- A sturdy, fairly comfortable, and relatively affordable, city style electric bicycle that comes in one color and two frame sizes, riser handlebars and adjustable stem improve fit range
- Ready for all sorts of conditions and applications with full-coverage plastic fenders, LED lights, custom Kenda tires with K-Shield puncture protection, complimented by a spring suspension fork to reduce vibration and discomfort on varied terrain, the fork has lockout adjust as well as preload, large mechanical disc brakes stop well
- 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 as well as activates the integrated brake lights, large 180 mm brake rotors
- Gearless hub motors are durable but also weigh more, produce some magnetic drag, and aren't as zippy or powerful at low speeds, great attention to detail with a derailleur guard and torque arm at the rear dropout
To run the forums, host the website, and travel, I charge a universal service fee for my reviews. This in-depth review was sponsored by Rad Power Bikes. My goal is to be transparent and unbiased, this video and written review are not meant to be an endorsement of RAD products.
Rad Power Bikes has updated their RadCity high step bike for 2019 and they were kind enough to invite us up to Seattle this year to review their offerings. This commuter bike is one of Rad Power’s most popular products, as it can be configured to fit a wide range of needs coming in both a 16” and 19” frame. If you have seen this bike before, then the first thing you notice is some of the recent features. New for 2019 is an adjustable angle stem with mid-rise handlebar, unlike the step through which features cruiser style swept-back handlebar. The high step version looses its color options (now only comes in a dark silver with gray and orange accents), and gains a little weight (2lbs to be exact) at 63lbs. The drivetrain received an update with a 7 speed 11-34 tooth freewheel which is a lot better than 14-28, giving you a wider range of gears to pedal through. A good upgrade to the bike is the nickel plated DNP freewheel which not only shifts smoothly, but will hold up better over time. You also get a 46 tooth chain ring up front. I am excited to see a fully battery integrated front and rear lights. The front light is a Spanninga Axendo and features an active daylight sensor. On the rear light, you have a flashing mode and the ability to function as an active break light, getting brighter as you press on the brakes. Other changes include reflective sidewall tire striping, and custom Kenda K-Shield puncture resistant tires. The front suspension is a SR Suntour spring fork both with hydraulic lockout and preload adjustment settings. Plastic fenders are included along with rubber mud flaps which helps alleviate toe strikes. For stopping power, the RadCity comes with 180mm mechanical Tektro Aries disc brakes. That is a bit of a tradeoff there, it would have been nice to see some hydraulic disc brakes since you have to squeeze a little harder to get the mechanical brakes to stop effectively, however, Rad Power points out that mechanical brakes keep maintenance costs down and are easier to adjust which is true. One thing they did add to the brakes though are these conical washers on the mounting points which make it even easier to adjust and also bring down some of that bake squeaking that we all have to deal with from time to time. Some other nice features include non locking ergonomic grips, an integrated bell, Wellgo aluminum alloy platform pedals, prxowheel crank arm, slap guard on the right chain stay, and some cool badges and logos. A lot of configurability is built into the RadCity. The rear rack is well designed for Rad Power Bikes official accessories, or your own via bungie loops, hangers for panniers, window for Yepp! Child seat, or even threaded eyelets for mounting bigger racks. On the down tube, there are bottle cage bosses mounted out of the way at the bottom that you could even use for a mini pump or a folding lock. In the front there is an option for a frame bolted front rack so it wont tip or shift as you are steering the bike. Maximum loading capacity on the bike is a generous 275, making it versatile for a number of uses. Supporting the load is 12 gage thick spokes which add strength if you load up the rack with weight.
Driving this ebike is a a Shengyi gearless hub motor that weighs ~15lbs and is spoked into a sturdy double-wall Weinmann rim with extra-thick 12 gauge spokes. 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. The further out those magnets are, the more leverage the staters can get when pushing them. The advantages are that you don’t have plastic gears rubbing against each other to produce power through reduction gearing 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 this case it’s a thicker 12mm axle with 10mm 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 and widen as the motor pushes against it. The motor pushes one way when you apply power and then the other way when you activate regenerative braking. One drawback to this type of motor is a bit of magnetic drag that is produced 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 get up to speed, but it feels smooth and is fairly responsive thanks to the upgraded 12-magnet cadence sensor.
Powering the RadCity is the same 48 volt 14 amp hour Lithium-ion battery pack. This pack uses Samsung 35E cells which are more energy dense (and thus space saving) than more generic or cheaper cells. The pack mounts onto the downtube in a sturdy plastic slide with three bolts that really keep it secure. I like that the downtube has been flattened out where the battery mount is positioned because this probably offers a larger contact point and will reduce rattling over time. You can charge the battery when it’s mounted or take it off, which is handy for commuting, but the charger is pretty basic. It’s lightweight at ~1.1lbs, 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 right 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 years to come. Since most of the new models all use this custom battery pack, it should be very easy to get replacement 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). On the left side of the battery, 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 fi you are parked outside at a public rack.
The display panel is largely unchanged from previous generations 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. I love how large and easy to read it is. The LCD panel is greyscale with good contrast and has a backlighting feature that comes on when you activate the headlight (by holding up and Mode together for a moment). The display tips forward and back to reduce glare, and is well sealed against water along with all of the accessories and external controller box. I asked about this box, why they didn’t integrated it with the battery pack, and was told that this allows batteries to be less expensive to replace and that the controller can be more powerful and less prone to heat issues when packed within the battery or mount. That makes a lot of sense to me and I think they positioned the controller well, just behind the seat tube and protected by the back fender. Eventually, when you need to clean the bike off or if it gets salty or is muddy, you should be able to hose it down lightly and use a rag. Rain, shallow puddles, and light rinsing is all okay according to RPB but you don’t want to spray it hard or submerge anything but the tires and lower portion of the rims. So anyway, once the battery pack has been charged, mounted, and the ignition has been turned to on, you just hold the Mode button and the display activates. At this time, you’ll be in assist level 1 and can start pedaling for a small amount of assist or use the throttle for up to full assist if you twist all the way. I love that the throttle is completely open, because some ebikes limit throttle output based on the chosen level of assist, and for me this sort of defeats the purpose. The throttle even works in level zero, if you arrow down to it, and that turns this into more of a scooter where pedaling won’t accidentally switch the motor on. You can also completely de-activate the throttle and use this for pedal assist only. I should say that Rad Power Bikes is obeying European and Canadian laws, offering different motor powers (500 watt in Canada specifically) and has a licensing class in the UK for legal use.
I love the changes across the Rad Power lineup this year, and one of the things that makes this changes so cool is that so many of the modules are cross compatible. For example, let’s say you have a RadCity and a RadWagon with a suspension seat and you want to take out the RadCity for a long weekend ride. You can take the battery and the suspension seat from the RadWagon and use them for your weekend trip on the RadCity! I should also mention the seat post clamp here, it is nice and big so if it is cold or you got gloves on, you’re not going to hurt your fingers raising or lowering your seat. Also having interchangeable parts between bikes keeps cost down, both for the purchase of the bike and for replacing parts. It was great to ride this around and see so many other RadCity bikes in action from real people and companies in the streets of Seattle. Clearly many are proving the practicality of this bike with the many accessories offered through Rad Power Bikes. Basket bags work great, and we even got to see some insulated delivery bags in action. And it is hard to talk about any Rad Power bike without mentioning its great value price point ($1,499 for the RadCity) and its 1 year warranty and fantastic support team. The notable tradeoffs for this commuter would be the absence of hydraulic brakes, and the magnetic drag from the gearless motor. The motor is also not as zippy as a geared motor, but it definitely provides a quiet smoothness. Another tradeoff is the non-removable display. It is water resistant which is great, but still there are other worries for an exposed display other than just rain. Also, the RadCity Step-Thru gets a color option, but this high step version does not. At the end of the day, there is so much practicality packed into one package its hard not to see the RadCity working for your urban needs. It is no small wonder there are so many of these running around for both commuters and companies alike. I would like to personally thank Rad Power Bikes for inviting me to Seattle to put these bikes through their paces. If you have a RadCity, or if you have questions, comments, or stories you would like to share, please visit our forums and tell us all about it, we would love to hear from you.
- Regenerative braking is cool, and the display can even update you as to how much power you are putting back into the battery at any given time, this also saves on brake pad use and replacement
- The cadence sensor has 12 which improves response time and makes starting easier, they still offer brake lever motor inhibitors to cut power instantly when you want to stop
- All of the new Rad Power Bikes share a mounting interface on the head tube for adding a rack, it’s sturdy and won’t tip when you steer or park the bike, note that the optional rack accessory comes with a cable extension for the headlight so it can be positioned optimally
- Low price is one of the biggest differentiating features of the RadCity and I love that it comes standard with wide fenders, an integrated rack with pannier hangers, and lights
- You shouldn’t have any issues with the chain falling off thanks to the durable aluminum alloy chain guide, it doubles as a bash guard and pant/dress protector as you pedal, I also like the large grippy pedals that they chose vs. flexy plastic or narrow cage style
- The high-step frame comes in two sizes and features an adjustable-angle stem to bring the handlebar up and back, note that the bar is also cured (what I consider a mid-rise) so there’s better comfort and more versatility here than a lot of bikes, RPB also makes a step-thru RadCity model which is smaller and even easier to mount and stand over but less stiff and only available in white at the time of this review
- 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, even though they are mounted below the downtube… this attachment point could also work for folding locks, mini pumps, or other accessories
- The RadCity comes with custom Kenda 26″ x 2.3″ tires with K-Shield puncture protection 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 locked out for pure efficiency
- 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 easy
- Rad Power Bikes sells a great range of optional accessories that are guaranteed to fit their bikes and look great, for the RadCity you can get a small or large basket (which can be mounted to the front of the bike with a platform bracket or on the rear rack), small panniers, an extra-bright RAD rear 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 which 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
- Rad Power Bikes offers free shipping if you want to build yourself and has also partnered with Velofix which offers assembly, delivery, and a post-purchase tuneups for just $100 extra, 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
- 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 275lbs by the company
- 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 most 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 is more smooth and quiet but offers a lot less torque from standstill and for climbing
- I’m mixed on the brakes for this bike, the 180mm 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 smaller riders 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 it can be locked (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
- 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
- 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”
- There are some advantages to the new rear brake caliper position (wires aren’t in the path of the optional rear rack) but the way it’s tipped back, it seems like water and dust could collect on the wire and get pulled down into the cable housing over time, creating some friction and drag in the brake system and more work for your right hand pulling the rear brake lever, this would not be an issue if it used a hydraulic brake line vs. mechanical