video shows the highlights of my commute as seen from inside the trailer. My main purpose of the video was to see how well that strap would hold that heavy battery while rattling over a variety of terrain. It’s kind of a boring video, but it’s scenic in a lying-on-your-back-looking-at-clouds kind of way. There’s also a dancing turtle.

(At about 4:10, you’ll see the controversial 50-yard stretch of my commute where I go against traffic on the sidewalk. If you want to harp about that, go to this post to leave your comments.)

Ridekick App

Prototype of Ridekick App for Smart Phone

The Ridekick doesn’t come with a fancy controller like a BionX kit does, or even with a minimal power meter like a Hebb electric bike. The throttle is just a throttle. You push it with your thumb or finger.

To ascertain any of the vitals on the power use, you need to stop and flip open the lid. (You also need to learn to interpret a language of two-digit codes from the LCD display in the control panel.)

But the Ridekick folks even planned for that. There’s a USB port on the control panel. How cute, right? You can charge your iPhone. Well, as a matter of fact, you can charge your iPhone. But Ridekick is developing a Bluetooth® dongle that plugs into this USB port that will be able to send wirelessly all of the geeky real-time data you’d ever want to an app on your smart phone.

The Ridekick conforms to the speed restrictions for electric bikes in the US: The top speed is 19 mph. That’s on a flat surface, unassisted by human pedaling. The expected range is 12 to 15 miles, with the usual caveats about the “degree of pedaling combined with Ridekick use, weight of rider, weight of load carried, temperature, terrain, and tire pressure.”

I never ran it until the battery was completely drained — that’s a no-no with lead-acid batteries. But I did run it until it began to lose the some of the pep in its push. This dip in power occurred short of the stated range, but not so much short to give me doubt that the range was accurate. The instructions say to plug in the charger whenever possible, which I did.

I basically used the trailer the way I think I would use it in my real life: as a utilitarian device for occasional cargo hauling and errands; not for a European tour. I guess I didn’t want to find out what it was like to haul a 40-pound trailer plus cargo up those hills on my commute.

I have to think that even the e-bike haters of the world could warm up to this trailer. It’s not a permanent e-bike. It’s there when you want it, and can be left at home when you don’t.

But I’m not looking to persuade the e-bike haters to love this trailer. I’m looking to persuade my wife that I’m not a schmuck — while decreasing our combined car usage.

I think a Ridekick may be the ticket.

 
Burley nomad 229

8 Responses to “Ridekick: A Nicotine Patch for Car Addiction”

  1. Thom says:

    My wife fills our Croozer cargo trailer completely when she goes to the grocery store. We’re a little family of three. Maybe with the motor you just make multiple trips? or put a rack on top?

  2. stephen allen says:

    I wonder if its possible to attach it to the back of my “megatrailer” and get a lil help..see my trailer in the biketrailer blog…

  3. BluesCat says:

    Phoenix was built by Flat Earthers. That, and 300 rainless days per year, SHOULD make the town a bicycling paradise. It doesn’t, it’s a car-centric culture.

    It’s too bad, because attaching Schwinn Scout trailer to the Specialized Hardrock makes toting a 40 pound bag of cat litter home on the flat streets a real breeze!

    The Ridekick would make that chore/delight a painless process if I could bungee cord the litter or cat food bag to the top of it like I do The Roadley Cat Food Hauler. Any hooks on the Ridekick that would allow that?

  4. The non-stop biker in PDX says:

    That is a great idea. I like being able to hook it up and use it, and when not needed leave it at home. I will be considering getting one myself.

  5. The Ridekick looks like a happy concession for ebike haters, indeed. Seems like it would be a big help for the dog food hauling trips, which generally require me to take the car (even though we only buy the small bags).

    Nice video, Ted, though I did worry about the safety of the little plastic turtle. Glad he made it back with you. The stills in the right hand corner were a nice touch.

  6. Dr. M says:

    I really have to laugh because I have been the one increasing my bike use for shopping and local errands. Mr. Husband is the one who has fallen off the wagon-pulling, but we can only lead by example, right? My reward? Filling up my car once every 2 months now and my skinny jeans are LOOSE.

    Years ago I had a Blue Sky Cycle Cart to pull the children and do grocery shopping. It really was my second car until winter hit. Neither the children or I were interested in ice road trucking and they eventually outgrew it. It was a rather large investment and today it sits unused.

    However these days I find my Basil Rear Basket holds nearly as much as your Side Kick. It has handles and clips off and onto my rear rack in seconds. Very secure, is easy to remove and doesn’t make me look like a homeless vagrant,(not that you do…exactly). You always have to make sure you are clearing your turns or flipping with a trailer and for most hauling trips, I think they are overkill. That’s my experience anyway.

  7. Paul says:

    I recently bought one for my folding bike, since hauling stuff on a small wheeled bike is more challenging and adding a electric kit to folders would defeat their advantage of being light and portable. Both the trailer and folded bike together still takes up less space than one regular bike, allowing me to store them inside my small house.

  8. LAlizzie says:

    I have two grocery paniers and the ridekick – It’s a great combo because sometimes I just use the trailer, other times just the panier(s,) or all three if need be. That said the trailer does hold quite a bit of stuff. On the commute to work I usually carry a bike tool kit, and extra battery pack, a set of work shoes, and a work jacket/blazer and still have room for a few things in the trailer. I love it.

Leave a Reply