Today I’m starting a new “So I Bought…” series of blog posts, and today’s topic is a perfect example of why I’ve been wanting to start this series.
As titled, it’s about my electric bike (ebike). But this isn’t about ebikes in general, this isn’t a product comparison, and this post isn’t about my hopes and dreams of a cycle-friendly America…it’s just about my bike & accessories. This post is for people who are thinking about getting one, or for your accessory mavens who want to see EXACTLY what I use and how I use it.
So like majority of LadyJupiter.com, this is just me sharing my experiences. I aim to provide information for those who seek it. I just love writing and sharing – enjoy!
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links; I may earn a tiny commission on purchases.
So I Bought…an Electric Bike
In fairness, it’s really just a battery-assisted bike because the pedals provide locomotion. A fully electric bike would be something like an electric motorcycle (which sounds like a lot of fun to be honest, but not toddler-friendly transportation).
In May 2020 Mister Jupiter and I bought a pair of ebikes from Rad Power Bikes, and were lucky to receive them in June and July so that we could enjoy riding around our neighborhood whilst hiding from COVID-19. I was already researching ebikes, but the pandemic pushed us to buy the bikes for recreation since everything was cancelled. We suddenly had the time, and Kid Jupiter was tired of being cooped up in the house.
They were not cheap – they were a worthy investment and worth the wait.
I’ll post about Mister’s bike later, because today’s focus is my bike; a Rad City Step Thru version three. I was initially interested in a Rad Wagon, but I changed my mind after reading a lot of complaints about the high center of gravity. The Wagon has since been redesigned to improve balance, but I even had that issue with my City ST3 when Kid Jupiter was mounted on the rear rack in a Thule Yepp Maxi.
Kid Jupiter and I really loved riding together, but the weight distribution was bad for me. He was gaining weight at the same rate that I was losing weight -we fell a few times- and it sucked. Neither one of us suffered any real injuries, but I wasn’t going to keep riding with that unfavorable balance. However, Mister Jupiter could safely ride with our little passenger so the Kid still got bike rides, but with the taller, heavier, and stronger parent.
So I shopped for a trailer and landed on a Schwinn Trailblazer for a single passenger (doubles are available too). We attached the coupler to my bike, checked the hardware, put on our helmets, and hit the road. It’s perfect for us! My City ST3 (70lbs) is easy to balance because the weight is all below my waist, then my 30lb Kid + 20lb trailer ride behind me. He has his own air tires, five point harness, helmet, and windows. The Schwinn trailer (like others) has a bug screen and weather shield that’s perfect for chilly days. This trailer (like others for children or cargo) recommend staying under 10mph. This does feel limiting because I know that my bike can easily go faster, but the lower speeds feel safer. Rad bikes have speedometers, so it’s easy to monitor our speed and be safe.
The only negatives to the Schwinn trailer was the tiny reflector and apparently airworthy safety flag. These were both easily remedied after buying a reflective belt that easily fits the trailer frame, and a replacement flag & pole set. I don’t know where I lost the original flag, but I look for it when we ride because I don’t litter on purpose.
Unfortunately we live in a car-dependent neighborhood, which means that we need a car to safely traverse our town outside of our housing subdivision. We don’t have bike lanes, we have a lot of hills, and the sidewalks are peppered with mailboxes mounted in the concrete. I bring this up to let you know that we can’t use a bike as a car alternative like others can. So this is a location-limited recreational vehicle, and that works for us right now.
But I won’t let car-centric city planning get in the way of us having a good time! We have several friends within safe-biking range, and we enjoy family rides to see them. Sometimes we will also bring beverages, so I bought a front rack and basket. The basket I chose isn’t a bike-specific accessory – it’s for home organization! It was sourced on Amazon, and is the largest in a set of three. All of the baskets fit, but I wanted the largest one, so I zip tied it to the front rack at four points where the basket and rack securely touched. The front rack that holds said basket was purchased from Rad Power Bikes because I wanted to buy the right part the first time.
I clip a small MOLLE pouch in the basket; that’s where I keep a face mask, my garage door opener, ID, and phone. The bag is easy to remove and reattach – it’s ideal for folks like me who can’t trust their pockets (MOLLE is an acronym for Modular Lightweight Load-Carrying Equipment). When my ebike is parked at home I keep my helmet in the basket too, but I would rather wear the helmet and ride with fun stuff. I don’t plan on moving heavy things in the front rack (well, not heavier than a few choice beverages). In the future, if I can safely bike to a grocery store regularly, then I will find and bolt down a cargo rear rack for groceries. Until then the front rack is great for little things, the back of Kid Jupiter’s trailer has a bit of storage, AND I can always wear a backpack – so we have a lot of carrying capacity without any rear rack gear.
Lastly I did buy a handle bar-mounted mirror…but it seems to be a physical representation of Schrödinger’s Cat though. When I look in the mirror, the street behind us is clear, but when I’m watching the road we get passed by surprise vehicles. I still keep it on the bike though, because it is faster than twisting to look behind, but I wouldn’t mind a more reliable vehicle detection device.
So overall, I am very happy with my bike as is. Rad has several models for all kinds of riders. Mine was voted bicycling.com’s Editor’s Choice urban ebike in 2019, and I can see why. It feels like a mountain bike, but I can ride it upright. It can easily pull a trailer, and the regenerative battery is a nice touch (not available on all models though). My City ST3 has seven gears that I’ll never use properly, and the battery offers five levels of pedal assistance. The battery does just that, it assists the pedaling and helps maintain your cadence. Some people might misconstrue that battery levels translate into speed, but that’s not accurate. If I want to work my legs I could fly at PAS1, or I can take it easy and slow at PAS5. So it’s not speed, it’s just how much work you want the battery to do. We live in a hilly area, so I generally cruise at PAS3, unless I am actively going uphill at PAS5. Regardless my seat is low enough to quickly dismount when I need to push the bike and trailer up a hill (it’s happened once and will surely happen again!).
I will probably upgrade my seat or seat post one day, but it’s not a necessity right now when I still need a car too. Hopefully our next home will be somewhere more bike-friendly. I will definitely upgrade my seat and get Kid Jupiter a bigger trailer if we can use my City ST as an alternate mode of transportation. Hell, just being able to ride to a post office would be nice. One day!
Thanks for joining me in this first “So I Bought…” post! Expect more in the future about all sorts of things – not just recreational vehicles.