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Whether due to changes from the pandemic, the desire to save costs on commuting or looking for more environmentally friendly means of travel, e-bikes are experiencing a boom in popularity. And while there is no shortage of e-bike models on the market, consumers are typically faced with the choice of paying thousands of dollars on models from the major bike manufacturers (as well as a number of heavily marketed e-bike start-ups) or buying a cheap model from a no-name brand, where manufacturing quality and warranty support are big unknowns.
Seattle-based Rad Power bikes – which lays claim to being North America’s largest e-bike brand – succeeds in filling this gap with its new RadMission 1. At $1,099, the well-rounded RadMission 1 is the perfect option for those who are looking to commute on a budget and for newcomers to e-bikes who want to take the plunge without emptying their bank accounts. The RadMission may not offer all the bells and whistles of the $2k+ models, but it covers the basics well. And, frankly, many owners may appreciate the simplicity of the RadMission over the more complex operation of the app-based controls from VanMoof and others.
Rad Power Bikes supplied me with the RadMission 1 to test out and I spent time touring around New York City’s streets and parks, as well as letting friends get some rides in for additional feedback. I ride regularly on these same routes with my non-electric Specialized Sirrus Pro hybrid and was able to get an excellent sense of how the RadMission performs in real-world scenarios.
Frame, tires and seat
Unlike many e-bikes that only offer one frame option and one color, the RadMission is available in both a mid-step model, which has a 28” stand-over height for riders between 5’2” and 6’2”, and a high-step model, with a 31” stand-over height for riders between 5’7” – 6’4”. With five colors to choose from (black, white, red, grey, blue), you won’t need to compromise on style, either.
The frame is aluminum, to keep the weight down, with a steel fork to reduce vibration and shocks. Weighing in at 48lbs, the RadMission isn’t going to be something you want to lug up and down stairs on a regular basis, but you could if you had to. And you aren’t going to find lighter options from major brands without spending significantly more money.
The frame includes heavy-duty mounting points for a front rack, so it won’t impact steering the way a fork-mounted rack will, as well as a rear rack, front and rear fenders (a necessary $59 option if you’re using this for commuting) and the optional kickstand ($15 and also recommended). Unfortunately, Rad Power did not include any water bottle mounting points, despite plenty of room on the top tube and on the seat tube for the high-step model, so I added a clip-on one I had sitting around for my rides. There are two bolts on the bottom of the frame, but a standard water bottle won’t fit with the fenders in place and would quickly become covered in road grime without the fenders.
Combined with the Kenda Kontact, 27.5 x 1.95″ puncture-resistant tires, the overall ride was smooth and comfortable, taming even rough New York City streets. The seat, too, was a good match for the RadMission (at least as far as my rear-end was concerned); it offered firm padding and a moderate width that felt supportive, yet sporty.
Motor and controls
The RadMission is powered by a 500W rear hub motor putting out 50 Nm of torque that provides power assist up to 20Mph. The motor is connected via a chain, which requires a slight bit more maintenance over time (chains should be lubricated every month or so, depending on your riding conditions) than the belt drive on pricier models.
The controls are dead-simple: +/- buttons allow you to adjust the four levels of assist, you can turn on the front and rear mounted lights, and there’s a “walking assist” mode for those times when you want help pushing the bike. A basic battery meter shows how much charge you have left. The RadMission also has a twist throttle to give you a boost on starts or operate the bike completely pedal free, if desired.
The RadMission is a single-speed with a 50-16 gear ratio – there is no rear derailleur. On one hand, this offers less flexibility to control your pedaling pace and leaves you wishing for a higher gear at speeds over 25Mph, especially on downhills. On the other hand, not having multiple gears adds to the simplicity of the riding experience, and I found the gear choice Rad Power made to be well-suited to the sweet spot of speeds most people will likely be riding on the RadMission. No derailleur also means no adjustments to make as the cables stretch from use and one fewer thing to break or get stolen.
In my rides, I found that the 500W motor gave me plenty of torque for fast starts at lights and absolutely flattened the hills in Central Park. There is some delay in the assist that is to be expected from a rear hub motor design, but it was minimal. I used Strava to analyze my performance, and despite the extra 27+ pounds of weight on the RadMission, I was easily able to beat the normal ride times on my ultra-light hybrid using moderate assist. But this doesn’t mean you’re not getting a workout, if you want one. You can still push your hardest on the RadMission to get your heart rate up and/or reduce the assist level to match your desired intensity. The RadMission also becomes the great equalizer if you want to keep up with friends or family who are in better shape.
The RadMission uses a 48V, 10.5 Ah (504 Wh) battery which RadMission estimates provides 25-45 miles of range. There are several factors that impact that estimate – from the level of boost, hills, riding speed and even how much you weigh – so, as they say, “results may vary.” However, I was getting around 30 miles with a mix of boost levels, so those estimates are pretty realistic. The battery can be removed from the frame to charge it in your office if you need a little more range to cover your commute. A key lock prevents battery theft and powering on the bike.
The RadMission uses Tektro Aries mechanical disc brakes (MD-M300) on the front and rear. They don’t offer much braking feedback to the levers but stop the RadMission quickly and safely.
A 200-lumen headlight and rear light are included. The rear light brightness increases when you activate either of the brake levers.
Price, delivery & assembly
The RadMission is $1,099 on radpowerbikes.com for both the mid-step and high-step models. Delivery is free in the Continental US (the RadMission cannot be shipped to Alaska or Hawaii). Your bike will arrive mostly assembled, though you will need to mount the handlebars, front light, pedals, and seat. If you’re familiar with bikes and have the proper tools, you should be able to tackle the job yourself. [Editor’s note 6/1/21: We just learned that RadMission is offering a $100 off coupon for the month of June. Use Promo Code MISSION-100 at checkout.]
For most people, I recommend taking advantage of one of Rad Power Bike’s concierge assembly services. Depending on your location, those services are either provided by a Rad Power Bikes affiliated local bike shop ($199), at your location by a Rad Power Bikes “ambassador” ($199) or Velofix ($249). In New York City, Velofix provided my setup and their technician, Mark, took considerable time inspecting all components of the bike to ensure everything was in perfect working order. Of course, you can also have it shipped to your local bike shop to have them do the assembly for you.
I really enjoyed my time with the RadMission 1. The acceleration, assist and ride comfort performed above my expectations for an e-bike at this price level. I also appreciated that it gave me the controls to do what I needed to do, without any added complication. While there are better e-bike options out there for those looking for ultra-portable weight, higher pedal assist speeds, or extra-long range, the RadMission offers a winning combination of performance, features, comfort and weight that will appeal to anyone looking for an affordable, reliable e-bike for commuting, fitness or just running errands around town.
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