Last summer I moved to a new city where my home, job and favorite restaurants are close enough together to make driving feel like an unnecessary hassle. Biking between these locations is the obvious solution.
However, I live at the top of a killer hill that can be tough to simply push my bike up. While I know people who bike up this hill, to me the frustration and shame of pushing a bike for a quarter mile is a straight up deal breaker.
Enter the perfect solution: an ebike. Originally, I was intrigued by the Blix Aveny Skyline because of its trendy design. Both of these bikes were within my budget and had a step through frame for wearing skirts (my two non-negotiables).
Both bikes have built in front and rear lights as well as options for baskets/cargo bags/etc. I ultimately chose the Radpower RadCity 3 Step Thru due to its gears and because I had personal experience riding my brother in law’s RadWagon, a cargo ebike model also by RadPower.
The Rad City 5 Plus tempted me as well but at $1999 it was just beyond my budget and the standard model came with everything I needed.
So far, this bike has been worth every penny.
Review in a Nutshell
- Excellent customer service
- 7-Speed gearing makes short work of tricky hills
- 750 watt motor (more powerful than the Blix Aveny)
- No affiliated bike shops for service and repairs
- Suspension fork seems unnecessary
- Components are not top of the line but that is a tradeoff of the affordable pricetag
Price & Where to Buy:
- $1,599 at Radpowerbikes.com *
Video – RadPower Radcity
My bike arrived within a week and a half in a large cardboard box requiring some assembly. While I have built IKEA furniture with varying success, my brother-in-law assembled this bike for me since he is skilled at working on bikes. If you aren’t mechanically inclined, opt for Rad Power’s assembly service to build the bike for you before it is delivered.
Rad Power has also launched a mobile service that will travel to you for assembly, repairs and test rides. Enter your zipcode on the service’s website to determine if it is available to you. I found it is not an option in Boise but is in Salt Lake City.
If the extra cost of these assembly services deter you, watch the helpful videos online to help you assemble it yourself! This is the route I would have chosen without my brother-in-law. It is always nice to have options.
Once I settled between the Blix Aveny and the Radpower Rad City Step-Thru, my decision came down to details. The biggest detail for me was that the Rad City Step-Thru has gears! Most e-bikes in my price range are single speeds.
When I bike around Boise, my bike is almost exclusively in the highest gear with a medium pedal assist setting (2 or 3 out of 5). No gearing up or down necessary. Biking up the hill to my house requires a significantly lower gear with the maximum pedal assist setting (5 out of 5).
I recommend this model to anyone battling hills. The gearing adds weight, as does the mostly unnecessary front suspension fork, but the pedal-assist makes up for it!
Like all of RadPower’s bikes, the Rad City comes with an LED headlight and an integrated tail light with brake light. The lights are easily turned on using the LCD display. Additionally, a button on the bottom of the tail light turns it on flash mode without turning on the headlight.
While the headlight is adjustable, I haven’t needed to use this feature very often. The light is enough to make me feel safe that oncoming cars will see me. The tire sidewalls are also reflective which add to my visibility at night. No dorky plastic reflectors here!
Rear Rack/Cargo Options
Unflatteringly, my friends regularly refer to me as the “bag lady.” I typically have a purse, a backpack and 1-3 tote bags. While no baskets come with the Rad City, Rad Power provides plenty of accessories you can purchase to supplement. I like this option as I am able to buy accessories as my budget allows. Installing a front basket does require the purchase of a separate front mount.
To contain my extensive collection of bags, I used industrial zip ties to attach a black milk crate to the back rack. The back rack comes standard with the Rad City!
This model has a payload capacity of 275 pounds. I weigh around 200 pounds and this bike works well with my weight plus my cargo.
In the warmer months I easily biked 5-10 miles a day between commuting to work, running errands and visiting friends. Without an ebike I simply would not be biking this often.
On a flat road, a combination of the highest gear and a medium pedal assist setting (3 out of 5) gets me up to about 16-17 miles per hour. The LCD display screen clearly shows my speed, my total mileage, current pedal assist setting and battery status. This requires the same personal energy expenditure as when I chug along at 8-10 miles per hour on a bike sans e-motor. A limiter maxes out the speed at 20 miles per hour.
As with all ebikes, the more you utilize the pedal assist and throttle, the faster you burn through your battery juice. I have yet to bring this lithium-ion battery below halfway.
If you are commuting longer distances, and/or are climbing several significant hills, you might need to charge more often. Rad Power’s website estimates a range of 25 to 45 miles per charge depending on pedal assist mode preferences, throttle usage, etc.
The bike comes with a charger and plugs into the side of the battery pack. I plug my bike in after each outing, always unplugging after a few hours. I store my bike in my first floor apartment and have not noticed any change in my power bill!
Additionally, the battery pack comes with a key to keep it safe from would-be battery thieves.
The Rad City has two frame options, a traditional straight bar and the step through frame. I chose the latter so that I can easily wear dresses and skirts. If you are on the taller side and don’t plan to wear skirts, consider the Rad City 4 which runs the same price as the step through model, which Rad Power recommends for riders between 5’11” and 6’5”.
The Rad City Step Thru 3 has an upright geometry with handlebars that sweep back into a comfortable position that instills confidence. The height of both the handlebars and the seat are adjustable allowing you to customize your fit.
This bike is easy to get on and off thanks to the low step over frame which makes it incredibly easy for me to wear a skirt and is comfortable to stand over when I come to a stop. The standover height is 17 inches as compared to 31 inches on the traditional frame.
While this bike is rideable for people between 4’10” and 6’, Rad Power lists the step through frame as a comfortable option for leg lengths ranging from 21 inches to 30 inches. Have longer legs? The Rad City 5 Plus Step Through accommodates leg lengths from 24 inches to 33 inches.
This model has a 750 watt hub drive motor, compared to the 500 watt motor on the Blix Aveny. That extra power is appreciated on steeper hills.
The motor is built into the hub of the rear wheel. It is worth noting that a hub-drive isn’t quite as nice as a mid-drive motor, but is par for the course at this pricepoint. It also allows the use of throttle, which we appreciate.
Originally the throttle was unappealing to me as I never planned to use my bike as a cheater motorcycle. However, with the battery pack, back rack, gears, brakes, cargo, etc, the bike is quite heavy to get started at stop signs and traffic lights. The throttle allows me to start smoothly as soon as it is clear to proceed.
Not only has the throttle won me over but it has all but ruined non e-bikes for me. The throttle is a game changer.
Dealing With Issues & Customer Service
After three months, the power controller suddenly quit. After submitting an easy help ticket online, I received prompt and thorough emails from Rad Power’s customer service including detailed videos. I worked with the same helpful technician throughout the repair. The diagnosis and repair required bike maintenance skills far above my personal capacity but l was able to enlist the help of my brother-in-law.
We diagnosed the issue through a process of elimination. Once we identified the source of the issue, Rad Power sent me the replacement parts free-of-charge but the entire process took close to a month for my bike to be rideable once again. Not being able to go to a local dealer is part of the risk of purchasing from a direct-to-consumer company. Luckily Rad Power’s solid customer service makes this risk more palatable. Expect repairs to take time. Consider checking to see if their new mobile service is available in your area.
This bike was never intended to be my sole form of transportation so I was comfortable with a bike with reliable, albeit not top-of-the-line, components. The affordable price came with a few trade offs. Even so this has been worth it for me. If you prefer nicer and more reliable components, consider upgrading to the Rad City 5 Plus Step Thru.
The built in kickstand comes in handy to balance the weight of the bike and is heavier duty than most traditional kickstands.
This model has mechanical disc brakes which provide plenty of stopping power for my personal use. If you need more modulation, consider upgrading to the Rad City 5 Plus which has hydraulic disc brakes.
Boise’s streets and bike paths are littered with spiky seed pods known as goatheads, which are a bike tire’s worst enemy. This bike comes equipped with puncture resistant tires and I haven’t had a flat yet!
Bike theft is a real issue. In addition to using a personal bike lock, Rad Power sells a wheel lock ($29). Installation takes less than 5 minutes.
Although dealing with a faulty component was unideal, I am still completely satisfied with my purchase. The month it took to repair my bike showed me how significantly this purchase helped me change my habits.
Parking my car is now the bane of my existence. My monthly gas budget is miniscule. The RadCity Step-Thru 3 has made this lifestyle possible for me.
Quite simply, my life is better with an e-bike.