RadRunner Long Term Review: The Best Family Electric Bike

 

Something strange has been happening to me in the year or so since I’ve been riding a Rad Runner ebike. Every person I’ve passed by has stopped in their tracks, turned to me, and flashed a big smile on their face.

It’s a weird phenomenon. Maybe something that classic car owners are used to, or Shriners when they do their figure eights on their little mini cars at parades. But certainly not ebikers. 

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Many ebikers are accustomed to seeing disgruntled faces as they pass pedestrians on the bike path, to hearing the words “cheater!” from fellow bikers on trails, or feeling the deep vibration of car horns when they take the lane. 

Not so with the Rad Runner. The pure joy that you sense from the world around you is the feeling of riding completely within the confines of the law, on bike paths and city streets, on trails and college campuses. Whether you ride on those established paths at a comfortable pedal speed or at maximum throttle is completely up to you – no need to be wary of judging passerby or ebike cops around the corner.

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Maybe all this infectious joy has something to do with watching a whole family zip by on a little ebike. Part circus act, part wholesome family fun you don’t see much these days, especially not in 2020. The Rad Runner is not even intended to be a family bike, but don’t tell my kids that. 

The Rad Runner makes people happy, pure and simple. There’s no “buts” that kill any argument for wanting one. It’s the cheapest, most utilitarian and mass-friendly motorbike out there today. You don’t have to wait months to get it, you don’t have to gamble your money on a small company with questionable service, you don’t have to think about legality, and you certainly don’t need to adjust your lifestyle or identity to fit the preconceived notion of this new thing.

RadRunner is the Mascot of the Ebike World

The Rad Runner is the mascot of the entire ebike movement. It can convert any person into an electric bike commuter or hobbyist, and it may also be the best family bike out there today.

Compared to many other electric bikes, the Rad Runner is also boring, and slow, and maybe even a little ugly. But it does something that no other ebike can do right now, which is to unequivocally bring joy to both the rider as well as the world of skeptics in the rear view mirror. In other words, the Rad Runner has the potential to change the world, to convert the masses into electric motorbike believers.

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There are many types of people who get into ebikes, and for each of them there’s a perfect bike out there. For someone who wants to go fast, a stealth bomber or an urban electric motorbike is the ticket. For others, a mountain bike with a mid drive motor can elevate the off trail adventure to new heights. And then there are those of us who are deeply excited by a bike like the Ariel D-Class, or the ONYX RCR, which can push the limits of acceleration and top speed on a bike frame with pedals. Legality be damned.

For most people, however, the idea of an electric assist bike to ride to work or around the neighborhood seems like a pretty exciting new toy. And if it can take on other duties above and beyond the occasional fun ride, so be it. But at its price point, you don’t need to make up a ton of reasons to justify its purchase – whimsy is enough reason, and because you deserve it.

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Is RadRunner the Best Family Electric Bike?

For me, I first got into motorbikes because I wanted to get away from my family for a few hours here and there – for me time, pure and simple. And then a little while later, a Rad Power Rad Runner showed up on my local craigslist, with only 12 miles on it. I thought it would be a great gift for my wife – maybe we could hire a babysitter and log some us time. Hell, maybe we could even fit our two young kids on each bike and go for a fam dam cruise?

Whatever reasons I came up with, I was clear that I certainly wasn’t interested in the Rad Runner myself – it was for someone else, someone slow, and safe. When I met the seller, he told me he bought it for his elderly wife who had just had her hips replaced. See? Now you’re following me. 

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Of course my wife loved the bike, but she didn’t ask for it and she didn’t really have time for it. And so I started riding it, at first by myself, and then I put my 5 year old on the back. Not wanting to spend $100 on a Rad Power rear rack seat, I ended up getting this cute little bee-themed seat cushion that fit the aesthetic better. It also provided room for a rear handlebar that my kid could hold on to – much more practical than hanging on to my puffy coat at 20mph.

Not long after, I bought something called an UrRider – a seat and handlebar that sits between the bike’s handlebars and the rider. It’s for little kids and I was skeptical it would work at all, but the alternatives to this cheap looking product were in the hundreds of dollars, so I took my chances. And lo and behold, it worked. 

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Maybe a thousand miles later, the Rad Power has carried me, my 5 year old, and my 3 year old around town like a clown car without a purpose. We ride to daycare and back, to the grocery store, to the park and trails, toy stores, shops, you name it. We even hit off road trails and the kids love it. Without the need for pedaling, I can have both my feet out and prevent falls easily, while throttling gently through any terrain, even mud, puddles, and gravel.

Maybe it’s a little presumptive but I’m gonna go ahead and say the Rad Power RadRunner is the best family bike out there today. I know I already described this ebike as basically the second coming but I’m serious here, if you have one or two (but not more than two) young kids, this is the best thing since, well, since actual family bikes. 

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If you have more than two kids and you must begrudgingly take them all with you, then sure, the RadPower RadWagon is probably a better choice. But it’s longer and heavier and more expensive. Don’t even google what other family electric bikes cost because you’re better off getting a used Honda Fit for less cash.

But for one or two kids, the Rad Runner is an unexpected family bike dream. The rear seat can be replaced with a Thule Yepp Maxi child seat, for super youngsters. Apart from dedicated family bikes, the Rad Runner is the only ebike that is actually designed to carry a child – everything else is a DIY solution that seems maybe fine for a while until an accident and then suddenly ebikes don’t seem that fun anymore.

RadRunner is a mix of Mt. Bike, Cruiser, Moped, and Scrambler Ebike

Let’s step back a little bit. The reason why the RadRunner is so great is because it has all the properties of the fat tire scrambler ebike that is so popular right now, but instead of a proprietary banana seat, the RadRunner has a seat post. 

You can install things to seat posts. And over the rear rack, you can install the child carrier. Or you can carry pizza with this thing (Pizza Huts are actually doing this), or install a paper-shredder-looking cargo box to store your groceries or pets, or standard rear racks without having to rely on DIY solutions. Even the passenger pegs have a perfect cutout in the frame for installation.

For a city cruiser, the Rad Runner can be whatever you want it to be. But don’t discount it off road. On trails, dirt paths, gravel roads, beaches, or a big patch of grass, the Rad Runner at 20mph is just as fast as you would ever push a dirt bike off road.

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But the difference is you’re on public multi-use trails near your house, where a motorcycle would never fly, where you can ride to instead of hauling in a truck or trailer, and where you can bring along two kids. And everyone you pass is happy to see you. That’s quite a paradigm shift from the dirt bike and dual sport world, which requires a lot of planning to figure out where you can even go.

During the many, many months of the pandemic where we weren’t doing much outside the house, the Rad Runner took my kids and I out into nature every day. We went geocaching, we looked for snakes, threw rocks by the river, ate countless picnics, explored corners of our small town we’d never do by car.

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And each day we started out with a fresh charge, giving us seemingly unlimited miles ahead. “Five lights! Maximum speed!” my 3-year-old would exclaim every time we began a new adventure by ebike.

RadRunner Pros and Cons

All of this is sounding pretty damn good, isn’t it? Especially for a bike that’s $1200 new, when most other ebikes are reaching into the $3,000 stratosphere. But it’s not all perfect, of course. So what are the downsides?

Well for starters, there’s no suspension. So you’re going to want to steer clear of bumps. The fat tires do help with some absorption, and being limited to 20mph also keeps you from hitting bumps too fast, but for some people the lack of front or rear suspension is a deal breaker.

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It’s also lacking a fancy LCD display. The small power control unit does let you select the pedal assist speed, turn the headlight on and off, and tells you how much battery life is left, but it won’t tell you how fast you’re going or how far you’ve gone.

You can get a third party gizmo that does all that, and my used Rad Runner actually came with one. But to be honest I never remember to turn it on, so to this day I don’t really know what my odometer is.

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Then there are a few other quips, like the brakes tend to squeal right out of the box. In their FAQ, Rad Power states that this will go away after a new bike is ridden for a while, but in my experience it only got worse. However, a couple organic pads will cost you about $25 and are easy to replace. Rad Power even has a handy guide for working on your brakes, so you don’t need to search through hundreds of Youtube videos.

Another bummer is that handlebars don’t fit the very popular Mirrycle mirror. Every other Rad bike does, but for some reason not the Rad Runner. You’re going to want a mirror, and the Mirrycle is simply the best there is. My Rad Runner came with a different mirror that the previous owner installed, and it was a headache, to say the last. Every bounce made it lose its position. 

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Finally, out of frustration, I figured out a way to install the Mircycle using Sugru. If you’ve read our other instruction on how to build a diy removable rear rack or milk crate, Sugru is a handy tool that allows you to shape a clay-like material that dries into a hard rubber. So in this case, it now keeps my Mirrycle firmly in place on the Rad Runner.

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The size and shape of the Rad Runner is also a little strange at first glance, but I think you’ll come to appreciate it. It’s not a mountain bike, it’s not really a cruiser, and it’s not a scrambler-style ebike. It’s a little bit of all of them. 

The step-in frame allows shorter riders like my wife to get on easily, the straight handlebars enable you to tackle off-road more aggressively than if you had wrap around cruiser handlebars, and the fat tires take you pretty much anywhere. The bike weighs 65 pounds, which is heavy if you’re not used to an ebike, but fairly lightweight compared to more robust ebikes with suspension. If you really want lightweight, check out the RadMission, which weighs only 50lbs.

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But the main advantage of the RadRunner’s unique shape is its flexibility to conform to you. I already mentioned the rear rack or seat area can be used for all sorts of purposes, and it’s pretty common for the front handlebars to be adjustable on most ebikes, but what’s different about the Rad Runner is it has an actual adjustable seat post.

Taller riders can actually fit comfortably on the Rad Runner, while most scrambler ebikes make taller riders look a little clown-like and force them to stick their knees out. 

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That’s not a huge deal if you only use the throttle, but you’re not going to pedal on something like the Juiced Scorpion. On the Rad Runner, however, pedaling is not only possible, it’s actually quite pleasant, giving you a nice physical workout anytime you want to use the pedal assist instead of just the throttle. Isn’t that what pedal assist ebikes are meant to do?

RadRunner Accessories and Support

You can also modify the bike by attaching a front rack, or installing Rad’s own cargo container in the step-through space, or add just about any standard bike accessories to your heart’s desire. I’ve added a super bright, blinking rear light that is much more visible than the included static rear light.

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And of course the UrRider, rear seat cushion, and rear handlebars that carry two kids along. But I’ve seen other riders deck their RadRunners with pet carriers, package transports, and maybe most important of all, a comfier seat if you plan on riding a lot.

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Don’t forget the basics, like that Mirrycle, a tire repair kit, and some tools. Luckily Rad Power includes a tool kit with the Rad Runner, and the custom Kenda tires are already reinforced with puncture protection. But a flat tire is inevitable if you ride enough. For me, I keep the tires at slightly under pressure to absorb the bumps, and in over a year still haven’t had a flat tire. Touch wood.

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And then we come to the battery. If you know anything about ebikes, you know the battery can be much of the cost of an electric bike, and also much of the headache if you happen to run into issues.

On our Ariel D-class, a cheap battery charger shorted the battery within a day of its arrival. Since it’s a proprietary battery that can only be purchased through Ariel Rider, and with a backlog of orders, it took months to get a replacement battery. If you’ve already waited many months to get your electric motorbike, another 3-4 months wait for a replacement battery can be quite a bummer. But if you’re invested in one of these bikes as a commuter or car replacement, you can’t afford that kind of down time.

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The beauty with Rad Power bikes is the power in numbers makes their parts easy to source and there are plenty of third party alternatives. That means a replacement battery or charger is a cinch to get, even through Amazon. Rad’s support is also quite helpful, as I found when the center stand spring snapped. Since I bought my Rad Runner second hand, the 1 year warranty only stays with the first owner. But Rad offered a spring replacement for $1. 

I actually found a motorcycle exhaust spring that did the trick, but I appreciate Rad’s friendly customer service, knowing that customer support in the electric bike world can be grossly inadequate, if not outright blood boiling. Curious about a company before you buy a bike? Just join its fan group on Facebook and you’ll see the real story behind the flash.

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As for the Rad Runner battery, I find it a perfect size for most people: not too light or heavy, easily chargeable without complicated instructions, and again, a replacement or bonus battery is easy to find. Sometimes the battery feels a little bit tough to remove, but you eventually figure out a method of lifting it from the bottom.

A nice feature is that the battery comes with a key, which can turn the battery into three positions: locked and on, locked and off, and unlocked for removing. If you’re going to leave your bike somewhere, it’s a comfort to know you can leave the battery in but disable the bike’s power, so a passerby can’t turn it on and mess with it.

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Oh and about that center stand. The center stand is not too common with ebikes, and it can be hard to figure out if you’ve never used one before. Center stands are well loved among motorcyclists because they keep the bike upright and compact when it’s in storage, compared to a leaned-over bike that takes up a lot more space.

They also let you work on either the front or rear tire without needing an additional bike lift. But mostly it’s just a convenient and more solid way of standing the bike up without depending on a flimsy kick stand.

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What about speed, and power? The RadRunner is a Class 2 bike with a 750w motor, with a maximum speed of 20mph. Every other ebike seems to be pushing 28 miles per hour, and some going into the 30s. Legality aside, who wouldn’t want a more powerful and faster ebike? Sure, sometimes I wish there was a little boost mode when going uphill.

But like I mentioned earlier, the beauty of this bike is in its simple and transparent function. It is what it is, completely within the confines of the law, and if you want to go faster you just gotta pedal. 

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As for the battery, I’ve found there is a seemingly unlimited amount of range after a fresh charge. Five lights seem to last an eternity. But once you get into the three and two light world, the drop in battery life and range increases dramatically. Range anxiety is real when you’re lugging 100 lbs of children along on a 65 lb bike plus battery and accessories. 

A more detailed battery meter on an actual LCD screen might give you more precise measurement of range, but the simplicity of the design is fine by me. I keep the battery charged after every ride, and if I forget to do that, and go out with only four or three lights, I know to keep the adventure on the short side.

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But what an adventure it’s been, and I look forward to many more with the RadRunner. For a retail price of $1199, it’s an incredible deal. Most people are spending two times that on a bike that can go a little faster, but doesn’t offer you nearly the same sort of versatility.

Since getting my bike about a year ago, I’ve had a couple other faster ebikes, I also have a 500cc gas motorcycle, and more recently I’ve acquired a second hand Zero FX electric torpedo on two wheels. But on a day to day basis, whether it’s with my kids or for an easy solo ride around town, I’m jumping on the Rad Runner. And if you’re even remotely considering it, I recommend you jump on one too.

RadRunner at Rad Power Electric Bikes