I have to admit that one of my favorite bike categories are small electric utility bikes. They just make so much sense. They’re practical, they haul a lot of stuff (sometimes even a passenger), and they’re fun! But, it wasn’t love at first sight.

The first time I saw the original RadRunner, I thought it was weird looking and wondered who would want something like that. That’s probably how most people see me at first glance, but whatever. The RadRunner didn’t look like any bike I had seen before, and then I got it, both the bike and why people choose them. I loved riding my RadRunner, and boy, do I miss it. I only sold it to review more bikes. It was my chill ride.

So, I’m always excited to see new bikes in the small electric utility/cargo category. Recently, I wrote about Vvolt’s new utility series, and they’re worth checking out, but today, I’m going to compare the Rad Power Bikes RadRunner 3 Plus and the Specialized Haul ST.

I thought it would be interesting to compare a popular direct-to-consumer ebike against a brand like Specialized. Specialized is one of the biggest bicycle manufacturers in the world. They’re one of the big three brands, along with Trek and Giant. They have dealers all over the United States and globally, and that in itself is a big advantage. But, can the RadRunner 3 hold its own against such a Goliath company? Well, let’s take a look.

RadRunner 3 Plus, Photo Courtesy of Rad Power Bikes

Price and Value

The RadRunner 3 Plus lists for $2299 while the Specialized Haul ST goes for $2800. You’ll have to pay shipping on the RR 3, while the Haul ST ships free at Specialized.com, at least at the time I’m writing this. Of course, you might also be able to purchase the Haul ST from a nearby dealer and have it delivered to your house. Rad Power Bikes has a few showrooms around the United States and Canada, but they’re largely a direct-to-consumer brand.

There will be some assembly with the RR 3, but it’s minimal and straightforward. If you buy the Haul ST from a dealer, it will be professionally assembled.

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With that in mind, the Haul ST is priced well. It has better than entry-level components, terrific brakes, a custom frame, and dealer support for peace of mind.

Of course, you do save a few hundred dollars with the RR 3, and Rad Power Bikes is also the largest ebike company in the United States. It’s a well-known brand. However, the company has been going through some changes over the past year, and customer service has been affected by layoffs. You can still get service, but not as promptly as in the past. Hopefully, that will change in the future, as conditions improve.

Features

The RR 3 Plus and Haul ST have very similar power in terms of their hub motors and battery capacity. The RadRunner 3 Plus has a 750-watt rear hub motor, while the Haul ST comes in at 700-watts. You can expect about the same performance in terms of torque between both bikes, but you’ll definitely notice a difference in how that power is delivered.

Specialized Haul ST

Cadence vs. Torque Sensor

The RR 3 Plus uses a cadence sensor, while the Haul ST uses a torque sensor. This is an important feature that affects the pedaling experience, in a big way. Cadence and torque sensors detect when you’re pedaling the bike. With a cadence sensor, it’s more like an on/off switch, with power being delivered based upon the pedal assist level you choose. How hard you pedal, doesn’t affect the power being delivered by the motor.

A torque sensor detects how much pressure is being put on the pedals, so when more pressure is applied, the motor will deliver more power. A torque sensor is more in-tune with your effort.

Torque sensors are preferred by those who enjoy a more natural pedaling experience, while cadence sensors are enjoyed by those who want or need more assistance from the motor. For those with knee or hip sensitivity, a cadence sensor is a good choice. If you prefer more of a workout on your bike, a torque sensor is the way to go.

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Who won? It depends on what a person is looking for, so I’d say it’s a tie.

Brakes

Both bikes use hydraulic disc brakes, but the Haul ST has the RR 3 Plus beat with Tektro HD-T535 4-piston hydraulic brakes mated with 203 mm discs for impressive stopping power. The RR 3 Plus uses 180 mm discs. Both are good, capable brakes, but I’m liking the attention to safety Specialized put on the brakes for the Haul ST. Considering both bikes are capable of hauling a passenger and/or several hundred pounds of weight, brakes are an important consideration.

Who won? Specialized

Tires

There is a slight difference in tire selection between the Haul ST and RR 3 Plus. The RR 3 Plus is equipped with 20″ x 4″ wide tires, while the Haul ST features 20″ x 3.5″ wide tires. You’ll gain some efficiency and maneuverability with the 3.5″ wide tires, but possibly more stability and shock absorption with the 4″ wide tires on the RR 3 Plus. The difference is likely minimal.

One thing to consider is that 4″ wide tires are popular on fat tire ebikes, so finding tubes or replacement tires might be a little easier.

Both bikes use reflective sidewall pin striping for safety, and offer puncture resistance, which I love.

Who won? Again, just depends upon your preference.

Range

The Haul ST has a 772 Wh battery, while the RR 3 Plus has a 672 Wh battery. The estimated range for the RR 3 is 25-45 miles, while the Haul ST claims up to 60 miles. You also have to consider the torque sensor in range estimates, since the rider will likely be putting in more effort, and power is delivered in a more precise way. So, for range, the Haul ST comes ahead, but I have to mention that the RadRunner 3 Plus is also dual battery capable, or will be according to Rad in the near future.

Who won? Haul ST, for now.

Class 2 Versus Class 3 or Throttle Versus No Throttle

This is another biggie! The RadRunner 3 Plus is a Class 2 ebike, meaning that it can go up to 20 mph and has a throttle. The Specialized Haul ST is a Class 3 ebike with a top speed of 28 mph, but no throttle on the base model. You can add a throttle, though!

Personally, I like having a throttle on a heavy cargo/utility bike since it helps power the bike from a dead stop. It makes it easier to cross roads without clumsily pedaling in front of strangers, and throttles simply give you a break when you need one.

However, the torque sensor on the Haul ST kind of acts as a throttle, but controlled by your feet. A good torque sensor can get you up to speed quickly when enough force is applied on the pedals.

Either are a good option, but I have to admit that I prefer having a throttle, whether the bike has a cadence sensor or torque sensor.

You may also need to consider laws where you plan to ride. Some areas frown upon ebikes with throttles, and some don’t allow Class 3 ebikes. You could remove the throttle from the RR 3, if need be, but the Haul ST will always be Class 3, whether it has a throttle or not.

Something else to consider is that if you need to keep up with traffic, the 28 mph tox speed of the Haul ST is more ideal.

Who won? Depends upon your needs and preferences

Gearing

The Haul ST has a 9-speed drivetrain, while the RR 3 has a 7-speed. The Haul ST offers a wider range of gears, ranging from 11-36 teeth, while the RR 3 has a range of 11-32. Both are square taper, but the Rad has a 48 tooth chain ring compared to a 50 tooth chain ring on the Haul ST.

The Haul ST also uses a higher quality derailleur in the Shimano Alivio, compared to the Shimano Altus of the RR 3. The Haul ST also uses a 9-speed Sunrace cassette, compared to the more basic freewheel of the RR 3.

The gearing on both bikes are decent, with the nod going to the Haul ST. It’s almost always nicer to have more gears and a wider range of higher and lower gears, though with ebikes you’re typically riding in the highest gears almost all the time. With the power of the motors on these bikes, you likely won’t need to use the lowest gears, unless the battery runs out of juice.

Who won? Specialized

Comfort

The Haul ST uses a steel front fork, while the RR 3 Plus uses a spring suspension with 60 mm of travel. Steel is good at reducing a good amount of vibrations, but a suspension fork will do an even better job.

Both bikes are highly adjustable for height and reach, though the Haul ST may accommodate shorter riders better than the RR 3. Both accommodate a wide range of rider height.

Who won? Rad Power Bikes

Accessories

Rad Power Bikes has a ton of accessories for the RadRunner 3 Plus. In fact, that’s one of the biggest reasons to choose a bike from Rad. Half the fun is adding accessories and making the bike your own! There are passenger packages, baskets, pet carriers, coolers, panniers, center console storage, and even hardshell cases for the RadRunner.

Specialized also offers accessories for the Haul ST, but not nearly as many as Rad does for their RadRunner.

Who won? Rad Power Bikes

Warranty, Service, Parts

Specialized is going to be the clear winner for all three of those categories. Dealer support is one of the biggest reasons why someone would choose the Haul ST over the RadRunner 3 Plus. That’s not to say that Rad Power Bikes will leave you out in the cold, but you’ll likely find the service you need locally with Specialized.

Who won? Specialized

Other Notable Features

The Haul ST has mounting points on the front fork for accessories. Both bikes have integrated lighting. The display on the RadRunner 3 Plus is split between a thumb pad showing the pedal assit level and a center display showing speed and other stats. The display on the Haul ST is a bit generic looking but gets the job done.

The Haul ST has a higher payload capacity of 419 pounds, compared to 350 pounds on the RR 3.

Both bikes are heavy at around 75-ish pounds, so most people will have difficulty lifting them onto a car rack or up a flight of stairs.

So, Which Bike Won?

The Specialized Haul ST clearly wins when considering specs alone. It has better quality components, a lifetime warranty on the frame, and dealer support. But, that doesn’t mean that the RadRunner 3 Plus isn’t the better choice for some people.

If you prefer a throttle, a cadence sensor, more accessories, front suspension, and a little cheaper price tag, the RadRunner 3 Plus might be just what you’re looking for.

Really, the choice between these two bikes comes down to personal preference. You need to think about how you’re going to ride the bike and what your particular needs are.

The Haul ST is compelling because it’s backed by one of the largest bike brands in the world. I think Specialized did a great job with the Haul ST, and the price is very competitive, considering what you’re getting.

Still, I think the RadRunner 3 Plus holds its own. Of course, there are cheaper RadRunner models that offer a very similar riding experience and utility for quite a bit less, too! We don’t want to forget that.

My heart goes with the RadRunner 3 Plus because I always root for the underdog, but my head goes with the Haul ST for the dealer support and higher quality components.

One thing that is for sure is that both bikes offer tons of utility and are a blast to ride. These types of ebikes offer such a chill and relaxing ride that is hard to beat. Choose based upon your needs. Whatever bike fills those needs best is the winner!

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Last Update: July 7, 2023