The Rad Power RadRunner 2 is an electric utility bike for everybody

A small, comfortable, highly adjustable electric utility bike meant to carry both people and stuff, the updated RadRunner 2 is fun and functional, and it won’t break the bank.

With a 750W motor and a 672Wh battery, the RadRunner 2 has up to 45 miles of range and plenty of power to haul loads of up to 300 pounds, helping you along with both pedal assist and a twist throttle. With its 20-inch wheels and compact moped- or minibike-style frame, it may seem diminutive, but it’s very capable of providing the simple pleasures of carting groceries up a hill, getting you to the office or anything else you ask of it — on vacation or around the city.

The Rad Power offers a ton of accessories, from extra batteries and safety and foul weather gear to racks and attachments for mounting cycling accessories that let you carry cargo, kids and various combinations thereof.

An affordable utility bike that fits anyone (and can carry most anything)

The updated RadRunner 2 from Rad Power is a compact, fun electric bike that’s versatile enough to go from city commuting to hauling your family’s gear to the beach. A single-speed drivetrain means it’s more for flatlands than scaling hills, but it’s got enough power to get you anywhere you need to go.

A Rad Power RadRunner2 electric bike parked on a sun-dappled lawn

Tobey Grumet/CNN Underscored

Hopping on an electric bike for the first time — or any time, really — is a ton of fun, and even transformative. The extra power on tap can make even the most reluctant or hesitant rider feel capable of getting anywhere on two wheels — quick. As a city dweller, I cut my teeth on the now ubiquitous electric Citibike, and once I realized how effortless it was to use pedal assist, I wanted one of my very own.

The RadRunner 2 was delivered safely in protective packaging, and the detailed instructions and supplied tool kit made it fairly simple to attach the wheels, handlebars and pedals. We did have to pay careful attention to the handlebars, however, which had to be carefully mounted so as not to tangle the cabling. The entire bike took approximately 45 minutes to assemble.

The RadRunner 2 makes a ton of sense as a do-it-all utility bike for a city dweller, letting me easily haul everything from groceries to packages to backpacks. And the 18-inch frame size (it’s about equivalent to a small or medium traditional bike) and low standover height of just 16.5 inches means almost anyone can ride it (it fits people from 4 feet, 11 inches tall to 6 feet, 2 inches tall, according to Rad Power). Plus, the compact overall dimensions and short handlebar height of just 45 inches made it easy to store in my Brooklyn apartment and usable by the whole family.

Weighing in at 65 pounds, it may not be lightweight, but it is on the less heavy side of the e-bike scale (many Dutch bike-style and larger-cargo e-bikes weigh 15 or 20 pounds more). This let me throw it in the cargo compartment of our SUV and take it upstate to visit family — a huge plus.

The extended rear deck was perfect for shopping, letting me secure at least two big bags of groceries, sometimes more if I stacked them correctly. I was also able to tote around and drop off larger packages at UPS or FedEx, and it supports a range of pannier bags and baskets if you want to carry even more.

It’s sturdy too. During one family outing, my 21-year-old niece got a flat tire on a gravel bike path and she hopped on the back of my bike. With no extra padding, it wasn’t the most comfortable ride, but we went about four miles while she pulled her bike along with us. She did have to step off a few times when we were going up a significantly steep hill, but that didn’t deter us much.

Dozens of accessories for various tasks are available à la carte or in almost 300 configurations. If you’re thinking about using it to haul people on a regular basis, you’ll want to look into the $99 RadRunner Passenger Package, which includes a comfy-looking padded seat, or if you’re carrying little ones, you can outfit it with the $260 Thule Yepp Maxi Child Seat.

A quick, safe and spry ride

While riding around the streets of New York City and cruising on- and off-road in upstate New York, the RadRunner 2 was surprisingly powerful and simple to use. Though many lower-cost e-bikes have five pedal assist speeds, I felt comfortable with the four pedal assist power levels on offer, which gave me plenty of range from gentle assist to full-on moped-style cruising. In fact, I was always able to find an appropriate level for the terrain I was riding through.

Accelerating from a full stop was both quick and smooth, using either the pedals or the throttle, and small wheels and low center of gravity meant the bike nimbly took turns. There was never a time I felt unstable, even at higher assist speeds (I tended to hover around 10 to 15 miles per hour for the most part), and as a beginner, that was something I greatly appreciated.

Because I was used to riding a taller commuter bike around town, it took a minute to get used to the RadRunner 2’s frame design, but at 5 feet, 7 inches tall, I was soon fine with the reach to the handlebars. However, when some taller folks took a turn, they felt more cramped and less comfortable with the size, so while Rad Power claims this will fit riders up to 6 feet, 2 inches tall, they may not be happy on long rides, so it’s something to keep in mind. Shorter riders should be fine, and to help you get a better idea before you buy, the website offers a sliding scale size guide that allows you to check your bike inseam height (your inside leg length) in inches if you’re worried.

The RadRunner 2 was equally enjoyable on the uneven pavements of my Brooklyn streets as with the rougher terrain of gravel paths. And in terms of safety, the puncture-resistant reflective tires and integrated LED headlight and taillight were helpful features, especially at night. In fact, I noticed that the rear light, which can be switched from solid to flashing mode with the touch of a button, flashed brighter when I was braking.

Like most e-bikes, you just plug the 48V smart charger into the wall to juice it up, and I never worried about running out of battery on any of my adventures. You can charge the battery on the bike, or remove it (with a key) to charge indoors. I did notice that using the throttle would help lower the battery level, but as advertised, it always stayed safely between 25 and 45 miles per charge.

A RadRunner 2's handlebar-mounted control pod, showing it's five-segment LED power level indicator and controls.

With an affordable price tag (it starts at just $1,299 without accessories), the RadRunner 2 does forgo a few things you might see on other e-bikes. One of the biggest omissions is a full LED digital display. That means you don’t have access to an odometer, and you won’t get any handy information on your trip time or power output. The basic display panel gives you the bare minimum: just LED indicator lamps showing you your current assist level and battery level. And forget about Bluetooth or a USB charging port.

The RadRunner 2 comes with a single-speed drivetrain, which means there’s no switching gears. The supplied gearing is appropriate for flat ground, and in combination with the pedal assist it did not make much of a difference when I was tooling around the city streets, but when I took it out to the countryside and wanted to spin up steeper hills it became more of an issue. The power assist was plenty to get uphill, but pedaling turned into slow-speed mashing.

I think, for me, my many months of Peltoton spinning during lockdown readied me for this one speed cycling, though I missed the idea of being able to switch gears to better get up those challenging bits of road. However, the trade-off with a single-speed bike is its simplicity and ease of maintenance, and if you’re using the bike in town you likely won’t notice. And when you’re presented with a steep stretch, the throttle lets you ascend without any pedaling at all.

If you’re ready to join the e-bike revolution, the RadRunner 2 is an excellent entry-level choice. With just four pedal assist speeds and a single-speed drivetrain, there’s not much to worry about when it comes to electronics, power or maintenance, and the twist throttle is fun to use for some extra juice.

The utility bike design may seem funky for anyone used to commuter or cruiser bikes, but if you’re more interested in zipping around while easily carrying cargo or people, the low-slung, moped style does the trick handily. I never felt unsafe and even felt comfortable riding in the dark with the built-in safety features.

Of course, the lower price does come with concessions, and I missed the full LED digital display and multi-speed drivetrain. But you do get the basic features, including battery and assist levels. And though you can adjust the seat and handlebars, folks over 6 feet tall may have a harder time riding the RadRunner 2 comfortably.

However, if you’re simply looking for an affordable electric bike that can easily swing from recreation to utility, from city to country, from pavement to off-road, the RadRunner 2 is a great place to start.

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