- I spent a few months tooling around on Rad Power Bikes’ latest model: the RadMission 1.
- At $1,099, the RadMission is the company’s most affordable bike to date.
- It’s overall a great buy, even if it doesn’t have some of the bells and whistles of pricier bikes.
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Electric bikes are booming, and for good reason.
They offer loads of advantages over other modes of transportation: an e-bike can take you further than a normal bike and get you there faster. Depending on where you’re going, it can be quicker than driving, and it doesn’t come with the same environmental baggage or the need to find a parking spot. It can even be more convenient than public transit – and with COVID-19 still surging, e-bikes are a welcome alternative to subways and buses.
And yet, the utilitarian ride from one of the most popular e-bike companies in the country further convinced me that an electric bicycle is the best way to get around a city. Not least because the RadMission proved that you can get all of the myriad benefits of e-bike ownership – and some extra perks – at a welcoming price point.
Rad Power Bikes first unveiled the RadMission 1 last summer with a starting price of $999, but it has since bumped up the price to $1,099. Already known for its affordable cargo and commuter bikes – ranging in price from around $1,200 to $1,700 – the company upped the ante by cramming a whole lot of handy features into a bike that’s even cheaper than its existing lineup.
The RadMission comes in two frame options: a step-through model and a standard version. The former is meant for riders between 5’2” and 6’2”, while the latter is designed for taller riders from 5’10” to 6’4”. At 6’1″, I opted for the standard model, which proved fairly comfy.
It gets its power from a 500-watt motor in the rear hub, which allows for a claimed top speed of 20 mph. There are four levels of pedal assist, which you toggle between using a control panel – no screens here. There’s also a twist throttle.
Range, as with all e-bikes, depends heavily on the level of pedal assistance you choose and how hard you push the bike. The manufacturer estimates it to be 25 miles on the low end and upward of 45 miles on the high end.
I didn’t attempt to max out the range, but I can say that the battery held up excellently over the course of multiple long and short rides, even on frigid New York days, and I didn’t find myself topping up the battery too often.
The RadMission 1 transformed the way I got around New York for the three months I had it. Although I had many fewer places to go than normal (you can guess as to why) when I did venture out, it was often by way of the RadMission.
The bike was great for long jaunts across the city to meet family and friends, as well as short trips around my neighborhood that I wanted to make even shorter. I was elated when I found I could speed from my apartment in Queens down to Brooklyn’s Prospect Park in around 40 minutes – a trip that Google Maps said would take around an hour by bike, and even longer on the subway. (Take that!)
Although the RadMission probably isn’t quick enough to satisfy any speed demons out there, it was perfectly adequate for my needs. The highest level of pedal assistance got me places quickly and allowed me to keep up decently well with traffic, which helped me feel safe and catch more green lights. I felt like I was hacking a system that was built for cars.
And even at that highest pedal-assist setting, there’s still room to put in some work and get your heart pumping, which I appreciated.
The ride quality isn’t cushy, but that’s to be expected from any bike without suspension. The RadMission’s airy tires – which are fatter than those on a road bike but skinnier than the motorcycle-like rubbers found on some other e-bikes – helped soak up some imperfections on New York’s streets and gave me the confidence to lean into corners.
Ergonomic grips are a nice touch, especially for riders like me who tend to get wrist pain on longer, bumpier trips.
The RadMission’s single gear didn’t leave me wanting on steep hills, given that the electric motor is always there to give you a boost. It can take a bit of work to get going from a stop, as there’s a momentary lag between when you start pedaling and when the motor kicks in – but that’s typical of bikes in this price range.
When it came time to haul the RadMission in and out of my building, I found it reasonably easy to lug around. Weighing in at 48 lbs, the RadMission isn’t a featherweight by any means, but it’s a solid 15 lbs lighter than Rad Power Bikes’ other models. It wasn’t much more challenging to maneuver around my apartment than a normal bike, and its relatively slim profile meant I could stick it in a corner without too much fuss.
Some other nice touches: Rad Power Bikes thoughtfully includes things that make e-biking safer and more convenient, like a bright headlamp, a rear brake light, and a bell that’s integrated into the left brake lever. Braze-ons on the head tube and seat stays allow customers to mount an array of different racks and accessories the manufacturer offers.
Overall, the RadMission’s riding experience is solid. It’s not as balanced or buttery smooth as the ride you’d get from an expensive e-bike with more advanced components, but it’s not competing with those bikes. The RadMission gets the job done with no complaints.
From riding a few other e-bikes – and seething as e-bike riders blew past me on my non-motor-assisted rides – I knew that electric bikes were a fantastic way to get around a city. And the fact that now you can now get a name-brand bike that feels sturdy, rides nice, and has decent upgradeability for just $1,100 only makes them more attractive in my book.
Cost is relative, of course, and I’m not saying that everyone can or should buy an e-bike. But let’s put it this way: the RadMission costs hundreds less than a years’ worth of New York subway rides. It and other bikes like it have the potential to democratize and expand e-bike ownership, helping to curb CO2 emissions, reduce congestion, and bridge some of the transportation gaps endemic to cities.
No doubt the RadMission doesn’t have the fancy components or bells and whistles of higher-end bikes.
It has a single-speed, not an internally-geared hub or automatic transmission. It has mechanical disc brakes, not hydraulic ones. It has a hub motor, rather than a mid drive. It has a control panel with physical buttons and LEDs, rather than a display. And it has a somewhat unsightly nest of cables up front, rather than a sleek system of internal routing.
But none of that affects the amount of utility or fun you can get out of the RadMission. And if those design choices mean that Rad Power Bikes can sell the model for $1,100 as opposed to $1,500 or $2,000 or $3,000 or more, all the better.
Rad Power Bikes could have added a more premium model to its lineup with some of the snazzy features mentioned above, and it probably would have found a market for it. So it’s nice to see that the company is instead moving in the other direction to make its products even more accessible. I hope other e-bike makers come along for the ride.