How Rad Power Bikes Stack Up for a Boomer and a Millennial • TechCrunch

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

I wanted to see why investors seemed so keen on the company and why these bikes were gaining popularity.

The company recently sent me two e-bikes to test: the RadRunner 2 and the RadExpand 5. Both appealed to me as affordable and stable bikes that could be delivered to your door, but I also wanted to give them one review made by Rad chief product officer Redwood Stephens in a recent interview with TechCrunch.

Stephens told me that Rad’s main target customers are not city commuters. Instead, the Rad’s sturdy frames, fat tires and easy-to-read digital displays appeal to people over 50 who live in suburban or rural areas and want a greener form of transportation that still feels safe. I decided to test it out by putting my mom in 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 RadRunner utility bike with a frame, was released in December 2021 at $1,499 and is available in black or forest green. The RadExpand 5 launched in April as a $1,599 folding e-bike. Comes in black or white.

Rad Power Bike Specs

Power bikes with rad assist display

Both the RadRunner 2 and RadExpand 5 have a simple screen to turn the bike on and off, select a pedal assist level, and turn on the lights.

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

  • Motor: 750W brushless hub motor
  • 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 can be removed for charging inside
  • Range: 25 to 45 miles
  • Brakes: Mechanical disc brakes
  • Other things: Simple LED Display, Bell, 4 Pedal Assist Settings, Half Turn Throttle

Here’s what’s the same, but different:

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

The kickstands are also different. The RadExpand’s is a regular kickstand, but the RadRunner’s is a two-legged, spring-loaded kickstand, which is much harder to push. Additionally, while both bikes have LED head/tail/brake lights, the RadRunner 2’s taillights not only show when braking but also have a flash function.

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

Finally, the RadRunner and RadExpand both have fat, puncture-resistant tires, but how much fat varies on each bike. The RadRunner has 20-inch by 2.2-inch tires and the RadExpand’s tires are 20-inch by 4-inch. I found that on both bikes, the fat tires produced a bouncy, rather than bumpy, ride over potholes and other cracks in the road.

What my 61 year old mom thought of the RadRunner 2

RadRunner2 by Rad Power Bikes with the harbor in the background

The RadRunner2 is great for both on and off road. 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, which is especially good for us older folks,” Belan Sr. told me after an hour-long lap around a suburban Long Island neighborhood.

She noted that despite the 65kg weight, the RadRunner 2 isn’t that heavy compared to her current e-bike, the Aventon Pace. The Pace, by the way, does feel like you’re about to be thrown out of the saddle when you accelerate using the pedal assist.

Belan said the tall handlebar kept her from feeling like she was leaning too much, which helped with overall feelings of stability and avoiding back pain.

The model we tested had room for an extra rider in the back. It’s probably meant for a kid, but my partner and I defied the advertised 300kg weight limit on a previous jaunt through the neighborhood. My mother said she would opt for a storage rack, which is one of the options available to RadRunner 2 buyers.

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

An avid commuter cyclist, Belan even said she’d be willing to take it off-road.

“It would make me feel more confident going out on a mountain bike trail knowing I had a chance to use those extra elements and develop my legs,” Bellan said. Extras are the different levels of pedal assist and throttle. “I love that I can still train, but be able to run all the hills without killing myself.”

The display, which simply shows battery capacity, pedal assist mode and head/rear light status, is also mother-approved.

Off road with RadExpand 5

RadExpand 5 Rad Power Bikes with harbor background

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

When Rad Power dropped off the bikes to me, I was told that the RadExpand was aimed at commuters who would leave the bike in the trunk of their car and take it on camping trips and other off-road adventures. So of course, I decided to find the nearest mountain bike trail and give it a shot.

I will first note how the experience of folding and unfolding the bike was. In a word: Awkward. But over time it got easier. Folding the bike is a two-step process. First you drop the handlebars lower and then you close the bike like a book as it balances on a tire. No tools are required, which is a great time and sanity saver.

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

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I rode the bike on 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 think about how I can perform.

I am a very confident city cyclist. I can sail in and out of rush hour traffic on Second Avenue, giving the middle finger to the car double parked in the bike lane without losing momentum. But mountain biking is a whole different beast, and there were some moments where I actually feared for my life. This may be because Rad doesn’t advertise it as a mountain bike, but I’m also sure someone with more off-road experience would have found the RadExpand to be a dream on this trail.

That said, I generally felt safer on the RadExpand over this rough terrain than I ever have on a regular mountain bike.

Fat tires just make you feel more stable, and being able to rely on the throttle to accelerate when needed was vital when dealing with gravel, sand, giant tree roots and steep inclines on the trail. I guess I would say the suspension was good because I never felt that throbbing pain that goes from your tailbone to your spine riding over bumps on my bike. But that could be attributed to the bouncy tires, rather than Rad’s suspension system.

Regardless of my foray into mountain biking, being able to switch between low levels of pedal assist and throttle was something I also appreciated riding in dense urban areas. When you’re at a traffic light, for example, you want to be able to pass other pedestrians without accidentally running them over as you press down on the pedal. But when you then try to cross a busy street and walk around a double parked car, that throttle really comes in handy for speed.

conclusion

All in all, both bikes were quite a dream to ride, and for the price and ease of delivery to your door and Rad’s mobile network for testing, buying and maintaining bikes, I don’t have a lot of bad things to say about the bikes.

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