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How Rad Power Bikes is doing for a boomer and a millennial • londonbusinessblog.com

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Rad Power Bikes, the US-based e-bike manufacturer, has made its mark as a direct-to-consumer company selling fat tire bikes that have contributed to the rise of the COVID e-bike. In 2021, the company raised two huge rounds — $150 million in February 2021 and another $154 million just eight months later — putting the overall funding above and beyond what Europe’s e-bike darling VanMoof secured.

I wanted to see why investors seemed so excited about 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. They both appealed to me as affordable and stable bikes that could be delivered to your door, but I also wanted to try them based on a comment which Rad Chief Product Officer Redwood Stephens made in a recent interview with londonbusinessblog.com.

Stephens told me that Rad’s main customers are not commuters in the city. Rad’s sturdy frames, thick tires and easy-to-read digital displays are aimed at people over 50 who live in suburban or rural areas and want a greener mode of transport that still feels safe. I decided to test that by putting my mom on one of them, 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 step-through frame, came out in December 2021 for $1,499 and is available in black or forest green. The RadExpand 5 launched in April as a folding e-bike for $1,599. It comes in black or white.

Rad Power bike specs

Both the RadRunner 2 and RadExpand 5 have a simple display to turn the bike on and off, choose 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:

  • Engine: 750W Brushless Geared Hub Motor
  • Top speed: 20 miles per hour (unless you’re flying downhill, then it can definitely go faster)
  • Battery: 672 watts; can be charged on the bike or can be removed to charge indoors
  • Range: 25 to 45 miles
  • Brakes: Mechanical disc brakes
  • Other things: Simple LED display, bell, 4 pedal assist settings, half turn throttle

This is the same, but different:

Both bikes come with an optional front carrier and an integrated rear rack, but their payload differs. For example, the maximum load on the rear rack of the RadExpand is 59 pounds, but the RadRunner can handle 120 pounds (and then some, as my partner and I proved).

The standards are also different. RadExpand’s is a standard style, but RadRunner’s is a double leg, spring loaded kickstand, which is much harder to push. In addition, while both bikes have LED head/tail lights/brake lights, the RadRunner 2’s tail lights not only indicate when braking is applied, but also have a flash mode.

They are both very easy to turn on by holding the ON button, but I found that that might make them easy to steal. Many suburbs don’t really lock their bikes, preferring to leave them in the shed. For a smart bike, it would be cool to see an anti-theft locking system.

Finally, the RadRunner and the RadExpand both have fat, puncture-resistant tires, but how fat varies by 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 provided a bouncy, rather than bumpy, ride over potholes and other cracks in the road.

What my 61-year-old mother thought of the RadRunner 2

RadRunner2 from Rad Power Bikes against harbor background

The RadRunner2 is great for both on and off road. Image credit: Rebecca Bellan

“The accelerator makes it a game changer. I like how when it speeds up it doesn’t speed up where you feel like you’re being thrown back. It’s a gentle acceleration, which is especially good for us older folks,” Bellan the senior told me after an hour of biking through a Long Island suburb.

She noted that despite its 65-pound weight, the RadRunner 2 isn’t that heavy compared to her current e-bike, the Aventon Pace. By the way, the Pace does indeed feel like you’re about to be thrown off the saddle when you accelerate using the pedal assist.

Bellan said the high handlebars kept her from feeling like she was leaning forward too much, which helped with the general sense of stability and avoiding back pain.

The model we tested had a seat for an extra rider on the back. It’s probably intended for a child, but my partner and I defied the advertised 300lb weight limit on a previous outing nearby. My mom said she would opt for a storage rack instead, which is one of the options available to RadRunner 2 buyers.

“I would go shopping in it. Absolutely, without a doubt,” she said. “With all the months that I didn’t have to worry about the weather, I would be traveling around town in no time.”

Bellan, an avid suburban biker, even said she’d be willing to go off-road.

“I would feel more confident going on a mountain bike trail knowing I had the opportunity to use these extra treats and develop my legs,” said Bellan; the extra tidbits are the different levels of pedal assist and the accelerator pedal. “I like that I can still train, but cross all the hills without killing myself.”

The screen, which simply displays battery capacity, power mode of the pedal assist and the status of the head/taillight, was also mother-approved.

Off-road driving with the RadExpand 5

RadExpand 5 Rad Power Bikes Against Harbor Background

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

When Rad Power delivered the bikes to me, they told me that the RadExpand is for people in the suburbs who would leave the bike in the trunk of their car and take it with them on camping trips and other off-road adventures. So of course I decided to find the closest mountain bike trail and try the whole thing.

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

The bike weighs 62.5 pounds, which somehow feels heavier when condensed into a smaller package. I had to give it quite a swell to get it into the trunk of my crossover – I also had to fold down the rear seats for it to fit properly, so plenty of storage space is essential.

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I rode the bike to a nearby trail and decided to pick the “harder” track rather than the “easy” or “hard” track, just to see how the RadExpand would perform. I forgot to think about how I could perform.

I am a very confident urban cyclist. I can drive in and out of rush hour on Second Avenue and raise a middle finger at the car double parked on the bike path without losing speed. But mountain biking is a completely different beast, and there were times when I was really scared for my life. That may be because Rad doesn’t really advertise this as a mountain bike, but I’m also confident that someone with more off-road experience would have found the RadExpand on that trail like a dream.

That said, I generally felt safer on the RadExpand in that rough terrain than I ever did on a normal mountain bike.

The fat tires just make you feel more stable, and the fact that you can rely on the gas to accelerate when needed was vital when braving the gravel, sand, giant tree roots and big inclines in the trail. I guess I’d say the suspension was good because I’ve never felt that jarring pain going from your tailbone to your spine that I get over bumps in my push bike. But that may have been due to the springy tires, rather than Rad’s suspension system.

Unrelated to my mountain bike ride, the ability to switch between low levels of pedal assist and the throttle was something I also appreciated for riding in densely populated urban areas. For example, if you are at a traffic light, you want to be able to pass other pedestrians without accidentally bumping into them when you press the pedal. But then when you’re trying to cross a busy street and go around a double-parked car, that accelerator pedal really comes in handy for speed.

Conclusion

Overall, both bikes were pretty dreamy to ride, and for the price and ease of delivery to your door and Rad’s cellular service network to test, buy and service bikes, I don’t have many bad things to say about the bikes.

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