Have you seen the RideKick Electric Push Trailer?
If you have or have not you’ll still want to read more of my opinions on what might make or break this product and this company. RideKick in my opinion is a fantastic idea and a well engineered product (on paper anyways). The concept of pushing one’s bicycle brings to mind a lot of questions; first and foremost “Does it work”? The answer to that is YES. And here is why… the RideKick trailer connects directly to your rear wheel axle like any bicycle trailer. So the force will be transmitted through the same mechanics as the freewheel or cassette on the opposite side of your rear wheel. It just makes sense right? Will it swerve or create problems in turns? It doesn’t seem to from all the reviews that I have read. And no I don’t know if it will break or tip over if you crash or tip over. I haven’t ridden one yet!
So What is to Like About the RideKick?
Before I get into this further let me jump over to their site and grab the Specifications:
Dimensions: 24” wide x 39” long* x 16” tall (60.9 cm x 99 cm x 40.6 cm)
Weight: 40 pounds with battery pack (Battery is 18lbs)
Cargo Capacity: Rated to 75lbs
Motor: 500 watt electric brush motor
Battery Pack: Sealed Lead Acid (SLA), 24 volt, 12 amp hour
Controller: Microprocessor based smart controller
Hitch: Quick Release
Speed Control: hand-operated throttle
Maximum Speed: 19 mph (20 mph is the legal limit in USA Federal Law)
Range: Expected Distance 12-15 miles
Okay that’s the basics you can head over to RideKick DOT COM if you want a little more detail… but lets get into what I like about this product now. This is a commercial product manufactured (As is my understanding) in the United States. I’m sure they use components that are sourced outside the country as well, but the bottom line is you can buy one without sending your money off to China via Paypal.
I’m sick to death of no name sites pitching Chinese CRAP via Paypal. I’m sick of visiting Forums and having some idiot “Chime in” about how they can buy a whole electric bike kit for $200. Great if they can do that then do it and shut the hell up. The Chinese Crap you get off eBay may or may not work, will come with instructions you probably can’t read. “For most pleasure ride connect left wire to wheel now”. What? The eBay special will have a warranty and all you have to do to get your warranty service is pay $125 Shipping back to the factory in China and then another $125 to have it returned to you! That’s assuming you get the product you actually ordered after the month long wait. Anyways enough hammering on the Chinese Crap, if you are the type of person that doesn’t mind buying complete junk with the hope that it will work then more power to you!
RideKick is NOT designed for the tinkerer, it’s designed for the recreational cyclist or commuter. It’s a finished product designed for people who just want to ride and enjoy their cycling experience. I’ve read hundreds posts on Endless Sphere and the people there don’t mind tearing things apart, soldiering, and rewiring. They also seem to want to go 40 miles per hour on a bicycle. I do not want to do any of those things, I just enjoy riding as recreation which is why I enjoy the recumbent community so much. What do you want to do? If you are the Endless Sphere type then the RideKick is probably not for you.
I would also like to touch on the constant belittling by the Lance Armstrong wannabees that say “Why would you want an electric motor on your bike if that’s what you want then get a scooter”. Well here is exactly why and I’ll give you an example. My loop is 18 miles and it’s part city street and part bike path and has some wicked hills. At the end of my loop is a 1.5 mile climb at 3-5 %. I live in the Desert Southwest where 80 degrees at 10am in the summer is an abnormally cool morning. So as I head off for my like I have a fair amount of energy… 15 minutes into my ride I’m dripping buckets of sweat. I have to stop and stand up to let the heat dissipate off of my back and rehydrate. By the time I get to mile 16.5 and look up at that last mile and a half climb I am asking myself why I chose to ride in this heat. And that’s the time I want to push a little button and have a little device push me up that hill!
I see no glory in being Lance Armstrong. I ride for fun. And with an electric assist I will have a whole lot more fun and will WANT to ride more. The human body (especially as we age) only needs 20 minutes or so of moderate exercise per day for health benefits. Riding 18 miles takes me one hour and 15 minutes on average considering the hills. I cruise the bike paths at about 18mph and climb hills at about 8 mph. I do NOT need more exercise, I need more FUN!
I’ve looked at just about every bike kit and electric bike reseller in the United States that I can find online. I’ve talked to many owners and probably frustrated them to death. I’ve talked to “Reputable” dealers in China (Which is not an easy task) and that bottom line is none of them are selling a “Solution” they are selling parts. I asked ebikes.ca which has an excellent reputation to build me a kit and they told me to just buy the Ezee Kit. That’s nice. But I don’t want a junk Chinese rim and junk spokes. The Weinmann product may be quality in China, but I don’t like it. Nearly all of the Chinese Rims are made with junk Chinese Steel spokes (No Name) and are assembled by factory workers NOT wheel builders. A properly tensioned and trued wheel is essential! The Chinese Solution is to use 12 gauge spokes which will not break and you don’t really true so much because they are so stiff. But that creates it’s own problems with rims and stiffness. These are scooter wheels NOT bicycle wheels. I do not want to ride a scooter I want a bicycle with Electric Assist. The RideKick does not interfere with your bicycle it enhances it! And these “Kits” add their own weight and problems for riding those times when you do not want assist.
Side Note: If you want a decent Chinese Manufactured eBikeKit backed by a USA Company I would suggest you buy from eBikeKit (Jason). It’s the best bang for the buck, but not what I want.
Let me summarize some Benefits of the RideKick:
- Simple installation – hook it on and go
- Multiple bikes – get an extra adapter for each bicycle your ride
- Folds out of the way for storage
- USA Company so easy to acquire
- 1 Year Warranty
Lets Talk About Potential Problems with the Ridekick
I’m worried that RideKick is not gaining enough momentum in the cycling community to survive as a company. Google Searches for the product are DISMAL… less than a 1,000 per month. The dealer base is very small at time even though it’s been less than a year since production so I expect this will improve.
SLA battery technology is KLUDGE KLUDGE KLUDGE. And it’s not the weight in this case as the trailer is going to need some weight to get traction. It’s the life cycles and the poor range. You can’t make SLA any better than it is. I know a whole lot about SLA battery technology and a fair amount about the Lithium technologies as I have read them to death. SLA batteries do NOT last long if you discharge them beyond 50%. So your 12 Amp Hour battery in SLA form is really an 18lb 6 Amp Hour batter. At 24 volts you have 24 x 6 = 144 Watt Hours. If you are riding on the flats with no head wind and using an average of 12 Watt Hours per mile with pedaling you are going to get 12 miles before the battery dies. That’s it. If you encounter any headwind that is going to go down, if you climb hills that is going to drop dramatically. So the range simply is not there with SLA. Contrast this to the soon to be released 20 Amp Hour lithium battery (Which you should be able to discharge to 20% remaining) or 16 effective Amp Hours available and your distance jumps to 32 miles with pedaling. That’s a gigantic difference. With most people wanting to feel “safe” out to 20 miles I just don’t see the SLA as a viable option. Sure you could add another 18lbs to the equation and for people that live in areas without hills like Florida perhaps that is an option, but not a selling point for most people.
Okay so lets just figure that in order for RideKick to survive they are going to need a cost effective Lithium Solution (They know this). But what is cost effective for Lithium Technology imported to the United States? If you use the AllCell (US Based – Chicago) model then it’s probably going to be around $750 for the battery! Will RideKick be able to do the volume to bring the battery cost down? Will RideKick choose a cheap Chinese Manufacturer (Probably but lets hope they can warranty the batteries). Seriously if you add in the Lithium Technology required to make the RideKick a successful product you DOUBLE THE COST. At a retail of $1,400 these become a tough sell! So battery technology and pricing is going to make or break RideKick.
What Else Can RideKick do to Make Their Product More Saleable?
The first thing they can do is convince the masses that their product is going to LAST? How does one do that? Do they offer an extended warranty option? Perhaps $50 to $75? Do they offer motor upgrades? Do they offer custom painted models or special edition models? I don’t know what they are going to do but here are my thoughts.
I’m not a fan of the brushed motors because I know the brushes are going to need replacement. How many miles until they break down? I think Ridekick needs to come clean on the life of these motors and have an option for Manufacturer servicing and refurbishment of the product.
I believe Ridekick needs to do with their controller what the Scanning Industry did with Personal Radio Scanners years ago when the FCC made it illegal to monitor certain frequencies. They built products that allowed users to source their own upgrade “crystals”. If they did that then the burden of proof was not on the manufacturer, but on the end user.
In order to stay compliant with the law RideKick must adhere with the 20 mph limit. But this is not to say they could not “over engineer” their controller electronics to handle more power. The controller after all should run cool! If you read the forums on electric vehicles motors and controllers can handle more power than they are generally rated for. RideKick should comply with the law of course, but as an end user consumer I should have an option to upgrade by battery to 36 volt and the controller should handle the additional voltage. People want to buy products that will do what they want them to do. There is the law of common sense that says bicycles are not motorcycles and bicycle manufacturer products to work at bicycle safe speeds. But if you want to sell product you have to meet the entire market and in the world of electric bicycles that actually includes tinkerers and modifiers.
I personally have no desire to ride above 25mph. I don’t want to ever ride my bike at a rate that is faster than I can power it myself under ideal conditions. And for me and my bike it’s 25mph. For others it may be faster or slower. I also do not want to push my components at their extremes. If 19mph is the Top Speed then I don’t want to push full throttle to get there… I want to push 75% and be there. Bottom line is I don’t want to be on the bleeding edge of what it can do with no headroom.
RideKick needs an information remote at the Handlebar like the Cycle Analyst. Stopping your bicycle and getting off your bike and going back to the trailer to check how much battery is left is a poor solution.
I believe another way for RideKick to succeed is to publish their gearing and parts used (This may seen contrary to sales) so that the tinkerers can modify the units if they want. Sure it would void the warranty, but that is NOT RideKicks problem. When I had my automobile motor rebuilt they used a product called a “Heat Tab”. If the engine overheats the tab bursts and the warranty is void. Controllers could be programmed or stickers used so that if modified the warranty is void. This releases the Manufacter from warranty or liability, but gives the end user the freedom to do with the product whatever they want. I like that idea a lot. By publishing gearing it would be simple for an end user to source replacement parts (i.e. different size chain rings) for more torque or speed.
I’d like to see RideKick price the unit WITHOUT A BATTERY so the consumer could choose SLA or Lithium, or maybe even NiMH and not “waste” the money on the lesser technologies.
I’d like to see RideKick offer consumers a “Shell” version where they can source their own motor, controller and battery. Or at least offer more options, I just don’t think 24 volt is heavy duty enough for the hills in my area that I would like to ride. So offering me the option to buy a 36 volt or a shell that I can customize with multiple voltages or multiple chainrings makes the product infinitely more usable. For planned trips in the hills I could pop in a different battery or I could put on a chainring for climbing.
When I first saw the RideKick I thought wow I could load that thing up with batteries and really extend the range, then I thought “I wonder if I would burn up the motor”. So who knows? If the trailer needs a certain amount of weight for better traction I’d load it up with a few water jugs and go lithium as opposed to using SLA and dreading the extra weight unpowered. If I needed to lighten it up I could dump the water. Sweet and easy.
I hope RideKick comes out with more color options. I’m sure for some people bright and flashy would be in order (Especially for those who ride on city streets). For my purposes gray is just fine, but I do not want to be a moving billboard for the product. I attract enough attention on my bike already. And while I know the attention is great for RideKick and marketing I at times get tired of talking to people about my bicycle. I certainly don’t want to be asked constant questions about the trailer that I own. This is not the same as demoing or reviewing the product; at those times I want the attention. But eventually I know it will wear thin. Trust me on this one I’ve been fielding questions on my bike since I started riding it. I’m not a Rock Star and I don’t want to be. I often choose to ride at times I know the paths will be clears just for some solitude.
I see enormous potential for the RideKick and I do hope they make it.
If you are considering the RideKick don’t look just at the price. Look at the enjoyment. The price is nothing compared to the eBike Options (Which are much more expensive). Recumbents are awesome and not needing to modify yours to get electric assist is the way to go.
I’m sold on the concept of RideKick. I’m very excited. I actually really want one. But I will wait until the Lithium version is proven. Right now they are so close to having this where I would pull the trigger. But the speed limit, the unproven reliability for climbing, and the SLA technology just have me gun shy. I’m also a little shy on the price with lithium… but who isn’t.
Well here is to hoping the volume goes up so the price can come down. I believe the correct price point is $849 with 20 amp hour lithium. Is there enough profit at that price point to warranty and support by dealers? I don’t know!
If you know anyone at Ridekick please ask them to publish information on the tires and how to change them. What PSI do they run at? Can you put slime tubes in them? How much do they cost to replace?
Geez just publish the owners manual already in pdf format on the site!