Electric fat-tire bike manufacturer Rad Power Bikes has unveiled the latest model of its flagship RadRover. The updates on the RadRover 6 Plus are emblematic of the company's mission to enhance rider experience, especially for those who don't identify as bike riders but are looking for a more eco-friendly way to travel.
With those updates, the price of the RadRover 6 Plus has increased a few hundred dollars over its predecessor to $1,999.
"We develop powerful, reliable bikes, bikes that are confidence-inspiring and easy to use," Redwood Stephens, chief product officer of Rad Power Bikes, told TechCrunch. "We've completely redesigned the system to have a new user interface, big buttons, big text illuminated. The power button is in Rad orange, so when you walk up to the bike it says, 'I'm the power button!' to you. You don't even have to tell somebody how to turn on the bike. The same with the power assist levels. You've got big up and down arrows which are super easy to use."
Stephens said the company's goal is to get people out of cars. Rad Power's main customers aren't urban bikers, and at 73 pounds a bike, it's not hard to see why -- Try lugging that up your third floor walkup. Rather, they're people over 50 in suburban or rural areas who want another travel option besides their four-wheeled vehicle and would definitely benefit from letters and symbols on their e-bike that are as large as those on their cell phones, according to data collected by the company.
In February, Rad Power Bikes raised $150 million from investors like Morgan Stanley's Counterpoint Global Fund and Fidelity Management & Research Company. It used the funds, one of the largest of a U.S. electric bike startup, to scale globally, expanding beyond the $100 million in sales it generated in 2019.
Now, with more than 350,000 bikes on the roads, Rad Power Bikes is settling into its direct-to-consumer approach with a thoughtful strategy, one that integrates everything from the design and robustness of the vehicle to the price point to the delivery and packaging.
"So in a nutshell it's about reducing friction of the user experience throughout the whole lifetime of the product," said Stephens. "It starts with the information that we have on our website to the box arriving with your bike in it and a QR code on a box that says, 'Here's the link to the unpackaging video,' and then thinking about how to make that as smooth as possible for the end user."
Stephens says the company is so concerned with a smooth customer experience, right down to how you take the bike out of its box, that Rad Power's packaging and designing engineers work right alongside the bike designers so that the direct-to-consumer experience is considered throughout the design process. In other words, nothing is an afterthought.
In North America, customers who don't want to unbox the bike themselves can opt for a white glove delivery service, complete with bike assembly.
What's new with the RadRover 6 Plus?
Rad Power's newest model is the first of its kind to feature hydraulic brakes and ceramic brake pads, which means riders will need to apply less pressure to slow down or stop, and they can expect brake pads to have a longer lifespan and require less maintenance. There's also been some updates to the battery, which was designed in-house and lives directly in the frame of the bike. The design allows for easy removal of the battery for indoor charging.
The frame itself has been re-engineered to accommodate shorter people, and the center of gravity has been lowered, which the company says should improve handling. The geared hub motor has 750 wattage of power, which is the same as the RadRover 5, but the company says the 6 Plus can handle hills 25% faster.
The suspension has also changed, but perhaps not for the better. The last model had 80 mm of travel, and the 6 Plus has 60 mm, which might mean there's less space for the wheel to move before bottoming out, but according to the vehicle specs, the spring preload can be adjusted to suit various rider weights and terrain.
Finally, like the last model, this one comes with front, rear and brake lights, but it has the added benefit of activating the lights when the bike turns on and a new fender-mounted tail light.
Sounds great. Why is it so cheap?
Where some e-bikes go for a cool $9,000, this one is surprisingly affordable at $1,999. Stephens says he doesn't always know why other manufacturers are as expensive as they are.
"Our batteries use state-of-the-art Panasonic or Samsung cells, which are the same providers for the electric car industry, and so our packs are bigger," he said. "Our motors and speed controllers are top notch, and our bikes are very reliable in the industry. Our motors last a long time. We see many of our riders with over 10,000 miles on their bike and still going."
Stephens speculates that the biggest differentiator between Rad Power and many other e-bike providers is the supply chain. Rad Power designs its bikes from the ground up, so it doesn't buy off-the-shelf products, like motors, displays and batteries, from a company like Bosch.
"There are less middlemen, less people in the manufacturing supply chain for us marking up systems," he said. "And because we're direct-to-consumer, there's no markup from the retail shop to the consumer."
Rad Power has manufacturing locations in China, Taiwan and Thailand that make the components the company designs and sends them at a very large scale, which also helps to keep the price down.
The company has four retail stores (in Seattle, San Diego, Vancouver and Europe, where it also sells its bikes), and it has also set up a partner network with local bike shops that are certified to work on its bikes and even assemble them from the box at customers' homes. Stephens said the company is on track to have 75% of its U.S. customers have Rad Service available to them this year.