Should you buy from Rad Power Bikes in 2023? Boy, this is a tough question because my favorite bike is from Rad Power Bikes. It’s not the fanciest bike, or even the best bike I own, but it’s my favorite. It’s the RadExpand 5. Actually, I haven’t heard of any major complaints about the bike. It’s a good ebike.
I belong to both the main Rad Power Bikes group on Facebook and the group for RadExpand riders, and us RadExpand riders seem to be too busy riding to be writing complaints online. It’s easy for me to recommend the bike to almost anyone, but the company is going through some tough times. I can’t brush that to the side and forget about it.
What Happened to Rad Power Bikes?
There have been some major mistakes made by Rad over the past couple of years. One of the biggest is the proprietary tire size for the RadWagon 4, which I also own. A safety recall was issued after it became known that the tire wall could separate due to a manufacture defect. This meant RadWagon owners had to park their bike until replacement tires came. Obviously, customers weren’t thrilled. The recall not only cost Rad a ton of money in replacing all of those tires, but it also took one of their most popular models off the shelf for almost a year.
But probably the biggest hit was to their reputation. They had been collecting millions of dollars from investors, over $300 million in 2021, alone. They had ramped up their mobile service, and were riding high on good times and healthy sales.
Then, the troubles came. Rad has faced lawsuits, particularly one notable case of a child being killed while riding the RadRunner. While the exact cause of the accident isn’t known, the lawsuit claims design flaws of the bike were to blame. I’m not sure that I agree, but such lawsuits further tarnish the brand.
To be fair, I would imagine every ebike company faces lawsuits. It’s easy to get hurt on one, though I think Rad does a great job at ensuring their Class 2 ebikes are programmed to top out at Class 2 levels. They don’t exceed legal limitations for speed like some other brands do.
Still, if I were Rad Power Bikes, I would beef up the brakes on the RadWagon and RadRunner, for sure. Do what Specialized did with their Haul ST. That bike has 4-piston 200+ mm rotors. That’s what I want to see on a cargo bike, from any brand.
Rad isn’t to blame for all of their woes. The global economy has been rough for the bike industry in general due to supply chain issues and inflation. For a while, it was hard just to build a bike, of any type. They face the issue of either raising their prices, or absorbing some of the cost. Not a good spot to be in.
Rad also has far more legitimate competition than in the past. Lectric has taken a big chunk of the market and brands like Aventon, Himiway, Ride1Up, and now Velotric with their aggressive pricing, are comparable brands with attractive products.
But, it’s not like other brands don’t have negative reviews, too. I think I’ve read just as many complaints from Aventon’s customers as Rad’s, and Aventon has dealers. Does that mean Aventon is a terrible brand? No. It just means that both brands are very popular and sometimes things go wrong.
It is true that Rad’s competitors are producing bikes that seem more advanced, faster, sleeker, and with more modern touches. Some of Rad’s models are beginning to seem clunky and out-of-date. The RadRunner 3 Plus is an exception. And, I’ve been reading great reviews from real customers regarding it.
Maybe Rad’s designs aren’t as fancy, but I prefer the old school design of my RadExpand. It means it’s easy to work on. When it comes time to replace the controller, it’s easily accessible, since it’s not enclosed inside the frame. For a direct-to-consumer brand, it’s smart to keep the bikes simple to repair and maintain.
This is a bike that I’ll be able to keep on the trails for a long time to come, since it doesn’t use many proprietary parts. Plus, there are third-party companies that make products for Rad’s bikes. That’s a big plus to buying from a popular brand.
What About Customer Service?
Customer service is by far the biggest issue for Rad Power Bikes right now. In the past, it was easy to recommend Rad. Not only were they the biggest ebike retailer in America, they also had the best customer service. Customer service has definitely taken a hit due to the company’s financial struggles.
Phone service is no longer offered. Instead, customers must use a chat feature that is only manned a few hours a day. With Rad pulling out of the EU and Great Britain and focusing on their North American customers, I hope their number one goal is to improve customer service. It’s more important than pushing out new models.
Update On Customer Service
I wanted to provide an update since I originally wrote this article. A message from Rad Power Bikes was posted on their Facebook group page on 7/21/2023, reassuring their customers of their commitment to improve customer service.
“We have taken several steps to ensure we return to the level of service and support you expect from us. We have hired additional customer support staff, increased service availability, and reopened live chat support on our website…”
“…we are now able to respond to emails within 48 hours and are aiming to have that down to within 24 hours soon. ”Rad Power Bikes
In addition to improved email support, live chat is also cutting down wait times. This is very reassuring to hear. I think Rad knows very well how important customer service is to the success of their company. I’m confident we’ll see major improvement over the remainder of 2023.
So, Should You Buy from Rad in 2023?
I’m still comfortable recommending many of their models, because they’re tried and true. The old school RadRunner models and the RadExpand have been very reliable and trouble-free for most. Even the RadWagon, minus the tire issues, has been a joy to own. I love how that bike just cruises along, with or without passengers. Once I install the new tires on it, I’m gifting it to my daughter and her family. They are excited!
I’m not so sure about the models with the new semi-integrated batteries. They have had more issues, though the main one seems to be people sticking the key for the battery into the charging port, instead of the keyhole. This causes the battery to short and blow a fuse. While it’s easy to change a fuse on the old battery design, like that in the RadExpand, it’s a total pain in the new battery.
I don’t think Rad is going out of business, and I think negative experiences are always magnified online. Most people aren’t having any issues with their bikes, but those that do naturally go online and seek help. It makes it look like it’s the norm to have a problem, but it’s not.
If you do have a problem, Rad still has customer service that will take care of you, though it’s not as convenient as it used to be to get a hold of them. I’m hoping that changes soon.
If you’re weary about buying from Rad, wait a few months and see how they refocus on customer service. I’m interested to see what they do over the next year, after they learned some tough lessons. I think the company can rebound, but it will take some time.
Now, I’m going to go ride my RadExpand 5 and enjoy the day!
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