Seattle is a popular city for commuting to work on a bike and in May 2016's Bike to Work month event, I captured the honors for most miles rode with over 451 miles completed. That month motivated me to continuing biking to work and one year later I took it to the next level with the purchase of my most expensive mobile device, the RadCity electric commuter bike.
Last year Zillow issued a report stating that Seattle ranked as the number one city for bikes. This study looked at the percent of commuters who biked to work, how long it takes to get to work on a bike, the number of Zillow rental listings mentioning bike storage, and miles of protected bike lanes in each city. The mild year-round climate, access to trails, and various ways to combine biking with public transportation are also helpful in encouraging bike commuting.
Last May I started riding my 1993 Bridgestone XO-3 21-speed bike I purchased in 1994. It's an awesome bike that still runs like a champ, but I started looking for something a few months ago that I could ride without having to shower after each segment, that could provide year-round transportation and could support my commute with the Sounder train without having to drive a car, and that would be fun to ride. Enjoying the ride means I am more apt to choose it over the car.
- Frame: 16 and 20 inch models, 6061 aluminum alloy
- Motor size: 750 watt brushless Shengyi direct drive hub motor with regen braking
- Pedal Assist: Five levels with full throttle, no assist mode
- Range: 20-40+ miles
- Top speed: 20 mph
- Battery capacity: 48V 11.6Ah Panasonic lithium ion, 800 charge cycles
- Charge time: 4-5 hours
- Display: Backlit LCD with speedometer, wattmeter, odometer, and battery gauge
- USB ports: Two, one on battery and one on display unit
- Lights: Wired 200 lumens headlight and battery operated LED tail light
- Payload capacity: 275 pounds
- Seat: Velo pluch saddle with lifting handle
- Integrated rear rack capacity: 60 pounds
- Brakes: Front and rear 180mm disc
- Fenders: Front and rear provided
- Drivetrain: 7 speed Shimano
- Tires: 26 inch x 2.3 inch Kenda K-Rad
- Bike weight: 60 pounds
The RadCity has a modern matte gunmetal gray finish with cool orange highlights displaying the name, company brand, and some striping. It is great looking bike and I have had nothing but positive comments from everyone who has seen it.
The handlebars are in a riser form and can be raised and lowered with the adjustable stem. The handgrips are comfortable too and after nearly 200 miles of riding I have yet to feel any discomfort from them. There is a fairly loud, easy to operate, bell on the left side with the display controller and level selector switch located a few inches from the bell.
The right side handgrip is shorter than the left because the inner most two inches rotates as the throttle for the electric bike. This functions like a motorcycle with a rotation towards you causing the bike to accelerate. The more you rotate the handle, the faster you go forward. There is a red toggle switch for the throttle in case you want to keep yourself from giving in to the full throttle, Nacho Libre mode. The Shimano gear shift is also located on the right side with a lever and a button used to shift up and down, as you need.
Working back and down, you will find the massive Panasonic battery pack attached securely to the frame. There is a lock, two keys are included, so that you can secure the battery when you leave your bike locked up somewhere. You can charge up the battery while it is mounted or remove it and charge it as well. The rubber cover for the charging port is pretty terrible and I have yet to be able to get it to secure flat against the battery pack. There is a power button with blue backlight located on the upper left side of the battery pack.
Good quality Wellgo pedals are provided on the RadCity. They have nubs to keep your feet on the pedals and reflectors on the front and back to help with visibility.
The Velo plush saddle height can be adjusted and fits my 73 inch frame well. I found it to be very comfortable and never exhibited any discomfort while riding the RadCity. A convenient lift handle is found under the back of the seat and is one of the primary carrying points for me as I lug the RadCity up and down three flights of stairs at the King Street Station in Seattle. I've seen people perform lots of customization mods with these Rad Power Bikes, but I plan to leave the saddle alone for now on my RadCity.
There is a front suspension system, also adjustable, that seem to make the ride very comfortable when riding over tree roots, rocks, railroad tracks, and other bumps in the road. I can tell a huge difference in comfort compared to my standard stiff bike.
The direct drive hybrid unit, the Shengyi direct drive hub motor, is located in the center hub of the rear tire and provides all of the power for the assistance and throttle. The RadCity has a seven speed Shimano gear system with classic chain drive. The drive unit is black with silver highlights. It is powerful, quiet, and also looks good.
There is a rear cargo rack that is integrated directly into the frame of the RadCity. It allows you to strap panniers on either side and a trunk bag on top. I've secured my backpack to the rack as well. It has also been designed to fit a Yepp Maxi child seatback and look forward to taking my future grandkids for a ride on the RadCity.
A rear, battery-powered LED light is positioned at the back of the cargo rack. It is supposed to switch between solid red and flashing mode, but I have been unable to get it into flashing mode so use the solid mode with another flashing red light attached to my trunk bag that is secured to my RadCity at all times.
There is no water bottle holder provided on the bike and I have read in various forums that people have had trouble finding a water bottle rack that fits the RadCity. For now, I put water into my rear trunk bag, but will be looking for a water bottle solution to mount on the bike.
The bike comes with a charger, manuals, and a toolkit. The toolkit contains four wrenches, four allen wrenches, and a screwdriver with standard and Philips head ends. These are provided to help you keep things tightened up and adjust everything to your particular fit.
The small display unit, from King Meter, is where the status of everything can be viewed and controlled. The display is permanently mounted to the bike so you don't remove it or take it with you when you are not riding the bike. It is wired into the battery and other cables to control the bike. The monochrome LCD display measures 60 mm in width by 40 mm in height. There is a USB port on the bottom center of the display that you can use to charge your phone or even an extra front light for more visibility.
You will find basic information presented on the display, including a speedometer, an odometer, selected power level, and battery level indicator. If you ever have an issue with your bike, error codes will appear on the display as well. You can enter the display settings to switch between imperial and metric units, set the maximum speed governor (between 12 and 40 km/hour), and set backlight brightness.
You control the display with the three buttons on the left handle bar. Pressing and holding the up button and center action button at the same time toggle the display backlight and front headlight on and off. Pressing the up or down arrow moves you from 0 to level 5 pedal assist. The display shows power consumption while riding, from about 60 to 66 watts in assist level 1 up to 750 watts in assist level 5. Pedal assist uses a cadence sensor built into the drive train of the ebike which reads when you are pedaling and automatically turns the electric motor on to provide assistance when you are pedaling.
Unfortunately, there is no smartphone connectivity or way to download, use, or share the data that appears on the display as you ride the RadCity. The display simply shows the status and collects data for the odometer. I have been strapping on my Garmin Felix 3HR to capture GPS data, but haven't yet tried mounting my Garmin speed or cadence sensors.
Experiences with the RadCity
Last year, a couple of coworkers bought RadMini and RadWagon bikes for their commute. The RadMini owner has a 4 mile roundtrip commute while the RadWagon owner hauls small children on the back of his along with making lots of errands with the bike. I considered the RadRover, fat tire bike, but for my various commute plans it just wasn't the right fit.
At the end of 2016, Rad Power Bikes released the RadCity with a design optimized for commuters. It includes a more standard tire size, same as the ones on the RadWagon, front and rear fenders as part of the package, and an integrated rear cargo rack. It also has a direct drive motor, front suspension, regen braking, and a length of 72 inches. It was exactly what I was looking for in 2016 and is perfect for Seattle commuting.
Before I made the decision to purchase the RadCity, I took it for a test drive and asked Ty Collins, chief marketing officer and co-founder, a ton of questions. I wanted a bike that would still allow me to get a workout if I wanted one while also allowing me to commute via bike without having to take a shower after each segment of my trip. I was a bit apprehensive about taking a test ride by myself because I thought it would be tough to stop the bike and I might let the throttle get out of control and cause a crash. After a few seconds of riding, my fears were extinguished and I had a blast riding the test bike.
I live about 40 miles south from Seattle in Puyallup so that my commute is a combination of driving, Sounder train riding, and walking. I currently drive 3 miles to the train station, ride the train for 43 minutes, and then walk about a mile to the office. The minimum distance for riding a bike, combined with the maximum train ride, is eight round trip miles per day. The great thing is that I can get on and off the Sounder train with a bike at any of the four stops between Puyallup and Seattle to extend my bike commute. There are various trails to ride bikes on so that riding with cars is minimized.
In an effort to evaluate the various commuting scenarios with the RadCity, including battery life, comfort, effort required, and fun, I rode the RadCity 38.2 miles one-way door-to-door, rode a typical 32 mile round-trip (this is my most popular ride that gives me some daily exercise), rode the minimum eight mile trip with work clothes on, and tried going full throttle (I call this Nacho Libre mode, also shown in my video) to see how long the battery could last. Here were the results:
- 38.2 mile one-way commute: I started this trip very early in the morning and it took me two hours and 23 minutes to complete. I rode with level 1-3 pedal assist, used the full throttle to get off the line after stopping, and had the headlight on the entire ride. I hit 2/5 bars left with 18 miles to go and averaged 16 mph. One of five bars remained on the battery indicator on the display. I had myself, 245 pounds, with about 25 pounds of gear on board. Make sure to check out the last segment of my video to see the full commute in time lapse format. Sorry for the portrait recording, but there wasn't room with my clamp to mount my phone in landscape orientation.
- 32 mile two-way commute: With this shorter typical trip, I bumped the pedal assist up to 3-5 and used the throttle a bit more. The bike battery was charged at the office so I started each segment with a full charge and had three bars remaining after each segment.
- 8 mile two-way commute: In order to actually replace a vehicle, I need to be able to commute to the train and back without sweating through workout gear each time. I understand in the winter that I will have to wear rain gear, but the electric assistance provided by the RadCity makes it possible for me to never have to drive to the train again.
- Full throttle mode: The bike was loaded with my typical commute outfitting, so myself and about 10-15 pounds of backpack and gear. The route was mostly flat with a steep hill at the end. I went 15 miles with 1/5 bars still showing with an average of 16 mph.
While my main desire for the electric bike is daily commuting, I also wanted to see if the RadCity could serve to meet my other transportation needs. This includes making some quick runs to the local store to pick up some groceries or other necessary supplies, getting to houses of my local family for visits and technical assistance (I'm the resident IT person for family and friends), and possibly even taking my bike to a local river for fly fishing. This last one seemed a bit ridiculous, but I thought it might lead to some fun photos and videos.
I loaded up the Rad Power Bikes Ballard cargo bag pannier with most of my fly fishing gear (boots, chest waders, reel, etc), filled up my trunk bag (bought one on Amazon that matches the RadCity), secured my chest pack with flies, line, and more with bungee cords on top of the trunk bag, and strapped my rod to the side of the frame with bungee cords. The RadCity was loaded to the gills with probably 35-45 pounds of gear, water bottles, and my lunch. I exceeded the weight limit for this test and ended up breaking one of the three clasps on the cargo bag.
I rode the three miles down to the first Sounder train, departing at 4:45 am. I exited the train in Tukwila with my RadCity and rode a few miles across Renton to the Cedar River trail head. I rode up the Cedar River trail for just over eight miles to my first fishing hole. I packed a couple of locks for my RadCity, but was so nervous about theft by tweakers that I hauled the RadCity right to the river's edge with me and all my gear. I fished at about five spots, working my way down the river, and landed one small rainbow trout while enjoying the fantastic sunny day off from work. I finished about 11:00, but the first Sounder train south wouldn't come by the Tukwila station until about 2:45 pm.
With the battery gauge bouncing between two and three bars remaining, out of five, I decided to test the limits of the RadCity and started the remaining 21 mile trek south to Puyallup. Given the battery situation, I limited assist to levels 1 and 2 with minimal throttle use from stop lights on the trail to get me rolling. Nearly an hour and a half later, I attempted to ride straight up the steep hill into my development. The battery was spent and I didn't get any more assistance from the battery pack. This is when I found out how heavy the RadCity, with myself and all the fishing gear, really is. My total trip was 47 miles, which was very impressive given the nearly 290 pounds of man and equipment mounted on the RadCity. It was a blast to know I can go fly fishing without a gas-powered vehicle and I look forward to trying out more adventures on my RadCity electric bike.
Pro and cons
After a month with the RadCity electric commuter bike, I am convinced it is money well spent. I have a blast every time I ride it and the reason many of us started riding bikes as kids was to have fun. If you can avoid driving a car, mix in a bit of biking with public transportation, and ride with a smile on your face then you have a winning solution.
The best aspects of the RadCity for me are:
- Full throttle option: It's wonderful for getting off the stop line quickly and providing a boost up hills and into the wind.
- Long battery life: The RadCity has exceeded my expectations in every test.
- Comfortable ride: The seat, handlebars, and fit are perfect for me.
- Inexpensive: $1,500 is reasonable for an electric bike.
- Integrated rear rack, fenders included: Parts that you would have to add for daily commuting in Washington State.
To get an electric bike down in the $1,500 price range, there are some compromises that have to be made. Some of these can be addressed with personal modifications made to the bike after you purchase it and I have seen lots of people improving their RadCity in various forums. I may do some work to it over time, but for now am very satisfied with the RadCity. Here are a few cons:
- It's heavy: 60 pounds doesn't bother me, but my sister-in-law and daughters found the bike a bit intimidating
- There are lots of cables and ties that give it a bit of an unrefined look. As an engineer, I prefer to have easy access to all of this, but it can look a bit unfinished.
- Low intensity headlight: It may be fine for daylight awareness, but in the dark the light is inadequate. I'll be upgrading this before fall and winter riding.
Price, availability, and delivery
The RadCity electric bike is available now for $1,499. I was considering a new road bike, with prices in the $1,000 to $3,000 range. There is many priced much more than that as well. Most electric commuter bikes I found were priced in the $2,000 to $5,000 range.
Rad Power Bikes has a shop located in Seattle so I was able to visit the store, test ride a bike, and then purchase my own assembled RadCity without having to worry about delivery or assembly. Rad Power Bikes is able to offer affordable electric bikes since they sell direct to the consumer. I found the Rad Power Bikes story to be quite interesting and after reading Mike Radenbaugh's story you can see that he, along with co-founders Ty Collins and Marimar White-Espin, work hard to provide a great affordable electric bike experience for as many people as possible.
For those who do not live in Seattle, when you order through Rad Power Bikes, you may have the option to use Velofix to have your bike assembled, delivered, and then tuned up within 30 days for $149. Currently, shipping is free on Rad Power ebikes, but you have to assemble yourself. This doesn't sound too bad as you just have to turn the handlebars and then install the front wheel, handlebars, and pedals.
There are also opportunities to try out the RadCity at various local events that Rad Power Bikes participates in and on its sponsored road trips. Bike rental shops around the country have Rad Power Bikes too so look for them and try them out on a rental basis if you get the chance. Rad Power Bikes also has a partnership with B8ta so if you visit a retail store in Austin, Palo Alto, Santa Monica, San Francisco, or Seattle you should find a Rad Power Bike to check out.