The best electric bike for college students is one that a.) offers great value and utility for the price, and b.) doesn’t get stolen. That second point deserves its own article on military-grade bike locks and theft trackers. But as far as affordability and versatility, it is hard to find a quality e-bike better suited for campus dwellers than Rad Power’s RadRunner Plus Electric Utility Bike.
No, I haven’t tried every single electric bike on the market but I’ve researched and test-driven a bunch, and gone deep on review sites; and the RadRunner Plus keeps winning in its bracket. We already own two Rad Power bikes, so I’m familiar with the Seattle-based company’s stellar craftsmanship, reliability and outstanding customer service. Take that time during lockdown when the bike chain on my RadRover Step-Thru 1 started making a weird jingle-jangle sound. After an email to Rad customer support, I soon had three curious technicians analyzing my iPhone videos to assess and help me fix the problem free of charge (the chain tensioner wasn’t aligned properly, it turned out).
My RadRover is a glorious behemoth — an apocalyptic happiness machine, I call it — but it’s hefty for university life. My wife’s RadMission is slim and nimble but it doesn’t have everything a student might need. Here’s why the RadRunner Plus is the perfect sweet-spot vehicle for campus — or for those who qualify merely as students of life.
The Power to Sleep Late
My son goes to college on an 8,000-acre campus here in California. Some of his classes and activities can be a mile apart, and that’s rough when it’s, say, an 8 am class on the other side of school. Enter the RadRunner Plus with its optimized 750W / 80 Nm brushless Bafang geared hub motor that turns an average Monday morning schlep into a triumphant joy ride. The bike’s Class 2 throttle and pedal-motor assist push to 20 MPH, and the strong torque on smallish wheels (20″ x 3.3″ Kenda K-Rad fat tires) propels the RadRunner up and down campus hills even when you’re half-asleep.
Extra Credit for the Jumpseat
Adding a friend to the back of your RadRunner is so much cooler than adding them on social media. The moped-style, integrated steel seat post with cushioned saddle and flip-up foot pegs is an instant community-builder. The seat invites you to pick up friends for a ride, and even comes with a protective wheelskirt to provide comfort for your companion. The RadRunner Plus’s 300-lb. payload capacity fits up to two riders; an A+ idea for campus social life.
Support for Work, Study and Play
The RadRunner Plus is sturdy enough to carry just about any payload, whether it’s for a campus job, a theater department props run or hauling a keg (once you’re 21, of course). There’s room to add a front rack, a center storage console, a pannier bag and basket and delivery bags. And while those extras will make the bike quite heavy—it’s 74 pounds before add-ons—the ride doesn’t suffer. The durable front-suspension fork allows you to take on bumps, cobblestones and all that pesky ivy with ease.
Look Like a Genius
From frosh to post-grads, the RadRunner Plus will be the envy of campus with its universal appeal. The frame is designed for riders between 4’11’’ and 6’2’’, and the stitched imitation leather on the handlebar grips and rear seat give the bike something of a Junior-Year-in-Milan sophistication. The oversized headlight, tail light, aluminum pedals, integrated bell, and kickstand come standard but you can add mirrors, phone cradles, and—probably your smartest move—at least one super-strong bike lock, such as the ABUS Bordo Granit X-Plus 6500.
Make Your Parents Happy
The larger headlamp and solid body are among the next-level safety features that set the RadRunner Plus apart. The aluminum frame is stronger than most things you’ll bump into. Reflective sidewalls make the tires visible at a distance. And those tires come with built-in puncture protection. Large 180mm disc brake rotors let you stop on a dime with brake levers automatically cutting motor power when pressed. But really, who wants to stop? Once you ride this thing, you’ll be looking to extend your Rad run well into grad school.
RadRunner Plus starts at $1,899 and comes with a 14-day free trial and one-year warranty.