I’m calling it now: Mopeds are making a comeback, but I’m not talking about the sputtering gas-powered minibikes of yesteryear. Instead, the latest mopeds are e-bikes with powerful electric motors and plenty of oomph—and some throwback styling thrown in for good measure. The new Rad Power Bikes RadRunner, which goes on sale today, is a great example of the trend. We first took a Rad Power e-bike for a spin back in 2017, but the company’s latest model is worth a closer look. At just $1,299, it crosses the line from expensive toy into affordable everyday workhorse.
What It Is: The RadRunner is a Class II pedal-assist electric bike, which means it has a motor that boosts your power as you pedal and can be controlled via a twist throttle on the handlebars. It tops out at 20 miles per hour, like other Class II e-bikes, and offers four levels of pedal assist. It uses a single-speed drivetrain, so there are no gears to shift, has a 750-watt motor, and is rated to go 25-45 miles per charge, depending on riding conditions and the level of pedal assist you choose (or how much you gun the throttle).
It comes with an integrated rear rack, headlight, and tail/brake light, and is rated to carry 300 pounds of cargo, or a passenger with the available passenger seat attachment. Powering this rig is a 48-volt, 14-Ah battery that’s lockable and removable with a key.
Why We Like It: There are several other moped-style e-bikes on the market, including the Unimoke Classic Electric Bike and Juiced Bikes Scrambler, but the RadRunner caught my eye for its appealing price point, which is several hundred dollars less than similar rides. But this is not a knock-off.
After several days of riding, I was really impressed with the RadRunner’s design and performance. I felt confident riding on neighborhood streets in traffic, the power assist controls were easy to use, and overall the bike felt solid, fast, and stable—even when I loaded it up with a wooden cargo box and a week’s worth of groceries.
Rad Power founder and CEO Mike Radenbaugh told me the RadRunner was designed to stand out from the competition with its adjustable seat height and deep accessory lineup (think passenger seats, fenders, cargo racks). Those are definitely highlights—some other moped-style bikes have a flat bench seat, so you can’t adjust your ride height for optimum pedaling, and the accessories make it possible to customize this bike exactly how you want it. I would add that the step-through frame, another unique feature on this RadRunner, is especially helpful: It makes it much easier to get on and off the bike when hauling cargo.
Those beefy tires are nice, too. Rad Power worked with Kenda to design them for this bike, and they’re made with an extra ply and a unique knobby tread to handle greater weight and soak up bumps in the pavement. Although rolling over larger bumps made me wish for a front fork with suspension, overall the bike absorbed rough patches well.
The best part? After eight miles and an afternoon’s worth of errands in 90-degree heat, I didn’t even break a sweat. Try that while riding a normal bike.
Nitpick: Radenbaugh explained that the team chose a single-speed drivetrain for ease of maintenance and simplicity. That makes sense, but the lack of gearing also makes this beast tough to start from a stop (it weighs 65 pounds), and you find the high end of that single gear pretty quickly. Of course, the motor kicks in after about half a crank turn, and I found that pedaling and using the twist throttle at the same time made for quicker starts. In addition, the motor can be a little jolty when accelerating, especially at the highest power assist mode. It takes some getting used to, but on my second ride I found that the third power assist mode, and some use of the throttle, helped make things smoother.