Rad Power Bikes’ electric commuting bike, the RadCity, is getting a serious makeover. The Seattle-based company has completely redesigned the bike’s powertrain, including a semi-integrated battery, and made a number of other upgrades to make riding easier, faster, and more intuitive.
The RadCity 5 Plus is the second bike in Rad Power Bikes’ lineup to receive many of these design updates, following the flagship RadRover fat-tire bike. It shows how Rad Power Bikes is evolving as it settles into its position as the number one e-bike manufacturer in North America.
Rad Power Bikes says the new RadCity will climb hills 40 percent faster than the previous generation. The bike’s range has also been improved by 11 percent, thanks to custom-made tires that operate more efficiently on paved roads. But the range estimate is the same as the fourth-generation version of the bike, where, depending on your level of assist, Rad says you’ll get between 28–50 miles of range. And the stopping power has been improved with the inclusion of hydraulic disc brakes with long-lasting ceramic pads.
Last week, I got a chance to test out the new RadCity with Redwood Stephens, chief product officer at Rad Power Bikes. Before taking the bikes for a leisurely ride around Central Park, he told me how the company’s engineering team approached the challenge of squeezing more power out of the bike’s battery and motor. Much of what was accomplished derived was because of a successful pairing between the bike’s motor and its speed controller, he said.
“Our engineering team has spent a lot of time dialing in on the user interface, the programming at each pedal assist level, the programming on the throttle, and really getting that controller-motor pairing to be ultra-efficient,” Stephens said.
That efficiency shines through on the pavement, where the RadCity proves itself to be a fast, nimble, and effortlessly fun bike to ride. The motor is noticeably quieter than Rad’s older models, but it isn’t nearly silent like some of the newer Bosch motors tend to be. But the new geared hub motor (rated for 750W, like all of Rad’s bikes) has a lot more pick-me-up than the previous generation model’s gearless motors. Geared hub motors are slightly heavier than gearless motors, but not so much that you compromise on range.
The cockpit of the bike is also redesigned, with two displays rather than just one. The square-shaped display in the center of the handlebars shows real-time stats, like speed, power output, and trip time. A smaller display on the left features a big orange power button and two even bigger up and down arrow buttons for toggling between power settings.
Rather than integrate the wires in the frame of the bike, Rad is sticking with the rats nest look, which Stephens says helps with maintenance and repair issues. It can also be useful when selling the bike in markets with different regulations. For example, the throttle can be disconnected if the bike is sold in a country that prohibits throttles.
Speaking of different markets, the RadCity 5 Plus will be the commuter bike’s debut in the European market, where Rad has recently started selling its bikes. Europe is going to be a bigger focus for Rad Power Bikes, with the company seeing “triple-digit” sales growth there year over year.
The semi-integrated battery is still removable, which, in my opinion, is preferable compared to fully integrated, non-removable batteries. While some of the battery is still sticking out, it’s not as unsightly as the external batteries in Rad’s older models. And the ability to leave your heavy bike outside while you bring the battery indoors for charging can’t be underestimated.
For the first time, the RadCity will be offered in two frame sizes: a high-step model and a step-through one. Being able to appeal to a wider range of riders — including older customers, people with knee issues, and others who would prefer not to have to swing their leg over a top tube — is key feature in the new RadCity.
It’s exciting to see a company like Rad Power Bikes take what works about its bikes and make them better, while also introducing new ideas and new designs. Rad will need to continue to innovate as e-bike sales continue to grow, incumbent bike makers roll out their own designs, and rival direct-to-consumer brands release newer, more powerful bikes.
There is a lot of money flowing into this space right now, and talk of tax breaks for consumers will certainly fuel even more hype and investment in the future. Rad Power Bikes has captured the top spot with a simple but well-designed lineup of powerful and affordable e-bikes. And with the new and improved RadCity, the company is proving that it’s not content to rest on its laurels.
The RadCity 5 Plus is available for preorder online starting on September 22nd for the US price of $1,799, and it will be coming to Europe in the winter of 2021–2022 for €1,799.
Photography by Andrew Hawkins / The Verge