Dispatches from The Daily Rider

Thinking of Purchasing a RadPower Bike? Read This First.

We think electric bikes are great. They encourage users to ride further, and replace car trips with bike trips. But not all electric bikes are equal. Here’s what we have seen from RadPower.

Our experiences with the brands we sell have given us a sense of what to expect when assembling, riding, and servicing them. Over the past two years, Rad Power Bikes and their RadWagon started showing up in the shop. Recently we have also seen the RadCity and RadRunner. At first glance, the RadWagon looks like almost identical to a Yuba Mundo. The orange paint even mimicks a very popular Yuba color. 

Taking a closer look, these are very different bikes. 

An electric bike is heavier and faster than a conventional or “acoustic” bike. This means that several parts on an e-bike will experience higher wear and need to be more robust. The drivetrain needs to be able to handle torque from the motor and higher mileage. Brakes need to be stronger to slow a bike from higher speeds while carrying heavy loads. Wheels have to hold up under higher weight. Hub motors place additional strain on the structure of a wheel. 

Electric bikes take people farther than they would usually ride. Having a mechanical failure miles from home is inconvenient and may require a visit to a shop or a trailside repair. Having an electrical failure while riding is often the end of your ride for the day. 

We have seen motor failures, electrical failures, and wheel failures in the past two years of assembling and repairing RadPower Bikes. Granted, we’re not seeing the numbers of bikes that haven’t experienced these issues, but we believe that all of their models could be prone to them. 

The most typical problem encountered by RadPower owners is spoke breakage in the rear wheel. Because the motor is in the rear wheel, it is exposed to more stress than a typical wheel. Typically, new RadPower bikes come out of the package with low spoke tension, which leads to broken spokes unless this is addressed by a professional mechanic. Even then, bikes which we have assembled break spokes in the rear wheel. One customer who was taking two children to school had a total of six broken spokes in their wheel. We suggested a new wheel build, at a cost of around $300. For a bike that cost $1,499, this represents a significant repair in the first year. 

We do work on RadPower bikes. However, due to design choices and build quality we find that they require more time and effort to repair effectively. The hub motor is in the way of the brake caliper, which means that a simple adjustment to move a pad inward to compensate for wear requires removal of the wheel or the caliper. This additional time means additional labor costs for the customer.

Recently we commented on a thread on Twitter regarding RadPower receiving some venture capital. In the thread someone commented that their bike was doing well for a year and a half of daily use. The next day they updated with a comment that their frame had broken at the seat collar. We believe that 18 months of use is unacceptable for any bike, much less for an electric one. 

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