- An approachable, comfortable, and relatively affordable, city style electric bicycle that comes in one color and one frame size, swept-back handlebars and adjustable stem improve fit range
- Ready for all sorts of ride conditions and applications with full-coverage plastic fenders, LED lights, hybrid tires, an integrated rear rack and an adjustable spring suspension fork with lockout
- Twist throttle provides instant power but can also be disabled, pedal assist relies on a higher resolution 12-magnet sensor, both brake levers have motor inhibitors for safety, large 180 mm brake rotors
- Mechanical disc brakes require more hand strength and the levers don't offer adjustable reach, gearless motors start smoother and slower but tend to be durable and quiet, rear light uses AAA batteries, new Velofix delivery and assembly option
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Along with the second generation battery and design improvements that Rad Power Bikes introduced for all 2018 models, they also launched a brand new ebike called the RadCity Step-Thru! and it’s one of my personal favorites. In my opinion, this bike bridges the gap between hybrid city models like the original RadCity (which had low-rise and now mid-rise handle bars) and cruiser models which tend to have swept-back bars that support an upright, relaxed body position. This electric bicycle offers a blend of efficiency, utility, and comfort that is much easier to mount, and stand-over than any of the other RPB models to date. While it was only available in one frame size and color option at the time this review was produced, there’s still a lot of adjustability in the stem and handlebar position to dial in fit. Also, I found that the saddle height could be set very, very low, providing stability for riders who might struggle with balance or be new to cycling. At any time, with the seat positioned adequately low, the rider can put his or her feet down and stabilize the bike without hopping off or scooting forward. It’s a real confidence booster! Notice how the rear rack is welded directly onto the seat stays vs. being bolted on, and the rack stays are long and wide, so when you do lower the saddle it can fit in between the and won’t collide with a child seat or rear basket. And, I love that they chose to position the battery pack low and towards the center of the frame verses on or under that rear rack. This keeps the bike balanced and stable while reducing frame flex… yes, the pack is a little bit exposed to kicks in this position, but the hard plastic shell should hold up just fine, and it’s a bit easier to access and remove from this position than if it were behind the seat tube. Notice the extra material where the main tube attaches the the head tube, this is a gusset design that makes the frame stiffer and capable of hauling up to 275 lbs, according to official RPB company estimates. You can see that there is also additional tubing that surrounds the battery pack and connects the main tube back to the seat tube. This extra material adds some weight to the bike, and the RadCity Step-Thru weighs ~63.3 lbs vs. the ~61 lb high-step RadCity models, but that cross member provides added pant leg and dress protection from rubbing or snagging on the chain; it’s like a strength enhancer and chain protector all in one. The chainring itself is sandwiched between two alloy plates which act as a guide, so you won’t drop the chain on bumpy sections of road, and it further protects clothing when pedaling. For me, the RadCity Step-Thru gets a lot of things right and manages to keep the price at a very reasonable $1,500, but there are trade-offs. The 180 mm mechanical disc brakes are large and capable, but the levers are longer and require more hand strength than hydraulic levers which often provide adjustable reach. The rear light runs on disposable AAA batteries vs. being wired-in to the main rechargeable battery pack and this requires an additional step each time you start and finish a ride… if you forget to turn the light off, those batteries are going to drain unnecessarily and you could end up without light on your way home from work. The motor is quiet and durable, but not as lightweight, zippy or capable from standstill or climbing as the RadMini and RadRover which use Geared hubs. I love that Rad Power Bikes is now selling in Europe and Canada (with a specced down motor to comply with regulations) and have found that the product comes mostly assembled, but note the extra effort and trash of direct-buy products vs. working with a shop. Interestingly, the company has now partnered with Velofix to have them handle assembly, delivery, and a free 30-day tuneup for only $100 more with your purchase.
Driving this ebike is a a Shengyi gearless hub motor that weighs ~15 lbs and is spoked into a sturdy double-wall Weinmann rim with extra-thick 12 gauge spokes. I hadn’t heard of this brand before reviewing some of the earlier first-generation Rad Power Bikes but it seems to be working well in the field. Gearless motors need to be larger, and are usually heavier, because they produce power through electromagnetic staters and rare earth magnets pushing against each other. This, compared with a geared motor that uses smaller staters and magnets but steps-down high rotation speed using a set of three planetary gears. With a gearless motor, the further out those magnets are, the more leverage the staters can get when pushing them. The advantages to this type of system are that you don’t have plastic gears rubbing against each other to produce power and this keeps it quiet and more durable over the long run. When the motor pushes, it propels the bike forward through the axle mounted to the rear dropouts, and in the case of the RadCity models, the axle is a thicker 12 mm design with 10 mm flat spacing. Rad Power Bikes has reinforced the rear dropouts by adding a stainless steel torque arm on the left droput so that the Aluminum alloy frame won’t get bent as the motor pushes against it. The motor pushes one way when you apply power through pedal assist or the twist throttle and then it pushes the other way when you activate regenerative braking. One drawback to this type of motor is that it introduces a bit of magnetic drag because there is no freewheel, a feature that geared motors offer (but they don’t have regen). In short, this motor is quiet, tough, and very capable as long as you have some speed going. It can take a moment to start from zero without help and get up to speed, but it feels smooth and is fairly responsive thanks to the upgraded 12-magnet cadence sensor. The motor also cuts off instantly whenever either brake lever is pulled because of sensor switches built in.
Powering the RadCity Step-Thru is the same 48 volt 14 amp hour Lithium-ion battery pack used on all of the consumer level Gen 2 bikes from Rad. This new pack is shorter, sleeker, and more powerful than Gen 1, and it uses Samsung 35E cells which are more energy dense (and thus space saving) than more generic, cheaper cells. The pack mounts onto a plastic slide interface that is bolted onto the front of the seat tube in three places for extra strength. You can charge the battery when it’s mounted to the bike or take it off, which is handy for commuting and those who have very cold sheds or garages because this reduces the effective range that the battery can run, but the charger is pretty basic. It’s lightweight at ~1.1 lbs, and very compact, but only delivers 2 Amps which makes for a ~6 hour charge time if the battery is completely emptied. The charging port for this pack is up high, out of the way of the left crank arm, and has an easy-to-use rubber cap to protect it. The underside of the battery has two fuses which are designed to prevent damage and fires, and they are replaceable so you can try to diagnose and maintain the battery for safety, and they are replaceable if one burns out. Since most of the new models all use this custom battery pack, it should be very easy to get replacements or additional packs and I believe the price is just $499 (which is great compared to many other mainstream ebike batteries I see for $800 to $900). They were able to keep the price low in part because the controller box is completely separate (mounted on the back of the seat tube). On the side of the battery pack, there’s a metal key slot that allows you to lock it to the frame in an off or on position. It’s great that you cannot ride the bike until the battery is fully secured and locked! I have heard of people riding off without locking their packs and having a very sad, expensive day when it falls off and breaks. So, locking it in the off position is great because nobody can tamper with your display and throttle if you are parked outside at a public rack. Once you’re ready to ride, just insert and turn the key to on and then pull the key out again to keep it out of your way.
The display panel on the RadCity Step-Thru is largely unchanged from the Gen 1 RadCity models, and that’s a good thing. The major drawback for me has always been that it is not removable and will thus be exposed to more weather and scratches over time, but that’s not at all uncommon with ebikes, and it prevents you from misplacing it or getting dirt and water into the electronics. Some of my friends who own electric bikes will set their helmets over the display when parking at racks as a form of protection. Anyway, I love how large and easy to read this LCD is, even from a distance. It’s greyscale with good contrast and has a backlighting feature that comes on on when you activate the headlight (by holding up and Mode together for a moment). There’s even a walk mode that can be used by holding the down arrow on the button pad when the bike is powered up and set to 1-5 assist levels (it doesn’t work in zero). Walk mode is useful if the bike gets a flat tire or if you’ve got a heavy load and are cutting through a crowded park or path that is restricted for cycling. I love howe easy the rubberized button pad is to reach and how simple it is to use, for more advanced settings you can hold the up and down keys. To turn the bike on, you simply hold the center “Mode” button and the display blinks to life. From here, the up and down arrows let you navigate assist and you can press mode or hold the up arrow to change some of the readouts as shown in my video above. The display can be angled forward and back to reduce glare, and is well sealed against water along with all of the accessories and external controller box. Eventually, when you do need to clean the bike and the display, you should be able to hose it down lightly and use a rag to dry or get some special bicycle-specific biodegradable cleaners like this that can be sprayed on and foam up, then wiped away. I sometimes use a Swiffer duster first if the bike is mostly clean and dry so I don’t rub excess dirt into the cables, cracks, and gaps when I get the spray out. Rain, shallow puddles, and light rinsing should all okay according to Rad Power Bikes but you don’t want to spray it hard or submerge anything completely. Salt water is a big no-no ;) I like that you have so many options for how to use the motor on this bike, like with pedal assist or throttle, and you can completely de-activate the throttle by pressing the black button near the right grip. Since the throttle is always active otherwise, it could be a hazard when mounting/dismounting the bike and there just aren’t a lot of e-bikes that give you this level of control and can therefore be more sensitive to work with. One trade-off that Rad has made for this button to fit here, is that the shifters are these large high-mounted levers vs. little triggers below the right grip. This design require a bit more reaching and attention than triggers in my experience, but the 7-speed Shimano Acera derailleur works well enough and the bike rode fine during my tests. In short, this may not be the best climber or the zippiest feeling ebike, but it gives you a lot of control and can work fine if you’ve got a bit of momentum going in to steep sections and shift appropriately.
I feel like I’ve said so much about this bike! It’s pretty exciting to me, as a person with sensitive joints. The head tube has mounting points for a rack and the rear rack can work with the custom baskets or panniers that Rad Power Bikes offers. If you do add this sort of thing, or a Yepp! child seat on the rear, it’s nice to not have to lean the bike over or lift you leg way up high to get on. It would be nice to have hydraulic disc brakes and tires with reflective sidewalls and better puncture protection, but at least the front wheel has quick release and the rear wheel is designed to keep cabling for the motor tucked in and safe while covering the derailleur with a Steel guard. I might consider the suspension seat post upgrade because my back and neck are a bit sensitive, but the included spring fork, ergonomic grips, and upright geometry work very well on their own to give you a nice ride experience. Rad Power Bikes offers a year long comprehensive warranty and most customers I have spoken with have had a good experience working with the company (they have a team of phone support members and great website resources) and you can check out the EBR Rad Power Bikes Forum here for more third-party feedback if you’d like. I feel like this version of the RadCity would work well in dark grey for the guys who also want a step-thru frame but white is going to be more visible from the side and this might be my own personal choice. And, even though I was griping about how the rear light operates independently, I like that it does provide a blinking mode as well as solid because that might generate more attention. Big thanks to Rad Power Bikes for partnering with me on this review, inviting me out to see their 2018 models back to back so I could compare and contrast them in the video and dig deep. All of the specs are provided here for you along with a comparison tool so you can scrutinize the high-step vs. step-thru models (the big differences I found are the frame design, a bit more weight here, and the longer swept-back handlebar vs. mid-rise).
- For the second generation of Rad Power Bikes, the cadence sensor has been upgraded from 6 magnets to 12 which improves response time, making starting and stopping easier, they also include brake lever motor inhibitors to cut power instantly when stopping
- All of the new Rad Power Bikes share a mounting interface on the head tube for adding a porteur rack, you can add a small or large backet on this platform which won’t tip when you steer or park the bike, note that the rack accessory comes with an extension adapter for the headlight
- Low price is one of the biggest differentiating features of the RadCity and RadCity Step-Thru and I love that they come with wide fenders, an integrated rack with pannier hangers, and lights all standard
- You shouldn’t have any issues with the chain falling off of this e-bike thanks to the durable Aluminum alloy chain guide, it doubles as a bash guard and pant/dress protector as you pedal and the tubing that surrounds the battery pack also clears pants/dresses so it’s almost like a full chain protector here compared to the high-step RadCity, I also like the large grippy pedals that they chose vs. flexy plastic or narrow cage style
- The step-thru frame only comes in one size but features an adjustable-angle stem to bring the handlebar up and back, note that the bar is also swept back so there’s better comfort and more versatility here than a lot of other ebikes, RPB also makes two sizes of the high-step RadCity model which could fit taller riders or those looking at more frame stiffness, lighter weight (by ~2 lbs) and easier mounting on hang style racks
- I was told that the adjustable angle stem has been custom made to stay tight and uses hardened materials that won’t dull as easily as some competing parts, for those with back and neck sensitivity RPB sells an optional suspension seat post
- I love that Rad Power Bikes managed to squeeze in some bottle cage bosses, and that they positioned them high on the main tube which is less likely to get kicked or impede your pedaling… this attachment point could also work for folding locks, mini pumps, or other accessories
- The RadCity Step-Thru comes with 26″ x 2.3″ tires that feel comfortable and offer all-terrain traction with a checkerboard pattern, the suspension fork up front further improves comfort and stability on bumpy terrain but can be progressively locked out for pure efficiency if you experience bobbing or dive
- Only available in one color at this time, the quality of paint and overall design looks much nicer than the first generation of RadCity models in my opinion, I especially like the semi-metallic white color they chose because it is more visible from the side at night
- It’s a little thing, but the kickstand is positioned well and has a wider foot so it won’t get in the way and won’t sink into soft ground, I also like the little handle that is built into the saddle which makes lifting and maneuvering the bike easier
- Rad Power Bikes sells a great range of optional accessories that are guaranteed to fit their bikes and look great, for the RadCity Step-Thru you can choose from a small or large metal basket, small panniers, an extra-bright RAD rear LED light that attaches to the seat post, the SR Suntour NCX suspension seat post, and a handlebar phone mount
- If you do get that phone mount, or use one of your own, you can charge all sorts of portable electronics directly from the display panel thanks to a USB Type A port integrated near the bottom, this port puts out 5 Volts at 1 Amp directly from the battery pack
- I love that the battery pack is mounted to the frame with three bolts vs. just two and that the power cable running to the hub motor is really tucked in and well protected at the back
- The new battery design is sleek, offers 20% higher capacity than the first generation, while only weighing 0.7 pounds more, and does not have an integrated on/off button that you have to press before each ride, it can still be set to off however and is more tamper-resistant
- Rad Power Bikes offers free shipping if you don’t mind a bit of setup work yourself and and they have also partnered with Velofix which assemble, deliver, and provide one post-purchase tuneup for just $100, it’s a neat service for those who don’t want to deal with a big box or the weight and complexity of setting up an e-bike (but this service may not be available everywhere)
- Gearless hub motors tend to be very durable and quiet, you don’t get as much torque and raw power at low speeds and there is some magnetic drag when coasting, but the RadCity recaptures a bit of energy when braking which reduces wear on the brake pads and might extend your range just a bit, I like that they mounted the motor with a stainless steel torque arm to keep the dropouts from getting bent over time given the weight and power in use here
- Both wheels are built with thicker 12 gauge spokes and sturdy Weinmann rims to handle the additional weight of cargo or heavy riders, it’s rated to carry up to 275 lbs by the company
- So many wave style step-thru electric bikes have opted for rear-rack mounted batteries which raise weight and impact steering and handling so I LOVE that the RadCity Step-Thru mounted it near the middle and that they reinforced the frame to be extra stiff and stable
- I was amazed by how low the saddle can go, it fits between the rear rack stays and allows riders who want to maximize stability and safety to put their feet down at all times, note that the optional seat post suspension will raise this minimum saddle height but two or three inches
- The drivetrain on this electric bike offers seven gears, which is on the lower side, but the Shimano Acera derailleur is two steps up from base level and should perform well, I feel that the addition of throttle mode kind of makes up for the seven gears whereas many other city bikes offer nine or ten gears but only pedal assist
- If you decide to add the front rack, it’s great that the headlight can be repositioned on the bottom (for maximum exposure) but it will no longer point where you steer because the rack is frame mounted
- The RadWagon and RadCity models aren’t as capable at climbing steep hills as some of the new mid-drive ebikes and the motor doesn’t operate as efficiently and provide the same range potential because it’s not being run through your gears… but very few mid-drives offer throttle operation, just know that the gearless motor on the RadCity Step-Thru is more smooth and quiet but offers a lot less torque from standstill and for climbing than even the RadMini and RadRover because they use geared hubs
- I’m mixed on the brakes for this bike, the 180 mm rotors provide good leverage but you cannot adjust the brake lever reach and have to use more effort pulling them than with hydraulic disc brakes, for riders with smaller hands and those without as much hand strength, that could be a point of fatigue or difficulty, but at least they have motor inhibitors built in for safety and the rubber edges and integrated bell on the left lever are nice, this part is one of the cost savings measures but might be easier to adjust by hand by the owner vs. needing a shop
- The display panel is not removable and could take some weather-wear or get scratched at bike racks… but now it can be locked in the off position (by turning the key to off on the battery pack) and it has a USB type A port for charging your phone or other portable electronics on the go which is neat
- I’m not sure if this bike comes with a slap guard? I didn’t see it in the stock photos or on the sample bike that I filmed for the review… this sort of accessory could reduce chips and keep it quieter when riding over bumpy terrain, you can get a cheap one like these on Amazon and add it yourself or use a strip of clear masking tap on the top of the right chainstay
- I prefer little trigger shifters vs. the large SIS Index thumb shifters used here because they don’t take up as much space and are easier to reach when holding the grip… but an engineer from Rad Power Bikes told me that they chose these larger shifters to make room for the throttle cutoff switch on the right side, also, the big shifters can be easier to use with gloves
- I was disappointed to discover that the rear light isn’t powered by the main battery pack, it runs on two disposable AAA batteries and must be turned on and off each time you go to use the bike… this makes it easier to forget and leave on, but at least it provides two modes of operation (solid and blinking) whereas most integrated lights only go solid
- I like the tire dimensions but they don’t have reflective sidewalls or puncture protection lining like some of the fancier products out there, Schwalbe offers the Marathon Plus model that would probably fit the RadCity rims, changing a flat isn’t fun but perhaps Velofix could help with this or a local bike shop
- Minor gripe here, the headlight is mounted to the suspension arch vs. the head tube or stem and that means it could bounce around on rough terrain vs. being suspended and smoother, if you get the optional front rack, it can be relocated to the bottom and then it becomes “sprung”
- The battery position is good, but the top might get a little dirty or scratched if you’re not careful about how you step onto the bike, it’s right there in the main standing/pedaling area so a bit more exposed