Last year, I had the opportunity to review a RadRover that I borrowed from some friends, and ended up liking it so much that I bought it from them. I had one problem, though — my wife wanted one and kept taking mine. So, earlier this year, we got her one! But she’s a lot shorter than me, so we picked her up a RadRover Step-Thru. Now that the impacts of COVID-19 are starting to ease up on our family, I finally got a chance to review the bike and get some photos!
The 2020 RadRover Step-Thru. Picture (and others in this article) by Jennifer Sensiba.
So far, we are very happy with it. The experience has been very similar to the normal frame RadRover, but with some neat differences that would probably help many of our readers.
Receiving The Bike
Like the last one, it was pretty easy to assemble. Yes, it showed up in a ginormous box, but after you open it, you realize that it’s a good thing. With most of the difficult and technical parts of the bike assembled (gears, electronics, etc), it’s hard to mess things up. It even comes with tools and instructions, and there are videos on the Rad Power Bikes website with help in case you get stuck. If all else fails, I know from last time that the US-based Rad Power staff are there to help and will make sure you get your bike up and running. If you don’t live in the States, they also have great support that’s easily reachable from wherever you order it from (ex. Canada, Europe).
Bottom line: you aren’t buying a cheap Chinese bike with difficult to reach support. They’re actually there for you.
This time, no parts broke in transit, but I know from my past experience with friends that if something were broken, it wouldn’t have been a big hassle.
Like the RadRover, the Step-Thru e-bike isn’t a top-shelf bike like you’d get from a local bike shop for $5000 and up. If you’re expecting that from a bike that costs sub-$2000, it’s just not going to happen. It’s not bottom-shelf either, though. The non-electric parts are similar to what you’d find on an entry-level hardtail mountain bike from a local shop in the $500-700 range. Shifters are reasonably durable, it has disc brakes, and you can expect it to work well if you don’t bash on it too hard on the trails. The only difference is that the frame is thicker and other weight-bearing parts are beefed up to handle the extra stresses of electric drive.
The electric components are a frame-mounted battery (removable to go charge it inside your house), a controller, a decent handlebar display, and a 750 watt hub motor in the rear wheel. Once again, these aren’t Bosch components like you’d find on a $5000 eMTB, but they’re not cheap, junky parts either. I’ve had no problems on either bike, and online I’ve only found that some people have issues with the polymer or nylon gears inside. If you don’t try to do jackrabbit starts with the throttle from a dead stop, you’re unlikely to break the hub motor assembly.
Charging & Battery
The included charger is really easy to use. When the battery gets low, or you decide to top it up, unlock it from the bike and go plug it in while you sleep. It takes several hours to charge and will give you around a 40-mile range if you don’t use too high of an assist setting or throttle it too much. Like any electric vehicle, the harder you make the motor work, the sooner the battery goes.
The battery is somewhat heavy, but easy to carry inside for charging or to keep it from the elements. Lithium batteries do best at room temperature, so be sure to not leave the battery pack outdoors or in an unheated/cooled shed or garage. It’s also a good idea to remove the battery and take it with you if you lock the bike up to a rack in public. It easily fits in a shopping cart in stores, but don’t expect to carry it in a purse or small bag. It will fit in a backpack, though.
Like the regular RadRover, the fat tires really help with sand. With my other non-fat bikes, I’ve always had to avoid the desert and stay near rocky mountains. This bike powers through most sand, and can even get through the arroyos (that’s Spanish for creeks or washes, but they rarely run in the Southwest) if you build up some momentum before trying to cross them.
The bike is heavy, but not impossible to ride without power assist. It has ten speeds on the rear cassette, but not front speeds to fuss with. Even with power assist, you’ll want to run the gears like any bike to get the most out of it. Start on low gears at low speeds, and advance to higher gears for higher speeds. When I want a really good leg workout, I’ll leave my Rads on no assist or the lowest setting so I can push the weight around myself for a few.
When you want power, you can pick from several power levels. At the lowest, it helps you out with around 140 watts of power as you pedal. When you pedal, it adds power, but it stops when you’re not pedaling. At top level, it gives you the 750 watts and can really scoot. There’s also a twist throttle on the right side of the handlebar that can give you variable power without pedaling at all. If you don’t predict a hill and find yourself struggling to get up it, you can always twist it and the Rad will pull you up most hills. It’s also just nice to have the option of throttle or pedal assist for different situations or just for fun.
Unlike the regular RadRover, the Step-Thru has a seat a good bit lower than the handlebars. This feels different, but is probably easier for most short riders. It’s also nice to be able to sit more upright for commuter riding and comfort. I found the stock seat good, but my partner wanted something plushier so we switched it out. That’s all going to boil down to personal preference.
Safety & Convenience
The little things do add up to make this a decent e-bike.
Like other Rads, this bike has a built-in headlight and tail/brake light that are powered by the battery pack. You don’t have to charge anything separately or bother with keeping spare button cells for your lighting. Just turn it on and go. The light is reasonably bright, but some riders in rural areas might want to add a second light that points higher while you use these as low beams. Like the seat, that’s going to boil down to preference.
It sounds silly, but the bike comes with a bell. Sometimes I hit the thing just to make people laugh, but having a sounding device is a requirement in many places, and Rad has you covered. It’s loud enough to get attention, but not obnoxious.
A Good Buy
I liked my first RadRover enough to buy a second one. It’s great for my needs, especially in the desert. If I lived in an urban area, I might consider one of Rad’s city models without the fat tires, but then again, people still drive lifted SUVs to work in larger metros, so that’s your call. I’ve found it does pretty good on dirt or pavement, so it will serve you well in either or both roles.
The price is a lot easier to stomach than a better bike from a well established manufacturer, but you can get a decent ride from these without spending thousands. Also, if you do exceed the bike’s capabilities and start breaking things, it’s possible to upgrade things over time as the trails break them.
If the Rad is what fits your budget, then it’s a good option. You definitely get a good value for what you pay.
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