At the height of the pandemic—and in the midst of gym closures—a lot of folks fled indoors, buying up Pelotons and other home fitness gear. But the other boom was in e-bikes, because they enable riding longer and carrying more; if you weren’t driving and feeling cooped up, why not pedal to the store and back? Yes, there’s been an overall cycling renaissance, with bike sales up 75 percent in 2020, but e-bikes have been the white-hot center of that explosion, up 145 percent since 2019, and are predicted to double as a percentage of the overall bicycle market in the U.S. by the end of this year. And in the U.S. no company has been better poised to evangelize e-bikes than RadPower.
That’s because they stick to a couple of essentials that appeal really broadly. For one, they have fat tires. The newest machine, the RadRover 6 Plus, has 26×4-inch knobbies. That sets Rads apart visually, sure, but there’s a stealth advantage to fat tires: balance. If you straddle a bike with a fatter footprint, you’re not likely to tip over—especially if you’re not a “cyclist” and would shun the Lycra-clad Tour de France look. That meaty rubber glues you to the road, making Rad’s bikes easier to pedal, and when you’re not freaking out about crashing, you enjoy riding more.
The 60mm suspension fork on the RadRover 6 Plus isn’t crucial, but if you’ve ever slammed through a pothole on a rigid bike, you know having a bit of cushion takes the hand sting out of curb hops and road wrinkles.
The RadRover 6 Plus gets an integrated screen with visible metrics, like power output and battery life. Speaking of power, it gets a muscular 672 watt-hour battery and a refined hub motor for better hill-climbing mojo and longer range between charges.
RadPower says the new battery in its latest bike integrates better in the down tube, and you’ll note it doesn’t bump out as far, so the bike looks more refined. It is, however, designed to pop out when you park your bike and lock it up. Thefts have also increased as bike sales have ballooned, so being able to walk away from your (locked!) bike with the battery removed and carried in a backpack is a disincentive to would-be thieves.
RadPower also says the new motor in the 6 Plus increases hill climbing prowess, putting out 25 percent more torque. Rads may be popular, but this one (as with most of its bikes) is pretty heavy, at 73 pounds. That’s porky, even for an e-bike, so you need all that added output.
One weakness of RadPower’s bargain pricing structure, which typically keeps its bikes well below $2,500, has meant cutting a few corners on features. They’ve always used cable-actuated disc brakes, for instance, which, when your bike is really heavy, simply doesn’t offer the stopping bite you’d want. The new 6 Plus finally gets hydraulic discs with over-sized 180mm rotors. That’s great, especially if you’re trying to stop yours at a red light on a rainy day.
One head-scratcher here we don’t love is the 20mph top-assisted speed. In a lot of states, the legal cut-off for assistance is 28mph, so the slower power outage (Class 2) is a wee buzz kill. You’ll still get where you want to go, but in stop-and-go traffic, keeping pace with the red-light-green-light interval often requires rolling at a quicker pace.
Still, RadPower arguable added one selling feature that might matter more to buyers than any other: USB output. Now you can charge your phone while you ride. That’s on other e-bikes as well, but usually at a higher cost. So, again, RadPower is winning by giving you the good stuff without asking for the equivalent of a used-car down payment.[From $1,999; radpowerbikes.com]