Business, Education, Latest News

‘It’s like you’re gliding’: Rad Power Bikes donates $60K to Mon County Schools

MORGANTOWN — Back home in rural Humboldt County, Calif., Mike Radenbaugh was known as, “That kid with the bike.”

Not just any bicycle, however.

Like Orville and Wilbur Wright’s Kitty Hawk biplane, this vehicle was a two-wheeled study of innovation and resourcefulness.

Old motorcycle batteries.

Busted engines from motor scooters.

And rudimentary powertrains, pumped by all the electric tape and frayed bungee cords the teenaged designer and builder could muster.

By the time Radenbaugh was done with his DIY electric, he owned the steep, winding roads of his home county.

That kid with the bike took the dips and turns at 35 miles an hour, with those towering redwoods a blur, as he made his to-and-from commute to high school an adventure.

Tuesday morning, in the middle of the concrete expanse of Mylan Park’s Hazel and J.W. Ruby Community Center, he had to laugh.

“Oh, yeah,” he said. “ ‘Frankenbike.’ That’s what I called it. It probably should have come with its own tetanus shot, but it got me where I needed to go. And I learned a lot when I was building it.”

Building and bikes were why he was in Morgantown for the day.

Radenbaugh is now the president and CEO of Seattle-based Rad Power Bikes, the electric bicycle maker known for its sleek lines and matte-black finishes.

On Tuesday, he came with a collection of bikes and a check for $60,000.

The bikes were for the sampling of those uninitiated with what electricity can do in tandem with pedal power.

The check was for Monongalia County Schools, to fund the district’s Project Bike Tech classroom, which will be the first of its kind in the state.

“This is a big deal,” Greg Corio said. “This is going to help make Morgantown into a true bike town.”

Corio, a longtime outdoors enthusiast and advocate, is assistant vice president of WVU’s Outdoor Economic Collaborative.

The collaborative partnered with the national Youth Cycling Coalition to fund a classroom and workspace for that effort in Mon, which pushes off in the fall.

Eddie Campbell Jr., Mon’s superintendent of schools, said the two-year program will inspire entrepreneurship and will teach a viable skill in a world where electric-powered transportation will soon be commonplace.

Campbell said it’s about science, technology, engineering and math – those all-important STEM pursuits, he said. Students learn how to repair such bicycles and how to design them, also.

It’s also about learning how to keep a hold on the handlebars in an ever-changing business environment.

“This is a win on so many levels for the students of Monongalia County,” he said. “And we’re excited to be the first in the state.”

Morgantown had a first when it became a pilot city in the coalition’s project last March to make bicycles part of the transportation grid once and for all.

Opponents say the above is impossible because of terrain and traffic, but Corio cited ongoing work on the county’s rail-trail system, plus the introduction of electric bicycles – which he said will help the region put the pedal to its mettle, as it were.

“Electric bikes are the equalizer,” he said.

That’s even more so at the gas pump, Radenbaugh said. In car terms, he said, an electric bicycle can notch the equivalent of 1,600 miles a gallon.

“That gets everybody’s attention,” he said, grinning.

Liam O’Connor was grinning after his dismount. The Morgantown High senior had just powered through several laps in the cavernous complex on one of Radenbaugh’s Rad models delivered for test spins.

“Man,” said O’Connor, who had never ridden an electric bike before.

“It’s like you’re gliding. Hardly any work at all.”

TWEET @DominionPostWV