Review: RadTrike by a Person with Mobility Issues (SCI) — Nicole O'Meara

Nicole in a bike helmet on the RadTrike on a neighborhood street.  The sky is blue and an American flag is waving on the house behind her.

I’m a walker. Well, I was a walker, before my spinal cord injury.

I used to walk 1-2 miles daily around my neighborhood with my dog by my side. My home in the Sierra foothills of Northern California allowed me to soak up plenty of sunshine and enjoy shameless displays of color: roses, lupines, poppies, and more. I knew I’d smell the scent of sweet jasmine as I cornered the house near the mailboxes. Sometimes, Zephyr, my aussiedoodle, and I spotted the wild coyote that liked to sit in the meadow behind our house, the tips of his ears just above the dry grass, watching as we walked by. We waved hello to other dog walkers and learned not to disrupt the birders who came with giant cameras searching for a certain species that might stop at the collection pond in the middle of the meadow. Occasionally, we spooked a deer or scattered a flock of wild turkeys.

Walking with a Spinal Cord Injury

Walking was my exercise of choice. It was also a way to commune with my Creator. The loss of walking was one of the things I grieved after my spinal cord injury. It was as if I lost more than the ability to put one foot in front of the other. It felt like I lost part of me.

I miss walking the most when spring comes around. The scent of new growth stirs me to move. I itch to be outside. We were talking about this, Chris and I, when I spoke what I thought was silliness, “I wish they made electric trikes for adults.” I can’t ride a bicycle. I don’t have a lot of core strength and wouldn’t be able to put my foot down fast if I lost my balance.

I knew about electric four-wheelers. I’d seen the one Zack at JerryRig Everything made out of two electric bicycles for his disabled wife. But, I don’t need a full four-wheel vehicle. Since I have an “incomplete” spinal cord injury, I have some mobility. I need a bicycle with more stability, aka a tricycle. Chris’ response to my silly comment surprised me. “They do make e-trikes!”

Enter, the RadTrike. After watching reviews, I was pretty sure the RadTrike was the way to get me back outside and “walking” the neighborhood again.

The RadTrike Specs

The RadTrike is an electric tricycle with full-size bike wheels for stability. The motor has five levels of pedal assist starting at walking speed (roughly 2.7 mph) and going up to 14 mph. What does that mean? When I am able to pedal, even a little bit, the bike assists me and increases my speed a little bit to a lot (PAS 1-5).

It can tackle hills, a requirement for my location in the foothills. It has a disc brake in front and a step-back pedal brake in the back (like the one on your kid’s bike). The seat tube is mounted on an angle giving me room to lift my weak leg over the bike and a seat back from when my core muscles need support. Best of all for me, it has a wheel lock so that I can mount the bike without it rolling away from me.

A little about me. I’m 5’2” with an incomplete spinal cord injury. I can walk, with a brace and a cane, but I’m tippy and my endurance is near zero. The RadTrike can fit a person 4’10” to 6’4”. It weighs 85 pounds and can fold to fit in the back of an SUV. (I can’t lift 85 pounds but it’s nice to know the RadTrike can fit in the back of my car.) The RadTrike has a headlamp in front and brake lights in the back, which is great as I plan to walk in the evenings when the Delta Breeze comes in and sweeps away the heat of the day. The RadTrike can be trimmed out with a large basket in the back and a small basket in the front. The only thing left is to figure out how to carry my cane in the basket in case I need to get off the trike and hobble around.

I wish the RadTrike had a gauge to measure my speed (MPH). Some people mount their smartphones to the handlebars to get that info.

Nicole is wearing a helmet and sunglasses on a sunny day. She is turning the RadTrike in a circle on an empty street.

The RadTrike Feel

This is the first electric bike I’ve ridden and it took some getting used to. The motor made it feel more like driving and less like riding. But it didn’t take long to get the hang of it.

The pedal assist buttons are on the lefthand grip. If I feel like pedaling, which I can do, I set the PAS Level to 1. That keeps me at walking speed. If I don’t feel up to pedaling, I can stop moving my legs and use the throttle to increase or decrease my speed as needed. The throttle is on the righthand grip. Most days, my right hand gets tired or cramps up from holding the throttle steady. A short break is all I need to be able to get going again.

When turning, I learned it is best to slow way down and turn wide. At first, I turned very wide because I felt like the back two wheels made me very wide. But in actuality, they aren’t very wide at all—the bike can roll through a standard doorway. Still, I had to retrain my brain that I am more stable than on a bicycle and I can turn more narrowly than I think. Same for going over bumps or uneven surfaces—I am more stable than I feel.

The RadTrike for the Win!

I’ve taken my RadTrike on evening walks a dozen times now. I’ve walked with Chris, with and without the dog. I’ve walked with friends. I love that I can go at their pace and easily hold a conversation since the motor is almost silent.

Being outdoors and moving at a quick pace is nostalgic. It gives me independence. I get the same feeling as walking—effortlessly moving quickly and wherever I want. It feel like I’m finding a piece of me that I’d lost. I can’t stop smiling.

That feeling was worth every penny.

I love sending my subscribers special goodies and encouragement straight to their inbox. One of those goodies is a list of 12 Verses to Help You Endure. I’d love to send it to you.

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