Whether you’re looking for a mountain bike, a car replacement, or a convenient commuter, there’s an electric bike out there for you. According to the market research firmNPD Group, ebike sales skyrocketed by almost 91 percent in 2017 over the previous year. That’s a lot of bikes.
Ebikes are versatile, they burn less fossil fuel, and you can ride one and still get your exercise in! But they’re not cheap. Rad Power Bikes CEO Mike Radenbaugh wanted to make electric bikes more accessible, and he made choices that shave critical dollars off the price tag.
For example, Rad Power Bikes is a direct-to-consumer company, so there’s no retail markup. And rather than relying on exclusive partnerships with trusted names in the ebike motor business, like Shimano, Yamaha, or Bosch, Radenbaugh has opted to work with multiple vendors to build Rad Power’s own custom drivetrains.
Last week, the company is debuted its latest, the RadRunner, which is a hefty, big-wheeled utility bike. It has the mind-bogglingly low (for an ebike) price of $1,299, which is even lower given that the new Chinese tariffs have forced many other small bike manufacturers to hike up their prices. It’s hard to comment on its longevity after only a few weeks, but as of now, it’s hard to find a better bargain.
Perhaps influenced by my last bike-building debacle with the RadWagon, Rad Power’s electric cargo bike, the RadRunner arrived in the mail with many of the components already assembled and tuned. The building process was much, much easier this time. Rad Power Bikes assured me that, aside from a different box and fewer included accessories, customers will also experience this easier assembly process.
The RadRunner is a massive bike. It weighs 65 pounds, with a heavy aluminum step-through frame. The battery is mounted on the seat tube, with the 750-watt motor in the rear hub. Undoubtedly contributing to the weight are its fat wheels, slung with custom Kenda tires that have small, widely-spaced treads.
The seat has a quick-release clamp, so you can easily switch riders or lower your seat so your butt isn’t sticking into your passenger’s chest. It also has a single-speed drivetrain. Normally I like being able to switch gears, but gearing takes maintenance, and it doesn’t make much sense to include them when you also have four levels of intelligent pedal assist.
The rear rack is formidable. It has a 120-pound capacity, which puts my current rear rack’s 45-pound limit to shame. Rad Power also sent the plush seat, which fits on the rear rack for a child rider; the bike also has foot pegs for your young passenger to use.
The LED console is much simpler than the RadWagon’s LCD display, with just a few buttons to indicate battery life, to bump up the level of assistance, or to turn on Walk Assist. The battery’s range is also within the 25 to 45 miles promised by the RadWagon. Over the course of a week, I got three to four days of hour-long, aimless rides before I had to recharge it.
Nickels and Dimes
In Rad Power’s admirable attempt to create the most bike for the best value, the RadRunner is a mishmash of a few weird contradictions. It feels like a casual, upright cruiser but also has tremendous wheels, a high weight capacity, and a powerful 750-watt motor that can haul you and a lot of stuff up steep hills.
I easily got up to 20 mph with the pedal assistance set to high and was able to fly up 15- to 20-degree hills. Always keeping economy in mind, RadPower will also be offering a 250-watt model in Europe and a 500-watt one in Canada, where it may be less likely that riders will have to deal with steep hills.
You’d think these huge wheels would be great on gravel or broken roads, but the bike is heavy and was a little hard for me to maneuver with such wide handlebars. I also winced every time I bumped off a curb and felt the fenders rattling, and the bike doesn’t have any suspension. I don’t think I’d take it on serious off-roading.
Also, 120 pounds is a lot of cargo for a rear rack. That can account for several loads of laundry or bags of dog food, or even a few preschoolers. But a 120-pound adult person is still pretty dainty. I don’t know many people that small. I tried to persuade my spouse to let me tote him around, but he refused.
Most of the corners that Rad Power cut, like plastic pedals instead of aluminum ones or a flat seat instead of a curved one, were fine. The designers did keep a few important features, like mechanical disc brakes, an integrated headlight, tail light, brake light, and a twist throttle. That last one may be a mixed blessing, as some states have additional restrictions against bikes with throttles.
Overall, the RadRunner is a comfortable, easygoing ebike for people who might not otherwise get on a bike at all. It’s a little cheaper and can carry a bit more weight than the RadCity, and you do have the flexibility to switch out seats and add fenders or other accessories. So if you’ve been looking for a starter ebike but can’t bring yourself to spend a couple grand, give the RadRunner a shot.