- An affordable, feature-rich, city style electric bike that comes in two sizes, two colors, and offers great adjustment in the stem and handlebar position for comfortable upright body position
- Responsive 12-magnet cadence sensor provides faster starts and stops, both brake levers have motor inhibitors, there's also a twist throttle for instant power and you can turn it off if you want to
- Fatter hybrid tires compliment the 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
- 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
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Rad Power Bikes has updated all of their electric bike models for 2018 which kicks off the second generation of hardware. In many ways, the RadCity has changed the least because it was one of the later bikes to be created and launched. The major differences that I noticed were a taller handlebar, more sensitive 12-magnet cadence sensor to activate pedal assist, a brighter upgraded headlight, the addition of sturdy mounting points for a front tray and racks, a refined hydroformed frame with step-in battery area, and of course, the battery pack itself. For the same great $1,499 price point, you get a 20% higher capacity, the ability to keep the pack locked to the frame but in an off position that cannot be tampered with, and the overall weight of the bike is just 0.5 to 1 lb heavier. It’s a feature-complete electric bike with a Yepp! compatible rear rack that has pannier hangers and bungee loops, wide plastic fenders, and lights to keep you safe. I love the chainring guide which doubles as a pant protector, and the display has a USB port that allows you to tap into the battery pack to charge your phone or other portable electronic device. This is a near-silent electric bike because it uses a gearless hub motor. Know for being heavier, more durable, but less zippy and powerful than geared hub motors, this one is setup with regenerative braking action. Both brake levers immediately cut power and tell the motor to recoup what it can, and this reduces wear on the brake pads while helping to offset the added weight and magnetic drag of the motor. Two size options mean that this e-bike will fit both medium and tall sized riders, and the diamond high-step frame will be stiff and easy to hang on most car and bus racks. For those with knee and hip sensitivity, Rad Power Bikes has introduced a step-thru frame that’s only available in white, but is much easier to mount and stand over. All things considered, I think it’s a great ebike for urban riding, and if you don’t mind pedaling along to help start with heavier loads and steep hills, it can be very capable. RPB is a direct to consumer company and I believe their products are manufactured in China, but now sold in Europe and Canada as well as the USA. Shipping is free, or you can pay $100 for a company called Velofix to assemble and deliver the product… then return in a month for a tune-up. That’s pretty awesome, especially since the mechanical disc brake wires and shifter cables will start to stretch and need adjustment with riding.
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. 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 12 mm axle 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 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 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 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 ~1.1 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 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 Gen 1 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.
At the end of the day, this is still one of the more affordable electric bike options to consider out there and I feel that Rad Power Bikes has grown responsibly and really cares about their customers. They have a full phone support team, are a Velofix premiere partner, provide a comprehensive one year warranty, and now have a shop in Seattle Washington (the Ballard neighborhood) where you can go and take a test ride. I have seen many RadRovers and other models out in the wild, and owners seem to be happy. It’s nice that they have expanded the frame offering to include a step-thru for 2018 and I feel that even with the mostly-unchanged high-step models, the sturdier adjustable angle stem and mid-rise bars can make this a very comfortable ride, especially if you opt for the suspension seat post upgrade! Yes, this ebike only has seven gears, the mechanical disc brakes are going to require more hand strength to pull and don’t have adjustable-reach levers, the non-locking rubber grips are cheaper and might spin over time if you really pull on them, and the rear LED light runs on disposable AAA batteries vs. being wired-in to the main pack like the headlight (which makes it easy to forget and leave on). However, I like that the back light has a blink mode and I love the larger Wellgo platform pedals that they chose. Note that the stand over height between the medium and large frames is about two inches. I think it would be cool if they angled the top tube even more to get the medium towards a mid-step vs. still being relatively high. Big thanks to Rad Power Bikes for partnering with me on this post and providing all of their models and accessories back to back. We had a blast riding around the city and I enjoyed seeing and riding with the big rack options and their panniers (which look great and are water resistant). I welcome feedback from people who have owned first generation RPB products and will do my best to answer questions etc. but you can also check out the EBR Rad Power Bikes forums.
- For the second generation of Rad Power Bikes, the cadence sensor has been upgraded from 6 magnets to 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 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 locked out for pure efficiency
- Available in two color schemes, dark grey or pearl white, the quality of paint and overall design looks much nicer than the first generation of Rad Power Bikes in my opinion, I especially like the semi-metallic white because it would be 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 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
- 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 and is more tamper-resistant
- 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 275 lbs 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 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 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 now 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’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… for the grey frame especially, this 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
- 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”