- An affordable, powerful, electric fat bike with responsive 12-magnet pedal assist and twist-throttle on demand, available in two colors with lots of accessory options including fenders and racks
- Only one frame size but the top tube is sloped and the shorter stem pairs nicely with the mid-rise handlebar for upright or forward body position and taller or shorter riders, sturdy oversized pedals
- Spring suspension fork with compression clicker, lockout, and preload adjust, the fat tires offer a good PSI range for improved comfort and managing soft terrain like sand and snow, optional suspension seat post
- Integrated headlight but the back light runs on independent AAA batteries and could get blocked by your coat or a rear rack bag, nice adjustable kickstand, upgraded battery pack with locked-off mode, great price with optional Velofix assembly and delivery
The RadRover is a special electric bike to me because it has reached the masses by being affordable, fun, and well-supported. Rad Power Bikes sells direct, meaning that you have to take a leap of faith when purchasing online vs. trying in person and getting help from a local electric bike shop… unless you live in or near Seattle Washington where their headquarters and factory store are located. What makes this and other RPB ebikes work is the relatively low price point of $1,499, solid one-year comprehensive warranty, and attentive online and phone support. The 2018 RadRover covered in this review is their second generation offering, meaning that most of the bugs have been ironed out and a lot of the design and components have been refined or enhanced. It’s a solid product in my opinion, one that is capable and versatile. The larger 26″ x 4″ fat tires allow it to romp across dirt trails, cushion bumpy streets, and even manage soft sandy or snowy environments if you lower the pressure around 5 to 10 PSI… I have actually tested this out with the help of a resort called Cabo Adventures in Cabo San Lucas Mexico in 2016, and you can watch the video here! Just because it has big tires doesn’t mean that it’s not capable and fun on smooth pavement, especially if you raise the PSI around 20 to 30, you definitely hear the rubber knobs and the enlarged contact patch produces some drag which lowers efficiency, but that also provides some stability. One thing I noticed right away about this second generation of RadRovers is that they use a shorter steeper stem and mid-rise handlebar which can be adjusted forward for increased reach if you’re taller or prefer a sporty body position or upright if you like comfort or aren’t able to reach as far. This design and hardware change, coupled with three spacers and the adjustable seat post height, provides a range of fit options even though the frame comes in just one size. Notice the sloped top tube and consider the 26″ wheels which lower the frame a little compared to 27.5″ or 29″ (but not much since the tires are so fat). I love the updated colors and paint job, which looks sporty. The frame is a hydroformed Aluminum alloy with reinforced connector points at the head tube and seat tube and a flattened section where the battery mounts, making it sturdier and lowering the battery slightly. I’ve praised the bike a lot so far, but there are trade-offs that had to be made in order to keep the price low and those include heavier weight of ~66.5 lbs because of a spring suspension fork which uses a more basic 9 mm skewer and does not have a tapered steering column (which would expand the options for upgrading to an air fork down the road), the somewhat limited 7-speed drivetrain (vs. 9, 10, or 11 on many competing models), a stand-alone rear light that attaches to the seat post vs. the frame or back end of the rack (unless you’re in Europe and get the RadRhino model which does have a nicer light on the rack), mechanical disc brakes vs. hydraulic, and a simple cadence sensor vs. torque or multi-sensor.
Now, I don’t want to imply that cadence sensors are bad… Rad Power Bikes had moved to a higher resolution 12-magnet sensor for 2018 models that will start and stop faster. It’s just not as dynamic as a torque sensor and can produce an on/off experience along with delays that aren’t ideal for technical off-road riding. Starting might not be as fast, but you can always override and stop the motor by pulling either brake lever, because they both have motor inhibitor switches. Given that the motor used here is a fat-bike specific 750 watt part from Bafang, it’s great to have an override. The motor is compact and slightly lighter than the gearless direct drive hub motor used on the RadWagon and RadCity models, but it’s also louder because it uses three planetary reduction gears to generate power. I really like this motor because it’s extra wide, providing better spoke bracing support, and I like that Rad Power Bikes has opted for thicker 12 gauge spokes and even made them black to blend in with the motor casing and rims. The rims themselves seem alright, but don’t feature punched out holes to reduce weight and provide some liner flex like the fancier fat e-bikes I’ve seen lately. Also, the motor power cable is a bit exposed, protruding from the right axle. You really don’t want to bend or cut this cable because it could create inconsistent response or even stop working… so it’s nice to see that Rad Power Bikes has added a derailleur guard that also surrounds the power cable. One one of the demo bikes I was filming, you could see where this guard had been scraped up when a bike tipped or got pushed against another bike or wall. The chain is also well-protected on this bike because there’s a pair of Aluminum alloy plates on the chainring which reduce drops and keep your pant leg from getting greasy or snagged. I really like this sort of attention to detail and appreciate that even though you get a more limited number of gears, the lowest gear is extra low for easier climbing (which could come in handy if your battery runs out) and that the derailleur is two steps up from base level in the Shimano line, the Acera part should hold true longer between tuneups.
Compared to the first generation of Rad Power Bikes, the new battery pack offers ~20% higher capacity and only weighs 0.5 lbs more! So, hopefully you won’t run out of juice on longer rides! The new pack is slimmer, mounts to the frame on a track that bolts down in three places for added strength, and can still be charged on or off the frame (making it convenient for commuting and easier to care for in extreme heat or cold weather). Considering just how large and heavy the RadRover is, I could see myself storing the bike outside or in a shed and then bringing the battery into a neutral, dry location for safe keeping. If you know it’s very cold out, keep the battery warm before taking a ride because otherwise the cells won’t last as long. If you plan to store the pack for more than a month without using it, I have heard that keeping it around 50% full can be easier on the Lithium-ion cells. The actual cells inside are Samsung 18650 size 35E high energy density. It impressed me to discover that this 48 volt 14 amp hour pack can be replaced for just $499, and I think that’s partially because the controller unit is made separate. This reduces complexity, heat exposure, and makes fixes easier… but it doesn’t look quite as good. Even though the RadRover is a purpose-built electric bicycle, the battery and controller box are still external… and it’s not as efficient or effective at climbing as some of the new mid-drives, or as balanced. All things considered, I feel that weight is still distributed well, and I love that little things like a neoprene slap guard, larger wider pedals, and bottle cage bosses have all been added to make the experience as good as it can be.
Operating the bike is relatively simple but improved from earlier designs because of the new battery. Before, once you had charged the pack, you would press a silver circle button to activate the battery… and anyone could do this, even when the bike was parked at a rack. Because the RadRover has a throttle that can be used at standstill, people could then tamper with the display and motor even when the bike was locked (if you left the battery on the bike). The new battery solves this, and prevents accidental drops, by requiring you to lock the battery to the frame in an off or on mode. So now, you cannot start riding until the pack is locked in place and people cannot tamper with it if you locked it in the off position! To activate the display, just hold the Mode button in the middle of the rubberized control pad (near the left grip) and it blinks to life. This display is not removable, but it does swivel forward and back just enough to reduce glare. It’s large, which makes it easy to read from a distance, and it shows your battery level, trip stats, speed, and assist level 0-5. If you press the mode button, it cycles from trip distance to total distance (odometer), and if you hold the up arrow it will cycle from current speed to average speed and max speed. For those who want to mess around with settings, hold the up and down arrow keys simultaneously, and for those dark riding moments (or to be extra safe during the daytime) just hold up and mode simultaneously to activate the headlight. The final tip I have is that you can hold the down arrow while the bike is in assist levels 1-5 to activate walk mode, which can be very handy if you have to walk a difficult section of trail, cross a non-bikeable area with a loaded rack, or get a flat tire. I love that in addition to the range of power levels that you can ride with, the throttle offers full power at all times. This is nice for saving energy but still having access to quick bursts of power for climbing or catching up to friends. And, the throttle can be completely shut off if you want, just press the black toggle button near the right grip. This is very useful when mounting the bike, walking it, or picking it up. Of course, I recommend always disabling the bike completely by turning it off to be extra safe when handling. I should also mention that the charger for all Rad Power Bikes is just 1.1 lbs and offers a standard 2 Amps output for ~6 hour charging from empty. It’s not the fanciest thing in the world but it gets the job done without being too bulky and I like that the charging port on the battery is positioned out of the way of the crank arms so it won’t get snagged or bent as easily.
I always get excited by products that look great, offer neat accessories, and fit into my budget. I have more fun with bicycles that I’m not super paranoid about damaging or getting stolen when they cost less… and I think all of this applies to the RadRover. It’s a well-designed, well-priced, and comfortable electric bike that makes smart compromises and is supported by a friendly growing team. There are other, even less expensive, electric fat bikes out there, but they just aren’t offering the full package the way that I feel Rad Power Bikes is. Honestly, I’m not getting special treatment from these guys, I have just seen them growing and have heard good things from real customers. I see the first generation of RadRovers all over the place and they seem to be holding up well. There are no hidden costs like $200 shipping or 30 day warranty tricks, in fact shipping is free! For those who want a bit more help with assembly, fitting, and a 30-day tuneup, Rad Power Bikes has partnered with Velofix and charges just $100. This is well worth the money in my opinion, because ebikes come shipped with lots of cardboard and tend to be ridden further and faster than regular bicycles, so it’s good to have them adjusted correctly to begin. If I were getting this product for myself, I’d definitely consider the suspension seat post because my back and neck are sensitive. I love the new front rack design (which is compatible across the entire range of models) because it mounts directly to the head tube and frame vs. the fork which would interfere with steering and be more difficult to load. The rear rack isn’t perfect, but it’s quite capable and looks nice. The extra-wide plastic fenders are a big win because they are guaranteed to fit and will keep you dry and clean when riding in mud or wet conditions like we saw in Seattle for this review. I love how the black frame blends perfectly with the black suspension fork and all of the accessories and wires… but the white could be safer in dark conditions, so cars can see you from the side easier. Big thanks to Rad Power Bikes for partnering with me on this post and inviting me out to their headquarters in Seattle to compare the different models back to back. I got to go very deep and showcase how the different motors fit and noticed that all of the bikes have stainless steel torque arms to reinforce the frame and handle the extra power. I loved riding on hilly terrain, testing stability, and getting to splash around through some puddles ;)
- Fat 4″ tires, a 100 mm spring suspension fork, adjustable-angle stem, and new mid-rise handlebar with shorter stem work together to provide more comfort than the first generation RadRover, you can achieve an upright body position and the Velo Plush saddle and ergonomic grips further this experience
- Great aesthetics, the new hydroformed Aluminum alloy frame is smooth, thicker near the head tube for strength, and stepped in and flattened out where the battery mounts which provides a sturdier surface
- Even though the battery and control box are mounted externally, this is a purpose-built electric bike with internally routed cables and wires, note the stainless steel torque arm on the rear left dropout for added frame strength
- Available in two refined colors with nicer accents, some of the older RadRovers looked a lot simpler but it has always been nice to choose from a dark and light color because the white is going to be more visible at night and that could make it safer
- Safety is a big consideration for me as a cyclist who rides in the city occasionally, so I love that Rad Power Bikes has been including lights and that the new headlight is extra bright and aimable
- It’s cool that Rad Power Bikes has expanded to Europe and Canada, and specced their motor down from 750 watts to 500 watts in order to comply, they offer free shipping and in the US are partnering with Velofix for assembly and delivery for an additional $100
- I like the sturdy Wellgo platform pedals, alloy chain guide, and steel derailleur guard on this bike because it means you won’t slip off as easily, won’t have the chain dropping, and can keep the sensitive shifter parts and motor power cable from getting bent or snagged if the bike tips or is parked in a crowded rack
- The new battery design is awesome, it’s slimmer, can be locked to the frame in an off position to prevent tampering with the display, can be charged on or off the bike, is using energy dense Samsung 35E cells that take up less space and weigh less, and it’s only $499 to replace because the controller unit is separate
- In addition to the bottle cage bosses that were added along the downtube, this bike has tons of optional accessories that look great and provide massive utility such as wide plastic fenders, a rear rack with reflective pannier bags, a front platform rack and basket, a phone mount, and a suspension seat post upgrade
- The display is large and easy to read, it angles slightly to help you reduce glare, and I love that it has a standard sized USB port on the bottom so you can maintain a phone or other portable electronics as you ride, interacting with the display is easy and safe because the button pad is mounted within reach of the left grip
- Rad Power Bikes has upgraded to high-resolution 12-magnet cadence sensors for all of their second generation models and this makes starting and stopping more predictable, I love that they also included motor inhibitors on both brake levers and that you can disable the throttle with the on/off toggle button near the right grip
- The kickstand is adjustable, has a wide platform at the bottom to keep it from sinking in to soft terrain, and it works well if you’re loading the bike with gear, I love that the front rack is frame-mounted so it won’t interfere with steering or tip the bike sideways when parked like fork mounted racks
- Both wheels are built with thicker 12 gauge spokes for increased durability and weight capacity on the bike, the official max weight rating is 275 pounds (~125 kilograms)
- The geared hub motor is quite zippy and powerful, moreso than the RadWagon and RadCity models which use a gearless hub motor… so the geared motor doesn’t offer regeneration and it does produce some more noise, but it’s torquey enough to power through snow and soft sand if you lower the tire PSI to the 5-10 range
- Only one frame size for the RadRover at this time but that’s part of what keeps the price down, the top tube is sloped to lower stand-over height and the adjustable seat post and stem provide a range of fit options
- It’s nice to have lights but the rear one is a bit more basic and cheap, it runs on two AAA batteries vs. being wired in and this makes for extra steps turning on/off and makes it easier to misplace or have stolen because it’s not mounted as permanently, I do like that it has a flash mode vs. just solid, the European RadRhino comes with an integrated tail light because that’s a law there
- I’m not a huge fan of the big thumb shifter design because it seems like I have to stretch my right hand to reach it and the gears don’t shift as quickly or crisply, but the team at RPB told me this part was chosen to make room for their throttle on/off switch which is a great safety feature… so I’m okay with it
- The 180 mm mechanical disc brakes worked well during my ride test but I definitely prefer hydraulic because the levers are easier to pull and can be reach-adjusted for small and large hands, this is one part on the bike that seems to be a compromise in order to keep the price lower
- One consideration with the spring fork is that it’s heavier than an air fork and uses a straight steering post vs. tapered along with a 9 mm skewer vs. 15 mm thru-axle which means it’s not as stiff and sturdy or upgradeable as many of the more expensive products out there, at least it has compression lockout and preload adjust though
- The optional rear rack is great for hauling gear but if you add a trunk bag on top, it could block the seat post mounted light (so consider moving it or getting another light for the back of the rack) and it seems like this rack would limit how low you could position the saddle before it collides, this is not the case with the RadCity and RadWagon models which have integrated racks that are wider so the saddle can go low even with gear
- The display is large and easy to read but not removable, so it could take extra weather wear and possibly get scratched at a bike rack or if the bike gets crashed but it seems well protected in the lower section of the mid-rise handlebars