E-Bikes have been getting increasingly popular in recent years, with more people looking to reduce their car use, often supported by government incentives to reduce congestion and pollution in major cities.
For over a decade now, Seattle-based company Rad Power Bikes has been the go-to brand for Americans looking for a car-replacing commuter and utility bikes at a wallet-friendly price. Founded in 2007, they are North America’s largest e-bike company with 10 different models to choose from. Recently, the company has faced some challenges with several lawsuits and rounds of layoffs. Despite this, the company continues to be a very popular option for Americans and one can take comfort in the fact that all Rad Power Batteries and chargers are certified to meet UL Mark’s safety standards.
Curious about these bikes, Cycling Weekly received the RadRunner 3 Plus in for review. With plenty of accessories and a 350lb cargo capacity, it’s more than capable of hauling cargo, trailers or passengers. With small wheels, wide tires and a suspension fork, it’s competent and has a quick, playful feel. The wide gear range combined with the 750-watt motor makes even the steepest hills feel effortless, and cruising around town is smooth and speedy.
Full disclosure: I had never ridden an e-bike for a meaningful amount of time before getting on the RadRunner. I was expecting to use it for commuting and minor errands but I never expected that I’d end up almost wholly replacing my car with the RadRunner 3 Plus. I am using it nearly every day instead of my car. Seeing just how much less I could use my car has been eye-opening, and it feels great to know I am reducing my own carbon footprint.
The RadRunner 3 Plus in numbers
- Frame material: Aluminum
- Bike weight: 75.5 lbs
- Load capacity: 350 lbs
- Battery: 672 Wh
- Charger: 48V, 2 Amp Rad Power Bikes smart charger
- Motor: 750W brushless Rad Power Bikes geared hub motor, 5:1 planetary gear reduction.
- Pedal Assist: Intelligent 5 level pedal assist with 12 magnet cadence sensor Range: Estimated 25-45+ miles (40-72+ km) per charge
- Controller: Custom Rad Power Bike controller; 48V, 750W
- Display: Charge indicator, speedometer, odometer, trip odometer, pedal assist level, motor watts, headlight/taillight indicator, trip time, clock Hub
- Throttle: Half twist throttle
- Integrated Lights: Auto-on feature. Front: Standard Rad Power Bikes LED headlight Rear: Integrated taillight with brake light
- Shifters: Shimano SL-TX50-7R, thumb shifter, 7 speed
- Brake Calipers: Tektro Hydraulic HD-E350
- Brake Levers: Tektro aluminum hydraulic three finger levers with motor cutoff switch
- Brake Rotors: Tektro 180 mm front and rear
- Chain: KMC Z7, 132 links
- Crank Set: 48T chainring; ProWheel Ounce Forged Alloy 170 mm crank length; square taper J.I.S.; dual-sided aluminum chainring guard
- Derailleur: 7 speed Shimano Altus MD310
- Gearing: 1×7, 11-34T cassette, 48T front chainring
- Fenders: Full-coverage front and rear
- Fork: RST Spring Fork, 60 mm travel with preload adjustment and lock-out
- Handlebar: Aluminum alloy, 710 mm wide, with 8.7″ rise, 22 degree handlebar sweep, 31.8 clamp diameter, 22 mm crossbar diameter
- Kickstand: Side-mounted, adjustable lean angle Pedals: CrMo axle, forged aluminum platform with reflectors, standard 9/16″ x 20 TPI threading
- Rear rack: Integrated, 120 lb (54 kg) carrying capacity
- Seatpost: 390 mm x 27.2 mm
- Tires: Kenda K905 with K-Shield puncture protection and reflective stripe
The RadRunner 3 Plus frame
The RadRunner 3 Plus comes in just one, compact frame size. Meant to fit most, the frame sports a step-through design and a long seatpost for height adjustability. To significantly change the reach, however, one would have to start swapping parts.
At 5 ’11, I had no issues finding a comfortable seat height but if you are on either end of the height spectrum, you may have trouble getting the one size to work for you.
The frame has plenty of mounting points for the many accessories that Rad Power Bikes sells. The frame’s rear end has an integrated rack where you can attach panniers or strap things down. The battery is semi-integrated into the downtube, keeping it out of the way while still being removable when needed. The battery is removable with a key for effortless charging, security or transport.
There is a small space above the bottom bracket with rails on either side, which I found handy for stashing small items. Rad also offers a console box, which fits perfectly in this space for storing cargo.
The frame is pretty compact for a cargo bike and in addition to saving on storage space in the garage, it also handles nimbly and responsively.
The RadRunner 3 Plus motor
The RadRunner 3 Plus utilizes a hub-driven 750-watt motor system. The RadRunner has both a pedal assist and a throttle. For safety, the motor is automatically cut if the brakes are applied.
There are five levels of pedal-assist ranging from the first level, which provides very little assistance, to level five, where you are at the max speed of 20mph with minimal pedaling effort. The acceleration is quick and I did observe some added noise at level 5.
Level four is my ideal assistance level. It provides enough assistance to bring the RadRunner up to the speed, but you still felt like you’re pedaling without being overwhelmed by the motor.
I was initially skeptical of the throttle but found it handy for getting going at stop signs and red lights. The throttle is not limited by the pedal assist level you choose, so it always provides maximum acceleration.
One can adjust the pedal-assist level using the buttons and LCD screen on the left side of the handlebars. The LCD screen is also where you can power up or down the whole bike and control the integrated lights.
I live in Durango, Colorado, and took the RadRunner 3 Plus on some pretty steep hills to test how it would climb. At 75 lbs, the bike is undoubtedly hefty and only gets heavier when you add panniers and cargo, but I was pleasantly surprised at how well it performed on steep climbs. The motor provided plenty of torque and handled the steep grades well.
The RadRunner 3 Plus components
The RadRunner was specced well with a seven-speed Shimano drivetrain providing more than enough range. The 11-34 cassette paired with a 48T front chainring gave me plenty of gear for the flats, and I only needed the 34 in the rear a couple of times. The chainring has a bash guard to protect it from damage and also helps protect the bottom bracket area of the bike.
The suspension fork, small wheel and wide tire combination is becoming increasingly popular among cargo e-bikes and I’m a big fan. The 20-inch wheels keep the bike low and stable, while the high-volume tires provide cushioning for poor road conditions. Combined with the 60mm of front suspension travel, the RadRunner 3 Plus is extremely comfortable to ride, and I often found myself venturing off the road onto dirt trails to test the bike’s limits. The small wheels and wide tires make the bike feel playful and surprisingly quick to handle despite its significant weight.
Adding hydraulic disc brakes was great to see and not always a given at this price point. The large 180mm rotors provide plenty of stopping power and were connected to the motor and lights, so when you use the brakes, it cuts off the assist and brightens the integrated tail light to act as a brake light. These safety features are a nice touch, especially for city riding.
The integrated lights worked well. Riding the bike at night, the headlight provided adequate illumination to see where I was going, but I would have liked to have seen Rad’s more premium halo light included on this bike. You can buy the upgraded light for $49, which provides nearly twice the brightness as the stock headlight.
The grips were one of the few component choices I disagree with. The leather ergonomic grips were comfortable enough, but when they get wet, they become slippery. I think a traditional gel grip would be better suited, but this is a minor detail.
The RadRunner 3 Plus accessories
I chose to include two of their locking panniers on my test bike, and I am a big fan of the extra carrying ability. They mount using large brackets to the bike’s rear and are easy to take on and off. You simply slide them into the holes at the top of the bracket and screw them on from the inside. I used the panniers for groceries and could fit everything I needed without much rattling. I tried transporting some fragile items like eggs and had no issues.
Rad offers an impressive collection of aftermarket accessories to make the bike suit your needs best, including baskets and a padded seat for the rear if you are traveling with a passenger.
The RadRunner 3 Plus value & verdict
At $2,299 (£2,199//€2,499), the RadRunner 3 Plus is one of its most expensive models but is relatively competitively priced compared to other cargo bikes. For example, the Specialized Globe, a similar bike in its cargo capacity, comes in at $2,800. Both are a steal if I consider the amount of car-trips I have replaced with this bike.
The RadRunner 3 Plus is an excellent e-bike that can handle most commuting and cargo carrying duties. Rad’s many accessories give added versatility, and a powerful motor lets you get where you need to go quickly and without too much effort. While not the lightest or the cheapest, the RadRunner 3 Plus provides good value and is extremely capable. With well-chosen components, it is easy to recommend for anyone looking to reduce their car dependency.