Rad Power Bikes offers some of the cheapest electric bikes on the market. Do they get us buzzed? Here’s our review.

Rad Power Bikes was founded in 2015 and unlike most electric bike manufacturers, the American company sells exclusively direct-to-consumer in the U.S., Canada, and Europe. It does have a showroom in Seattle, Washington, and one in Vancouver, British Columbia, but the majority of its sales are over the Internet. This allows the company to keep its prices low, between $1,699 and $2,299 Canadian, depending on which of the nine models you buy. For this review, we were given the flagship RadRover 1 Step-Thru Electric Fat Bike which comes with a price tag of $2099.

Snapshot: RadRover 1 Step-Thru Electric Fat Bike

    1. Pros: It’s super-easy to assemble.
    2. Cons: The components are cheap.
    3. Price: $2099 Cdn
    4. Who Should Buy: People in remote locales wanting to get into the electric bike scene without spending a lot of money.
    5. Who Shouldn’t Buy: Those who live in towns serviced by electric bike shops and who have experience riding good-quality bikes.
    6. Helpful Hack: The box the electric bike comes in has two great pictures on either side: perfect for your kids to colour.
    7. Author’s overall rating: Ease of assembly: 10/10; Power: 8/10; Components: 6/10; Durability: TBD

The Test

It’s important I mention up front that I live in the mountainside community of Nelson, British Columbia and we’re a bike snob city. This is where modern freeride mountain biking levelled up at the turn of the Century and where legends Mike Kinrade, Robbie Bourdon, and Kurt Sorge hail from. It’s common to see unlocked $2,000 bikes propped around downtown and that’s because most everyone else are on $5,000 bikes. Whether for pavement or dirt, fat-tired or electric, we love our bikes. In fact, my small family has ten of them, including two ebikes, so I was looking forward to seeing how the RadRover 1 Step-Thru Electric Fat Bike would hold up to the competition on the steep streets and gravel backroads.

The Verdict

I am not a bike mechanic but damn am I good at building an electric bike. At least, that’s how I felt when I assembled all the components of the RadRover 1 Step-Thru Electric Fat Bike in 20 minutes. I was riding the thing half an hour after opening the box. True story. That’s a testimony to how much thought Rad Power Bikes have put into the unboxing and assembly of their products. As for the initial riding experience, I was impressed with the power of the 500w motor: within seconds of my inaugural spin I punched in pedal assist level five and was motoring up Cedar Street, a notoriously steep stretch of road in Nelson, and barely pumping my feet.

The LCD display screen is positioned in the centre of the handlebars and is intuitive to use: I didn’t have to refer to the instructions to figure out the pedal assist functioning, watt meter, trip odometer and more.  I will say that I found the geometry of the RadRover a bit awkward but I’ll chalk that up to the fact most of my bikes have a more aggressive geometry and I’m not used to sitting upright on a saddle. Someone who’s relatively new to bikes or who hasn’t ridden one in a while will find the RadRover super friendly, especially with the low step-thru frame. In fact, that’s who I think would love this bike: a baby boomer who wants to get back into bicycling but who’s looking for the added boost from an electric motor as well as the security from extra-wide 4″ tires.

The LCD display on the RadRover 1 is well positioned and intuitive to use.

That said, our publisher Peter also took the electric bike to test it and says he barely had a chance to give it a proper go because his teenaged son absconded with it. Which is fine, Peter says, because it meant there was a stretch where he didn’t have to drive his kid to school. As for my child, at two years old he wasn’t about to take the RadRover out on his own so I connected the chariot to the bike and tested the motor’s power. I will say that under load, the ebike’s performance was underwhelming – I had to grovel hard up the steep streets with 58 pounds of chariot and toddler in tow. With battery and frame, the RadRover tops out around 65 pounds which means if the ever battery dies while you’re out and about, not even Usain Bolt could peddle it uphill.

Rad Power Bikes claims the RadRover can go over 72 kilometres on a single charge but that must apply to those living in the prairies: given the steep streets of where I live, and the fact I prefer using the highest pedal assist mode, I got less than half that. To recharge the battery, it’s a simple matter of using the provided 48V, 2 Amp charger and plugging it in to a normal wall socket. It took about four and a half hours to get the battery level from near empty to full again. The other components I like about the RadRover are the integrated lights, the wide tires, the twist grip throttle that’s really fun for blast-offs from full stops, as well as the provided pedals, which are aluminum, not plastic. That said, the other components on the ebike fall on the cheap side. I had never heard of the the motor manufacturer Bafang before and the RST front suspension fork feels like it might implode if I ever took it on one of the singletrack trails around here. But, of course, that’s not what this ebike is made for: it’s a good all-rounder that’ll take you comfortably from easy gravel terrain to easier pavement.

I think Peter said it best when I asked him his opinion of the RadRover and he replied, “It’s fun…and my kid loves it.” Despite the fact we’re all bike snobs in this town, any bicycle that gives us a bit of electric boost is fun. If you’re looking to get into the electric bike world and don’t want to spend a lot of money at the start, the RadRover could be what you need.

RadRover 1 Step-Thru Electric Fat Bike – The Deets

    • MSRP: $2099 Cdn
    • 500W Geared hub motor with 80Nm of torque
    • 48V, 14 Ah Lithium-ion battery
    • 275 lb payload capacity
    • 7-speed Shimano SL shifter and Shimano Acera derailleur
    • 4″-wide, 26″-diameter tires
    • 5 level pedal assist
    • 80mm front suspension fork
    • 50mm stem
    • Twist grip throttle
    • Front and rear fenders
    • Quick-release seat post
    • Kickstand
    • Aluminum platform pedals
    • Integrated front light and brake light
    • Colours: Black, White
    • For more information: radpowerbikes.ca