How Rad Power Bikes Stack Up for Boomer and Millennial

Rad Power Bikes, the US-based e-bike manufacturer, made its mark as a direct-to-consumer business selling the fat-tire bikes that helped shape the e-bike boom against COVID. In 2021, the company raised two massive rounds – 150 million dollars in February 2021 and another 154 million dollars just eight months later – bringing its total funding above what European e-bike darling VanMoof has secured.

I wanted to understand why investors seem so keen on the company and why these bikes are gaining popularity.

The company recently sent me two e-bikes to test: the RadRunner 2 and the RadExpand 5. I liked both of them as affordable and stable bikes that can be delivered to your door, but I also wanted to try them based on a comment that the main product director of Rad Redwood Stevens did in a recent interview with TechCrunch.

Stephens told me that Rad’s primary target customers are not urban commuters. Rather, the Rad’s sturdy frames, fat tires, and easy-to-read digital displays are aimed at people over 50 who live in the suburbs or rural areas and want a greener form of transportation that still feels safe. I decided to test this out by putting my mom on one of these, and you’ll hear her thoughts on it later (Spoiler: She wants to buy one.)

The RadRunner 2, an update to Rad’s highly successful step-frame RadRunner utility bike, is out in December 2021 for $1,499 and is available in black or forest green. The RadExpand 5 launched in April as a folding electric bike priced at $1,599. Available in black or white.

Rad Power Bike Specifications

Pedal Assist display for power bikes

Both the RadRunner 2 and the RadExpand 5 have a simple display for turning the bike on and off, selecting the pedal assist level, and turning on the lights.

The two bikes have a very similar look, feel and performance. Here’s what they have in common:

  • Engine: 750W brushless motor with hub gear
  • Maximum speed: 20 mph (unless you’re flying downhill, then it can definitely go faster)
  • Battery: 672 Wh; can be charged on the bike or removed to charge inside
  • Scope: 25 to 45 miles
  • Brakes: Disc mechanical brakes
  • Other stuff: Simple LED display, chime, 4 pedal assist settings, half turn throttle

Here’s what’s the same but different:

Both bikes come with an optional front rack and an integrated rear rack, but their load capacities are different. For example, the RadExpand’s maximum rear rack load is 59 pounds, but the RadRunner can handle 120 pounds (and then some, as my partner and I proved.)

The stands are also different. The RadExpand’s is a simple stand, but the RadRunner is a two-legged, spring-loaded stand that’s much harder to push. Also, while both bikes have LED front/rear/brake lights, the RadRunner 2’s tail lights not only indicate when braking, they also have a flashing mode.

Both are very easy to turn on by holding down the ON button, but I found that perhaps makes them easy to steal. Many suburbanites don’t actually lock up their bikes, but rather leave them in the shed. For a smart bike, it would be great to see an anti-theft locking system.

Finally, the RadRunner and RadExpand both have thick, puncture-resistant tires, but how thick varies between bikes. The RadRunner has tires that measure 20 inches by 2.2 inches, and the RadExpand tires measure 20 inches by 4 inches. I found that on both bikes the fat tires were made for bouncy rather than bumpy riding over potholes and other cracks in the road.

What my 61 year old mother thought of the RadRunner 2

RadRunner2 by Rad Power Bikes against the harbor background

The RadRunner2 is great for both on-road and off-road use. Image credit: Rebecca Belan

“The throttle makes it a game changer. I like how when it accelerates, it doesn’t accelerate where you feel like you’re being thrown back. It’s a gentle acceleration that’s especially helpful for us older folks,” the elder Belan told me after an hour-long loop around a suburban Long Island neighborhood.

She noted that despite its 65-pound weight, the RadRunner 2 isn’t that heavy compared to her current e-bike, the Aventon Pace. The Pace, by the way, really feels like you’re going to be thrown out of the saddle when you accelerate with the pedal.

Belan said the high handles kept her from feeling like she was bending over too much, which helped with the overall feeling of stability and avoiding back pain.

The model we tried had room for an extra rider on the back. It’s probably meant for a child, but my partner and I defied the advertised 300-pound weight limit on a previous walk around the neighborhood. My mom said she would have opted for a storage shelf instead, which is one of the options available to RadRunner 2 buyers.

“I would shop in it. Absolutely, without a doubt,” she said. “With all the months I didn’t have to worry about the weather, this is how I got around town.”

An avid suburban cyclist, Belen even said she’d be willing to ride it off-road.

“It would make me feel more confident going on a mountain bike trail knowing that I had the opportunity to use those extra treats and develop my legs,” Bellon said; additional goodies are the different levels of pedal and throttle assist. “I like that I can still work out, but I can cross all the hills without killing myself.”

The screen, which simply shows battery capacity, pedal power mode, and front/rear light status, was also mom-approved.

Off-road with RadExpand 5

RadExpand 5 Rad Power Bikes against the harbor background

The RadExpand 5 is also great for on and off roads. Image credit: Rebecca Belan

When Rad Power dropped off the bikes for me, they told me that the RadExpand was aimed at suburbanites who would leave the bike in the trunk of their car and take it on camping trips and other off-road adventures. So naturally I decided to find the nearest mountain bike trail and try it all.

First I will note what the folding and unfolding experience of the bike is like. In a word: clunky. But it got easier over time. Folding the bike is a two-step process. First you drop the handlebars lower and then you close the bike like a book while balancing on one tire. No tools are required, which is great for saving time and sanity.

The bike weighs 62.5 pounds, which somehow feels heavier when condensed into a smaller package. I had to give it a good tug to get it into the trunk of my crossover – I also had to put the back seat in to get it to fit properly, so ample storage is essential.

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I took the bike to a nearby trail and decided to go for the “harder” track as opposed to the “easy” or “hard” tracks just to see how the RadExpand would perform. I forgot to consider how I could present myself.

I am a very confident urban cyclist. I can weave in and out of Second Avenue rush hour traffic by giving a middle finger to a car double-parked in the bike lane without losing momentum. But mountain biking is a whole different beast and there were times when I really feared for my life. This may be because Rad doesn’t really market this as a mountain bike, but I’m also confident that someone with more off-road experience would find the RadExpand a dream on this trail.

However, I generally felt more secure with the RadExpand on this rough terrain than I ever would on a normal mountain bike.

Fat tires just make you feel more stable, and the fact that you can rely on the throttle to accelerate when needed was vital when dealing with gravel, sand, giant tree roots, and big inclines in the trail. I guess I’d say the suspension is good because I never once felt that searing pain that runs from my tailbone up my spine that I get when I ride over bumps in my push bike. But that could be due to the bouncy tires rather than the Rad’s suspension system.

Unrelated to my mountain bike experience, being able to switch between low levels of pedal assist and throttle was something I also appreciated when riding in dense urban areas. When you’re at a traffic light, for example, you want to be able to crawl past other pedestrians without accidentally bumping into them while pedaling. But when you’re then trying to cross a busy street and go around a double-parked car, that throttle really comes in handy for speed.

Conclusion

Overall, both bikes were pretty dreamy to ride and for the price and convenience of delivery to your door and Rad’s mobile service network for testing, buying and servicing bikes, I can’t say too many bad things about the bikes.

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