Fort Collins, Colorado-based start-up, Ridekick, has a new take on the electric bicycle: they offer something that's not a bicycle at all. Instead, they think an electric powered trailer that can be easily attached to most conventional bikes is a better solution.
The Ridekick is an option for the cyclist who wants either full time, or perhaps, only occasional electric assist, but neither wants to go out and buy a brand-new electric bicycle, nor permanently retrofit their existing one.
So, how does it work?
It's fairly simple. After a special hitch is attached to the bicycle - at the point where the rear wheel attaches to the frame - the trailer can be quickly attached or removed as needed by the rider.
When the trailer is attached, a handlebar throttle control control can propel the bike along at up to 19 mph in pure electric-only mode; or the rider can have the electric motor provide assistance while pedaling along as normal. If electing to use electric drive only, the battery will last approximately 12 miles but a rider can travel further if they're pedaling too.
A key benefit is that as well as providing power, the trailer offers useful carrying capacity, with sufficient space to fit in a normal size bag of groceries. And carrying a payload is at least one occasion when electric assist is most useful.
The trailer is powered by a lead-acid type battery - offered as standard - which is cheaper than the available lithium-ion variety. In fact, because the trailer needs a certain amount of weight in order to provide good traction, the heavier lead-acid battery is actually a practical choice, and will also be cheaper to replace when it reaches the end of life.
The Ridekick would be compelling for the rider who wants to use his or her bike for exercise or sports riding at the weekend - with trailer removed - while quickly re-attaching it to commute during the week; allowing the rider to arrive at work without getting all hot and sweaty. That said, the trailer does add another piece of equipment to lug around, which might be less convenient under certain circumstances, if it's necessary to take the bike on public transport, for instance.
I visited a local dealer to see if I could test the device, but unfortunately they didn't have a demonstration model available, though I was told it works well, and is stable. The unit available for retail that I saw looked well made and easy to store. The dealer explained the type of customers who buy it include people who have difficult hills on their commute, and interestingly, one customer was a 92 year old lady who bought a Ridekick to replace an existing non-powered trailer she owned; she now needs a little electric assist to continue riding, so the Ridekick was a good choice.
At $699 it's hardly inexpensive, but it's easy to spend well in excess of $2000 on a good quality dedicated electric bicycle. If you routinely carry cargo on your bicycle, this would probably be a good, if not better, solution than an electric bike, and since it takes up a lot less space than a second bike, it should be great for apartment dwellers too.
Here's an amusing video of the Ridekick in action.