I recently had an opportunity to borrow a 2019 RadRover electric bike, by Rad Power Bikes. Because this wasn’t a loaner, I’m glad to have the opportunity to give our readers an independent review of the bike. So far, it’s been a great ride (so much, that I ended up buying it from my friends).
Receiving The Rad Rover
Like any customer, I got the RadRover just a few days after it was ordered. To be perfectly honest, I was shocked at the size of the box. It wouldn’t have fit in the back of my Nissan LEAF, even with seats folded. It turns out, though, that the big box was a very good thing. Many manufacturers would ship you a bike that’s not very assembled, but Rad already had most of the hard work done. I didn’t even have to attach the rear wheel.
The remaining assembly was basically “so easy, a caveman could do it.” Rad Power Bikes has great video instructions, included all tools, and everything else needed to assemble the bike. [Editor’s note: We’ve reviewed a number of electric bikes here on CleanTechnica, and they often cost a pretty penny to get professionally assembled.]
The only problem I encountered was some small shipping damage. The pedal assist sensor’s magnet disc somehow managed to get caught on the chain in transit and broke. This meant that the bike’s pedal assist capability is dead until the new part arrives and I put it on, but the bike still has a throttle, so it was very useful. It may be a good idea for Rad Power to fit its bikes with a stronger disk made from thicker plastic or aluminum, as this appears to be a common complaint online.
In Rad Power Bikes’ defense, though, it immediately sent me a replacement part and offered to pay for a local bike shop to install it on the bike. I’m mechanically inclined, so I’ll probably not take the company up on that, but it’s good to know that anyone with problems can get professional help as if it was purchased locally.
While this is my first electric bike, it’s far from my first bike. I used to ride dozens of miles several times a week on a Trek mountain bike years ago, until I got in an accident that left me unable to ride for a number of months. During that time, my asthma flared up and I gained weight. Without giving exact figures, let’s just say that my entry-level Trek couldn’t carry the load without problems.
Other than the electric drive systems, the bike itself seems to be comparable to what you’d find at the entry level at most local bike shops for around $500–600. Shifters, brakes, gearing, derailleur, and everything else is on that level. The difference in this case is that they built the frame and wheels for much more stress, and added on the parts needed for electric drive.
In other words, don’t get a RadRover expecting the quality of a regular non-electric bike in the $1500 range, but you can expect decent build quality like you’d get at a local bike shop, and far better than you’ll find at Walmart or other big box stores.
One thing I really came to appreciate is the puncture-resistant tires. Like any bike I’ve ever owned, or any I got for my kids, slime is not an option. It’s an essential thing living in the desert. Between the ludicrous amount of slime I put in the tubes, and the puncture-resistant tires, I’ve managed around 30 miles so far on any trail of my choosing without any flats or even leaks.
This isn’t the first fat bike I’ve tried out, but it is the first I’ve done more than a mile or two on. I have to say that I’m completely sold on fat bikes now. With the arroyos and sandy hills common around the Chihuahuan Desert, it can be tough to get even a somewhat beefy mountain bike around unless you head into the mountains to escape the sand. There’s almost nothing the Rover can’t get through, though. By dropping into a low gear and pedaling hard or by turning the throttle, you can zip through even deep sand and come out the other side.
This is also the heaviest bike I’ve ever spent any real time on. Despite the weight, it’s still fairly easy to ride without electric assist. I often find myself trying to avoid using electric to test my endurance and get better exercise, and can easily avoid “cheating” under most circumstances. But, since I’m not in the shape I was once in, and since I’m struggling with asthma at times, I always have the option to get some help and keep the ride going.
I haven’t spent a lot of time at the bike’s maximum assist speed of 25 mph (I went into the settings and increased it from the default of 20), but when I have, it’s still very smooth and stable. Initially, I noticed problems with tire balance over 10 mph, but it turned out to be my own fault, as I had not seated one of the tires on the bead properly when adding slime to the tubes. Once I corrected my mistake, the bike sails smoothly at any speed.
Between all of this, the RadRover is not only going to be my primary bike for the next few months, but I’m going to need to scrape together some money to buy my partner a second bike just like it. They’re that good.
The Little Things
It might seem like a small thing, but the brakes and tail light are a big help on this bike. Normally, you’d need to keep spare batteries for a headlight or tail lamp for most bikes. The RadRover (and some other Rad models) runs all of this on the same battery as the bike runs on. It comes with a very bright LED headlamp that I can use to ride at night even in dark rural areas with ease. The tail light is the same, and even brightens when braking just like a car.
It may sound silly, but the bike comes with a bell included. They assume that you might use it for commuting on roads, and know that many places require a warning bell or horn to let slower riders and pedestrians know you’re coming. Instead of making us buy one separately, they include it from the get go.
Now that I have a RadRover I can use without limitation, I plan on doing some thorough testing of the bike in a variety of conditions in the coming months. I plan on a lot more desert riding, some mountain trails, and even near some dormant volcanoes in my area. Follow CleanTechnica to see how the new RadRover (and the second one I’m planning on picking up soon) handles all of this.
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