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Rad Power Bikes RadRover Step-Thru review: Carry all the things

Rad Power Bike's RadRover Step-Thru model brings fat tire fun to more people.

RadRover Step-Thru, white, with accessories
Rad Power Bikes RadRover Step-Thru review: Carry all the things
MSRP $1,499.00
“The RadRover Step-Thru will let you conquer grocery trips in comfort.”
  • Excellent value
  • Smooth ride
  • Extremely versatile
  • Step-Thru frame is accessible
  • Heavy and bulky
  • Seat adjustment tricky for short riders

Rad Power Bikes‘ new RadRover Step-Thru e-bike improves rider accessibility over the RadRover, the popular brand’s bestseller. Mounting and riding the RadRover Step-Thru model is easier for those of us who are challenged in terms of height and flexibility by the RadRover’s cross-tube design and 30.5-inch step-over height.

The rugged and versatile fat tire RadRover models deliver impressive value at their identical $1,499 starting prices. Sure, you can find e-bikes for under $1,000 that purport to have the same capabilities but lack the RadRovers’ quality complements and company support. And those with deep pockets can spend $5,000 or more for special-purpose e-bikes designed for road races or competitive mountain trail riding.

RadRover Step-Thru, white, stock
Image used with permission by copyright holder

The two RadRovers, like Rad Power Bikes’ other models, hit the sweet spot in terms of the quality and durability most people expect at this price. The $1,200 to $1,800 price range is the fastest-growing segment of the e-bike market, with Rad Power Bikes and Juiced Bikes the current sales leaders.

Best uses

The versatile RadRovers excel at recreation and transportation on- and off-road in towns and villages, on trails and at the beach, around campgrounds, in parks, and, if equipped with the proper accessories, running errands and shopping.

Neither the RadRover Step-Thru, nor the cross-tube version, is the best choice for all e-bike use. The relatively heavy RadRovers aren’t suitable as electric mountain bikes, and you wouldn’t want to enter one in a Hooligan-style e-bike flat-track race. The RadRovers’ weight and bulk also rule them out as urban mobility alternatives, as daily trips up and down stairs or on elevators would get old quick.

Speed, range, and components

The RadRover Step-Thru is a class 2 e-bike, which means that you can use electrical power to help you attain speeds up to 20 miles per hour. The battery-powered electrical motor on the bike’s rear-wheel hub works in two ways. You can choose from five levels of electrical assistance when you pedal the bike using a 7-speed Shimano derailleur.

There’s also a twist-grip throttle on the right handgrip that you can use for electrical power assistance with or without pedaling. Either way you use it, the electrical power assistance cuts out at 20-mph and only kicks back in when your speed drops below that threshold.

The RadRover Step-Thru’s rechargeable lithium-ion NCA battery has a travel range of 25 to 45 miles. Mileage will vary depending on full cargo weight (meaning you and your stuff), speed, incline, temperature, tire pressure, and, more than any other factor, the degree to which you use battery power more than pedal power. Fully recharging the battery pack with the included charger takes 5 to 6 hours.

The bike rides on 4-inch-wide x 26-inch diameter Kenda Juggernaut tires designed specifically for Rad Power Bikes. These tires have a mildly aggressive tread and a puncture-resistant liner that is a necessity for bikes ridden at e-bike speeds on varied terrain. Adjusting the tire’s air pressure can also significantly improve ride comfort.

Tektro mechanical 180mm disc brakes offer serious stopping power. While hydraulic disc brakes require less squeezing pressure, they cost more and need more maintenance than the mechanical brakes.

The RadRover models have a front spring fork with adjustable preload and 80mm of travel. You can adjust the fork easily with your fingers, and there’s also a lockout if you prefer a rigid frame. Lighting includes a new-to-Rad LED halo front light and a rear light that brightens when you apply the brakes. The RadRover Step-Thru and the latest version of the RadRover both come with black fenders standard — fenders were previously an option.

Build and assembly

Rad Power Bikes primarily sells e-bikes directly to the buyer, with shipping included in the sale price. Rad also has showrooms in Seattle, Vancouver, B.C., and the Netherlands, as well as numerous locations in North America, Central America, and Europe where you can test ride various models.

Rad ships e-bikes in a large carton with the front wheel and seat removed, and the handlebar detached. The only part where you might want help is in lifting the bike from the shipping carton. Rad includes the necessary tools with the bike. Rad Power Bikes also sends printed owner’s manuals with each of its bikes — most other manufacturers now rely on online manuals.

Using the manual and videos accessible from the Rad website, you can expect to spend one to two hours assembling the e-bike depending on your familiarity with the process.

To check out the Step-Thru’s versatility, we asked for optional front and rear racks ($69 and $80, respectively), a metal front basket ($79), and a pair of panniers or saddlebags ($89 each) to attach to the rear rack. Correctly installing the accessories took about two hours at a careful and methodical pace. The final price of the RadRover Step-Thru with accessories was $1,885.

So, how big and heavy is it?

The RadRover Step-Thru’s total length is 75 inches, the handlebar height is 47.5 inches, and the seat height (from the bottom of the pedal) adjusts from 28 inches to 37 inches. Stand-over height is only 20.25-inches with the Step-Thru. The RadRover dimensions are approximately the same as the Step-Thru except for its 30.5-inch stand-over height. The extra 10 inches makes a huge difference in getting on and off the bike.

The recommended rider height for the RadRover ranges from 5 feet, 4 inches to 6 feet, 2 inches. Thanks to its lower stand-over height, the Step-Thru’s recommended rider height ranges from 5 feet, 0 inches to 6 feet, 2 inches. Both versions have a 275-pound payload capacity, which includes passengers, luggage, and installed accessories.

Checking in on a Facebook Rad Power Bikes owners group, I found that 5 feet, 7 inches was the height at which people began to question the feasibility of buying a RadRover, especially if they planned to add a rear rack. I am precisely 5 feet, 7-inches, and I found it comfortable to mount the bike before I added the rear rack and panniers. With the accessories installed, I always stepped through the frame. I have a 29-inch inseam and found a happy compromise by adjusting the seat height so my legs could almost fully extend while pedaling and still be able to reach the ground without leaving the seat at stop signs or intersections.

RadRover Step-Thru, white, on hitch rack
Image used with permission by copyright holder

The Step-Thru model weighs 71 pounds, two pounds more than the RadRover. After I installed the accessories listed above, the bike weighed 83 pounds. Without accessories, the RadRover Step-Thru is only a few pounds heavier than other Rad models such as the 65-pound RadRunner or 67-pound RadMini. With the accessories in place on the Step-Thru, however, it was noticeably heavier to lift.

When I transported the RadRover Step-Thru to ride in various areas in southeastern North Carolina, it was easy to mount on a hitch carrier.

Riding it

Rad Power Bikes RadRover Step-Thru
Image used with permission by copyright holder

I logged miles on the RadRover StepThru both on- and off-road across fields, on dirt roads, and on paved roads and paths. Most often, I pedaled and used the throttle. The throttle is especially helpful when pulling away from a stop or out of an intersection with traffic, and responds quickly with the instant torque typical to e-vehicles. Maintaining 20mph or close to it wasn’t a challenge, although there are few hills in our coastal area. The fat tires definitely added to my confidence in the bike when riding near the edge of the road in traffic.

Based on my most recent experiences with e-bikes that have disc brakes of similar size, including the significantly lighter RadRunner, I was at first concerned about the stopping power of the brakes of the RadRover Step-Thru, especially after I added the racks and other accessories. In practice, however, I just pulled the brake levers a bit harder, and the bike stopped very quickly. E-bikes don’t have an anti-lock braking system (ABS), and I could easily lock up the wheels for a sliding stop.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

When I rode on anything but paved surfaces, I found that I relied more on throttle power only and less on pedaling. Even with the front suspension adjusted for more travel, and with lowered tire pressure, the ride was jumpy enough that I tended to stand on the pedals to use my knees as additional suspension components.

Bicycle seat style preference varies widely among riders. The RadRover has a Velo Plush saddle that some riders in the Rad Owners Facebook group praise. If I bought the RadRover, I’d probably replace the seat for a more cushy ride and perhaps replace the seat post with a suspension post as well. Switching out the standard components would likely cost $150 to $200 for aftermarket parts, so seating is another area in which Rad kept the price down with a midrange seat that many people find perfectly acceptable.

When riding the RadRover Step-Thru on a variety of surfaces, usually at or close to the 20mph maximum, I never noticed any shaking or found loose components or accessories after the ride. I jumped a few curbs at full speed, and while contents of the basket that weren’t secured moved around a bit, the bike didn’t falter or get squirrelly before regaining traction and momentum.

Our Take

The RadRover Step-Thru lives up to the conventionally designed RadRover’s reputation as a solidly constructed all-purpose e-bike. The Step-Thru never faltered, shook, or disappointed when traveling.

This bike is so sturdy and had enough room that it could certainly function as a cargo bike — unless you wanted to carry multiple passengers in optional child seats. I didn’t use it that way, but the rear panniers, rack, and front basket could handle most grocery shopping, sporting gear, or work tools. This is as much storage as you’ll get short of buying an extended-length cargo bike.

It’s easy to see why the RadRover is Rad Power Bikes’ top seller, and the Step-Thru version may well capture riders who would otherwise purchase the narrow-tire RadCity Step-Thru model. The RadRover’s fat tires add more versatility to the e-bike, albeit at somewhat of a cost of pedaling ease.

Is there a better alternative?

Some riders might prefer the cross-tube RadRover model just for looks, but a Rad representative assured us there is no difference in structural rigidity. The RadRover Step-Thru is available with a black or white frame, in each case with black fenders. The cross-tube RadRover only comes with a black frame. Our test bike was white because that was the color available, but I also think it gives the bike improved visibility over an all-black model. If you want a fat tire bike but need more portability, the folding RadMini is an excellent alternative at the same $1,499 price.

Among other brands, the Juiced Bikes RipCurrent Fat Tire E-Bike could be a good choice, although, at $1,899, it costs $400 more than the RadRover. The RipCurrent is a Class 3 bike with a 28-mph top speed, but it lacks the RadRover’s now-standard fenders. CSC Motorcycles recently introduced the CSC FT750-26, a new fat-tire e-bike with many premium components and a top speed of 25 to 28-mph. It has a $1,688 list price.

How long will it last?

All Rad Power Bikes come with a 1-year warranty against manufacturing defects, but we expect this bike should last 3 to 5 years or longer. Rad has a reputation for bikes with solid structural components, and the other elements are all recognized brand names, so there shouldn’t be an issue if you need to replace parts in the future. Also, Rad has live customer support hours seven days a week from the company’s Seattle headquarters.

Should you buy one?

Yes. If you’re looking for a solidly constructed e-bike to use as an all-purpose ride in various settings, the RadRover Step-Thru won’t disappoint. If you buy another e-bike in the future, the Step-Thru will still be a great bike to keep because the Step-Thru frame makes it accessible and easy to operate for a wide range of riders.

Editors' Recommendations

Bruce Brown
Digital Trends Contributing Editor Bruce Brown is a member of the Smart Homes and Commerce teams. Bruce uses smart devices…
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