RAD POWER RADCITY 5 PLUS STEP-THROUGH
PRICE: $1,800 / WEIGHT: 64.8 LB
A GOOD CITY or commuter e-bike needs to cover a wide range of needs. From picking up some groceries, to dropping the kid off at daycare, to running a package across town, or bringing home a pizza and a six-pack, everyone has different needs for a commuter bike; and your needs might vary from one day to the next. Because of this, it is important that the bike you choose has a lot of versatility.
Rad Power might not be well known to many cyclists who only ride non-assist bikes; that’s because Rad only makes and sells e-bikes. But even if you haven’t heard of Rad Power, chances are you have seen one in your neighborhood as, in only six years, they have quickly become one of the biggest e-bike brands in the United States. Based in Seattle, Rad Power makes a range of e-bikes mostly targeted toward city and commuter use. Rad Power sells consumer-direct, with prices for all of their bikes falling between $1,000 and $2,000—compared to more established brands, whose commuter e-bikes sell for double or triple this price.
The RadCity 5 Plus is the latest addition to the Rad Power product lineup, and has some big upgrades over its predecessor, the RadCity 3. The first thing you notice is the RadCity 5’s overall improved appearance and design. The new Rad draws styling cues from European city bikes and contemporary commuter bikes. Gone is the massive battery pack sitting just forward of the seat tube, replaced with a sleek, clean, semi-integrated battery housed inside the down tube.
The RadCity 5 Plus also receives an important upgrade in the braking system. The Bicycling test team is always a fan of powerful brakes, so we appreciate Rad Power’s upgrade to hydraulic disc brakes on the RadCity 5, versus the cable disc brakes found on the RadCity 3. Additionally, the RadCity 5 gets new faster-rolling tires with more flat protection and a revised suspension fork.
The RadCity 5 has a bit more pep than its predecessor, thanks to an improved rear hub motor, rated at 750w. Range on the RadCity 5 is also increased due to motor tuning and the new faster-rolling tires. While we did not have a RadCity 3 that we could compare, Rad Power claims an 11 percent improvement in range on the RadCity 5 Plus over the prior model.
The most noticeable ride characteristic of the bike is the upright riding position. While many commuter e-bikes have an upright style, none match that of the RadCity 5. This provides a lot of visibility when moving through busy streets. The stem is adjustable, with a 90° range of adjustment. This is great for fitting a variety of riders onto the bike.
However, the upright position has a bit of twitchy handling. At slower speeds, this quicker handling allows you to pick your way through stopped traffic,
but when you get the bike moving fast, it is important to remember this handling quirk to avoid washing out the front tire.
While Rad Power did upgrade the RadCity 5’s fork, I still found the fork to be undersprung for my 200-pound weight, and prone to bottom out over smaller potholes or off curb cuts. The fork does feel smooth, but lacks support or range of preload adjustment. Locking out the fork only made the front end more difficult to control, as the weight of an e-bike prevents you from picking up the front wheel over obstacles.
On flat ground the RadCity 5 Plus gets up to the 20mph max assisted speed fairly quickly, though on steeper inclines the motor struggles and the bike wallows. I found this out when the RadCity 5 barely made it up a short but steep hill on my chosen route home. If you are a lighterweight rider, or ride in a flat area, the power should be more than sufficient for commuting and around-town use.
Though the hydraulic disc brakes on the RadCity 5 are an improvement over the cable brakes used on the RadCity 3, these brakes remind us that there is still a noticeable gap in performance between good and sub-par hydraulic brakes. These brakes did not have as much power as the stoppers found on some other bikes, lacking solid feel and modulation. Unfortunately, they just don’t instill a ton of confidence when you’re trying to slow the bike in a panic situation.
The RadCity 5 Plus is a good bike for a good price, and a leap forward for Rad Power. It comes equipped with the essentials needed for commuting, plus, Rad Power offers a lot of accessories to customize your bike to your personal taste. While not the most powerful motor, the RadCity 5’s motor has enough assistance to get you confidently around town or to work without your ride ending in a sweaty mess. The low points of the bike, such as the soft suspension and underpowered brakes, are disappointing but will probably work fine for lighter-weight riders.
In a crowded market of commuter e-bikes, the RadCity 5 isn’t the most powerful, but still has a lot going for it. If you are looking for an e-bike to replace your car or analog bike for some trips, the RadCity 5 Plus is worth checking out. The upright position and stepthrough design will benefit many riders. If you are looking for a faster bike with stronger brakes, take a look at the comparably priced Aventon Level.—Tara